Part 10

The Greenest Eye


Wednesday, Late afternoon, Full Moon

Angel tossed the keys to Cordelia and stood very still while she freed herself and then Alice. Once the cuffs were off Alice wastes no time in putting the width of the bed between him and her, she stands tensely fingering the metal still locked around her neck, dark eyes never leaving Angel. Both women watching him, waiting for his next move.

"Cordelia, cuff me," Angel told her. "Hands in front." She only hesitates for a moment before moving forward, scared but determined. Angel has to close his eyes, resolutely ignoring her scent, the feel of her fingers on his skin. Thankful that she doesn’t linger. He opens his eyes when she’s withdrawn to a safe distance. He flexes; testing his bonds, and frowns.

"These won’t hold me. Better get the chains." Cordelia opens her mouth, then shuts it and goes off to rummage in a closet.

Alice clears her throat. "What about this?" she asks tugging at the collar.

"Keys are upstairs, top drawer, my office."

Alice is gone, scrambling up the stairs.




Xander hurries along the nearly deserted sidewalk, uncomfortably aware of how late it is. His own shadow stretching out behind him like Mr. Fantastic as he searches for Angel Investigations. The alleyways between the mostly deserted office and warehouse buildings already look dangerously dark to his Sunnydale sensibilities. He keeps one hand in his jacket, close to the stake and cross he has tucked inside.

He should have been here hours ago. Xander’s beginning to feel like the powers are against him. Like they don’t want him to find Alice. It’s been one thing after another: first, he stopped at a gas station in El Caliche, and when he came out of the store after paying for the gas there was a little girl, maybe ten years old, long black hair, white dress, fooling around the back of his car. As soon as she saw Xander, she ran. Suspicious, he’d checked the tires, but didn’t see anything wrong so he shrugged, and drove away.

Forgot about her, until the left rear tire blew out 30 miles down the freeway; it took him half an hour to change it. The right front tire went 10 miles after that, and it took AAA 45 minutes to arrive and another hour for him to be towed to a station, get the tire patched and get back on the road.

Then, when he finally made it to LA, he couldn’t find the address. 1196 Almodovar Street. He’d been sure he was in the right part of the city, but he couldn’t seem to locate the street. He’d tried calling Giles for help, but of course his phone picked that moment to go down.

Finally, in desperation, Xander pulled over and asked a pedestrian for directions. The woman had looked sane: pretty, well dressed, pushing a baby in a stroller, and she’d seemed to know what she was talking about. Unfortunately her directions sent him on a long odyssey through a maze of one-way streets that funneled him onto an unavoidable on-ramp that sent him 10 miles down the freeway before he could find his way off. It was more than an hour before he finally made his way back to his starting point, found a gas station and bought a map. He’s not real good with maps, but eventually he found the street.

So here he is finally on Almodovar, but half the buildings have no address on them, and those that do are nearly impossible to read from a car, so once he figures he’s close, he parks and walks. 1124, 1180, 1196 – yeah, that’s it. Can't see the name from where he's standing, but it looks like the kind of building Angel would live in, a run-down 1930's office building. Can imagine Stacy Keach coming down the steps adjusting his hat. He hurries toward the steps.

"Spare change?"

Where the hell did she come from? Xander skids to a halt as the sidewalk is blocked by a bag lady wearing what looks like half the contents of a Goodwill dumpster and pushing a shopping cart piled high with what looks like the other half. The crone shuffles up, puts out an amazingly dirty hand, and peers up into his face expectantly.

"Nope, sorry," he says, stepping out into the street to go around her, but she gets there before him, hand still out.

"You seem to be in quite a hurry, young man," she says as he tries again to dodge her, but she’s quick on her feet for an old woman. "Ought to slow down," she says, blocking him. Xander gets the picture and roots in his pocket for change.

"Here," he says pouring the coins into her hand. She smiles, showing off the few black and yellow stubs she has left in her gums, and makes the money disappear into her rags.

"Thank you son. Bless you," she says, and finally gets out of his way.

He runs up the steps, grabs the doorknob, and stops. "J. Archer Professional Building" is lettered on the door in faded gilt. Through the dirty glass he can see the dusty and clearly abandoned interior. He steps back, and looks up at the building number. 1120 – what the hell? A chill runs down his spine and he spins around, expecting something awful to be there, reaching for him, claws dripping slime...

Nothing. He’s all alone. Even panhandling granny's gone. He lets out his breath, relieved.

Relief suspended when he realizes he can't see his car, which he knows he parked just down the block. He gives it a moment, then goes back down the steps, and walks to the corner. Only slightly surprised to find that somehow he's no longer on Almodovar, but on Guerrero, 4 blocks east. The sky overhead is fading, while the western horizon is just starting to color. It's getting cold. Xander sighs and heads west.


When she gets upstairs Alice is surprised and upset to see how late it is; the day is nearly done. She doesn't trust Angel, he may have let them go, but he could change back just as quick and the thought of the vampire coming after her again, without having the day to flee into makes her deeply unhappy. She spots the closed door, goes inside, and flicks on the light.

There's a big desk, and a skinny white man tied to the chair behind it. His head's thrown back exposing the ugly wound on his throat, his glasses reflecting the sudden light. This must be Wesley, who Cordelia had been so worried about, with cause from the look of him. He’s so pale that at first she thinks he’s dead, but he stirs, opening his eyes to stare at her in surprise. He opens his mouth to say something as Alice comes around the desk, moving him out of her way so she can search the drawers. She rummages through them until she finds what she’s looking for – the key. She unlocks the collar right then, tosses the damned thing into a corner. Keeps the keys.

"I’ll be right back," she reassures him as she leaves. It’s grown noticeably darker in the little time she’s been inside. She strips off the shirt and changes.

Hallelujah! She wants to shout but has to settle for a triumphant snarl as the lingering haze of narcotics is blown from her blood by the change. God it's good to be fresh and strong and lethal again; the gloomy office is bright as noon to her eyes. She can hear the traffic, the people walking past, the rapid breathing of Wesley in the office, the clank of chains and voices from the basement: Cordelia’s and Angel. Her ears go flat, the leopard wants to go down there *now* and settle accounts with claws and teeth. Tempting, but probably not a good idea. She's seen Angel fight, and even cuffed and/or chained she suspects he'd still be dangerous, even if Cordelia would just stand there and let her.

Almost sunset, and the night calls to her, with promises of freedom and safety. Nothing holding her here, she can simply leave, run away. Let Cordelia and Wesley deal with their pet monster. Cordelia can call Sunnydale and tomorrow maybe she’ll call Xander, tell him where to meet her. Right now she needs to run, to hunt, to wipe out the fear and helplessness of the past night and day with clean air and fresh meat.

The leopard pads toward the door, thinking about the deer she's grazing within full view of the I-134 and the scrub loaded with fat rabbits. Griffith Park is less than two miles away and even if people do see her, they probably won’t believe their eyes. Halfway there she leaps into the air, startled as something crashes behind her. The sharp scent of blood and fear that leaks from the inner office shatters her indifference to the man she’s left sitting alone in the growing dark. She growls softly, Damn.

She changes back. Shrugs unhappily into the shirt and goes in to the office. Wesley had tipped the chair over trying to get free. She unties him, helps him up. He seems dazed: no fucking wonder. He gulps down the water she brings him gratefully, and begins to look like he might live.

"Thank you," he says, when it's gone. "Miss, ah?"

"Smith. But Alice will do. Is there a first aid box around here somewhere? Your neck…" He shrugs.

"In Cordelia's desk I believe -- don't worry, I'm fine. What about Angel? And Cordelia?" She notices the priority of his concern.

"Downstairs. He let us go. Had Cordelia cuff him. They’re talking."

"He’s had a -- change of heart then?" She shakes her head. The man’s bleeding in at least two places, and still there’s hope in his voice. Xander’s right: they are all crazy.

"I guess. Listen, are you sure you're O.K.? Maybe you should go to Emergency?"

"No. I think I can manage. He didn’t…I’ll be fine." Alice has her doubts, but he’s old enough to make his own decisions.

"Fine," she says. "Where’s the phone? I need to call…"

She’s interrupted by the tinkle of breaking glass as the front door is slammed open. Alice wheels to face the door, skin prickling for a fight; behind her she hears Wesley groan as he hauls himself to his feet. Then the office door is kicked open and Xander rushes in, wild-eyed, and armed with a machete.

Mouth open, as he stares at the two of them: Wesley with his shirt open and about as unstarched as he’s ever seen him and Alice, obviously naked under an oversized shirt. Doesn't see any slavering vampires or other monsters to fight. He lowers his weapon.

"Alice," he says a little plaintively. "You O.K.?"

"Xander!" Alice nearly knocks him off his feet, as she throws herself into his arms and holds on for dear life. Finally feeling safe enough to cry.

Wesley averts his eyes as he sidles past the lovers and goes in search of a phone.


Cordelia chains Angel up with her mind on automatic, trying not to think about consequences. This time isn’t like the others. This isn’t unconscious or potential Angelus she’s chaining. This is Angel, with his eyes squeezed shut, trembling every time she bends over him, flinching whenever she has to make close contact with his body to tighten the chains. She understands, knows that Angel isn’t scared of her, but of what he wants to do to her.

Done at last, she stands back. Long sigh and no intake of breath after it before he finally opens his eyes. Tests his bonds, and relaxes a little.

"Good job," he says.

"Yeah. Practice makes perfect I guess. So what’s the plan?"

"I need to write a letter," he tells her softly.

"To Buffy." Cordelia tries to keep the bitterness out of her voice, but she’s not that good an actress.

"Yeah, and to the others. But yeah, I need Buffy to know how much her love meant to me. But she needs to put it and me in the past where they belong. Because it’s over."

"Wait a minute. Are you going somewhere?"

"I want to see the sun rise. One last time. " Angel says quietly. Cordelia stares at him in shock.

"Angel. You’d better not be saying what I think you’re saying, cause if you are…"

"It’s too late. It’s time I acted like a man and ended it."

"Angel, no…" He cuts her off.

"Cordelia, you’re what I regret most. That it took me so long to accept my feelings for you, that I never told you until it was too late. That I might never have told you, because of the curse. And I know this is a last bit of selfishness, but I want you to know that I do love you Cordelia. Not Buffy. You."


"I did love Buffy, but it’s past tense. Loving her was like drowning, it took everything, left no room for anything else. When I was with her, it was all Sturm und Drang, doomed lovers. It was – intense, and it couldn’t do anything but burn out."

"Loving you is – might have been, like breathing. Simple and profound. But we’ll never know now."

Cordelia is crying. Fighting to control her voice while tears drip down her cheeks.

"You can tell me that and then just – leave me! You can’t! It’s worse than anything Angelus ever came up with. You can’t just give up! There’s got to be a way!"

"I’m sorry, Cordelia, if I thought there was any way I wouldn’t do this. I love you, more than I’ve ever loved anyone, including Buffy. You accepted me, undead, monstrous without being in love with me. You gave up everything you knew or hoped for, risk your life constantly, and live with the pain of the visions not because you’re trying to make amends, or in hope of any reward, but because it’s the right thing to do. Cordelia, even if you weren’t beautiful, how could I not fall in love with you?"

"I’d do anything to keep you from being hurt…but part of me doesn’t care about any of that. All it knows, all it cares about is the blood. Your blood. If it gets loose it will squeeze you like an orange, drain every drop and toss what’s left away like trash. And that part of me gets stronger every minute, with every beat of your heart. "

"Angel, please…"

"No, you need to hear this. I see you, your beautiful body, and I want to hold it against me, to warm myself with your heat. I want to sink into you, want to sink my teeth into your lovely throat and drain you till your skin turns blue… till your heart starts to stutter and almost stops, and then I’d make you drink from me."

"Angel, I trust you. You wouldn’t; you’d never..." Angel's growl shocks her into silence. He glares up at her, yellow eyes blazing with the need to make her understand.

"You should never trust me. Because I would. I’d turn you Cordy. All that would be left is your body with your voice, your memories – but without your soul it would be nothing, a shell. You’d be dead, gone forever. I can’t risk that."

"The Powers! Angel, sheesh, they brought you back from Hell! They must have had a reason, have you asked the Oracles?"

"I tried, when this first started. Went to their temple, but the portal wouldn’t open."

"What about Wesley, Wesley should be able to find something to help you…"

"He’s been searching for months, ever since the Rebecca incident. And we both know that Wes is the only person more frightened than I am of Angelus getting loose again; if he hasn’t found anything, it’s because there’s nothing to find. It’s too late, Cordy, let me go."

"Dammit. I won’t. I can’t. You’re right Angel. I’ve given up everything else to be Vision Girl, fight evil, etc. etc. And it’s O.K.; I can deal with the danger, the poverty, the incredibly painful headaches and having to wear last year’s styles. Cause I’m finally doing something that matters. But apparently that’s not enough, now I’m supposed to give you up? The one good thing in my life? NO. Not gonna. There has to be a way. If we have to keep you chained up while we figure out what’s wrong, well..." She trails off uncertainly when he shakes his head.

"Cordy. Please. Even if you could fix whatever’s making the hunger so strong, I can’t take much more. I’m losing my mind Cordy. I nearly raped Alice in my sleep." And these chains won’t hold me if the beast gets much stronger. "I don’t want to be the beast, Cordy, please, just let me go."

"You’d rather be dead?"

"I’ve been dead for years. Let me be a man for once. Please." He lets the demon fade away, so that Cordelia can see there's no anger left in his dark eyes, only pleading and weariness.

Long silence. Her hand finds his and holds it, making contact warm skin against cool.

"Angel, I love you. Please, don’t do this. I can’t …" she begs.

"I know." He takes a deep breath, hoarding her scent in his useless lungs. He wants to kiss her, to suck her full red lower lip into his mouth and catch it between his teeth and… She looks up, wounded as he pulls his hand away from hers.

"Please, can you go get Wesley? I need to talk to him." She looks at Angel, trying to read his face, then nods and reluctantly leaves.


Upstairs, Cordelia finds Wesley sitting at her desk. He's on the phone, and it's obvious he’s talking to Sunnydale. She wonders how much he’s said, how much he’ll leave out. He glances over and nods at her, not a lot of warmth there but she figures she deserves the snub. She feels bad that she didn’t come up right away to check on him. Squirming inside with the knowledge that Angel did that to him, her Angel, not Angelus, when she sees the marks on his neck.

"Yes, the situation seems stable for now. Cordelia's just come up… No, I don’t have any ideas at the moment beyond the obvious…feel free to offer any ideas you may have. Yes, I agree, this may be related to your troubles in Sunnydale but under the current circumstances…"

Hurry up Wesley, and get off the phone, please. Cordelia sniffles, and goes over to the coffee station for a Kleenex. She notices that the light is on in Angel’s office and figures it must be Alice in there.

"I’ll call you as soon as I know more. Yes, absolutely. Do you need to speak to Xander? "

Whoa! Xander? Cordelia looks again and sees that there's more than one figure moving in there. When did he get here? How? And she's really glad he didn’t arrive sooner, it could’ve been really ugly if he'd showed up in the middle of the sleepwalking episode, with Dead Angel and/or Dead Xander a definite possibility.

She’s not trying to eavesdrop, not really. It's just that she can see their shadows through the frosted glass. And now she looks, she can tell he’s comforting her, holding her, and it grates on her nerves, not sure why, but it does.

"All right then. Goodbye for now." Wesley’s finally off the phone, Cordelia turns to face him.

"Wesley. He wants to see you." He’s looking at her, like he’s expecting more, so she adds. "Don’t worry, he’s chained up."

"Ah, good idea," he says. She can tell from his expression that she’s flunked the tact thing again, but not like anyone would blame him for being a little nervous. If Angel had bitten her would she be a big hurry for a private chat? Not.

He’s still standing there, still got that look on his face.

"What?" she asks impatiently.

"Are you alright Cordelia?"

"Sure," she dabs at her eyes with the tissue. "Allergies. I’m fine."

"I’d best go then," Wesley says. Cordelia ignores him, her attention back on the office. She needs more Kleenex, this one is soaked.


"I don’t understand why you won’t let me stake him!" Xander snarls. She’s never seen him like this, enraged. It’s unnerving, seeing so much anger in those normally soft baby-browns. Sometimes she forgets that just because she's old enough to be his great-grandma, doesn’t mean he’s a child. "He kidnapped you, molested you; he fed on Wesley and you’re defending him!"

"I’m not defending him. Exactly…anyway, he’s tied up, can’t hurt anybody. Besides, he's not in his right mind. You can’t judge him like he had his full faculties…"

"Yeah, there’s always some excuse. Angel’s under a spell, or poisoned, or whoops! Lost his soul again. Christ! Even Giles let him off the hook even after what he did to Miss Calander…" Alice sighs. She's tired of the argument, especially since she mostly agrees with him. Just not enough to play executioner.

"Baby. Don’t get upset. I’m O.K. Let’s just go. Wesley and the rest of them can figure out what to do about Angel. It’s not our problem."


Wesley stands well back from the bed, even though he can see that Cordelia has done an excellent job of restraining Angel. Angel looks like some obscure martyr, pale and beautiful in his suffering. His black-clad body is criss-crossed with chains that bind him so tightly they cut into his flesh. If he were human, there would be bruises to worry about, but as it is Wesley is more worried about the strength of the chains.

Angel can’t meet Wesley's eyes. Partially because of guilt for what he’s already done, but also because part of him started calculating how to lure Wesley within range of his teeth as soon as he stepped into the room. Wesley's fear, his seductive wounds are disturbing his resolve, reminding him of the pleasures of falling, and he's probably the last person he should have called here, but who else is there?

"Wesley. Thanks. I need your help."

The sound of Angel's voice triggers a sense memory; Wesley's wounds ache, remembering that mobile mouth pressed to his throat, his arm, draining him. His hands itch for a stake, but first he wants a club, or a length of pipe. He wants to ruin the perfection of Angel’s face, wants to bruise and batter his body so he’ll know what it’s like to feel ugly, hurt, worthless.

"My help?" Wesley laughs.

"I want you to kill me. End it. At dawn." Startled, Wesley meets his gaze, and is caught by the misery there, he understands about wanting to die. "A stake’s the best way. Just make sure Cordy’s out of the way. Tell her whatever you need to, that you’ve found a cure, that I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want her to see me…go."

Reflexively, Wesley opens his mouth to argue. Then stops. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. I’m too dangerous to everyone. It needs to end." Wesley nods.

"I’ll do it."

"Thank you."

"Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Yeah, you know those little dictation recorders? Could you get me one? I was going to write a letter, but I’d need my hands free, and that’s really not a good idea."

"Yes, of course. And I’ll get you something to – eat, as well. No need for you to suffer."

Wesley leaves.


"Yeah, OK, I guess you’re right. Let’s get out of here."

Finally, Alice thinks as she smiles and hugs him, pleased that she’s managed to talk him down. He hugs her back, pulls Angel’s shirt back up onto her shoulder. "I missed you so much, God. And everyone thought you’d left me…"

"Never happen," she says facilely. "Come on." Xander nods. They’re just about to the door, when Cordelia slams it open and marches in, forcing them back.

"What the hell's the matter with you!" Cordelia yells at a startled Alice.

"What?" Alice notices that Cordelia’s not looking her best. Besides the angry face, her eyes are red, and her nose is running.

"You could save Angel, but you won't. Don't you care? Don't you know who he is, how hard he's tried! The people he's saved!"

"Do you know what I'd have to do? What the ritual involves." Alice says, trying to keep her temper under control. Cordelia did after all, possibly save her life.

Cordelia winces. "Yeah, I know. So?"

"So?!" Anger narrows her eyes to black slits as she gets up in Cordelia’s face. "You'd let him bite you? Feed on you? Fuck you?" Cordelia doesn’t back down.

"To save his life. Yeah, sure. It would be kinda icky, the feeding part definitely, but why's it such a big a deal to you? Who're you, Doris Day?"

Alice glares at her, deeply offended. She’s tired of this shit; goddamnit, she's fucked one, count him, *one* guy since she met these people.

"Whoa! Where do you get off talking to me like I’m some kind of slut?! Is it because I’m black? 'Cause I’m not 100% human? Fuck you, Miss Thang. Ain’t no damn virgins in this room." That sets Cordelia back for a moment, so Alice goes on.

"Now, listen up, cause I'm going to explain it to you one last time: If Angel were human, I could do it. Not saying I would necessarily, but maybe. But he's not a person. He's an animated corpse; a demon's meat puppet and I don’t fuck dead people."

Cordelia's staring at her like she's speaking Urdu. Alice grinds her teeth. "You really don't get that, do you? None of you do, even the former Watchers, who ought to know better. Lucky noseblind humans. Angel reeks of old blood, of death. Did you think I just said no without thinking about it? I can't do it. I can't, and I won’t!"

"You're wrong, Angel is a person. He's the best person I've met in L.A. Your aunt thought..."

"Don’t know if ‘auntie’ was in love, or crazy, or both. I'm neither, and I notice you’re skipping over the part where she didn’t go through with it. It's not going to happen. Sorry." Alice turns away.

"He wants to die. Pretty sure he’s downstairs right now asking Wesley to kill him."

"What?" Alice is rocked by the news. In theory this seemed like an excellent idea, so why does she suddenly feel dismayed?

"He's afraid of what he might do, doesn't want to go on like this, insane, an animal. He wants to see one last sunrise then 'poof'."

"I hope you're happy."

"Hey, back off Bitchzilla! How's this her fault?" Xander growls, coming to her defense. "Whatever’s wrong with Deadboy this time, she didn’t do it, so why’s it up to her to fix it?" Cordelia turns on him.

"Shut up Xander, how many times has Angel saved your ass? Huh? It was Angel who kept Spike from eating you on career day. It was Angel who pulled crazed slut Faith off you. That’s not even counting the times he saved the universe where you happen to live?"

"Yeah, and it was Angel who threw me out a window and tried to rip out my throat!" Xander’s shouting too now. "It was Angel who gave me a mild concussion when he was playing undercover guy, Angel who bounced me off a wall a couple of weeks just because I was in his way, so you know what Cordy? I think we’re even." Cordelia's mouth is open to retort, but Xander bulldozes over her.

"Face it Cordy, Angel’s had more second chances than Robert Downey jr. and I’m sick of listening to the Angel Enablers’ Choir sing that same old tune. Come on Alice, we're going."

Xander takes hold of Alice’s arm and she lets herself be dragged out of the office, leaving Cordelia staring hatefully after them. Alice sees Wesley standing at the top of the stairs as they go past, his face stony and desolate.


The deadly sun still hovers above the horizon, but Spike’s starving, and he can’t wait any longer. He's been lying there in the closet for hours, feeling himself drying out, minute-by-minute; until the sensation finally drove him out of his sanctuary. He creeps downstairs, skirting the deadly afternoon rays reaching through the insufficiently shaded windows. Stops at the foot of the stairs, when he hears voices coming from the dining room. Quick peek around the corner to confirm that it’s just the three of them Giles, Joyce, and Willow. No sight or scent of wolf-boy, he must already be tucked away for the night. Sounds like they’re having a meeting of the Sunnydale Irregulars.

Bugger him, but the scent of human bodies all warm and tasty makes his mouth water. If he were in better shape, if he didn’t still have use for them, he could take them all now, easily. Doesn’t fancy Giles for a meal, so he’d just snap the geezer’s neck, but the other two would definitely hit the spot. Bitch-Willow can stay dead, but he figures vamping Mummy would definitely set the Slayer back on her pins.

Down boy, not yet. Until that eight-legged bitch Orexis is dead, these humans are off the menu. But as soon as he gets a chance he’s going to slip away and find himself someone decent to eat. Right now though it’s daylight and he’ll just have to make do with microwaved blood. He’s about to step into sight when he hears Willow say the poof's name, and he eases back into the shadows.

"Angel’s really going to kill himself?" Willow whines.

Oho, now that was news worth getting up for.

"I’m afraid so. Apparently he believes there’s no hope… And I'm afraid Wesley concurs." Giles says.

Nice job of sounding like you’re actually sorry about it, mate.

"But if it’s a spell, I might be able to break it. It’s only a couple of hours’ drive, I could be there…"

God, what an annoying chit. Looks like he’ll have to kill her now instead of later.

"Willow, we don’t know that it is a spell. Angel believes it’s simply the demon, Angelus, growing too strong. I think we must accept his decision."

"Oh God, Buffy. What are we going to tell her?"

That’s Mum, concerned for her darling daughter. As she should be. Reminds him that he likes Joyce. He’s definitely going to turn her. After getting himself a taste of what the Wanker has been enjoying for the past few weeks.

"Nothing, until…well, until it’s over. There’s nothing she could do." Giles again, stating the bleeding obvious.

"Is there any way, maybe Alice will change her mind? Do the ritual?"

Fuck, he hopes not.

"I seriously doubt it. Especially now that Xander’s there."

Yay, Xander! Maybe he’ll give the kid a break and kill him quick instead of drawing it out.

"I guess we can't blame Alice." Willow again, putting in her halfpence. "I mean the sex, that’d be hard cause I don't think she even likes Angel, but letting him bite her, especially with him being all crazy, would be kinda risky."

Ya think, Red? Sounds like fun though, as long as it didn't actually work.

"Exactly, he almost killed Buffy that time. If he hadn’t gotten her to the hospital in time…"

"But if the ritual worked, he’d have been cured. Human." Willow says wistfully.

"If the ritual worked, but we’ll never know now, and it’s probably best if Buffy never learns about the ritual." Giles says. Spike peeks around the corner and sees them all nod in agreement. "We’ll have to think of something to tell her."

"Where is Buffy?"

Speak of the Devil, Spike thinks, warned by his preternatural hearing.

The front door swings open and Buffy enters, heavily laden with bags from various clothing stores. She doesn’t notice Spike lurking on the stairs as she dumps them on the couch and walks up to the table.

"Hi guys," she says blithely. "What’s up?"

"Buffy, where have you been!" Giles and Joyce in chorus. Buffy flinches at the parental stereo. So not what she needs right now, bringing her down after such a great day. But no, she forgot, she's the Slayer, she can't even have one day.

"Uh, out. Shopping and stuff. O.K., I played hooky from my sacred Slayer duties." She doesn’t look even slightly embarrassed.

"I don't supposed it occurred to you to check your messages?" Giles asks severely.

"Sorry, no. Forgot my cell at home. My bad." Sudden premonition. "Why? Is something up?"

"Sorry," Giles sighs and once again, lets it go. "Well as it happens, we do have a crisis. Sit down please. We’ve discovered who’s been behind our recent misfortunes."

Spike listens with interest as they give Buffy the edited version: all about Professor Sylvia Orexis, him, Oz and the Capteniel, but not a word about Angel. Go on Buff, ask where Xander is. How’s our Alice then? He sneaks another peak around the corner, and sees her sitting between the old folks, Willow across the table peering anxiously at her. Buffy looks grim, her lips pressed tighter and tighter as Giles goes on and on about how they need to stop Orexis at all costs, how important it is that Buffy be here…until she finally explodes.

"I don’t believe you! I know her and there’s no way this is true! You got all this from Spike. Evil, undead liar SPIKE! Why would you believe anything he told you?"

She has a point, Spike concedes. Believe that’s my cue.

"Evening," he says, walking past them into the kitchen. He opens the refrigerator and prospects in it as though unaware of the eyes boring holes into his back. Finds a Styrofoam container from Mel’s Butchers and pops off the lid. Grimaces. Pigs’ blood, but better than nothing. He sticks it in the microwave and sets it on low power to warm. He turns around to find Buffy glaring at him. She grabs his throat and shoves him up against the fridge.

"Why the hell are you telling lies about Sylvia?" she hisses.

Sylvia? Oh this just keeps getting better and better. "No lies, Slayer, if you don’t believe me, ask Oz."

"Fine, where is Oz?"

"It’s the full moon. Your mother just got back from securing him for the night," Giles says. The voice of reason, which is obviously wasted on the Slayer, who slams Spike's head hard enough into the fridge that he sees stars.

"Oh yeah, real convenient. And where’s Xander?"

Spike smirks. "The muppet had to go to L.A. to collect his sweetie."

"L.A.? What’s Alice doing there?"

"Seems like the Poof kidnapped her. He’s been feeling a little under the weather. Had some plan to use her to make himself human."

"What!" She drops him, rounds on the humans again. "Is this true?!" There’s a long guilty silence, punctuated by the microwave’s ‘ding’.

"Er, I’m afraid so," Giles finally admits.

"So Angel’s sick, he needs my help, and no one told me. How long have you known? Why didn’t anyone tell me?"

"Dunno, maybe they didn’t fancy being concussed? You don’t deal well with bad news pet. In any case, he didn’t need your help; he needed Alice the cat. And since the ritual involved him fucking her, they probably figured you were better off not knowing."

"You're lying! Giles! He's lying, right?" She looks at Giles, but doesn't loosen her grip. Spike smirks when Giles doesn't answer.

"But hey, bright side is you don’t have to worry about that now, cause he’s changed his mind. Gonna top himself at dawn."


"I hear he’s writing you a nice letter, "Dear Buffy, by the time…" Buffy punches him in the gut and drops him. Rushes over to stand over Willow.

"Is this true? Willow! You tell me!" she demanded frantically. Willow looks away.

"Uh, yeah. Sorry Buffy."

She glares at all of them, then rushes out of into the dusk, her mother runs after her. A moment later they hear an engine revving. Joyce comes back in, her hand to her cheek, in shock.

"She hit me," she says. "She took the keys to my car. Oh Giles!" He holds her for a moment. "What’s wrong with her?"

"I don’t know. But I’m sure we’ll find a way to fix it."

Spike sips his blood and struggles to not laugh out loud. Can't believe that they still don’t get it. He guesses he should tell them, but it’s so much fun watching them stumble about.

"She’s headed for L.A.," Giles says. "I’d better call and warn Wesley."


Wednesday Night, Full Moon

Xander checked into the first Motel 6 he passed, just off the freeway about a mile from Angel Investigations. The clerk was completely uninterested in their lack of luggage; all he cared about is that Xander’s Visa was valid. It has been a long while since Alice stayed in a Motel 6, but the room is clean and functional for $39.95 a night; nowadays you don’t even have to feed the TV with quarters. Xander doesn’t believe her when she tells him the chain got its name because $6.00 a night was what it cost, not really all that long ago.

While Xander went in search of food and clothes for her, Alice took a shower. She’s not really dirty, the change took care of that, but the hot water feels good on her skin as it washes away the memory of iron around her neck, obliterates the last traces of the stink of her fear, Wesley’s fear, Cordelia’s fear. Alice shuts off the water, the magic's gone.

In the mirror, Alice stares at the same face she’s been looking at for more than 70 years. Her pretty, babyish mask, with not a line, not a scar to mark all that’s happened to her, all she’s done: the fights, the fucks, the deaths, joys, loves and betrayals. Sometimes she wishes she could change it, write some kind of warning on it for innocent young men who trust their eyes. Because she knows that as long as she looks like this, Xander will never believe her even if she had the strength to tell him: "I’m not what you think I am, I’m old enough to be your granny, your great-granny and underneath, I’m cold and brittle. I’ll break and run as soon as it gets hard, cut your heart to shreds. Don’t ever depend on me."

But there’s nothing she can do about her face, no oil painting she can burn, no bargain she can revoke; she’s stuck as she is, till death do us part...

When she comes out of the bathroom Xander’s back. Sitting on the bed with a huge garbage pizza and a bag full of clothes from Target. She sits down close to him and gives him a quick hug.

"Hey, that smells good." She grabs a piece.

Between the two of them they make short work of the pizza, and turn on the TV. Lying stretched out on the bed, Alice snuggles into Xander’s arm. Now and again he reaches over to fool with her hair, just making sure it’s her. She has no idea what she’s looking at on the screen. Every time she tries to concentrate, her eyes start to droop and she sees Cordelia's face again, crying. Sees Wesley, with that expression like his dog had just run into traffic.


The news is on now; she glares at the screen. There's flooding in the Midwest, for what, the third year running? Folks need to move out of the bottoms, catch a clue. She’s sick of all those goddamned Wal-Mart refugees crying into the camera, looking for someone to rescue them from their own stupidity.

"Xander," she says waking him up.

"Yeah, what’s up?" His eyes still half-closed.

"I’ve been thinking…about Angel."

"No." Said in that same uncompromising voice he’d used to Cordelia. She thinks pretty soon they’re going to have a talk about not playing the dominant male card too damned often because it’s starting to annoy her.


"I don’t want to talk about Angel. O.K.? You were right: it’s not our problem."

Easy to say she thinks, deciding to keep the peace for now. "Yeah, O.K.," she says. She moves back against his chest and pretends to drowse again while she waits for him to fall asleep.


Joyce crosses the kitchen and slaps Spike, hard. It hurts, and he nearly loses it right then and there, he comes back up with hands clawed, ready to yank out her throat and she steps back, frightened by the murderous light in his eye. Then he stops and laughs.

"Looks like it’s genetic," he says. "So, Joyce. How’re you and Giles getting along, or hasn’t Willow gotten around to breaking that spell?"


"You don't get it do you?" Spike's harsh voice cuts through the air like a knife. "Fucking unbelievable. You’re dealing with a Sorceress; spells, enchantment, glamour are what she does people. She put the whammy on you and the Slayer’s mum; wanted to make sure you were distracted, that you had your minds on bumping uglies and off the Slayer. Probably did Angel too, now I think about it. And now she’s gotten to the Slayer. "

"Oh my God," Giles says softly.

"What about us," Willow whispered. Spike rounds on her, teeth gleaming.

"You? No pet, I got into your pants the old fashioned way. The boyfriend went away, and there I was with a sympathetic shoulder, a little, no, a *lot* of discreet flattery, and I was in. Not really much of a challenge."

Glorious. He’s succeeded in rendering both know-it-all Giles and Joyce silent. Both of them staring at each other while Willow sniffles quietly. He stands for a moment reveling in the despair and chaos he’s caused then goes outside onto the porch and lights up a ciggy.

Doesn’t have long to enjoy the quiet before Giles charges out after him.

"You evil little snake, do you know what you’ve done!" he shouts, grabbing hold of Spike. Bugger this, Spike thinks. The hell with strategy: he’s had enough of being manhandled by the livestock, and he’s still hungry and as old as he is Giles still has blood inside him. He puts on his game face, lunges at Giles – and it all goes black.

Wakes up with Giles smirking down at him. Spike feels as weak as a kitten, nausea rolling through him in waves. Doesn’t feel like getting up right now.

"What the fuck!" he manages to rasp out as the worst of the dizziness recedes. "I thought Red removed…" Giles nods, and Spike's going to rip that smug look off his face…in a little while, when his bones firm up a bit

"Willow did remove all of the sorceress’s spells. What just happened to you, that was my spell. You don’t really think I’d let you into this house without taking some precautions?"

"You sodding -- uuhh!" Spike groaned as Giles kicked him once, precisely in the kidneys.

"Living and breathing, and I have no intention of letting you loose on the citizens of Sunnydale. My binding renders you unable to harm any human being, and it will remain in effect until our alliance is done. Then, if you ask nicely, I may release you, though it goes against my principles. For now, you’ll just have to get used to the taste of pig and cow, because it’s all you’ll get."

He waits for Spike to say something, but Spike's just glares at him.

"And if you ever pull another stunt like tonight's, I'll stake you where you stand."

Giles watches Spike slowly gather himself up and limp off into the night. For good, Giles hopes. He goes back inside, making sure the door locks after him.



It's late and getting later, Wesley thinks as he pores over the papers and materials for the ritual that he's spread out on his desk. Useless pursuit, now that Alice is gone. But he can't help himself indulging what is he supposes, a morbid curiosity.

It was obvious to him that Angel and/or Lucy hadn't improbably uncovered this ritual in some tome of forgotten lore. In fact, it is an original work, commissioned from a powerful mage -- hardly surprising, since few if any vampires were interested in becoming human. In any case, Wesley's studied it carefully and it is a highly professional piece of work. Based on using the !kangate's link with the Great Mother to petition Her to grant the subject, Angel, new life. The potion is largely made up of aphrodisiac herbs, and a mild hypnotic -- insurance, he supposes against second thoughts and untimely ummm, disinterest. Certainly the principles are sound, and he can see no reason, barring the notorious capriciousness of deities, that it shouldn't have worked.

"That it? The ritual?" Alice says, leaning over his shoulder.

He jumps. Never heard her come in. She’s wearing clothes now, that is, her own clothes. Wesley pulls himself together. "Ah, yes. I was simply…getting ready to destroy it."

"Let me see it. I’m…curious."

"Oh- of course, yes, here." He lets her have his seat. Stands silently, afraid to say anything while she studies it, eyes narrowed in concentration as she reads the cramped script, annotated in Angel’s 18th century handwriting.

"What’s this word here?"

"Osculation – kissing, bit pretentious."

"Oh." She leans back so she can look him in the eye. "So Wesley, do you think it would’ve worked? Or is it just more of Angel’s craziness?"

"Well, I can’t be 100% sure without checking with…that is I’m fairly certain that the odds of success are quite high, but…"

"Give me a yes or a no, son."

"Yes. Er, provided all the requirements are met."

"Like?" Wesley straightens up and pulls himself together.

"You must be truly willing. Your appeal to the Mother must be sincere and uncoerced," he states firmly. She nods.

"Good. Then let’s do it."


"I'll do it. Not cause I think Angel’s the second coming like the rest of you, but maybe I’m missing something. I must be. I mean, look at you: two quarts low thanks to him, but you still want to save him. Cordelia, she's so in love with him she can't go 5 minutes without saying his name. Not to mention the rest of them back in Sunnydale. I don't understand it, but I’ll do it, because it feels like the right thing to do, and I’m the only one around can do it."

"Miss Smith! -- Alice – this is… I mean, are you absolutely sure."

"Sure as I can be. Though I feel like I could use a drink, or six. When do we need to do it?"

"Midnight would be best. Here, on the roof would be suitable – it’s open to the moonlight, and this area is almost completely deserted at night..." Alice checks her watch as she gets to her feet.

"It's 9:30. So that gives us a few hours to get ready. Good. Have you got everything you need?"


"O.K. Then you tell Angel. I need to talk to Xander first. We're at the Escobar Motel 6 if you need me."


Cordelia is sitting by his bed, watching him. Part of Angel wishes she would go, because having her here is a kind of torture. Despite the bags of plasma Wesley brought, he doesn’t remember ever being this hungry, not since the night of his resurrection. But even as the demon’s murmurings grow steadily more obscene and ravenous, another part of him takes solace in her presence, in the love in her eyes, in her scent.

He’s lost track of the time. Finished the last of his messages awhile ago. Now it’s just a matter of waiting out the night. He wonders how Wesley will get Cordelia away when the time comes. Hopes Wesley doesn’t try to take him up to the roof, he’d wanted to see the sun rise one last time, but that’s another hope he’s had to surrender.

He smells Wesley approaching, resenting the intrusion at the same time the demon perks up at the approach of wounded, vulnerable prey. Surprised and vaguely offended to see that Wesley’s smiling. Why is he smiling?

"Angel, good news. Alice says she’ll do it."



Xander’s still asleep when Alice gets back. She switches on the bedside light and gently shakes him awake.

"Alice? Why’re you dressed," he asks, oblivious to the fact that he’s still wearing all his clothes.

"Xander, there’s something I’ve got to tell you…"

"You’re going to do it. The ritual."

"Yes." Surprised by the resignation in his tone.

"Shit! I knew it. Why?"

"Because…I don’t really know why. Maybe because I'm not a very nice person, I'm not the person you think I am, but too many people depend on Angel, I can't just let him die when I can do something to stop it."

"And I understand, Xander, I know you won't want me afterwards. That you won't want to look at me. We wouldn't have lasted anyway."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Xander says. "Alice, I love you. I keep saying it, but you don’t seem to get it. I’m not going anywhere. Listen, I really don't understand why you’re doing this. Personally, I think the whole Angel savior thing is way overblown, but if you feel you really have to, then don't worry about me not wanting you. I love you. Really. And I'll still be here for you, no matter what."

She looks into his dark eyes, searching for insincerity, and realizes that, Oh God. He means it.

"Xander, you've never even asked how old I am. I'm a lot older than you Xander,"

"Are you older than Angel?"

"How old is that?"


"Ah, no. Not that old."

"That's O.K. then, ‘cause if you were like 300, that might freak me out." He grins, then wets his lips, and puts his hand on her knee. "Uh, how much time do we have left? Before we have to go back?"

"About an hour. Any idea how we can kill the time?"

"Hmmm, maybe…"

The sex this time is different. Xander has never been this intense and Alice knows that he’s not just trying to please her; he’s trying to mark her as his with every kiss, every caress. Trying to seal her against Angel’s touch by covering every inch of her skin with his lips, his tongue, his hands. He makes sure she comes twice before finally slipping into her and placing his final stamp deep inside her. She understands, and afterwards she holds him silently, knowing there’s nothing she can say to reassure him. Adding her silent prayer to his, that his love will be strong enough to save them both from this thing she's about to do.



The roof at night is a jumble of mysterious shapes, shadows, and angles deceptively illuminated by the full moon's glare. The tarpaper feels spongy and unreliable underfoot as Xander makes his way carefully over to where Wesley has found a space large enough to draw the circle. The ex-Watcher is on the far side, he sees Xander come up behind Cordelia, but doesn't say anything.

Wesley told him he really didn't want to see this, and Xander had agreed. He'd kissed Alice goodbye and watched them go, sat down in the office with a magazine. He'd lasted about five minutes before he got in the elevator and followed them up to the top floor, then up the short flight of stairs to the roof. Told himself that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of their life together with lurid fantasies dancing on his eyelids. If he’s going to have nightmares, he wants them at least to be accurate.

Knows he’s made a mistake as soon as he steps around Cordelia and sees them clearly. The stark moonlight pitilessly limns the two naked people standing in the circle not looking at each other their shadows mixed at their feet. Angel looms awkwardly over Alice, waiting, she's already drunk the potion, Xander can see the empty cup on the ground.

Cordelia turns her head to look at Xander, and in her face he sees his own pain and betrayal reflected. He drops his eyes and she turns away, wrapping her arms around herself, as she returns to her grim vigil.

At last, Wesley nods and Angel lifts his head and haltingly begins to speak the incantation, stumbling over what sound like nonsense syllables with some grunts and clicks thrown in. Alice shivers in the cool autumn air, and Xander thinks how ridiculous it all is. He's seized by the certainty that it isn’t going to work, and has to hold himself back from stepping forward to pull her out of the circle.

Angel stops speaking. It's Alice's turn. She opens her mouth and speaks in the same language. But unlike him, she seems to know the words, Alice’s voice echoes in the crisp air and resonates deep in his bones as she lifts her face to the moon, begging her favor.

Everyone there feels the sudden change in the air. The moonlight seems to brighten and shift to a warmer spectrum. The cool night is suddenly close and thick, heavy with desire. Every breath feels like a sigh, humidity puddling between their thighs. Xander knows that whatever they've called, is here.

Alice looks up at Angel, her eyes huge and dark from the potion. He can smell her excitement, sense her heart pounding rapidly with fear and arousal. He's so hungry, the need has barely been lessened by the last feed Wesley brought him 15 minutes before the ceremony. The dark perfection of her skin calls to him, he knows its feel beneath his hands, silken smooth and so warm. Remembers her hands -- Lucy's hands -- moving over his skin, caressing him, marking his back with stinging lines. He wants her blood. Can almost see it glittering warm and ruby red inside her. Without conscious volition he takes a step towards her. She trembles, but stays for him.

Alice starts and Angel realizes that she’s seeing the demon, that he no longer controls its emergence. Her fearful heartbeat so loud it drowns out everything else, and still she stays and doesn’t pull away when he puts his hand on her shoulders, pulls her close, and closer still. Rests his face on her shoulder, breathing her in, then turns his face toward her throat.

Angel hesitates, his mouth hovering just above her skin, as if sensing her ambivalence. Alice has never been this scared in her life, but she said she’d do it. Meant it. The herbs are helping, warming her, making her want to rub herself all over that improbably well-made body. But his demon is showing, yellow eyes unreadable, and his teeth -- all she can think about is those teeth ripping into her throat. Oh God, she can’t do this. Why doesn’t he just do it, get it over with before she loses her nerve?

Angel realizes that he can’t do this, knows he’ll kill her, won’t be able to stop…

Xander tenses, there’s something wrong, the slow rise of heat has stalled and they’re just standing there. He glances over at Wesley, at Cordelia, and sees nothing in their eyes to reassure him. Picks up the tranquilizer gun, and checks the magazine to make sure it’s loaded. Then he begins to quietly sidle round for a clear shot.

Angel can’t stop himself. He closes the final gap, presses his lips against her skin, then his fangs into her flesh. Too late, she tries to pull back, but he has her, he can’t let go, never let her go. Steady, remorseless suction aided by her panicky pulse fills his mouth with her salty sweet wonderful blood; he swallows and takes her heat and desire inside him, feels it spread through his body, melting the ice that clogs his veins, drowning the hunger in its soothing tide. The demon's voice stills, overwhelmed, satiated content.

Angel pulls away. Stops.

Feels her blood sparkling inside him. Lucy’s blood had made him feel a little like this, but that had been only the shadow of the feeling spreading through him now, this joyful and redeeming lust. He feels light, as though his sins have been lifted from him by this communion. Angel gently kisses Alice’s upturned face. Kisses her again, and as her mouth opens under his, welcoming him, he feels wanted; not just by her, but by the world.

Anger, and jealously roils through Xander as he watches them kiss. He wants to be blind. Doesn’t want to see this. Because they’re kissing, not like two near strangers forced into a grotesque situation, but like lovers. She’s kissing Angel as sincerely as she’d kissed Xander only a few hours ago. He hates Angel, with a hate that’s pure, and if is a god Angel will collapse and go to dust right now and stop kissing her, stop touching her, pulling her closer, pallid hands clutching at her skin.

He won't hate Alice, because he knows it’s just the drugs and the magic making her put her arms around Angel’s neck; forcing her to arch into his touch when he cups her breasts. His knuckles go white on the stock of the trank gun as Angel lowers his face to her breasts, nursing at them her while his hands move lower, over the curves of her belly and back, to her ass, her inner thighs. Her eyes open, watching him, she strokes his head with one hand, runs her other hand over his shoulders.

The air is alive, waves of desire pulsing outwards from the circle. Xander's losing his focus as his cock grows mindlessly harder with every. He looks sidelong at Cordelia and despite her distress, she’s glowing: her skin slicked with perspiration, and her mouth looks swollen, *ripe*. She swallows hard, as she shifts her position.

Xander looks away from her, across the circle to where Wesley stands, concentrating on trying to clear his fogged glasses. Obviously the woody tenting his trousers must belong to someone else. Puts his glasses back on, and resumes watching, swallowing hard with an expression of embarrassment and wonder, and painful hope. Xander sees nothing there that helps him.

And Xander knows they’re only getting the fringe of it, wonders what it must be like to be at the center of all that heat.

Then Alice cries out, and he feels like he’s going to go mad, from jealously and frustrated horniness. He checks out Cordelia, and sees that she’s far gone in the erotic haze as well, whispering Angel’s name, her hand rubbing the front of her dress, over and over.

Inside the circle, the air is glowing, an unnatural bluish light that makes them seem larger than life, lovers on a screen. He tries to see them that way, as actors playing a part, but it’s hard to hold onto the fiction when Angel goes down on his knees, crouched before her a mass of pale muscle like a porno Rodin. His oversized hands on her hips, holding her still, keeping her upright as he nuzzles and nudges his way between her legs. She gasps again, and Xander’s heart shrivels when he sees her move with the motion of Angel’s tongue.

He shuts his eyes. Doesn't want to see any more. But it's worse, hearing them: Angel's moans and soft growls; Alice's familiar whimpers and gasps; Cordelia's uncontrolled panting; and even Wesley's strangled expression of want all amplified by the honey-thick air.

Xander opens his eyes to see Angel on his back, with Alice crouched over him. His freakishly large erection stabs at empty air as she bends down to cover his face with kisses, teasing his nipples with her free hand. His goddamn huge hands, moving over her body, begging her silently to please, please, please, let him in.

Angel moans when she finally has mercy on him, and moves down. Slowly, so slowly, Xander almost feels sorry for the guy, she lowers herself onto his begging cock. Grunting a little as she takes the length of him into herself, till she’s snug against him. She wriggles, making herself comfortable as Angel's eyes bulge and he croaks wordlessly. Alice looks up to heaven, at the moon pouring glory down on them and smiles as she begins to rock.

Xander’s own erection feels like it’s about to bust the rivets on his jeans. Only two things are keeping his hand away from his zipper: Cordy, and his conviction that if he touches himself in any way, he’ll go off. Wishes someone had told him there was going to be an orgy, he’d have worn his good boxers.

Doesn't know how Wesley's doing on his side of the circle, but he can hear Cordelia, recognizes the pattern of her breathing and knows she’s getting close. Not surprised and doesn't turn to look when she breaks, and runs across the roof toward the stairs.

Angel lets Alice set the pace, lost in the perfection of this mating. He has never felt anything like this before, this blessed ecstasy. Her cunt holding him like a hand and he can feel her heart beating through his skin where they’re melded, senses her blood recognizing itself inside him, like calling to like till he feels the separation blurring. Her blood, moving through him, moving through her, making them one. Her pulse pounding through him as she moves on him, in him, through him, faster and faster as his excitement mounts, higher and higher, until it’s growing close to pain and still it builds… spreading through his body, blood singing in him, burning…

…Bringing him to life.

He feels Alice’s heart beat, her life pulsing through him, compelling a response until he feels something stir, unused muscle stirring heavily in his chest, starting a separate rhythm as his heart beats for the first time in more than two centuries. He feels something break, sharp pain in his lungs and he takes a breath, and another, and another. Unplanned, automatic, necessary breath.

"Angel!" The shriek breaks Xander out of his stupor. He turns to see Buffy – oh shit, Buffy! Charging towards them with an expression he doesn’t ever want to see on anyone’s face ever again. He moves to intercept, she grabs him by the throat and tosses him aside like he was made of paper.

Angel explodes, white light filling his head, obliterating him, freeing him as he empties himself into her, blind and deaf and helpless in the grip of his orgasm, on and on until there's nothing left and he collapses, his consciousness a rudderless boat on a wide sea.

Wesley jerks his head up at the disturbance and through the haze of the light-filled circle, sees Buffy knock Xander out of her way, watches him slam into one of the metal boxes studding the roof and slide into a heap.

"Buffy! No!" he shouts running around the periphery as she heads for the circle, intent on Angel and Alice who are oblivious to everything outside themselves. He grabs her arm when she’s a step away and Buffy turns on him with a face full of nothing but rage.

"Wesley," she hisses.

Alice feels the shock of Angel's warm spurt inside her and cries out as the first wave of sensation snaps her head back, shaking her in its grip. Another spasm hits her and she screams at the intensity, feeling another starting to build…

When Wesley slams into the tarpaper he feels something give in his shoulder but he still tries to get up, to stop her, but he can’t get there in time. Watches helplessly as Buffy takes that final step, and breaks the circle.

The light and heat evaporate and it’s suddenly cold under the stars. Buffy grabs hold of Alice, pulling her away from Angel, screaming incoherently. Dazed, Angel tries to hold on but Buffy’s too strong, and she tears Alice away. The moment they lose contact unbelievable agony tears through him. It feels like there’s a great weight on his chest, he can’t breathe, his lungs won’t work, and his heart, his heart…


Buffy doesn’t see Angel collapse and go still, she’s too busy hitting Alice and Alice seems too stunned to fight back, or change. Buffy keeps slapping her, and screaming.

"You bitch, you bitch, you can’t have him, he’s mine!" Alice’s head jerking with every blow and Wesley makes himself get up despite the dizziness, realizing that Buffy will kill her if someone doesn’t stop her, she has her by the throat now and she’s shaking the smaller woman, choking her…

With all the noise, he never hears the gun’s soft hiss. The tranquilizer dart appears as if by magic in Buffy’s neck. Distracted, she lets Alice go. Reaches up to pull it out of her neck…and topples over.

Cordelia looks at him, blows imaginary smoke off the barrel of the rifle. Her eye’s swollen, and she limps a little as she walks toward him. Another victim of Slayer rage.

"Always wanted to do that," she says. Then she sees Xander lying still and silent, with blood on his face, dark in the moonlight.

"Oh God," she runs over, kneels down next to him. "Xander?" Deeply grateful when he opens his eyes.

"Cordelia? What happened? Oh shit, Alice?"

Wesley is already there, checking her vitals. "She’s unconscious, but I think she’ll be O.K. Probably just the shock of the separation." He retrieves her discarded robe and covers her.

"You’d better take Xander downstairs and take care of that cut," Wesley tells her. "I’ll stay here." Xander’s reluctant, but in no condition to argue with Cordelia. Especially when she helps him stand and he nearly faints. They limp off the roof and disappear into the stairwell.

He turns his attention to Angel, who’s lying very still. He’s not sure what he saw in the instant before Buffy interrupted, but he thinks, he hopes…

His consciousness seeps slowly back. He opens his eyes and sees Wesley bending over him, concerned. The never-ending hunger’s gone, but even better.

The soul, the fucking soul is gone.

He takes a deliberate breath, and then another, and the idiot buys it.


"Yeah. Can you give me a hand up?" So fucking easy. Reaches up, doesn’t take Wesley’s hand right away, pretending to be dizzy, disoriented while he has a look around.

"Alice?" He says. "Buffy? What happened?"

"They’ll both be fine," Wesley says

"Probably not," Angelus says grabbing the proffered hand and yanking him down on top of him. He grabs him by the throat with one hand, wraps his other arm around Wesley's waist holding him so they’re face to face in unwelcome intimacy.

"Hiya Wes, missed me?" This is so great! The bloom of fear sweat on Wesley's face, the feel of his bony, breakable body struggling against him. The smell of fresh blood as the bite marks pull open, begging him to take another taste…

"No." Wes is trying to get some leverage, actually trying to fight. Awww. Wesley’s downright adorable, with those big blue eyes and that pretty pink mouth. He can’t resist giving him a nice deep kiss, relishing his resistance, the feel of soft flesh forced to give way by his insistent tongue. He grabs his chin and pushes his head aside so he can speak into Wesley's ear.

"Gotta thank you. Really." He purrs. "Never thought I was getting out to play again, but you came through for me buddy. Set it up so that nasty soul was knocked right out of me. And I'm gonna show you just how grateful I am." He traps Wesley’s leg between his, rubs his pale cock against it, savoring his shudder of disgust. "We’re going to have lots of fun. You and me and Cordy and Alice…" Wesley trying to pull away, but can’t without losing his throat. "But hey, plenty of time to talk about that later. Right now, gotta go." He slams his forehead into Wesley’s and the man folds. He uses Wesley’s belt to tie his hands behind him, and leaves him there.

He takes a moment to check out Alice. She’s passed out, her color a little ashy. Soul-boy had been a little greedy; can feel her blood nice and warm in his belly. Lucky for Wes and his own plans for the evening. He leans down to give her breast a fond squeeze. Damned if she wasn’t one of the best fucks he’s had in years. He’s definitely coming back for an encore, soon as he takes care of more urgent business. Nothing here he can bind her with that will hold her if she wakes up, but that's O.K. Kinda likes the idea of hunting her through the building, lots of suitable hunting gear in the arsenal: crossbows, and long spears, and nets, oh my.

Angelus steps over Buffy’s unconscious form without a second look. The trank will hold her for at least an hour. Plenty of time. He’ll come back and kill her later. The wuss was right about one thing – that particular obsession is history.

He hears the elevator grinding when he gets to the access door. Smiles as he pads quietly down to the bottom of the stair and waits. It's Xander he’s leaning against the wall of the car looking a little worse for wear, head bandaged; he takes a moment to react when the doors open. Then he straightens up and steps out of the elevator. Angelus is amused to see he’s got the dart gun.

"That for me or Buffy?" He asks, stepping into view as the doors shut. Xander sees totally naked Angel grinning at him and he doesn't need it spelled out for him, tries to use the gun, but before he can bring the muzzle up, Angelus rips the rifle out of his hands, reverses it and slams the butt into his chest, sending him sprawling. Throws himself on top of Xander, forcing the rifle across his throat and pinning him with his weight.

"Naughty, naughty little boys shouldn’t play with guns. Someone could get hurt."

"Fuck you," which isn't much in the witty repartee stakes, and not much better as final words, but it's all he can manage in the face of certain death. Second time he's been creamed tonight and he's in too much pain to do anything more than lie there as Angelus sniffs interestedly at the bandage, then flicks it away. Pain snaps him back into focus as Angelus digs his finger into the wound, starts it bleeding again. The vampire brings it back into Xander’s vision, deliberately leaning back so Xander can see him lick the blood off.

"Mmmm, tasty," he says, smacking his lips. "Young, healthy; nice level of testosterone. But I'll have to drink you later, right now, Cordy’s waiting for her man." Xander freezes as he feels something sharp against his neck, has just enough time to realize it’s one of the darts as Angelus shoves it in and then blackness blooms behind his eyes.

Angelus enters the bedroom. He knows she’s there. He can smell her. Sweet, sweet, Cordelia. He feels like he’s been waiting forever for this moment. And there she is, sitting on the bed. Perfect. She looks surprised to see him.

"Angel," she says. He nods, saying nothing. "Are you O.K.? Uh, you’re still naked."

"Yeah, like what you see? How about giving your Angel a kiss." His grin stretches and Cordelia knows.

Oh fuck. Legs in motion, trying to get the body away before the brain has fully processed the problem… and she might as well not have bothered. He throws her onto the bed, pinning her with his body as he rips open her top. "Hey Cordy, don’t worry baby. Kitty cat just got me primed for you. I’ve got plenty left for my main bitch."

No, please no. "Angel?"

He grins, grabs hold of her bra and yanks at it. "Gone for good. Hey, but cheer up. If it makes you feel better I’m just gonna do what he wanted to do – only longer and harder – and I’m gonna enjoy every minute of it!"

Cordelia brings up her knee, but he blocks it. Slaps her, not too hard but hard enough to keep her still while he finishes stripping her. "Nice tits," he tells her, truthfully. They’re big and creamy, the nipples pale brown, just begging him to take a bite. He grabs and squeezes, enjoying her whimpers as he pinches the nipple. His tongue darts out for a taste, pulling it into his mouth, and rolling it around. Mmmmm. Takes it between his teeth and…

The lights go out. Plunging the room into complete darkness. He can’t see anything, and that’s just wrong, he’s a vampire, he can read by starlight in a basement. What the fuck?

"Calm down," the voice says, honey sweet. Which is the last fucking thing he’s going to do. How did it get so damned dark and where’s Cordelia gotten to? Angelus snarls and strikes out at random in the cloying dark. Where is he?

"What’s wrong?" The voice says, inside his head. What’s wrong! He was just about to have the perfect evening: A little rape, feeding, killing, torture, ending with new improved Wesley and him going back to Sunnydale for a reunion…

"Let me go!" he roars, fighting panic. He can’t see, he can’t hear, he can’t scent, or taste, or feel, anything. He remembers this, from what passed for his existence before his rebirth. Soon the memories, the ability to think, to feel will fade and he’ll be as he was in that endless time before he possessed Liam’s corpse: less than a beast, a nameless, mindless, malevolence. I’m Angelus, he tells himself desperately. Angelus. Angelus. Angelus. Three times makes it true.

And the darkness lifts, and he sees her. The Slayer; his Slayer. Bound, gagged, and helpless on his bed, those big brown eyes wide with terror. He forgets about Cordelia, doesn’t wonder how he’s gotten back to the Sunnydale mansion. All he can think about is Buffy, her skin gleaming as she wriggles so enticingly on the plum-colored sheets. The smell of her blood rising as she starts to panic.

"Buffy," he growls, stalking toward her. "Baby." Wondering how he could ever have forgotten her. How could he ever have thought it was over as long as she was still alive? He bends over her, grabs her chin and forces her to look at him. Her throat working with desperate pleas, tears in her eyes. Oh man, this is going to be great! He turns her head almost gently to expose the vein. Just a taste for now, they’ve got a lot of time to make up for.

She jerks when his fangs slit the vessel, and that first gush of salt and sweet on his tongue is perfect, he realizes he’s never been happier…

…as the old woman cuts the thread, and watches the bubble, and the demon trapped forever inside, soar up and away into the endless dark.

Angelus screams, Cordelia sees light in his eyes in the instant before he throws her away from him. She bounces off the headboard, lies a little stunned watching him stagger and then go into some kind of seizure that drops him to the floor.

He lies there, still while she gathers herself, wondering if she should try for the door. Then he groans and looks up. "Cordelia?" He slowly sits up, hands on his head like he’s got the worst hangover ever. Cordelia hesitates.


His expression when he looks down and notices he’s naked answers her question.

"Angel," she says, with a quick grin, and tosses him a sheet.



Thursday Morning, Full Moon

Long way via the sewers between the office and the main Post Office. Angel notices how quiet the streets above are and wonders until he remembers what today is. Thanksgiving. A day for families to gather together, to eat and drink themselves into happy comas. He wonders where Buffy is now. She was gone when he and Cordelia got back to the roof, and there's been no call from Sunnydale. He doesn't imagine she's feeling very thankful this morning.

Xander and Alice left shortly after he regained consciousness. As he shook Alice's hand and thanked her again, feeling how inadequate mere thanks were, he realized there was something different about her, but he still isn't sure what it was. She'd smiled at him, and said goodbye. Xander refused to speak to Angel, turned his back and leaned on Alice as he limped away.

Wesley and Cordelia, despite their bruises and last night's trauma seem remarkably sanguine. They're elated by simply having survived, and because they've saved him. Or at least they think so. The hunger's gone, but he needs information before he knows just how thankful he should be this morning.

The Post Office is closed, of course, for the holiday, but Angel finds the door unlocked that leads to the secret temple in the basement. He does the chant, burns the incense in the bowl before the archway with its inscription "The Gateway For Lost Souls" and this time, the portal opens for him. He enters the sanctum, his fingers curled protectively over the renaissance cameo he’s brought as a gift.

"Welcome warrior," the Oracles say in unison.

Angel tosses the cameo to the female Oracle, since she’s always seemed marginally friendlier, and gets right down to business.

"Angelus. The demon, he’s… gone. He’s always been there, whispering in my ear, for more than 200 years. But since last night…silence. I need to know what it means."

"Because you’re in love, and wish to express it physically," the male Oracle sneers dismissively.

"Yes," Angel says holding onto his temper.

"Foolishness, as you well know." His sister is still busy admiring Angel’s gift.

"Yeah. You’re probably right. Can I have an answer?" The male scowls, leaving the female Oracle to smile and answer.

"You need no longer fear…happiness. Angelus will not return. You are free of him, for the length of your existence." The male Oracle looks unhappy, but doesn’t contradict her.

"He’s gone? The curse is ended."

"Yes. Have fun." He could almost swear she winked before turning and walking into misty nothingness.



Next: part 11, Gehenna

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