Part 6

Nothing But Bad News


"Get away from me!" Wesley warns, shoving the cross in Angel's face. Angel frowns, and shakes his head.

"I've warned you about that," he says, grabbing the offending hand, and squeezing hard; the crucifix makes a little 'ting' as it hits the floor. He pulls Wesley forward, spinning him around so he's held with Angel's arm around his throat, helpless. Puts his mouth close to Wesley's ear, whispers. "Told you, never let a vampire get too close."

"A-Angel," Wesley stutters. "L-let me go please." Angel presses his face to the nape of the man's neck, damp with cold sweat, he can feel the fine hairs individual under his tongue. The smell of Wesley's fear, the feel of his lean body as he trembles in Angel's grip, the soft whimper as Angel's hand tears open his collar, are like honey in his mouth.

"Don't worry, I won't hurt you." Angel lies, as he slides his fangs down the vulnerable neck, blood wells up in a ruby bead, and bursts on his tongue like a pomegranate seed.

"Angel?" There's a slight tremor in Cordelia's voice. "Hey!" Angel opens his eyes. Cordelia is looking down at him, at his hand holding her warm, soft arm. There is the barest hint of fear oozing from her skin. She jerks her arm away and he lets her go this time. Hard for him to think, still disoriented by sleep and the vivid dream and it doesn't help that he's so damned hungry and Cordelia smells so *good*. She's still frowning at him, and he doesn't know why.

"Hey! Angel! Stand down," she says sharply, tapping her forehead. Puzzled, brain still slow, then he realizes that the demon is showing. He hastily shoves it back under his skin. Cordelia is only partially appeased.

"Talk about waking up ugly. If this is what you're like in the morning, scratch me doing wake-up duty ever again."

"Sorry. Bad dream." She smiles then. Angel is amused and a little saddened by how easily she lets herself be lulled by his mask, even while the marks of his fingers are still fading from her skin.

"What's up?"

"Client, Mr. Greene, remember?" she says sharply.

"Dengue demons, holding him up for protection money. Yeah."

"We have a meeting at 6:30 in Venice, and somehow I don't think you in your boxers is gonna project the right image."

"Good point." Still having a little trouble focusing on her words instead of her freshly painted lips, they look so very sweet…

<Just wanna a little taste.> The demon whines.


"I need a shower. I'll see you upstairs in a few minutes." Cordelia nods and turns her back on him, headed for the stairs. He's caught by the way her hair moves, a dark silk river down her back, by her utter vulnerability. The hunger coils and hisses inside, telling him how easy, how simple, it would be to grab her and pull her down with him in the bed. To bite deep into that golden neck and sate himself with everything that is Cordelia.

He waits until she is safely out of sight before getting out of bed.

In the bathroom, he splashes water into his face and stares into the blank mirror, his erection pressed against the sink. Cordelia's scent still clings to him. She's driving him mad. He wants her. He wants her mouth, her breasts, her body, her eyes looking into his, her voice saying she wants him.

Not sure of the exact date when it changed. It was sometime after they got back from Sunnydale. When his thoughts ceased to be brotherly, when he started to dwell on the softness of her skin against his as she bandaged him, the feel of her breasts pressed against his arm. When he began watching her, surreptitiously as she moved around the office, awed by the improbable perfection of her body.

When the sweet beguilement of her blood, her familiar heartbeat, turned into constant temptation.

He'd feel better if he could only blame it all on the demon, but it isn't the demon that wants to hear his name on her lips as she comes. It's not Angelus that wants to be held in someone's arms without the risk of triggering Armageddon. It's not the demon that has trouble thinking when he smells the traces of other men on her skin.

He wants to tempt fate with her. Tells himself it isn't love, that perfect happiness is not at issue with Cordelia. What he feels is carnal desire, pure and simple, and he wavers through the long nights, wanting to go to her, ask her, beg her to let him in. The only thing preventing him from doing it is the fear, not that she'll say no, but that he won't be able to stop. That his thirst will overcome his lust. That it will end in death, not pleasure. So far it's kept him silent, and alone, but he doesn't know how much longer he can do this.

It's been a long two weeks. He hasn't talked to anyone in Sunnydale since he left. Didn't see the point. Giles probably has his suspicions but Angel guesses he's just as pleased to see Angel gone again. And what the hell can he say to Buffy that won't make it worse? Would it help to tell her that every time he thinks of her the hunger blooms inside him till he thinks it will burst through his skin? That he dreams every night of finishing what he started, of taking every last drop of her blood for his own comfort? She'd either stake him, or try to fix it, and she doesn't know how dangerous, how hopeless that attempt would be. Angel doesn't think this can be fixed. This doesn't feel like magic, it feels too much like the old problem. Him. His weakness. He's tired of being alone, tired of fighting, tired of denying himself. He wants to take comfort in Buffy, and that way lies disaster. This is better. She'll never forgive him, and that's good. Whatever it takes to keep her away from him.

He wishes he knew how to drive Cordelia and Wesley away. And that he had the strength to do it. Wishes he believed Cordelia's promise to kill him dead if Angelus ever raises his evil head again. Wishes he believed that Wesley had a plan to kill him, in an emergency.

His hunger is a constant acid craving now, that's slowly burning away his inhibitions, his will, and his imitation of humanity. It's worse than those first dark months he spent in L.A., alone with the memory of Buffy's blood and his despair. Doyle had spoken truth: when he found him Angel had been only a night or two away from giving into the temptation to eat one of the tender morsels of helpless humanity he'd been impersonally rescuing. So much worse now, because he can't hide himself in the dark, away from the temptations of living flesh and warm blood. He's surrounded by his friends, his companions, and he doesn't know how much longer he can keep his own desires and the demon in check.

Not helping that Wesley has noticed that something is wrong and he reeks of fear whenever Angel comes near. He wonders how much Wesley knows and how much he suspects. More than half-tempted to lay it all out for him, share the burden. Speculating almost dispassionately, what, if anything the former Watcher will decide to do about it. Deep inside, Angelus is amused by the idea, wants to see him try.

Another part of him wants to know how Wesley would react if he told him just how delicious the fear makes him smell. And that Angelus will turn him if he ever gets the chance.

He steps into the shower, turns the water on hot; the warmth soothes the hunger a little, sends the demon into retreat. He masturbates under the scalding stream, struggling to keep his fantasy safely anonymous, no Cordelia, no Buffy, no Kate.

An old memory rises to the surface: the erotic contrast of dark brown skin on eternally pale, of tightly coiled hair surprisingly soft to the hand, of almond eyes smiling darkly up at him. Smiles as he remembers her full, slightly pointed breasts filling his cold hands, her mouth drowning his in warmth, her narrow hands pumping his cock. Sweet Lucy.

She was a tiny woman, even shorter than Buffy. He'd called her his Pocket Venus. But despite his age, his sex, his size, she'd always been the one in control. The first time they fucked set the pattern. He'd taken shelter from the sun in her room after saving her from a couple of hungry vampires. Woken to find a very drunk, and very naked, Lucy giggling happily as she straddled him. And whatever doubts he might have had, his erection had been unambivalent. He never had a chance.

They were together for two years. Her cheerful lust, her easy acceptance of what he was dissolved the cocoon of self-loathing that he'd woven around himself after the Great War. She didn't love him, and he didn't love her, but they were good for each other. She cut back on her drinking, and he started bathing and stopped eating rats.

Two good years, when he'd been as close to bliss as he'd been since that bad night in Romania. Perilously close, in retrospect. But he hadn't known about the danger, he'd been happy.

Until she left him, destroying his hopes, without a word, without explanation.

Lucy would never have given a clown like Xander Harris a second look. Wonders if Alice has told him that she's one of a set. Somehow he doubts Harris would see the joke in the fact that he probably knows Alice's body as well as or better than the smug little pup. He'd memorized every last inch of Lucy. Thought he knew her inside and out, body and mind.

What it's like for Xander and his girl? Does Alice smile wickedly when she takes him in her mouth? Do her eyes close, and her tongue show pink between her lips when she's getting close? Does she mark his back with blunt nails?

He remembers the taste of Lucy's blood, vital, healing, bringing him closer to life than he'd been in almost 200 years. Not even Slayer blood compared. It had filled him to overflowing, the taste it made him feel forgiven. Given him hope…

Given him the gleam of sunlight on the curve of her cheek, warm, not burning on his skin when he stepped forward to kiss her...

Angel comes with terrifying delight and force. His knees buckle, and he leans against the shower wall, gasping and shaking under the pounding water. Feeling the hunger creeping back into his nerves as the pleasure fades.

He dresses, feeds, and goes upstairs. Cordelia raises an eyebrow, but doesn't say anything.

"Hello Angel," Wesley says carefully casual as he looks up from his book. Angel nods, aware of the taste of pig's blood still coating his mouth, and he's still hungry. It doesn't seem to matter how much he drinks these days, how much he bloats his stomach with cow or pig or sheep's blood, at best it only eases, never erases the constant thirst. Human blood is a little better, but the warmth of the microwave is no substitute for living blood.

Angel feels the weight of Wesley's worried gaze, but he can't bring himself to look him in the eye, not with the memory of the dream fresh, and not with the knowledge, the resolution, that if he loses it, when he loses it, he'll use the last of his control to make sure that it's Wesley who's sacrificed to the beast. Not Cordelia. Never her.


Xander is asleep, his breath warm on the top of her head as Alice lies cradled in his arms. She wants to be asleep, but the half-moon is pouring pale light through the window and it makes the cat shift restlessly under her too-tight skin. She can hear the night calling to her. Tempting her away from the safety of her warm bed and her trusting lover.

There's a pack of coyotes yipping up in the hills, declaring their territory. The sound sends a shiver of mixed outrage and excitement through her. The other day Xander said that they sounded like wolves, and wondered if they remind Willow of Oz and she'd had to bite her tongue, and say nothing. Told herself that maybe they do sound like werewolves, she wouldn't know, she does know for damn sure that they sound nothing at all like wolves.

She smiles suddenly remembering racing through the Texas night in a souped-up Model A. The car loaded to the gills with Canadian bootleg, the bottles clanking and crashing as they roared along the one lane road, chasing the tiny patch of blacktop illuminated by the headlights, endless darkness rushing past on either side. She'd been squeezed into the front seat, scared and excited as she hugged her coat against the wind. Darryl's hand was on her knee, thumb moving in slow circles, reminding her why she'd come along.

Then the wolves started up, the howling sending instinctive terror through her, totally exposed in the flat, treeless plain. Darryl felt her shiver, patted her thigh reassuringly. "Just wolves, honey. Ain't wolves we got to worry about," he laughed. And right on schedule there was a spotlight behind them, shouted commands swept away by the rushing wind: The Law, hot on their trail. She'd grabbed hold of the dashboard as Darryl grinned, put both hands back on the steering wheel, and floored it…

She sighs, and raises up on her elbow to look at Xander. He sleeps like a child, abandoned, and trusting. They got away that time and now that night lives only in her memory. Darryl's been dead for years, died an old man in his own bed but she's still here, eternally smoothskinned, and old behind the eyes.

She presses close, inhales the warm smell of Xander. In this form his scent is muddy and indistinct, but she'd still know it in either form.

She's in love once again, but this time, for the first time she hopes it's more than her usual delusion and lust. She really believes they have a chance. That she might finally have found her way Home. No more secrets between them. Xander knows more about her than any other lover has. She'll tell Xander about that wild Texas night ride, one day. Only, there's so much to tell she's taking it slow, still wary of swamping him. Though so far he's dealt with it amazingly well, but she doesn't want to push it.

And she still can't sleep.

With a sigh, she eases herself out from underneath his arm, and slides carefully out of bed. She tucks the blanket back in place and stands for a moment looking down at him. He looks so sweet, so handsome lying there with his hair tousled and that wide mouth curved in a half-smile. She bends down to kiss him, then thinks better of it, afraid she'll wake him.

Out on the utility porch, she sheds her clothes, leaving them in a neat pile on top of the dryer. Steps out onto the porch, the door clicking shut behind her. The night air raises goosebumps on her skin as she bends down to tuck the key under the mat. One last glance around for unwelcome eyes, and then she changes.

Brief moment of disorientation, and then she's there and it feels so good, to have her senses sharp and clear again, to be centered firmly on four feet, and the air is no longer cold and filled with the night's news. Joyfully she runs across the moon-silvered grass in an easy flow of sleek muscle. One easy bound and she's on top of the wall, lifting her blunt muzzle to test the breeze.

The condominium where they live is less than a year old, and the property backs onto land as wild as when the Spanish named it La Boca Del Infierno. There is good hunting up there in the hills and down in the brush-choked ravines; the breeze brings her the scent of rabbits, possums, and deer... Furry, edible toys, waiting for her to find and chase and kill them.

She leaps down and takes her usual path, pausing at various spots to squat and renew her scent, then stretch up to claw the bark as reaffirmation of her territory. Her human self is vaguely amused by the ritual, thousands of miles from the chance of another leopard, especially since the predators she really wants to warn off care nothing for her scrapes. Still, she can't help sharing the sense of rightness when it's done. Satisfied, she rambles round until she comes across the trail of a deer, a yearling buck; it smells healthy and oblivious. Not many predators for it to fear, and it has left a visible trail through the wildgrass, grown tall and green from the winter rains. She follows it up and around the hill.

On the ridge, she paused for a moment to look down at Sunnydale's lights speckling the lowlands. Sunnydale is thriving, oddly immune to the negatives of an inflated mortality rate and exploding high schools. By rights it should have been a ghost town years since, abandoned to the demons that love it so much. She's here because Xander is here and he won't leave his friends, but what's everyone else's excuse?

She turns back to the buck's trail, but right on cue, the wind shifts bringing the faint taint of vampire to spoil the air. It makes the fur along her spine rise and the base of her whiskers tingle in outrage at the trespass on her territory. Reluctantly she turns to follow the vampire's trail. Some things she can't just overlook, and having a vampire here in her backyard is one of them.

Too bad it's a strange vampire, not Spike. She really wants to meet Spike sometime, alone in the dark: she has something she wants to show him. She's sick of the sight of him, always hanging around like a bad smell, being 'helpful' with that big shit-eating grin on his face. Ain't fooling her one little bit, she knows a predator when she sees one. And the way he hangs around Willow really gets her back up.

She feels sorry for the girl, poor Willow. Goddamn Oz, he'd ripped her heart out when he left like that. Girl mopes around, bleeding pain and misery and Spike's always right there, much too interested. It worries her because the little witch has a bad habit of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. She has a soft heart and despite her smarts, acts like she has a head to match. Especially now, when she's hurting. Not that Alice is one to talk about bad choices, but she's never been and never expects to be so lost she'd go looking to the undead for sympathy.

There’s a damn sight too much bleeding going on in their little group these days. Buffy isn't exactly on her top form either. Tall, dark, and undead really hurt her when he ran off back to L.A. Buffy doesn't talk about it, and she doesn't walk around all fragile and slightly moist, but the shadows under her eyes keep getting deeper, and she seems thinner and harder every time Alice sees her. It hurts her to see Xander miserable watching two women he loves trapped in hell and nothing he can do to help. Alice wants to help, but she's a stranger, an outsider, they weren't open to her.

The vampire is young and stupid. Didn't even know she was there until she landed on its back and knocked it flat. It screamed uselessly into the dirt as she pinned it down with one paw, sank her killing teeth into its neck and tore the head free from the body. She jumped back from the explosion of dust, but some still got up her nose. Feh. She stands there trying to drool the taste out of her mouth, consoling herself with the satisfaction of knowing that her territory has been reaffirmed.

She is turning to go, hoping maybe she can still pick up the buck's trail, when the wind shifts again, bringing more bad news: another vampire, vampires in fact. Damn, maybe she should put up signs. Mixed in is a familiar scent...human…Buffy. Curious, she heads into the wind, following the scent downhill, outside her usual circuit, to one of Sunnydale's numerous cemeteries, this one old and neglected. Unsurprised to hear the sounds of conflict as she slips through the overgrown grass and crowded tombstones. She stops at the edge of a small clearing in the shadow of a large monument and watched.

The Slayer stands facing her opponent, waiting for him to make the next move and she looks happier than Alice has seen her look in the past couple of weeks. She's definitely been on the job. There are three piles of dust on the ground and from the battered look of the sole survivor he isn't much longer for the earth.

He charges, and Buffy lands a solid kick to its middle, then sweeps his legs from under him. He sprawls ungracefully on the ground. Alice waits for the stake to come down...surprised when Buffy doesn't follow up. Instead, she lets him scramble to his feet. She beckons to him, perfect teeth shining in a teasing smile. Alice feels the fur on the back of her neck ruffle as the vamp snarls and takes the bait.

2nd verse, same as the first. Obvious now that Buffy's just having a little fun. She dodges its blows and hits it, kicks it at will. She's beautiful, impossibly graceful as she punishes the vampire, plays with it, almost like dancing except that her partner is leaking stolen blood, and stumbling...

…and Alice suddenly smells burning, and feels the rhythmic beat of bare feet on packed earth, and Buffy's shape wavers, darkens, and she has too many arms and she's dancing. Alice flinches as a dark shadow sweeps over her and she hears the harsh call of a raven…

Alice is jerked back to the here-and-now as Buffy clips the vamp one in the face that Alice feels in her bones. She slams the vampire into a tombstone, and he slides to the ground and stares at the Slayer, jaw noticeably misaligned. Starting to catch on now. Glances longingly towards the sheltering dark, wanting to run, but knowing that the minute it turns its back, it's dust.

Alice decides she doesn't need to watch any more of this as Buffy tires of waiting and moves towards her victim. Very slowly and carefully eases herself backwards, away from that place. Waiting until she's sure she's well out of earshot before allowing herself to stretch out and run in great bounds back up the slope until she's far away.

Halfway back home she flushes a jackrabbit and throws herself gratefully into the short, exhilarating chase. When the rabbit tries to double back past her she sticks out a paw and flips it into the air, it lands hard, and she finishes it with one quick bite. She feeds, letting human miseries be melted away by the sharp, simple pleasures of warm meat, and sweet blood.

Afterwards she lies there for awhile grooming herself carefully until she notices the sky beginning to turn from black to blue and hurries back down the hill, over the wall, to change and slip quietly into the house.


Angel is killing the Xarvax demon, and it feels like he's been at it for an hour, though really Cordelia knows it can't be more than a few minutes. There are human bones in heaps scattered around the underground lair, like the Paris catacombs she saw on the Discovery Channel, only these have been splintered and gnawed clean, demon leftovers. So no question this demon deserves to die, but it's screaming, and the sound is inside her head and please won’t someone make it stop. It’s no kind of threat now, all it's trying to do is get away but it can't because almost the first thing Angel did was hamstring it, before he really went to work with the ax, and all it can do now is crawl, and bleed and scream…

Oh God. She really can't take this. Not supposed to be here anyway, but the head of the Dengue protection racket turned out to be a Xarvax, who wanted to meet them, and so they ended up here, where negotiation rapidly deteriorated into mayhem. She wishes she had earplugs so she didn't have to hear the dull thunk of ax slicing into flesh, grating off bone but at least the screaming has stopped, it can barely whimper now.

"Don't look" Wesley says, and lets her hide her face in his tweedy and unexpectedly substantial chest, which surprises her, cause, well, it's Wesley. And he's scared as she is, she can hear his heart, pounding in rapid terror. It must be that whole macho thing making him face it. The only thing keeping her here is the soon to be ex-Xarvax's underlings lurking in the sewers between here and out. They need Angel to get out of here, but at the moment she's not sure how safe they really are with him.

Something's really wrong with Angel it's been all downhill ever since they got back from Sunnydale. Not the obvious. Not Angelus. He's still way too broody to be psycho-boy; now, if he starts cracking jokes and being charming...then she's definitely getting out the stakes and holy water. No, this is something else. Almost for sure Buffy-related, and, gosh, there's one name that hasn't come up once since they got back. She really would like to slap little Miss Clairol...except that Buffy would slap her back, and it's not like she has cosmetic surgery money these days. But the bitch has hurt Angel bad this time, maybe beyond repair.

The blood bill is getting out of hand, he swigs the stuff like some old wino, waves of stink coming off him in the close confines of the car on their way over here. Doesn't talk except when he absolutely has to. And, Exhibit A, he's liking the violence a little too much. He's never been this ugly before, or anyway, not where they could see.

Exhibit B, this morning, having him wake up all Grrrr had truly given her the wiggins. Not the first time she's seen it, but not good having it directed at her and his hand had been very cold on her arm. Never mind the dirty little thrill she'd felt when he grabbed her... before she saw his face anyway. The whole sex thing is also freaking her out. He keeps looking at her, in that unmistakable way. Wishes it was her imagination, but she's been pretty for a long time, she's got some expertise here, and like the girl in the song, she knows when they want her.

And this is definitely of the bad. Even though she wants him too, kinda. Well, OK, a lot if she's honest. How not? First time she saw him she wanted him, strictly on the superficialities, Mr. Salty Goodness and now that she knows him, Angel, so sweet and sad, fighting the powers of evil, fighting so damn hard... And it would feel so good to press up against that smooth pale chest and have his arms around her, and kiss that mouth...Yeah, of course she wants him. A recent thing, maybe triggered by seeing Xander so damned happy with someone else. Whatever, it's really bad timing. And it's not gonna happen.

Not just because of the whole 'happiness' thing, though of course that's a biggie; but also because he still loves Buffy. She's still Queen Cordy dammit; her kingdom may be smaller and a bit tattered around the edges, but she's not going to be anyone's consolation prize.

So lately, when she feels herself getting a little too, 'anxious'. When she starts losing sight of the bottom line that Angel + Sex = Angelus. She goes clubbing and finds herself Mr. Right for Tonight and works out some of that tension. And the next morning goes in to work with a big smile on her face and renewed confidence that she can keep it real, and safe.

She jumps as the demon screeches again, but it's OK cause apparently it means that Angel's finally hit something vital. One last rattling sigh, and it's blessedly silent in the mausoleum.

"Angel," Wesley says. Cordelia lifts her head and turns to look.

He's really, ehwwh, covered with slime and chunks of she *really* doesn't want to know. Still bumpy and he looks at them as if he doesn't know them. Cordelia feels the air grow still and very cold as he stares, yellow eyes intent.

"Angel," Wesley says, and Cordelia silently vows never to call him Wussley again. "Are you done?"

Only slightly relieved when Angel morphs back and nods, letting the ax fall from his hand.

"Yeah, let's go home."

Cordelia grits her teeth, gets back into character, and picks up her line. Wrinkling her nose dramatically.

"Good. And you're definitely riding in the back."


Alice climbs carefully back into bed and Xander has to repress a telltale flinch as her cold skin makes contact with his. She doesn't seem to notice as she curls herself back into place in his arms as though she'd never been gone. Her breath settles into an even pattern in a few moments as she drops into sleep. She's tired after her run. Carefully, he adjusts himself, his arms around her, takes a deep breath of her. She smells clean, the rank smell of cat that has been building over the past few days all gone. When she wakes up in the morning the slight tremor, the distraction will be gone too, now that she's had her fix. He’s pretty much used to the routine by now.

He's a little hurt that she feels the need to sneak out like this...but on the other hand she may have a better idea of his limits than he does. Does he really want to talk to her about hunting and killing, even if it is only animals? Considering how long it took him to get over Bambi's mom, probably not.

Not like there isn’t enough weirdness for him to deal with. He’d asked her to be honest, and she had been. Wishing now, a little, that he hadn't insisted.

The morning after the big battle (number whatever in a series). They'd been lying together in the morning sun, still enmeshed after some incredible makeup sex. He doesn’t remember exactly what he said, something about it being strange that Angel would think she could have been around in the ‘30s … but she took it as her cue for complete disclosure, and she spilled. Everything. And there was a lot.

He's OK with the immortality, figures it comes with the minor deity deal. In ten years, maybe 20, it will seem important, but right now but it's all kinda theoretical. Though he's aware she hasn't yet told him how old she is exactly. Old enough that she's embarrassed about it. And he's not real sure he wants to know. It's just a number, right?

Also he's coming to suspect that the business about !kangate ensuring health, etc. is true cause he's feeling really, really good. Hasn't had a sniffle or a cough since Alice moved in. Went from apprentice couch potato to doing heavy physical work all day on the construction site, and never an ache or pain. He's got muscles now, and women no longer look through him like they used to do. And, having no problem whatsoever keeping his baby satisfied. It's good having his own personal goddess.

On the other hand, the shock of finding out that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of Alice clones out in the world, identical mothers and daughters in a line going back to that African stowaway -- is taking a little more getting used to. Didn’t entirely believe it, until she showed him the photo.

Just a typical family portrait, nothing fancy, a lot like the ones the Harris family used to troop off to Sears once a year for. At the center was a grey-haired distinguished gentleman who could have been anywhere from 60 to 80 years old, his skin was noticeably lighter than that of the three women smiling into the camera. Their clothes, their hair differed radically, but the face was the same. Alice times 3.

Wondered irrelevantly, as he stared, what the photographer had thought.

"That's my father, my mother, my sister Jean, and this is me." Pointing to the one in the middle, and he wants to believe he could have picked her out without being told, but he's not quite that good at self-deception.

Yup, weirdness abounds.

And so what if there are other men (hopefully a long, long, ways from here) lying in bed with women who look just like her. (And he’s not gonna think of Deadboy with Alice’s twin. Nope. Not gonna. Maintaining full denial here.) They might look like her, but they aren't Alice.

The only thing that really matters is this: Being here, with her. He runs his hand over the curve of her back, wonderingly. Can’t imagine not being able to touch her like this. Hopes to hell she won't mind him getting wrinkly. That picture of her mom and dad gives him hope though. He kisses the back of her neck, wraps his arms securely around her, and gives himself up to sleep.


Wesley manages to get into his apartment and lock the door before his knees give out. He slides to the scuffed carpet and sits with his back against the flimsy door, and finally lets go. Shakes with the terror he's been repressing all the way back through the sewers, with Angel at their backs. The trip back in the car seemed to take hours, with the stink of demon blood fouling the air and he doing his best to control his fear, because he knows what fear does to vampires, and Angel is not himself these days.

Thank God that Cordelia doesn't seem to have noticed the change. Her obliviousness keeping her safe, so far. So he hasn't said anything to her. Hoping she'll remain unaware.

Wesley doesn't know what's wrong with Angel, but the fact that he hasn't confided in him, that he's trying to conceal the problem, is as frightening as the signs that he's losing control. That the demon is taking over: His increased irritability, and appetite, the gleeful joy he takes in killing.

The way he watches Cordelia when he believes himself unobserved. The hunger and need in his eyes.

But she's bound to notice soon. Wesley sees that Angel is losing the battle, bit by bit, knows he won't able to hide it much longer. Tonight, Wesley had felt death in the cold yellow gaze directed at them across the Xarvax's dismembered corpse.

Cordelia making him feel like a man, a protector as she clung to him.

Dear God, what is he going to do?

He hears his father's voice, the demon's mocking mimicry fresh in his mind "You? do something? What makes you think you can do anything?" It's a fair question.

He actually considered appealing to the Council, but rejected the idea as useless. They aren't likely to be willing to help, not before the fact, and afterwards, it will be too late. Thought of asking Giles …but he hates the idea of running to the older Watcher for help. And he's not sure that Giles would help, especially if it comes down to killing Angel.

"Go ahead, Wesley, tell him why he’s a fool to trust you. Tell him how you plan to kill him," the demon laughed. Angel had seemed unshaken by the accusation. The demon laughed at Wesley's denial.

"Oh, no? He’s more afraid of you than he is of me." And that was entirely too close to the truth, it set him off, and almost got him killed. Angel saved him, again, no hint of hunger in his brown eyes as he pressed his hand on the bloody wound.

He is very careful not to bleed around Angel these days.

Oh God.

What is he going to do?

Wesley smiles, humorlessly, knowing the answer. Only one thing, really that he can do, and it may already be too late. If he's going to act it will have to be soon. Because it's Angel he'll have to kill, not Angelus. He has no illusions of his chances against the genuine article, not the drug-induced delusion induced by Rebecca's little pills. If Angelus returns all that will be left to hope for is that the end is *quick*.

He has to kill Angel.

But he's not sure he can. Not even to save his own life. Not even to save Cordelia.


Angel's in the shower for a long time, trying to get clean; the demon's blood, and flesh are tenacious, clinging to his skin like glue, reeking like a month-old corpse. He has to scrub almost to the point of pain to get it off.

He knows he got a little carried away tonight, but it had felt so good to lose himself in the red haze of destruction. The demon's screams were sweet accompaniment to the rending and maiming...Until it was done and he'd had to look at himself reflected in Wesley's, in Cordelia's, eyes...a grinning, gory monster. And for a long moment all he'd wanted was to shatter that reflection, drown it in red...

He swallows hard. He doesn't feel up to thinking about this. His head hurts, and his gut is churning.

He turns off the water and threw on his robe, leaving wet footprints on the carpet as he padded into the kitchen. He guzzled a chilled quart of pig's blood standing in front of the refrigerator just to take the edge off, before putting another into the microwave to heat. Not sure why he bothers, warm or cold the taste is disgusting. But it keeps him going, and that still matters, for now.

Waiting impatiently for the timer to finish its countdown, he realizes that something is bothering him, that he can hear something under the roar of the microwave. A familiar sound, soft and steady: a human heartbeat. The microwave dings, and he takes the blood out, drinks it down. Tosses the empty container into the sink.

Moving as quietly as he can, he creeps upstairs to see who's come to visit. Hoping and fearing it's a burglar, an assassin, someone who might offer violence, give him an excuse...

The dim glow of the CRT gently illuminates Cordelia's face where she sits slumped in her chair. She must have come in to look up something, and fallen asleep in front of the computer. He stands in the doorway, transfixed by her heartbeat, the steady cadence calling to him. Her menses are more than a week away, but he can smell the imminence of blood concentrated at the junction of her thighs.

He's standing over her, his hands hovering over her with uncertain intent when she stirs. He freezes, as she opens her eyes and sees him. He's prepared for almost anything, for fear, or disgust or simple indifference. Not prepared for her welcoming smile.

"Angel," desire for him in her eyes, seeping from her pores.

Then he's kissing her, and her mouth opens for him, her warm, wonderful tongue exploring his mouth. She reaches up, trying to put her arms around him, it's an awkward position and he lifts her up, carries her into the bedroom.

As he lies down with her under him, he feels the demon twitching eagerly under his skin, scenting freedom. He hesitates.

"Angel," she says. Her eyes are dark with desire, focused only on him.

He pushes up her top, brushes his fingers across her breasts, feeling the nipples stiffen through the silk of her bra. Nibbles the underside of her breasts and then traces the curves of her ribs with his tongue, moving down her midline. He presses his open mouth over the tiny imperfection of the scar that mars her belly thinking, love did this. Feeling her heart fluttering under the skin, like a moth trapped in a lantern.

His hands feel huge, as he clumsily pulls down her jeans, tears away the lacy nothingness of her panties. Presses his face there, and inhales her essence, leans in harder to plunge his tongue inside her, to taste her; warm and salty as the primordial ocean. Distracted by the sound of her pulse pounding in her thigh, so close, it rings in his head and summons the demon. She squirms as she feels the ridges pressing into her mound, as the demon's long tongue probes deep inside her, searching for the blood it knows is so near...

Angel forces the demon down and pulls away, she moans, reaches for him. His cock is pressed painfully against his fly. This is not how he wanted it, too fast, but he can't wait. She's watching as he frees himself, nothing shy in her gaze. Helps him guide his hard white erection into her. Cordelia, he groans, as she enfolds him wet and warm, as her heartbeat reverberates through his body.

Slowly beginning to move, and he wants to make it last, but it has been so long, and it feels so good and she moves around him and pulls him down to kiss her breasts, her mouth. So much heat, like a furnace, against his skin, surrounding him, melting him down. He moves in and out of her, faster and faster despite his intentions, every thrust an affirmation that he's exactly where he wants to be, with the one he wants to be with. So hot. So good.

Struggling to keep control, even as he burns and melts away, and the demon urging him to fuck her harder, grind her down, break her. The hunger growing and the rhythm of her heart beating like a drum inside his head. Suddenly afraid, but he's caught, can't stop himself as her walls clench around him and he falls in burning ecstasy.

Burnt out, he lies spent, too weak to do anything. Helpless as the demon frees itself with a roar and rips into her throat, and he can't do anything to stop it. And the taste of her blood as it pours into him, is the best thing he's ever known, it fills and completes him even as he tries to stop. Feeling Cordelia's struggles weaken, feeling her heartbeat slow and stutter and stop.

Angel, she says. And he feels her die around him.

Angel sits bolt upright in his bed.

It's morning. He can feel the sun roaring overhead, white-hot and hungry. He's alone. But the taste of Cordelia's blood is still in his mouth.

He can hear Cordelia's voice, upstairs talking on the phone to one of her friends. Discussing the relative merits of brands of shoes. And the sound of her voice is the sweetest thing he's ever heard. The knowledge that she's alive, unharmed.

Somehow he has to keep her that way.

He thinks about Russell Winters. Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad way to go. Quick, clean, and so simple. Just climb up to the roof and let himself fall; let the light take him. Flaring like a comet and never reaching the ground.


Xander wakes up early. It's Saturday, which means he doesn't have to get up to go to work, not that he minds his new job. He likes working construction, it feels, well, manly, and it pays a helluva lot better than fast food. Still, on principle he does his best to ignore the goddamned birds singing in the trees and the sunshine sleeting through the curtains, but it's a lost cause.

On top of everything else he's got his usual morning boner. He looks over at Alice longingly, but she's fast asleep and it'll take more than a few birds to wake her. It would take more than an air-raid siren the morning after one of her midnight runs. But he can't get back to sleep, and when he hears the newspaper thunk into the front door he decides to get up.

He went downstairs, brought the paper in, and left it lying on the counter while he made breakfast. Didn't get around to looking at it until after he'd finished a big bowl of Super Cocoa Puffs and was starting on the toast.

"Instructor accused of improper relations with Sunnydale Students," and an old picture of Giles, looking grim and slightly guilty as he turns away from the camera.

"Oh Shit," Xander said.

END part 6

Next: part 7, The Light at the End



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