W10: Speaking from the Heart
Love for the asking
Where desire burns brightly
Entranced by the truth
As resounding echoes sound
Time for acceptance
To spurn or embrace
The heart’s most precious secret
Cordelia waved one final goodbye toward the crowd gathered on the Summers’ front porch. The actual farewells had been less mushy than she imagined. Considering the shocking theory about Angel’s soul and the fact that Buffy happened to be in the same room at the time, she was a little surprised that there had been a goodbye from those two at all.
Buffy’s, “I’m happy for you Angel. Hope everything works out,” seemed understated and suspiciously final in Cordelia’s eyes. There had to be more to it than that. On the surface, it certainly didn’t sound like an invitation to a Slayer-Invisible Vampire boinkfest.
Nor did Angel’s response, “Thanks again for everything, Buffy. Just be careful.”
Where was the drama, the lovelorn angst at parting even for the short time it would take to get this straightened out? Maybe Angel was just focused on getting back to L.A. to find out what the old gypsy wrote in that letter, Cordelia figured.
Immediately after that cryptic little exchange, Angel practically shuffled them into the Plymouth barely giving anyone time to scarf down dinner. It amused Cordelia to see Gunn in the driver’s seat, a spot that Angel had given up without argument. Wes occupied the front passenger side and Fred sat in the middle. Cordelia was in the back on the opposite side of Connor’s car seat from Angel. Their hard-won spoils, the Trio’s invisibility ray with the Eye of Dakronn, remained tucked safely in the trunk.
It wasn’t until the car zipped past the Now Leaving Sunnydale signpost that Cordelia let out an audible sigh of relief. Naturally, Angel picked up on it. “Glad to be headed home?”
“God, yes,” Cordelia admitted without hesitation. “I’m gonna call ahead when we get closer and ask Dennis to run me a hot bubble bath.”
“You’re staying with me tonight,” Angel’s unyielding tone left no room for argument. The real impact came when Cordelia’s head started swimming with forbidden images of spooning up next to him. Until Angel hastily made it clear, “With us. You’ve just gotten out of the hospital. It’s better to stick around where we can keep an eye on you.”
Then remembering she had her own room, Cordelia figured he was only trying to be sensible by suggesting that she stay at the Hyperion. Though, truthfully, Dennis watched over her just as well as any of her other friends could. An exaggerated sigh escaped her lips, “I don’t know. Dennis’ special TLC is hard to beat.”
Glancing at the empty space where he sat, Cordelia pressed her lips together while waiting for Angel’s response. He had none. At least not one she could see or hear. Stoic silence tended to suggest she’d hit a nerve and that was just too irresistible to ignore.
“He always gets the water just the right temperature, adds in my favorite scented oil and bubbles,” Cordelia told him. “If Dennis wasn’t so corporeally challenged, I might have to keep him.”
Eavesdropping on the conversation, Fred turned to wink at Cordelia. “He’s kinda like your Beck and Call Guy,” she paraphrased a line from ‘Pretty Woman’.
“Besides, he’s great with a loofah,” Cordelia couldn’t resist that little admission, her smile beaming as she shared a feminine giggle with Fred.
Angel muttered just loud enough for her to hear, “Good thing for Dennis he’s already dead.”
If she didn’t know better, Cordelia would say Angel sounded jealous of the ghost. No doubt he was still in his overprotective mode. Cordelia reassured him that she’d be in good hands, albeit phantom ones, “Dennis is a great roommate and takes good care of me. He tucks me in nearly every night. He’s an experienced tucker-inner.”
“Cordelia,” the use of her full name was sign enough that he was determined to get his way, “you’re staying the night at the hotel. I’ll do the tucking in if you need it.”
“Well, I suppose it’s just the difference between having one invisible dead guy versus the other doing the tucking in,” she conceded with a shrug. Though being tucked into bed by Angel instead of her ghostly friend no longer seemed like an equally balanced proposition.
Angel’s dislike of that comparison was clear. A grumpy growl rumbled along with his words, “I think I can handle it.”
Having Angel back after believing that she’d lost him, Cordelia could not deny that the thought of spending a night away from him right now left her a little rattled. No matter her fun in teasing him about Dennis, she had no intention of going back to her apartment until all of this was cleared up. “Good, because I’m staying until we find Madame Bozo and get you univiziblized.”
Wes corrected her from the front seat, “BO-sha. Madame Bosha, with an emphasis on the first syllable,” he sounded it out again for good measure.
Leaning forward, Cordelia ruffled his already messy hair. “Whatever, smarty-pants.”
“Aren’t you excited, Cordy?” asked Fred, grinning at her as she turned around to face her. “The gypsy’s letter, the soul theory, the whole invisible Angel thing?”
Fred’s bubbliness was cloyingly sweet as Cordelia realized that excitement was not a word she could associate with her feelings. Not that she could name them. “I’m still getting used to the fact that Angel’s not a pile of dust and Connor isn’t up for bid at a demon auction.”
“Really, you’re not excited about it?” Those big brown eyes slid toward Angel’s side of the car. Cordelia noted that Angel stayed silent as Fred went on about the reasons why Angel’s invisibility was such an interesting phenomenon, scientifically speaking. Lucky vampire! It was easy not to appear bored when you were invisible.
Cordelia later found herself laughing at Gunn’s description of Warren’s capture. “We swooped down on the van, Angel surfing on the hood of the car. Too bad I couldn’t see it. I bet he looked like Batman with that leather jacket flapping behind him like a cape.”
“Would that make you Robin driving the Batmobile?” sniggered Cordelia. “Bet you’d look good in tights.”
After a spasmodic coughing episode, Gunn hinted dangerously, “The Batmobile has an ejection seat,” sounding like he wished he had one.
“Tights aren’t so bad once you get used to them,” Angel piped up for the first time in ages. “They’re just snug.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Dork! Please tell me that’s you remembering the oh-so bad fashions of yesteryear and not you taking a scary interest in my lingerie drawer.”
Once again the peanut gallery chipped in. Wes lifted a closed hand to his mouth and cleared his throat while Fred giggled in the wake of Gunn’s, “She’s got you pegged, Bro.”
That led to five minutes of horrible jokes about demons getting into her underwear, which had Cordelia howling. Even Angel managed to get in a few good ones and the sound of his laughter made her yearn to see his face.
There was a possibility she would never see it again. Wes might be right about the magic rock. Exposing Angel to its power a second time might make him visible, but it might also strip his soul away. Better to have Invisible Angel around forever than Angelus… like way better.
Invisibility could be cool, Cordelia mused in attempt to convince herself of the fact. It would be easy to sneak up on the enemy in a fight. Easy to get into a movie theater, assuming he was alone and not dragging his visible pals along. Not that Angel would stoop to sneaking in anyway. A: it was tacky; B: paying gave him the opportunity to grumble about going and about the ticket price.
The fun stuff would never occur to Angel. He was probably busy thinking about that little bonus revealed by the Eye, his permanent soul. Cordelia had kept Angel in a distinct ‘No Bone’ category in her mind for ages, probably as long as his return from Hell to Sunnydale and certainly as recently as their reunion in Los Angeles. Not that her conscious thoughts and her bedtime fantasies always matched.
Cordelia had always categorized the dreams and stray thoughts as wanting what she could not have, just the temptation of forbidden fruit. After all, Angel was her best friend. They’d been through a lot together building back what they’d lost when he had ripped her feelings apart, deserted them for three months, and finally come back to them. He wanted what they had before he got back in touch with his dark side, an easy-going friendship that had no strings attached.
Except that there were too many strings binding them, Cordelia admitted to herself. Despite her determination to shut Angel out, she couldn’t shut down her affections. The clothes he bought her should have infuriated her, but they didn’t. She seized that moment to jumpstart their friendship again. It was the easy, selfish way, but she found that forgiving him was far more rewarding than maintaining her contempt.
Who could resist the way Angel hugged back, as if each hug was his first experience or the flash of those pearly teeth when one of those rare smiles appeared? Cordelia hoped she would have more than just the memory of those smiles. Not seeing Angel again would be more than strange, it would change everything.
For now, that invisibility and its side effects opened up a world of possibilities that Cordelia could no longer push out of her mind. Back at the house, what was that hot whisper in her ear all about? ‘Have some in mind?’ Duh! Cringing inwardly at how obvious that answer had to be, Cordelia remembered that she’d demonstrated that fact by practically feeling him up back at the hospital.
It had started out as an innocent exploration at the time, but the way his muscular thigh felt beneath her hand gave her other ideas. Cordelia still didn’t know what to make of that tiny kiss of gratitude back on Buffy’s front lawn. She could still feel it tingling like a ghostly sensation against her lips, almost like she had imagined it to begin with.
Was it bad to wonder what it would be like to feel those lips against hers for real? It was just a kiss for Connor’s sake, a quick thank you between friends. Geez, Chase. He’s got a permanent soul for five minutes and you’re already planning to jump his bones. Pathetic, much?
Connor started to fuss and Cordelia gratefully let the baby distract her from her thoughts. She rummaged through the diaper bag until she found one of the bottles of formula Fred had fixed earlier in the day. “Want to feed him?” she asked Angel who readily took the bottle from her hand.
The baby’s eyes tracked the bottle seeming to float in front of him. Cordelia let out a laugh as Connor latched onto the plastic nipple after Angel’s voice encouraged him to go for it. “He seems okay with the invisibility thing.”
Angel reminded her that his son also liked seeing his face in full vampire mode. “That is all that calms him down sometimes,” he added worriedly.
“Wes says we just need Madame Bubbalicious to confirm or dispute his theory. You might stay invisible and have a permanent soul, go back to the way you were, or…”
He filled in the pause, “Get lucky?”
“Optimistic, much? Two seconds with a permanent soul and you’re already thinking about sex?” That wasn’t exactly what he meant, but watching Cordelia’s irritation as she crossed her arms and glared in his direction made him wonder why she was so quick to bring up the subject. “You are such a guy, Angel.”
That only brought a grin to his face, one she couldn’t see. While lucky meant lucky in his mind, Cordelia obviously had latched on to some other meaning. For once, it was his chance to tease her a little. Angel pointed out, “Being simultaneously visible and having a permanent soul sounds lucky to me.”
Cordelia snorted, “Maybe I was giving you too much credit.”
“About being a guy? Or getting lucky?” It wasn’t often he got to see his seer squirm in her seat. Normally, the tactless brunette wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the subject of sex. Cordelia sat at an angle in the corner, trapped and staring as if he’d caught her at something.
“Pfft! Take your pick,” a careless shrug followed.
Angel’s predatory instincts tingled madly. He couldn’t let her little insult sit there. Proving that he wasn’t quite that clueless, Angel pounced back with a low whisper, “Luck has little to do with it, Cordy. It’s all about skill and timing.”
Heat bloomed in her cheeks, a sudden response that surprised him. He almost felt guilty about openly flirting with Cordelia with the others only a couple of feet away, but only almost. Wes, Fred and Gunn were too preoccupied discussing their meeting with Madame Bosha at the boardwalk and the possible contents of her letter to take notice. Even Connor was innocently unaware of the tension his father just created, the baby continuing to chug down his formula at a healthy pace.
Getting an actual tongue-tied reaction out of Cordelia Chase was a noteworthy event. Speechlessness was only part of it. Cordelia’s pulse throbbed, beating a visible tune just under the flushed golden skin of her throat. Her body shifted to rasp against her clothes, showing signs of arousal that his senses honed in on with unerring accuracy. Not that he’d purposefully tried to wind her up, but Angel felt the satisfaction just the same.
If it wasn’t for the crowded car, the baby between them and this blasted invisibility, Angel figured he’d like to show her exactly what he meant. Gently, of course, since she was still bruised. The thought made him study the deep yellowing discoloration marring her face, fury flaring inside him that resulted in an involuntary growl.
As if the sound acted like a bucket of ice water, Cordelia snapped out of it so quickly that Angel thought that he might have imagined her reaction. Her eyebrows arched over those brown eyes, “Since when does doing it twice in the last hundred years make you the next Don Juan?”
Meaning Buffy and Darla, he assumed correctly. Obviously, Cordelia figured he had been celibate since his ensoulment back in 1898. Wrong. He’d never cared enough before Buffy to actually experience a moment of true bliss. The curse hadn’t been a factor, and certainly not with Darla.
The curse and it’s dangerous out-clause had nothing to do with sex, Angel had long since decided. It was about happiness, about forgetting who he was and why he had been cursed to begin with. He wondered, if that was the case, how he hadn’t lost his soul a hundred times by now.
There seemed enough opportunity. Moments alone with Cordelia, with the rest of the gang, with Connor. Little instances where he’d felt totally relaxed and happy. Was it just because even during those times a part of him was still consciously aware that he was a vampire? Unless his soul was already permanent.
When had it happened? Willow re-ensouled him during the Acathla incident. She might have tweaked the spell, but Angel doubted it. Angel’s memories of the hell dimension were sketchy, but he didn’t think it happened there. Events since that time suggested otherwise.
It all seemed to come back to that night with Darla when he could have cared less about the soul or his redemption. He just wanted to feel something other than the cold and thought she could give it to him. Strangely enough, she had and it came in the form of his epiphany.
Maybe, just maybe, there was more to it. Truthfully, Cordelia was his epiphany. The shock of it had knocked him off his feet; he felt the same emptiness when his soul had departed his body that first time, only it seemed to be happening in reverse. Angel was filled by it, warmed by it, and the haze of what he thought he wanted dropped away to reveal what he needed instead.
Angel had thought it was all of them: Cordelia, Wes and Gunn. Their friendship, the companionship that had developed and to some extent, that was true. The truth was that it was always about Cordelia; winning back her friendship, her loyalty, her trust. She’d made it too damn easy for him, letting him back into her good graces. Angel realized that and his need to accept her forgiveness far outweighed his curiosity in finding out the reason for it.
“Earth to Angel, I can practically hear the cogs churning in that head of yours. What are you thinking?” Cordelia broke through his thoughts apparently realizing he had no intention of responding to her Don Juan comment. “Maybe Fred should’ve asked you about being excited.”
The possibilities of a permanent soul went beyond excitement, but it was a feeling that he couldn’t let himself acknowledge. Not now, not yet. “I’m reserving that for later,” he explained, “when I believe it’s true. When Lorne and Wes prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Angelus is no longer a threat to my friends.”
Cordelia’s hand fiddled with Connor’s tiny bootie-covered foot as she added, “To your family.”
“That’s right,” Angel stared at the two of them, his voice thick with emotion. Angelus was still a legitimate threat, especially to her. “Until then, I’m reserving any bursts of happiness.”
“Careful with the hugs, Princess,” cautioned Lorne jovially as Cordelia’s arms wound around him, “this jacket wrinkles.”
Lorne didn’t bother to hide the tears of happiness at seeing both Cordelia and Connor home safely. He hugged Cordelia back just as hard, marveling at the bright grin on her face despite the dark bruise her assailant left behind. Her normally bright aura appeared somewhat confused today. In fact, the only one of the group not a little muddled was the baby who was snuggled in his daddy’s arms.
“My turn with the little nipper,” Lorne held out his hands. “What a surprise that a tiny bundle like this can make you wonky when it disappears. No more disappearing acts, kid.”
Seeing that the Pylean was already getting distracted by humming a tune to Connor whose bright eyes were fixed on Lorne with rapt attention, Angel cut in with a quick reminder, “The letter.”
“How could I forget?” Lorne chuckled in a way that suggested he had really been putting off potentially bad news. “It’s right here in the pocket over my heart, burning a hole like a hot potato. I figured you should be the one to open it, especially if there are any more gypsy curses attached to it.”
Since Lorne’s hands were full of baby, Cordelia reached behind Lorne and pulled out the velum envelope from his back pants pocket. It was sealed tight with dark red wax and a marking she had only ever seen in Wesley’s file on Angelus. That name was written in an old style on the front of the envelope.
Cordelia held it out in the direction she knew Angel to be standing before following through with the temptation to rip it open herself. Almost as soon as he took the envelope from her, it vanished from sight. She let out a little grmph of frustration as that also meant she couldn’t read it over his shoulder.
“Well?” Cordelia prompted him after a few seconds, knowing the others were equally interested in discovering the truth. “What does it say?”
The only response was the appearance of the letter and its envelope on the desktop next to them. Whatever it read was keeping Angel in his silent broody mode and that had Cordelia snatching it up the instant she saw it. Wes, Gunn and Fred all crowded around her to read the message while Lorne kept his distance. He’d already gotten the gist of it from Angel’s reaction.
“Cryptic much,” mumbled Cordelia in complaint. Frowning, she asked the group, “So what’s it mean?”
Taking the letter and it’s envelope from her hand, Wes studied the seal on the cream colored envelope and the single line of script within the letter itself: Prepare for judgment. “It appears we are to expect visitors.”
“They’re coming here?” Cordelia looked around for Angel, but the invisibility thing made it hard to find him. He’d moved off somewhere. Turning back to Wes, she demanded clarification, “To do what? Judgment could mean anything.”
“I doubt it’s a pie-eating contest,” commented Wes drolly. “Obviously, this has to do with Angelus’ crimes against the Kalderash Romany and their subsequent curse.”
When Fred piped up to call out the vampire’s name, Cordelia figured she wasn’t alone in wondering whether Angel knew more about that single line of text than was obvious. Whether it was a warning or a threat, she needed to know because not knowing was already causing anxious butterflies to swarm inside.
Angel hadn’t gone far, just over to the couch where his voice sounded steadier than it should under the circumstances. She automatically followed the sound, standing there until his hand curled around her wrist and with a gentle tug brought her to sit beside him. Linking her fingers with his, Cordelia listened as Angel reminded them all, “The Kalderash intended the soul to be the means to my punishment. It could be that they want to ensure the curse is still meeting its intent.”
“To see that you remain tormented by the emotional response to the memories of the people you’ve killed,” Wes nodded his own understanding.
“I get that part,” admitted Gunn as he rubbed his bald head with one large hand. “I don’t get this happiness clause. Vamp gets a little action and boom the gypsies have Soulless Joe back. Not so smart, if you ask me.”
In full agreement, Cordelia could picture Angelus planning revenge of his own, going after yet another gypsy princess, if not the whole clan. “So when can we expect this gypsy invasion?”
Glancing down at the letter again despite knowing that it revealed nothing of the sort, Wes answered, “It doesn’t say. Reconsidering my original hypothesis, this mention of judgment could be an event rather than an actual visitation.”
Cordelia released Angel’s hand and stalked over to Wesley’s side grabbing the letter and holding it up to the light looking for clues that weren’t there. “So where do we find this Madame Bosha?”
“We don’t,” Angel stated with a tone of finality.
Not about to take that without further explanation, Cordelia turned back toward the couch. “We don’t? She’s the one with the answers, Angel. This sounds like a threat and I’m not gonna roll out the red carpet and wait for doomsday.”
Angel’s hands were suddenly on her arms and she jerked in surprise at the sudden sensation. The fingers gripped gently, but firmly enough to get his point across, “Let it happen as she plans it, Cor. Whatever the Kalderash have in mind, just let them come.”
With a growing sense of fury, Cordelia’s response was accompanied by a hard shove to his chest that couldn’t normally budge Angel. She felt his hands drop from her arms and though he was no longer touching her, she could tell he hadn’t moved more than an inch or two away. Just to prove it to herself, Cordelia poked a finger at his chest as she complained, “Don’t you dare give me that broody I-deserved-to-be-cursed attitude. You’ve paid for that over and over. More than enough.”
“Can it ever be enough?” Cordelia flinched at the pain evident in his words. “I’m a vampire. It’s what I am. No matter the existence of the prophesy and the promise of finding redemption, what can I possibly do to make up for everything I’ve done in the past?”
“That’s the mission, Angel,” her hand slid up the contours of his chest to palm the invisible face. Almost imperceptibly, he leaned into her touch. “You live it every day helping the hopeless. The people you’ve saved…”
“A handful in comparison to those I’ve tortured, those I’ve killed,” Angel pointed out. Redemption had seemed so close when they’d first discovered the prophesy. Now it seemed eons away. “The innocents I’ve slaughtered far outweigh those I’ve saved, including the favorite daughter of the Kalderash.”
A frustrated growl sounded from Cordelia’s throat as she gritted her teeth together. “It’s a good thing you’re invisible. You need a swift kick in the rear,” she told Angel.
The slight motion under her hand as the curve of Angel’s mouth brushed against her thumb made Cordelia realize he was smiling. Relief at his reaction felt overwhelming to the point that she threw her arms around his neck hugging him close. “Don’t think I can’t do it, either,” she added as she moved out of his arms.
The cool tips of his fingers trailed across the line of her jaw, his thumb whispering across her mouth for an instant before Cordelia sensed him stepping away. That little touch left her wanting more, but this was hardly the time to think about the way her imagination had been twisting their interactions into something intimate.
Cordelia sucked in a sharp breath, releasing it before pointing out, “It’s today that counts, not the past. I…any of us here would take you over some comic book hero in tights any day.”
“Damn straight,” Gunn confirmed his agreement.
As did Fred, “Cordy’s right.”
“The Kalderash judged you when they invoked the curse,” Wesley pointed out as he decided they might be reading too much into the letter. “Returning now could mean anything.”
“Madame Busybody is the one planning all of this,” reminded Cordelia refusing to drop the idea of looking for the old woman.
Gunn was all for that. Sitting around and waiting for something to happen was not his idea of a good thing. “Wes & I should check out the gypsy’s shop. Maybe we can find a clue about what she’s planning.”
“It’s closed up tight,” Lorne explained that he’d found the shop empty. The only thing left was the envelope taped in an obvious location. “Not a crystal ball in sight much less a clue.”
Apparently, Angel wasn’t surprised that Madame Bosha had cleared out of her shop even if Cordelia thought it strange that it was necessary. “If the Kalderash want to be found, we’ll find them easily enough. Otherwise forget it.”
“So we just wait?” Cordelia found that idea ridiculous.
In an off-key sing-song, Cordelia reminded him, “Hello, you’re still invisible.”
Wes promised that he and Fred would continue to conduct research, but stressed that the safest thing to do would be to refrain from reversing the invisibility process until they were certain about the effects on Angel’s soul. Having heard that, Lorne didn’t think it was necessary, “Your soul has been super-glued, Angelcakes. Don’t ask me when or how it happened, but it’s suddenly as clear as crystal.”
The confidence behind Lorne’s words made Cordelia’s heart beat a little faster. But Wes had to ruin her little rush of happiness by explaining his theory about the magic effects of the Invisibility Ray. “The danger of dispersing the soul entirely is too great to ignore. More research is required before any action can be taken.”
Afterward, Lorne sent Cordelia a sympathetic look, commenting, “Doesn’t that blow a cold wind up your skirt.” Then to Angel, he slyly suggested, “Seems to me someone ought to take advantage of this whole invisible thing while he has a chance.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes at that comment. Take advantage? Pfft! “Like Tall, Dark and Stuffy is really gonna head to the nearest women’s dressing room to sneak a peek. This is Angel we’re talking about, not Wes or Gunn.”
Simultaneous complaints sounded from the latter two. “Hey! I resent that remark.”
“Resemble that,” Cordelia snorted as she shared a look with Fred that caused the Texan to blush a rosy hue.
Lorne shook his head as he realized Cordelia let his advice to Angel fly right over her head. He leaned closer to the vampire whose aura was glowing with frustration. “You have work to do, sugar pie,” he suggested. “The little nipper and I are gonna catch up on that bedtime story we missed out on last night about the Jolly Green Demon.”
The days that followed fell into a pattern of business as usual for the team at Angel Investigations. With one minor alteration: Angel’s invisibility.
Wes kept researching, but had come up with nothing remotely useful in regards to the Kalderash or the Eye of Dakronn. Despite that, the Englishman continued to burn the midnight oil to find information. A remote link had been established to Willow’s computer database to allow for cross-referencing.
While Wes focused on discovering all there was to know about the mystic Eye, Fred continued to tinker with prototypes of Invisibility Rays using alternate power sources. Unfortunately, she was having no luck maintaining the stability of the wavelengths around the test objects. That just made her all the more determined to solve the problem.
The PTB apparently had no compunction about sending their invisible champion off on a mission. If anything, they seemed keen to take advantage of the situation by sending Cordelia three visions in the same week. Gunn tagged along for the fight and came back with stories of how the demons reacted to the invisible vampire. When he gave them a chance to react at all, Gunn pointed out.
Despite her concerns for Angel, Cordelia had problems of her own that no one else knew about. Staying at the hotel, she missed the distraction and care that Dennis offered, especially his ability to listen. Tilting her head back, Cordelia swallowed down the pain killers, her hands shaking as she moved to hold on to the edge of the sink. Geez, it keeps getting worse.
“Headache?” Angel’s concerned voice sounded behind her.
Straightening up, Cordelia silently reminded herself not to leave the bathroom door open again. Just because the place looked empty, didn’t mean that it was. “Yeah, it’s just the usual after-vision thing.”
“Didn’t you take something before I left?” They both knew she’d popped a couple of Tylenol.
“I did,” Cordelia agreed swiftly as she rummaged through her purse for the bottle she’d opened just minutes before. How bad was it that she disguised her medication? “These are just vitamins. One A Day keeps the doctor away.”
Angel examined the label before returning it to her. “I thought that was an apple.”
“That was just back in the days before scientists fit everything you need into a pill,” Cordelia made an effort to grin and attempted to get out the door.
“Wait,” Angel caught her, pulling her back in front of the sink.
“Let me go,” she pleaded softly. God, she didn’t want to talk about this. “It’s just a harmless little vitamin. I’ll eat an apple later if it’ll make you feel better.”
“What? No, look at the mirror,” Angel turned her around to face it.
Cordelia hoped he wasn’t going to point out that she looked tired. It had been a rough week and while the bruise on her face was now hidden under a thin layer of makeup, the effects of back-to-back visions showed in her eyes. “I look like I’ve just come back from Hag City.”
Angel chuckled, pulling her back against his chest. His cheek rested against the soft cascade of her hair as he bent his head to say, “You need some sleep, Cordelia, but you’re still beautiful.”
A smile played at the corners of her mouth as she gazed at her lonely reflection. “I wish I could see you.”
“I can,” he told her with a sense of wonderment. “I see my reflection.”
Cordelia figured it was another side-effect of the magic that kept him invisible and also protected him from the deadly rays of the sun. “You see both of us?”
A flash of envy consumed her for an instant. She wondered what they looked like together, standing front to back facing the mirror. With her bottle of vitamins still clutched in her hand, Cordelia knew there was far more than just invisibility separating them.
“Cordy, I think we need to talk.”
Cordelia lifted her bare wrist and pointed to where a watch might normally be worn, “Look at the time. My boss is a bear when I get behind on the filing. Gotta go.”
Little actual filing was done the remainder of the afternoon. Cordelia busily pushed paperwork around her desk as she tried to figure out what Angel had been going to say to her. She’d been so focused on avoiding the subject of why she was popping pain pills like they really were just vitamins, she wondered if he intended to say something else. Whatever it was, Angel didn’t bother her with it the rest of the day retreating up to his suite the moment the baby monitor alerted him that Connor was awake.
Two days later, Cordelia figured she’d simply read too much into Angel’s statement. He might have wanted to talk about the weather or the latest Lakers win. Okay, so the vampire wasn’t much for making small talk and as far as Cordelia knew he had no interest in basketball. Today, she was feeling much more like herself again and had no intention of out-brooding Angel.
Though she did have to admit to herself that sneaking up for Connor cuddles while the vampire was still asleep was not as much fun as it usually was considering that the bed looked crumpled, but otherwise empty. Normally it was visibly filled by a certain gorgeous half-naked vampire. Not that she purposely oogled him or anything. Eye-candy was just too good to waste.
Even the baby was being uncooperative by sleeping soundly in his crib. Cordelia was half way to sneaking out of the bedroom when she was stopped in her tracks by the sleep-weighted sound asking her, “Don’t go.”
“Connor’s asleep,” she whispered while turning around to face the bed.
“I think I can hold a conversation better than my son can.” Angel tossed back the sheet and swung his legs over the side of the bed leaving a visible indentation that she tracked with her eyes.
Hands on her hips, Cordelia grinned teasingly, “There are days that’s debatable.”
Predictably, Angel had no immediate reply which left her laughing softly. She walked back toward him, stopping a couple of feet from where he sat. “Today’s the day.”
Angel sounded confused, “What day? Did Wes discover something?”
“Nope,” Cordelia told him having made this decision completely on her own and figuring it would be good for him. “You’ve been all about work, work, work ever since we got back home from Sunnydale. Except for taking Connor and me out for that stroll in the sunshine yesterday afternoon, you’ve done nothing fun since you were turned invisible.”
“Fun?” Angel sounded doubtful. He shifted on the bed, standing and brushing past her.
“Okay, so maybe you’re not exactly the Fun Guru,” Cordelia admitted as she watched his clothes float out of the closet. Apparently Angel was too much of a gentleman to stand in front of her in his boxers, even if she couldn’t see him.
Assuming you’re wearing any. A flash of heat bloomed in her chest spreading in all directions at that unbidden thought which rolled right into another. Of course you’re wearing boxers. You always wear boxers to bed. Even I know that.
“It’s not like you’d run around the hotel naked,” words followed thought.
“You’re right,” Angel agreed, having never considered it. “Was that the kind of fun you had in mind?”
The question came out of nowhere, startling Cordelia who had been focused on the initially amusing sight of Invisible Vamp getting dressed that she never realized she’d spoken. Her gaze had been locked onto the way those dark Armani pants were taking shape causing a momentary loss of brain function.
What did she have in mind? There had been a list, a whole list of creative things to let Angel take advantage of his invisibility and resistance to sunlight while he had the chance. Drawing a blank, she shrugged, “Lots of stuff.”
In the space of a blink, the black pants disappeared from view and Cordelia let out a short sigh of relief. Funny what your mind focused on when there was only one thing to look at.
“Like what?” Angel sounded curious enough, but she couldn’t quite place his tone, the deep timbre sounding almost suggestive. “What would you do if you were me?”
Cordelia snorted daringly, “Things you’d never have the guts to do.”
“Think so?” Angel swung his shirt on, but Cordelia never saw him button it up as he crossed the room toward her. It too faded from view leaving her only with his words.
“Know so.” Who was picking on whom here, Cordelia wondered suddenly. It felt like she was the one on the defensive instead of taking charge of this little funscapade. Hah. She’d see about that.
Before Cordelia could open her mouth again, she heard close to her ear, “Back to what I should do. Tell me.”
A little flustered at his closeness, Cordelia whirled around and took a step back to give herself a little more space. Her calves bumped up against the corner of the bed. Coming up with something she figured he’d never go along with, Cordelia blurted, “Skinny-dipping.”
Angel was back in her personal space again a second later when he asked for a little clarification, “Alone? Sounds a little boring by myself. You’d have to tag along.”
Pfft! Did she have to point out the obvious? “But I’m not invisible.”
“Right.” The single word accompanied a low rumble that Cordelia couldn’t identify, but knew had to come from him. It ran right through her leaving her skin tingling in its wake. Suddenly, all she could think of was Angel slathering suntan lotion over every inch of her or doing the same to him.
That is so wrong, Chase. You don’t think things like that during the daytime. At all. I mean: at all.
“Scratch that idea,” Cordelia grumbled, moving forward with her palm outstretched. It gave her unintentional confirmation that his shirt was still undone as the warmth of her hand pressed up against the cool flesh beneath it. The sensation gave her a sudden reminder of the season and a reasonable excuse. “It’s winter, and even if I was invisible, too, hello, goosebumps.”
“So no skinny dipping,” Angel chuckled at the quick change of plans. He captured the hand pressing against his chest, pulling it down to her side refusing to step back to give her more breathing room. “Any other grand ideas?”
One by one Angel turned down the outrageous ideas that Cordelia came up with to ensure he had some fun with his invisibility. Finally, she huffed, frustrated, “I give up. You’re hopeless.”
“Then maybe I need a little rescuing.”
Cordelia stared up, focusing on his voice, and suddenly suspicious. Finally, she asked half-jokingly, “Are you flirting with me?”
“Obviously not very well,” the soft sound of irony filled the air between them.
Stunned at the realization that Angel was actually throwing her a line, Cordelia felt her head spinning. “Back in Sunnydale did you…? I think you kissed me.”
The hand holding hers shifted, his thumb caressing her wrist in a slow circle. Her eyes darted down to look at the spot only to shoot up again when the fingers of his free hand tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “I must be out of practice if you don’t remember.”
He was joking about it? Now was not the time for him to find his sense of humor. “It was a thank you, right, just gratitude?”
“Oh.” Cordelia couldn’t hide the disappointment that filled that one short syllable.
A weighty pause followed before Angel asked her, “It surprised you?”
What was she supposed to say to that? No, I normally let my chin hit the ground that way? I was just exercising my jaw by letting it hang open? “A little. I wasn’t expecting it.”
“Then I guess there is an advantage to being invisible,” Angel dared a soft chuckle. “That surprise factor might be worth it.”
Trying to follow along, Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Why, are you planning to work your way through L.A.’s female population by playing the Invisible Kissing Bandit instead of the Dark Avenger? Steals kisses by day, saves damsels by night.”
“Now that’s definitely an idea.” Lifting her hand, Angel pressed a soft kiss along the curves of her knuckles.
Cordelia laughed, “Trust you to think that would be fun. Stick with your night job.”
Her amused smirk faltered beneath the sudden pressure of his mouth on hers. Cool lips caressed hers one by one after stealing the gasp caught between them. Only a moment longer, mouth bowed in surprise beneath him and wanting more. Following only to taste the empty air, Cordelia’s eyes snapped open.
“Angel, what was that?” There was no doubting that kiss and it certainly wasn’t on her forehead.
“Practice? Wouldn’t want to let down all of those damsels,” he told her hurriedly. It was followed by grumbled apology.
Suddenly unsure whether it was the apology or the thought of Angel kissing anyone else that made her angry, Cordelia shoved her hands back on her hips. One little kiss and he had her head swimming, her body tingling and he was just warming up for a little damsel smooching. Worse, it was her idea.
“Forget the Kissing Bandit routine.” Cordelia told him it was a lousy plan.
“Sounds a lot better than sneaking into…whose bedroom was that, again?” Angel brought up one of her other not-so-brilliant suggestions. “Jude Lawyer’s.”
As if she hadn’t mentioned the name often enough for Angel to remember, Cordelia reminded him again, “Law. Jude Law. That was what I’d do if I was invisible, not you. With you it would be some silly starlet, i.e. Rebecca Lowell.”
“Silly seer is more like it,” Angel corrected as his fingers skimmed the curve of her face, “i.e. Cordelia Chase.”
“Angel,” she said his name as if invoking it would break the spell of invisibility and let her look into his eyes. Sincerity came with his touch and his words causing Cordelia to conclude that she had been right the first time. Almost whimsically, she smiled at him, “You really are flirting with me.”
That confident predatory purr suddenly vanished as Angel nervously asked Cordelia, “Does… is… are you okay with that?”
“More than okay,” Cordelia admitted, now seemingly unable to stop smiling at the thought alone. “I suppose it depends.”
All too seriously, Angel queried, “On what?”
“What were you planning to do in my bedroom once you snuck in there, play with my lingerie?”
“Only if you’re in it,” he said against her lips.
Though he pulled Cordelia close into his embrace, Angel’s masterful kiss never got started. Before he could claim her mouth, Cordelia ducked her head as a wave of soft chuckles overcame her. Finally, she lifted her head up, eyes sparkling as she wound her arms around Angel’s neck.
Still giggling, “You’re pretty corny for a vampire.”
“Yeah, I am,” Angel released a short groan. “Wait! Did you said corny?”
Cordelia curled her fingers along his nape toying with the short strands of his hair. Hope filled her soft query, “Wanna prove me wrong?”
He needed no second invitation. With her name on his lips, Angel kissed her, gingerly at first for daring to act upon desires that welled so deep. The barest touch trailed an internal fire as Cordelia leaned in for more, his fingers gently grazing the curve of her hip, the swell of her breast, and the line of her throat to tangle in her hair.
From the first touch of his mouth, Cordelia’s eyelids had fluttered closed. Mapping out his broad shoulders, the firm muscles of his torso, the line of his back, she greedily explored with her hands what she could no longer see, spreading warmth across his skin. Each touch, each kiss, closer to him. Instantly addicted: to him, to his kiss, to his touch, wanting more.
Tiptoe kisses, arms wound around him, held tight against his frame. Fiery response the only answer to Angel’s ardent caress, his mouth was firm and then gentle yet demanding and then giving. Shifting, their limbs tangling, no longer standing, but surrounded by the soft shifting of cotton beneath them brought only momentary distraction.
Until the cool brush of air against her heated mouth brought Cordelia’s world back into sudden focus. She lay supine against the firm mattress, Angel above her, the heady weight of his aroused body half pressed against her. She wiggled and tried to pull him back down.
“Cordy,” his cheek brushed close to hers, want thickening his words, “I need you so much, but we have to stop.”
Why? No, no, no. Cordelia couldn’t think of a reason. She didn’t want to stop. If anything, that should be her line and she wasn’t gonna say it, assuring him, “No we don’t.”
Gently separating them, Angel rolled so they lay side by side facing each other. Cordelia’s hand curled into the material of his open shirt, holding on. He said, “It’s not fair to you.”
“Pfft! Says who?” Cordelia whined in frustration, her lips swollen from their kisses.
Angel cupped her hip, bringing them close again, letting out a moan as their bodies connected. “I shouldn’t start something I might not be able to finish.”
Thinking fast, Cordelia pointed out, “Super-glued soul, remember. Lorne said so.”
“For now, but what if it’s temporary? I’m talking about more than just this moment.”
He obviously thought they were rushing into things. Cordelia never suspected that Angel wanted her this way. They’d gone from flirtation to foreplay in one fast swoop. Taking advantage of this now might be their only chance, she knew, and not only because Angel’s soul might be safe temporarily. “I know the risks.”
Worriedly, he commented, “I hope you know I’m not trying to take advantage of the situation.”
Cordelia’s hand found its way up to his face. “Maybe I am.”
Capturing her hand, Angel pressed a kiss into the center of her palm. “Be sure about this, Cordy. We only get one first time and I’m still invisible.”
“Bet you’ve never done it that way before,” her eyebrows arched high as she teased him. Then seriously, “This could be our only opportunity.”
Unexpectedly, Angel chuckled in response. “Why is that funny?” Cordelia demanded with a slight pout.
“If it turns out that my soul goes back to the status quo, it doesn’t mean that I can’t touch you,” he promised suggestively. “I guess you haven’t met my creative side.”
“As long as it doesn’t call itself Angelus and consider me a Happy Meal, I’m all for the intro.” Then Cordelia nudged his shoulder until he rolled onto his back allowing her to follow.
“There could be nibbling involved.” Pulling her more fully on top of him, he pressed his mouth to her neck and let his hands wander down her frame.
Squealing in response to the caresses that moved purposely across her skin, Cordelia cried out, “Not there, not there!” Giggling, “That tickles!” Squirming against him, she laughed, “No fair! I can’t see you.”
Just when she was nearly out of breath, Angel rolled her beneath him again, claiming her mouth and picking up where their last kiss left off. Swamped by feelings he had buried and only recently discovered, he recognized their power. Lust pulled sharply tied to instincts he could not ignore. The urge to possess her, claim her as his own, tugged against emotions that he never knew in his soulless days and that he never truly understood until now.
When he lifted his mouth a hairsbreadth away from hers, Cordelia let out a gasp, thinking he was planning to go through with his plan to stop. Instead, Angel’s words made it clear that for him this was only the beginning, “I love you.”
Going still in his arms, holding her breath and desperately wanting to look into his eyes, Cordelia confessed softly, “I love you, too.”
Knock, knock, knock…. The jarring sound was followed by Lorne’s voice calling out to them from the other side of the bedroom door. “Yoo hoo in there. Angelcakes. Princess.”
Cordelia’s head hit the mattress, “Loooorne, please, not now.”
“Come back tomorrow,” muttered Angel even as he moved off of the bed and helped Cordelia to her feet. This interruption was more than just bad timing.
Upon opening the door, they saw Lorne’s mouth stretched into a guilty smile, “Sorry to interrupt, sweet things, really sorry considering the scorching hot vibes.”
“What is it?” Angel’s unintentional growl suggested he get on with whatever news brought him upstairs.
Cordelia tucked her hair behind her ears, trying to make it appear like Angel hadn’t been running his hands through it. She fixed Lorne with a grumpy frown, “The hotel better be on fire.”
“Only in here, Princess,” Lorne chuckled only to drop the smile after a quick look over his shoulder. “The rest of the place is icy cold. That’s why I’m here.”
Angel understood immediately, “The Kalderash.”
Cordelia realized that Angel must sense them, hearing their voices, their movements down in the lobby. “One more reason not to like that bunch: their timing sucks.”
“They’re here and putting off the scary intense vibes,” Lorne told them. “Madame B and her cronies have come with a purpose. Whatever it is, they’re determined to see it through.”
Angel sounded the same as he responded, “We’ll be down in a minute.”
“Just one word of fashion advice,” Lorne paused on his way out.
Pfft! Cordelia pointed out that it hardly mattered, “He’s invisible.”
“The advice is for you,” Lorne explained with a wave of his fingers in her direction. “You might want to try re-buttoning that blouse before heading downstairs.”
“This is a perplexing situation,” Madame Bosha told Angel as she sought him out. “I find this invisibility distracting.”
The gypsy woman sat upon the couch in the central part of the lobby flanked by six men and women only slightly younger than she. Standing silently, their faces were drawn into masks of resolve. Madame Bosha had introduced them as elders of the clan of the Kalderash Romany; she was their speaker.
“You’re not the only one,” Cordelia cut through the silence that followed the gypsy’s observation only to find that the woman’s dark eyes now focused upon her. “Why don’t you fix it.”
“Sit next to me,” Madame Bosha patted the cushion next to her. “We will talk while the vampire brings his son.”
Angel had no intention of letting her anywhere near Connor. “He’s asleep.”
“Oh?” No sooner had she spoken than the baby’s wail sounded over the electronic monitor perched on the countertop. “I intend no harm, Cursed One. The child is the reason we are here.”
That announcement caused a commotion as the Angel Investigations team suddenly burst into questions, none of which the gypsy answered. Holding up her hands, she signaled for silence. “All will be revealed. Impatience and impertinence will not be tolerated.”
“Neither will veiled threats,” returned Angel bristling at the delay and her demands.
As Cordelia’s hand slid along his arm, her fingers curling through his, Angel felt her silent support. The Kalderash carried no weapons, not even a sharpened stake or a bottle of holy water. Despite their unarmed state, Angel wasn’t about to leave them for the length of time it took to go upstairs to attend to his son.
“Fred,” he called out without moving his gaze from the frail woman whose eyes held the knowledge of ages, “bring Connor downstairs.”
Doubt sounded as she agreed with the request. “Oh? Okay, Angel, if you’re sure about it.”
“It’s okay, Fred,” he assured her, hoping such confidence was merited.
“Your minions are loyal,” the gypsy woman arched a dark grey brow.
Angel knew she was trying to push his buttons. “They’re my friends.”
“So they told me when they came to my ofisa.” Then her gaze shifted from his general direction back to Cordelia. Once again, she patted the couch cushion beside her. “Do not think I have forgotten you so quickly. Come, I wish to meet the woman who is the vampire’s lover.”
Surprised choking and gasping came from Wes and Gunn as they stood behind them. Cordelia glanced down at her blouse, just to check that she’d fixed it. “Whoa, lady, I think you’re making a lot of assumptions.”
Madame Bosha gave her a hard stare, correcting herself, “His beloved, then. Come child, do not keep me waiting.”
When Cordelia started to move forward, Angel held her back long enough to ask the gypsy, “This should be between us. What do Connor and Cordelia have to do with it?”
“Perhaps everything, perhaps nothing,” came the cryptic response. “We shall see.”
“I’m not afraid,” Cordelia said. Not for her own sake. “Creeped out a little, maybe.”
“Feisty and brave,” nodded the gypsy. Then with a frown, she added, “Perhaps too brave for your own good.”
Cordelia sank onto the couch next to Madame Bosha who immediately grasped her hand in a surprisingly strong grip and turned it palm upward.
“You are caught in an abyss of beginnings and endings,” the frown deepened. “Alone you may falter. Your natal day shall bring you to the brink. Choices offered lead you to false paths. Choose neither, daughter. Let hope and trust show you the road you must take.”
Snatching her hand away, Cordelia rubbed at her palm as if it had been burned. She had no idea what Madame Bozo was talking about. Jerking to her feet, Cordelia took a step closer to Angel, but it was Lorne’s eyes that captured her startled gaze. His own appeared dark, his normally jovial expression clouded, seeing something now that he had missed before.
Between the fortune teller and the empathy demon, Cordelia realized that her secret was no longer her own. Though she doubted Lorne could tell the nature of her health problems, he had to sense something. Wes appeared to be mentally dissecting the gypsy’s words, looking for answers, while Gunn simply looked worried.
“We’ve had enough prophesies around this place,” Cordelia told her, trying not to look in Angel’s direction at all.
“Heed my words. For it is truth I speak,” Madame Bosha assured her before moving her frank gaze toward Wesley. “Have you done so? Found the truth within the lie?”
Angel had no idea what the woman was talking about and asked Wesley for details. His response remained just as enigmatic as the gypsy’s message to Cordelia. “She spoke of a false prophesy that would lead to a time of darkness. I haven’t discovered it yet. My research on the Eye of Dakronn has been consuming most of my time.”
“Ah, there is the child,” Madame Bosha watched Fred descend the steps with Connor in her arms. “Excellent. Now the judgment may truly commence.”
The gentle pressure of invisible fingers along Cordelia’s back hinted at Angel’s wishes even as he kept his focus on the gypsies gathered in his lobby. Walking over to meet Fred at the bottom of the steps, Cordelia held out her arms for the baby. Rejoining the group, she instinctively made her way back to Angel’s side.
“Bring the child to me.”
“Not a chance,” Angel responded instantly. “Not until you explain what’s going on here.”
“Very well, vampire,” Madame Bosha agreed to the terms. “I am prepared to answer your questions. Be certain that you are ready for mine.”
Angel sucked in a single breath of air into his dead lungs and held it there until it hurt, a silent count going off in his head centering him and demanding patience. “A century ago, your people cursed me to bear the weight of my crimes by giving me a soul. I have existed with it for nearly all of that time, though I lost it once until it was given back to me. My friends have a theory that the soul is now permanent.”
With her gnarled hands folded on her lap, Madame Bosha sat silent for long seconds before speaking. “Your crimes against my people will never be forgotten, Angelus. It is the Kalderash way to possess a long memory where such things are concerned.”
“The name’s Angel now,” Cordelia stressed.
“What difference is there in a name? Is he not the same being?”
Cordelia held Connor in one arm as she pointed out, “I’m not saying you should just forgive and forget, but that was one girl and it was over a hundred years ago. Angel has suffered enough. Trust me when I tell you he is the King of Brood.”
“Was Enyos’ demise so long ago? I think not, Miss Chase. His death preceded that of his niece Janna by mere days,” Madame Bosha’s reminder left Cordelia floundering. She had forgotten for a moment of that recent link to this gypsy clan. “It was I who sent Jenny Calendar to Sunnydale. I who allowed Enyos to follow. For the first time in a century of souled existence, there was a chance that Angelus would find his way to freedom.”
“That’s a dangerous loophole,” Angel commented, drowning out the ghostly echo of Jenny’s neck snapping under his grip.
“Yes,” Wesley wholeheartedly agreed. “Precisely why would you create such a clause in the first place? Utter bliss might be a rarity, but considering the rather libidinous nature of vampires…”
Angel cleared his throat.
“And historically speaking, Angelus could certainly be counted in that category,” Wes continued despite the attempted interruption, “the chances of closing that loop are statistically significant.”
Gunn leaned in close, muttering, “Way to go. You’ve just convinced Madame B over there that Angel’s a horny vampire.”
“Certainly not,” Wes tugged at his tie. “I was simply pointing out the inconsistency with the formulation of the curse, not acting as a character witness.”
Madame Bosha picked up her cane from its resting place beside her and tapped it on the floor. “There was no such ‘happiness clause’, no loophole created. Love is the only true cure for any curse tied to the soul, to the emotions. Thus, the curse was broken.”
“We know that part,” Angel felt a little uncomfortable talking about this when the woman he now loved stood at his side. He kept his hand on the small of her back, telling her he was there and hoping she could interpret that touch. “Is the soul permanent?”
“Did the Eye of Dakronn not reveal this to you?”
“Did it?” Angel asked the others for confirmation. “Lorne thinks so.”
“The demon possesses the gift to see what others cannot,” nodded Madame Bosha. “To read a mind, a heart, a soul is far different than understanding whether that soul may be here today or gone tomorrow.”
Lorne completely agreed with that statement. “I saw the difference after you became invisible.”
“Only after you were exposed to the mystic wavelengths emitted by the invisibility ray,” Fred stressed the timeframe. “Since the Eye of Dakronn is the power source of the ray gun, technically it did exactly what Madame Bosha said it would: reveal that which is hidden, your soul.”
“That’s kinda cool,” Gunn admitted. “Did I tell you I really hate this mystic mumbo jumbo?”
Madame Bosha answered with a sardonic twist of her wrinkled lips, “I believe that you have mentioned it before, Gadje.”
“So…,” Cordelia started off, but faltered as the gypsy’s words finally sunk in. “You’re saying that Lorne is right? That Angel’s soul is permanent?”
“We Kalderash cursed him, observed him, but we have nothing to do with securing the vampire’s soul,” admitted the old woman.
Wesley had to ask about the invisibility reversal process and his concerns about the Eye of Dakronn actually removing the soul. His theory garnered hearty laughter from all of the Kalderash present. Finally, Madame Bosha explained, “The Eye is a bauble, an ancient toy imbued with Romany majicks. It can hide or reveal the truth. That which we see, that which is unseen, that which we know, that which is unknown. It certainly has no power to secure or remove a soul.”
All around him, Angel heard the excited responses of his friends. Cordelia held up Connor to eye level, her smile beaming as she said, “Did you hear that, sweetie pie? Daddy can be visible again.”
Angel wondered if he was the only one thinking that the gypsies hadn’t come here to tell him his soul was secure, to wish him well or to make him visible again. They had come with a purpose that was yet to be fully revealed. Still, he had to ask, “Would you mind if I spent the rest of this little inquisition in visible form?”
“Not at all. While you are taking care of that, perhaps now would be a good time for me to meet your son,” Madame Bosha suggested.
Angel hesitated then changed his mind, “It can wait. You’re a stranger, Madame Bosha. You’re here at your own invitation and you haven’t explained why you’ve come.”
“Fair enough. You are a unique creature, Angelus…Angel,” she corrected at Cordelia’s harrumph. “In a sense, we the Kalderash are your creators. Until recently, there was little else to show for our efforts except that which we intended: your suffering. You remained separated from your kind and though you lived amongst humans for part of that time, you remained a loner.”
She asked pointedly, “What changed that?”
“I was contacted,” Angel began and told her about his meeting with Whistler.
“So you began your service to the Powers that Be without truly understanding their plan for you.”
Frankly, he still didn’t understand all of the plan. “I came to L.A. after that. The PTB sent me a seer, Doyle, to receive the visions that lead me on my missions.”
Madame Bosha pulled out a small white calling card from her skirt pocket and examined it. “Angel Investigations.”
“We help the helpless,” chimed in Cordelia with a charming smile. At least one she hoped was charming. “Angel’s a hero, a champion, one of the good guys.”
“Yes,” nodded the gypsy with a wry look toward Fred, her black eyes glittering. “I believe I was given that information, too.”
Cordelia added, “Well a good defense is… a good defense. All’s fair in love and war and curses so why don’t you folks call it a day. There is no need to throw any hasty judgments around here.”
A hint of a smile appeared on the old woman’s face, her thin lips curling slightly at the corners. “You are Angel’s seer now, his link to the Powers. You are his beloved, the link to his heart, but you are not the reason his soul is secure. That is actually…”
“What…you’re saying th—,” Cordelia couldn’t even bring herself to consider that the old gypsy might suggest that Buffy, or worse, even Darla might be his soulmate.
“She’s wrong,” Angel assured her, placing both hands on Cordelia’s shoulders and glaring ineffectively at the gypsy. Glaring techniques were useless when invisible.
The cane tapped on the floor again, a grumpy demand following, “Quiet. No more interruptions. Tell me vampire, when do you believe it happened? Was it the night your son was conceived?”
Angel hesitated because he knew Cordelia would immediately think about Darla and that was never a good thing. His sire was a forbidden topic, not that he wanted to talk about everything that had happened. Still, he had no choice, but to admit the truth. “Yes.”
He felt Cordelia’s shoulders stiffen beneath his hands, but she said nothing. Madame Bosha, on the other hand, was not so quiet. “Your colleague spoke of the prophetic birth of your son. A miracle in anyone’s eyes, a human conceived by two vampires.”
“I didn’t tell you that,” Wes hadn’t mentioned Darla at all.
“You are not the only one who can do research,” the gypsy shrugged. “I have a few contacts who have contacts. You are fond of theories, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, and I have one that I will share will you all.”
Cordelia muttered, “Why stop now?”
“The Powers are responsible for the child’s conception,” to which Cordelia let out a soft snort. “Therefore it is they who are also responsible for securing the vampire’s soul. If it was not necessary for the conception itself, then it certainly must be for the child’s development.”
She added, “It is not the way of the Kalderash to deny a human child the love and happiness of his father. So too must it be with the Powers.”
Angel cupped Connor’s head, his thumb smoothing over the downy hair. He wished that it could be so simple, but he had to point out, “The prophesies aren’t exactly pleasant. There isn’t much room in them for happiness.”
Then Wes cut in with a reminder of Madame Bosha’s reading, quoting her, “‘False prophesies surround him.’ Angel, there is no way to tell if that is true. The prophesy itself could be tainted. I can’t be certain. Perhaps I should continue interpretation of the scroll.”
“Vampire, I require your cooperation if the child is to pass the judgment of the clan,” Madame Bosha explained. Discovering that it was Connor rather than Angel who was to be judged by whatever measure the Kalderash intended resulted in another round of loud complaints.
Finally, the old gypsy’s quiet voice silenced them all. “Vengeance is an old Romany tradition. It is a way of life, a belief that the only way to settle a debt is to take an eye for an eye, a life for a life, a soul for a soul.”
“But you gave a soul to Angel,” Gunn pointed out the flaw in her logic.
“Bah! It served its purpose,” she waved off the interruption. “The birth of the child is a sign that the debt owed to us may now be repaid. A Gadje he may be, but to the Rom, he shall be known as a son of the Kalderash.”
“What the hell does that mean?” demanded Angel forgetting to bother with feigned politeness. “My son isn’t going anywhere.”
Holding up her hand, Madame Bosha signaled for peace. “That is not our intent. My people have few written histories. Most are passed down through the generations in stories and legends. Each child of the clan learns of our past through these tales. It is our decision that your son will hear them. He will know the history of the people you destroyed in your soulless state.”
Angel suddenly realized that the Kalderash had no power here. His soul was secure. His invisibility was just a reversal away from being a bad memory. Nothing obligated him to letting this gypsy clan have access to his son; nothing except his own guilt and a sense that he owed them something.
“I have no objections to my son learning the Kalderash history,” Angel told her, “as long as it’s under my supervision.”
Madame Bosha eventually got her hands on Connor, after which the tough old gypsy transformed her countenance into that of a cuddly grandma. Her clansmen relaxed once she announced the boy to be a strong specimen. After another hour of talking out the details of this future endeavor, the Kalderash left them on their own.
“Nana Bosha,” Cordelia rolled her eyes and let out a loud ‘pfft’ as she sounded out what the old gypsy wanted them to call her. “Why didn’t she say so in the letter? Applying for a role as a foster grandma sounds a lot less threatening than telling someone to prepare for judgment.”
“Cryptic imagery is very big with the Romany clans,” Wes commented. “As a matter of fact…”
Angel cut in, “I hate to interrupt…actually, I don’t mind at all. Now seems like a good time to get the Invisibility Ray and fix my little problem.”
“Already got it,” Fred held up the device.
She was about to point it in Angel’s direction when Gunn stopped her. “Can I do it? I mean, how often can a guy say he’s blasted his ex-boss with a real ray gun?”
“Just point and shoot,” Angel told him. “Keep the commentary to yourself.”
Lorne offered to take Connor out of the room. “Just in case,” he added on his way into Wesley’s office.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Angel just as Gunn pulled the trigger. A bright beam shot out hitting its target dead center.
Angel shut his eyes and waited for the pain that had come with the initial blast. The only thing he felt was Cordelia crashing into him a moment later as she threw herself against him, her joyous laughter ringing in his ears.
“Cordy?” his arms automatically wound around her waist.
“There’s my favorite hunk of salty goodness,” she murmured, hugging him tight. “I missed your face.”
Relief that everything seemed to have worked came out with a sigh, “So you can see me?”
“Mmm hmm,” she grinned. “I’m thinking we should celebrate.”
The triumphant faces of his friends suggested they had the same idea. Thought he felt certain Cordelia had something more private in mind. “I’m thinking we were interrupted earlier.”
Cordelia grinned, “I’m thinking you’re right.”
“Guess we’re on the same wavelength again,” Angel joked, earning him a patented eye-roll. His fingers skimmed the outline of her face, tilting her chin as his mouth descended onto hers.
Unstoppable laughter burst forth as Cordelia cheerfully said, “Dork.”
Angel growled back, “I can see that I’ll have to cure you of laughing every time I try to kiss you.”
Behind them, Fred was grinning at the sight while Gunn pointed the Invisibility Ray in their direction. He asked Wes, “Can I zap, ‘em? I got a feeling we’re gonna regret those two getting together. We can’t see it if they’re invisible.”
“Hmmm,” Wesley appeared to consider it, adjusting his glasses a bit at the sight of Cordelia kissing Angel with enthusiasm. “You may be right.”
Whirling on them, Fred glared at the two men. “Charles, you put the gun down and back away slowly.”
Gunn played along and Fred immediately picked up the device. She smirked at both of them. “I’ve got an Invisibility Ray. That is so cool.”
The Challenge by Cordelia’s Destiny:
Angel’s invisible, curse nullified.
I was thinking geek-trio type invisibility, but hey, its your challenge.