Soulbound – Book 2: Chapter 8
What say you now of true love’s kiss when the thread-thin line between fantasy and reality is stripped away? While the spell shrouding the memory of our Seer-to-Be remains intact, the Hand of Chaos has delivered proof of her former existence, spreading both awareness and doubt. We, Oracles to the Powers that Be, watch and wait. There are dangers here untold, lower beings— dangers of the heart and mind leading to other risks for the world at large. The seeds of doubt may grow like a small sapling in the crack of a boulder splitting it through the heart. For if our Seer-to-Be does not reach her prime to claim her rightful place— this world may be no more. For she will be the link to our Champion and thus the Powers that Be seek restitution by calling their current Seer into action.
Well, get to it. Doyle encouraged himself to move. They’re in there. Just open the office door and walk inside.
Doyle hesitated, partly because he didn’t want to face them with the afterglow still shining from their eyes. And partly because he knew that the office would be in one helluva mess after Spike’s demolition mode during his search for the Ring of Amarra last night.
He didn’t know which idea he found more appalling.
Stepping inside, Doyle froze with his hand still on the doorknob. Except for the usually untidy area of Cordelia’s desk, the place was clean. It would have taken hours to get it put back together this way.
How could that be if Angel and Cordelia had spent the last eight hours having wild sex all over the office and down in the vampire’s apartment? It only made sense that was what they were doing. Doyle made certain to take at least that long to return the Pig’s van and pick up Angel’s convertible from the Orbit Room.
Somewhere in between, he had gone down to the pub to drown himself in a few pints of Guinness and a couple shots of whiskey. Now it looked like it was all for naught. Either Cordy and Angel had no sex at all or the myth about vampire stamina was just that— a myth.
Doyle decided he would chance going down to the apartment. As he passed by Cordelia’s desk, the aura that signaled a coming vision was accompanied by a sharp pain in his head. Pressing the heel of his hand to his forehead, Doyle opened his mind to the images. It was then that he realized this was not a vision of pending danger requiring Angel’s skills. This message came for Doyle himself.
Both hands fell to the flat desktop as the Irish seer steadied himself. What the hell kind of vision was that? The images revealed an action he would take, supposedly only seconds from now. A vital action. One that must be taken or there would be hell to pay, but one coming with no other instructions except picking up the object hidden beneath Cordelia’s desk.
As he reached down, feeling under the desk, Doyle remembered that he had accidentally collapsed against it last night. Spike had hit him, knocking him out cold with a single punch. That vampire was damn strong! He’d been a little woozy when getting back on his feet. Whatever this was under the desk, Doyle had lost it himself.
Maybe the Powers that Be were now in the Lost and Found business.
Finally, Doyle’s hand connected with a flat object. He pulled it out to see that it was a picture frame. Funny, but he did not remember Cordy having any pictures on her desk. Flipping it over, Doyle took a look, nearly dropping it again as he realized who was in the picture together. Needing to sit down, he wandered over to the couch and flopped onto it.
It hadn’t occurred to Doyle that vampires could be photographed. He’d never given it a thought. No reason too. There was just something about the reflectant light of mirrors that defied vampires— something mystical.
There was actually more than one image here. Angel and Cordelia were together in a formal portrait while tucked into the right-hand corner of the frame was a series of four small color images taken from a mall photo-booth.
Doyle was struck by the fact that this was indeed significant. Angel had gone into a mall! The vampire just wasn’t the type to go shopping and have pictures taken in photo-booths. At least- not the Angel he had come to know over the past few weeks. He’d figured that vampires did the same as the majority of the demon population when buying clothes— special ordering them from a catalog or on the computer.
Well, Angel’s shopping habits were not his concern. These pictures spoke in volumes of things Doyle figured his friend did not want him to know. Angel and Cordy smiling and happy— together. Nice, but Cordelia had already told him about the fact that she barely spent any time with the vamp while in Sunnydale. Certainly not enough to merit paying for a photographer.
Who knew! Maybe it was just a memento of some time when he’d saved her life and she wanted to preserve the memory. Whatever the occasion, they looked perfectly carefree. She was curled up on the floor, hugging his knee and leaning in close while he was bent over from his position on the chair, his dark head tilted down toward hers. The look of joy and laughter on their faces just bowled Doyle away.
To think that was the less surprising of the photographs!
In the other, squeezed tightly into the booth with a blue background behind them were Angel, Cordelia and a blonde that he knew from previous visions was none other than Buffy Summers, the Vampire Slayer. Doyle had heard quite a bit about the girl from Cordy who loved to gossip. Angel on the other hand refused to talk about his past in Sunnydale any more than was absolutely necessary. Even then it was like trying to get blood from a turnip.
The first picture, Doyle noted, looked disorganized as though the trio was still trying to figure out where all the knees and elbows were supposed to fit. Angel looked confused. Cordelia had her hand in his hair trying to smooth it down while the Slayer was pointing forward trying to get him to look in the right direction.
What was Angel doing in a mall photo-booth with two teenagers? A lump formed in Doyle’s throat at the next image. Both girls were kissing the vampire’s grinning cheeks. That seemed a bit overly-friendly on Cordelia’s part considering that Angel’s girlfriend was present.
Swallowing down the lump of apprehension, Doyle glanced down to the third picture. Buffy Summers was posed perfectly on the vampire’s knee, facing the camera with a bright smile. Her eyes were wide, open and bright with amusement— even her teeth seemed to be glinting with fun. Next to her, Angel’s attention had wandered away from the camera as had Cordelia’s.
Each wore hungry, lustful expressions, their eyes focused entirely on the other.
It was the fourth and final picture that had Doyle’s head spinning. Angel and Cordy were kissing the hell out of each other. You might expect to see the jealous girlfriend pulling out Cordelia’s hair or staking the vampire for daring to kiss her. No, that wasn’t what the camera caught.
Instead, the tiny blonde was leaning into Angel’s chest with her eyes half shut and a curling smile of pleasure on her face. Cordelia’s left hand was cupping the blonde’s cheek, her thumb brushing the corner of the girl’s mouth. The intimacy between the trio was shockingly obvious.
These pictures had to be taken in the Twilight Zone! There was no way that Doyle could conceive them happening here— unless Cordelia was lying to him about her relationship with Angel. But no, Angel had been genuinely surprised after spotting her at the party the vampire had gone to on his first mission for the Powers that Be. He mentioned that he had run into an old friend, but hadn’t given any details at the time. Not until he rescued Cordy the next night at the mansion home of vampire Russell Winters. Even then it had been the old friend spiel.
Old friend, my Irish ass!
Now Doyle wouldn’t expect Cordelia to give this story the silent treatment. No, she’d have told him something. Maybe not all the details like— hopping into bed with Angel and his blond Slayer girlfriend. That was not the Cordelia he recognized any more than Angel was the vampire shopping expert. Doyle didn’t know Buffy personally, but it did look like whatever this was they were all three in it together.
Confused, he didn’t know what to do next. Should he march up to Angel and Cordy and demand to know the truth? What was it that the Powers wanted him to do about this? It was their idea to give him the blasted vision. The only good thing about his current state of shock was that it dulled his migraine.
Blast it all! The idea that his two friends had come back from their moment on the beach and given into some cosmic certainty that they were supposed to be together had actually been a painful, but acceptable fact. Seeing the evidence that they had long-since taken care of the awkwardness of that first time in bed together made Doyle not only confused by their silence, but mad about it.
Maybe Cordelia was a better secret-keeper than he imagined, because it was strange that she acted the way that she did around Angel. The vampire actually tried hard to keep his distance. Then again, there were times that the two of them went into touchy-feely mode when Doyle figured they thought no one was looking. He was the only one around to look and he still hadn’t caught them doing much more than staring at each other.
Except the other day when Cordy lost the bet and had to wear the outfit of Doyle’s choice into the office. Angel hadn’t been joking with his little act of dominion over her. Cordy had laughed when the vampire gave her permission to play, to do what she wanted. Now Doyle got the feeling that it was neither a jest nor out of place behavior. The vampire was really giving her permission.
Funny, but Cordelia hadn’t taken it that way. In fact, Cordy seemed to be clueless about the vibes that Angel gave off when she walked into a room. Maybe it was just because she was used to men sending her signals.
But to have this— thing in their past and never breathe a word of it? Even a hint? That was unnatural. Doyle knew that Cordelia Chase had been popular in high school. She had shared that and more. Queen C, they’d called her. The May Queen. Head cheerleader and all around bitch. Doyle hadn’t seen much of the latter.
Cordelia had actually shared a lot with him. What more was there to do except talk to each other during the day? Their vampire boss was usually asleep until early afternoon. Most of their clients— the few they had so far— came and went quickly. The rest were garnered from Doyle’s visions and that meant more work for Angel.
Despite Cordy being an ex-cheerleader and being exposed to the sexual reputation that sometimes surrounded them, he got the impression of innocence. Just in the way she interacted with him— and Angel for that matter. She was fun, flirtatious and could charm any man she wanted— but Doyle knew her to be far from the type of girl who would just fall into bed with an established couple. Not unless there was some cosmic reason for it all.
Angel had a helluva lot to answer for, Doyle decided as he got up off the couch. Opening his jacket, he shoved the small frame into an inner pocket. There would be questions, he decided. Lots of questions asked and explanations given. Only then would he decide if he had to stake the bastard.
But why the vision? Why would the Powers that Be send a vision likely resulting in their Seer dusting their precious Champion? Not likely. There had to more to this than what he found in his admittedly overactive imagination. Wait— if the Powers were involved in this maybe there *was* a cosmic reason. Maybe there was something else going on here.
Pacing now, Doyle kept racking his brain trying to figure out the puzzle given him by the higher beings upstairs. What could have happened between Sunnydale and L.A.? It was almost as if they didn’t remember.
Doyle stopped in the middle of the room. Didn’t know? What was it that Spike had been saying to Cordelia back at the garage? He hadn’t really been following the conversation. Both the blond vampire and Cordelia seemed confused. Something about barbeque forks and vampire bites.
Spike claimed Cordelia had been bitten by a vampire and that she removed the scar. Could that be it? Who had bitten her?
Clasping a hand to his chest where the rectangular frame was tucked away in his jacket, Doyle suddenly had a bad feeling. They looked wonderful together in that professional photo— the picture of perfect happiness.
But Angel was allergic to perfect happiness— lost his soul, all because of the Slayer and their one night of passion. The Powers had shown him that and the night he got it back. Afterward, the vision they had given him was something of a whirlwind explanation of Angel’s arrival in L.A. after the big breakup with Buffy. They never hinted at anything going on with Cordelia or that Angel would meet up with her again on that first mission.
Was that a setup? Doyle was feeling a little used in addition to being a melting pot of confusion, anger and jealousy. Now it looked like Angel and Cordy were picking up where they had left off in Sunnydale. All kissy-faced and swallowed up by happiness.
That had to be it! Wait— Doyle knew a moment of panic as he realized what the pending danger must be and why Angel couldn’t handle it.
Perfect happiness. Eight hours alone with Cordelia— making love to her? What else would the vampire be feeling right now?
Oh dear lord! Angelus! He’s got Cordelia!
Racing down the steps to Angel’s apartment, Doyle feared what he was going to see. Would he find Cordelia’s drained body, her skin pale and bluish, still lying on Angel’s bed? No! God, no! Not that. Please don’t let her be dead.
Reaching the bottom, Doyle raced directly into the bedroom after flinging open the door. The bed linen was crumpled and the pillows strewn across the huge bed, but there was no sign of them. Then, he noticed that there were noises coming from the bathroom. Oh no. Angelus had her in there! He was— well, frankly, Doyle didn’t want to know why. Saving Cordy was his only concern. Grabbing the door handle, he turned it, wondering how he was going to stop Angelus if Spike’s single punch had knocked him unconscious.
“Aaaaaaahh!” Screaming at the sudden opening of the door, Cordelia was standing there naked. It took Doyle a moment to close his mouth and to realize that she was alone in the bathroom, obviously about to step into the shower.
Grabbing a towel, Cordy looked at him with a stunned expression. “Doyle you idiot! Get out!”
Then Angel came running into the room, completely dressed and still holding a book in one hand. Looked like he had been on the other side of the apartment, reading again. He slowed to a halt as he saw Doyle standing in front of the open doorway and Cordelia clutching a small towel across her front.
Pushing Doyle out of the room with one hand, Cordelia then slammed the bathroom door.
“A-Angel?” Just checking. Didn’t hurt to ask.
“I hope that you are as drunk as you smell, Doyle,” the vampire approached. “Otherwise, you better have a good explanation for this.”
Floundering, Doyle decided he probably was a little drunk. “I-I’m skunked, Angel. Plus, I haven’t had any sleep in almost two days. You won’t believe what I have for you.”
Angel tapped the book on the palm of his hand. “Waiting.”
Things started to add up in ways that were completely opposite to his conclusions. Angel was still Angel, so— not so happy? The office above and the apartment here below were now spotless, suggesting that someone had been cleaning for hours. There was no blood on the bed linen meaning no biting, not to mention the fact that Cordelia’s neck was still intact. Not that Doyle had looked at her neck for very long when there were other much rounder and interesting places to try to focus.
This was not good, he decided. He was drunk— maybe he hadn’t felt it a few minutes ago, but that sounded just fine as far as excuses went. Maybe there was an explanation for the pictures, but it could wait until he could think clearly. Right now, he had images of Cordelia’s perfect body dancing in his head and an irritated vampire standing in front of him.
“Still waiting, Doyle,” Angel prompted.
“Oh. Yeah,” Doyle walked up to him. Taking the vampire’s hand, he turned it palm up before reaching down into his pocket. “I think I have something of yours.”
Doyle put the keys to Angel’s convertible in his hand.
“Look— Angel, would you apologize to Cordelia for me?” Doyle inched toward the door. “I need to sleep off this drunk.”
Yeah. Sleep sounded good. Maybe this would all make sense after he slept for about week. Doyle clutched at the frame in his jacket pocket, silently condemning himself for being a big chicken for not asking Angel about it when he had the chance.
Besides, Doyle had a secret or two of his own. Kept his dark past hidden from Angel who had already learned a thing or two. And he had not yet told Cordelia that he was half-demon. Perhaps some secrets were meant to come out on their own.
Once he had this all figured out, Doyle assured himself that he would confront them both. Not today. Not tomorrow. Maybe not next week. He would wait and watch and try to figure this out. Until then, Doyle figured he had all the time in the world.
SOULBOUND – BOOK TWO – THE NEXT CONNECTION: CHAPTER LINKS