A New Knight in the City of Angel's



Cordelia coughed loudly, when she had everyone's attention she
announced. "We're all glad your alive Angel and we'll just be going
now, before things get too disturbing."

"Thanks guys," Angel said. "But you don't have to leave, Buffy and I

Buffy kissed Angel again intently, pulling back only when she felt him
gasping for breath.

"Bye," Angel managed.

The others, exchanging knowing smirks began filing out of the room.

"Keys?" Buffy requested gesturing to the chains they'd restrained Angel
with before they had forced the now absent demon to manifest.

"Oh. yes," Wesley commented digging through his pockets.

In a much too innocent voice Willow asked. "You're sure you want them
right now?"

"Willow!" Cordelia shrieked, scandalized and shocked that it was the
girl she remembered as a shy computer nerd who'd made the suggestion.

"Didn't say anything about using them right away," Buffy replied
smiling seductively at Angel, who found, to his surprise, that he could
blush now.

Wesley tossed Buffy the keys and hurriedly exited.

LaCroix made no move to follow the others out.

"Didn't you get the hint?" Buffy asked the ancient vampire.

"I would speak to Angelus before things get. too carried away," LaCroix

At that Buffy turned to glare at him. "Let me guess, you want to talk
about turning him back right? Forget it, it's not happening."

"We shall see," LaCroix said coldly.

Tension sparkled between them as the staring match lengthened. Then
Angel whistled sharply, bring their attention back to him. "I'm right
here," he pointed out.

"Yes and nothing has changed since the last time you were mortal,"
LaCroix said. "All the reasons you couldn't stay like this last time
still exist."

"No," Buffy argued. "I know what you told Cordy, and you were wrong."

"I'm not having this conversation while chained to my bed," Angel said

As Buffy unlocked his restraints she continued arguing. "Chances are,
the thing that kills me is going to be the one I don't see coming.
You're going to be setting in LA unaware while I'm dying in Sunnydale."

"Where as if you were human, you'd be dying right along side her.
Incapable of doing anything but getting in the way," LaCroix added

Angel started to say something only to be interrupted by Buffy. "You
think you'll be a liability to me in a fight, but how would any other
normal person be less of a liability."

"Yes Angelus, stay out of trouble, let her protect you, forget about
your redemption," LaCroix said.

"You've got nothing to make up for," Buffy insisted.

"I doubt Angelus would agree with that evaluation," LaCroix shot back.

"Then find a new way to fight," Buffy argued. "You were only human for
a day last time, you didn't even try. You have two and a half centuries
of experience, that's got to count for something."

"As a vampire, without that asset all your experience will get you is
killed," LaCroix replied.

"Are you two finished?" Angel asked loudly. "Can I talk? It is my life
you're debating. It's going to be my choice."

"Why?" Buffy asked. "You decide what I need. Why can't I do the same to
you? Did I ever tell you I wanted a boyfriend who tanned rather than
combusted? Or kids, did you even listen to me when I told you I didn't
care about having children?"

"It's not the same thing," Angel said.

"Right, I remember this part," Buffy snapped. "Cause I'm a swoony
school girl who doesn't know what she wants. "Well this time I think
it's your judgment that's bad. You hate yourself so much that you can't
accept anything good that happens to you. You have to find someway to
ruin it so you can go back to being miserable!"

"And you can't accept that he will be better off as a true vampire,"
LaCroix said. "Angelus there will be no curse, no demon."

"No," Buffy interrupted. "You're lying, you just want him to be like

"I want what's best for him," LaCroix replied.

"'Cause your Nicholas was so happy as a vampire?" Buffy asked
sarcastically. "He was the one Dr. Lambert was studying right? You
thought we wouldn't figure it out, giving us only a few of the
notebooks, tearing out pages. You tried to cover it up, but Willow says
she was looking for a way to make a vampire back into a human. If
there's no catch, why didn't he want to be a vampire anymore."

An expression of mixed anger and pain flickered across LaCroix's face,
disappearing instantly. He met Angel's eyes squarely. "I made mistakes
with Nicholas," he said sincerely. "By your lights, I may very well be
evil. I have killed before and will again. I feel no pangs of guilt for
this. I never did. The vampire does intensify the characteristics which
you would object to, but it does not control me, it does not make me
evil. I make my choices, not the beast."

"When I turned Nicholas I tried to reshape him in my image. He was a
good person. For a time he lost sight of that. When I found him he'd
seen the ugly truths of the Crusades, he'd lost his faith and was
willing to accept any guidance. But he couldn't stop being what he was
forever. In time he rejected everything I was including the vampire."

"He spent centuries torturing himself over what he was and never
realized who he was. Nicholas wasn't evil. That he was a vampire
couldn't change that simple fact."

"You can't trust him Angel," Buffy exclaimed.

"We've shared blood, you know what I say is true," LaCroix said.

"You can't turn him," Buffy stated. "I won't let you. Even if Angel
gives you permission, you'll have to go through me to get to him."

"Stop it!" Angel exclaimed. To LaCroix he added. "Please leave. I can't
deal with both of you."

"Will you be able to choose if you delay?" LaCroix asked softly.

"Don't go into my mind," Angel requested tiredly.

"I'm only stating what you know to be the truth," LaCroix answered.

"Just leave."

As the door shut behind LaCroix Angel turned his attention back to
Buffy. "You don't mean that," he said.

"Yes I do, Angel I'm so sick of you digging up reasons why we can't be
together. Don't you love me?" Buffy asked tearfully.

"Buffy I love you, with everything I am, you have to know that," Angel
replied. "I just. I want to do what's right."

"You won't even try to be with me," Buffy cried.

"I can't turn my back on what's out there," Angel said.

"I didn't ask you to! Just learn to help as a human," Buffy argued.

"I tried that last time," Angel said quietly. "I almost got us both
killed. I don't think I can't overcome two hundred and forty-eight
years of reflex conditioning. LaCroix's right about that, I'm used to
being able to walk away from being shot or run over or impaled. Ask
Cordelia about all the injuries she's patched up for me during the last
year. I never even think about it. Wesley and Gunn are a lot more
careful when we fight; they have to be. I'm used to healing almost
immediately. How long will it take me to get over that? How long will
everyone around me have to watch that I don't do something stupid and
get myself killed?"

"Try," Buffy insisted. "Don't spend a few hours as a human then go
after some demon-super-assassin like nothing's changed. You've dealt
with demons that you couldn't beat in a flat out slugfest before. You
can do it again, there's just a lot more things that fall into that
category now."

"You don't believe that," Angel said.

"I want you to stay human," Buffy said. "I want you to realize you have
nothing to make amends for. I want you to come home to me."

"How can you say that? You know what I've."

"What the demon's done," Buffy insisted. "It's gone, it's dead, you're

"It's not that simple," Angel said.

"Could you ever have done what it did?" Buffy demanded.

"It is me," Angel stated flatly.

"No it's not the demon's gone. Angel, you're right here. How can you be
the same thing?"

"What I was before, as a human, formed Angelus: my anger, my hurt, my
self-centeredness. I didn't kill for food or power, Buffy I did it for
the shear pleasure I got out of inflicting pain. Physical or mental I
liked it. Liked it so much even other vampires couldn't understand why
I did the things I did. So it didn't come from the demon, it had to
have come from me."

"With your soul intact could you have done what the demon did? Could

"It was my."

"Yes or no Angel, could you have done it?"

"No. After the curse I tried to go back to Darla. I couldn't do it. I
couldn't be that anymore."

Buffy smiled softly. "I know. Maybe there was some darkness in the
person you were before you were turned, but that wasn't all there was
in him, because he became you."

"It doesn't matter. I can't give up what I do here Buffy, no more than
you could give up being the Slayer. But I'll try it as a human and if I
can't help the people in Cordy's visions this way, I'll find a way to
verify what LaCroix said. I'll figure out what the catch is before I
agree to anything."

"And then we'll talk about, okay?" Buffy requested. "You won't just
decide for both of us this time."

"I can do that," Angel promised.

"It'll work out, you'll see," Buffy said kissing Angel.


Hearing an argument LaCroix paused.

"It doesn't matter what the doctors said Wesley," Cordelia insisted.
"Angel's human now, there won't be anymore vision. So who cares

"Why won't you tell me what the tests showed?" Wesley asked. "First you
said wait until we dealt with Angel's collapse, now you say it doesn't

"Because it doesn't. Nothing is going to happen to me. No more visions
remember?" Cordelia replied.

LaCroix opened the door and joined the pair. "Miss Chase, you didn't
realize your predecessor. Doyle? Continued having vision even when
Angelus was human? Your Powers don't care that he is no longer suited
to be their Warrior, they will continue using him until he has died for
them. It will certainly happen sooner with Angelus fighting as a
mortal, they don't seem to care. Perhaps his death will end your
visions, or maybe they'll send you another warrior to replace him. Like
you replaced Doyle."

"Cordelia, what did the doctors say?" Wesley asked again.

"They said I get the headaches because when I have a vision the blood
vessels in my brain get really narrow and I could end up having a
stroke," Cordelia said.


Giles knocked on Angel's door then yelled, "Xander called, Buffy you're
needed back in Sunnydale."

"We'll be down in a minute," Angel called back.

"You don't have to come," Buffy said as Angel handed her a shirt.

"I want to help," Angel replied.

Buffy looked uncomfortable. "You were going to get used to being human
first, that's what we agreed."

"I'm not planning on going solo," Angel said. "How can I find out what
I need to know if I stop fighting demons?"

Fifteen minutes later Buffy and Angel entered the Hyperion's lobby
still arguing. "I'm just saying it's too soon," Buffy protested. "And
it's Sunnydale, not exactly your responsibility anyway."

"Angel we need to talk with you," Wesley said. "I think it would be
best if you let Buffy handle this demon on her own, we have a problem
of our own.


Where the Oracles and their domain had followed Greek lines this temple
was Egyptian in style as was the cat headed man Angel spoke with.

"The Powers did this to her, they have to fix it," Angel insisted.

"The visions were not harmful until the dark one interfered with your
Seer," the man-cat replied, sounding unconcerned. "You should have
taken better care of her. It is not our responsibility."

"Then give me the vision, if it were my carelessness that caused this,
let me pay the price for it, not her," Angel argued. "They're killing

"Your paths are already set. It is not for me to change them."

With that Angel found himself smashing into the wall opposite the
portal's entrance.

"Is there anyone left on the list?" He asked Wesley as he stood.

"We've used every channel I know of," Wesley said tiredly.

"Then we'll start at the beginning again," Angel replied. "Maybe if I
keep trying they'll help just to get me to stop bothering them."

"No," Cordelia said. "I don't think ticking them off is a good idea
Angel. We haven't looked through all of Wes' books yet and we still
have to figure out what we're going to do the next time I have a

"We need to get you fixed before your next vision," Angel argued.

"We don't know that it will happen the next time and I've got medicine
to mitigate the danger," Cordelia replied. "We'll look into other ways
to stop the visions from hurting me, but we have to be ready for the
next one as a team."

"We'll deal with it when it happens," Angel said. "Until then this is
more important."

"Look Angel, I'd be happier if you'd go spar with Gunn for a while,"
Cordelia insisted.


"You need help killing something?" Gunn asked when he saw Angel.

"Not today," Angel replied.

"So what is this, a social call?" Gunn asked.

"No it's. um. Could you." Angel gave up and stepped into a patch of

"That's new," Gunn commented. "You're not catching on fire."

"Comes with the whole being human package, along with mortal strength,
healing and reflexes. I was hoping you could give me some pointers on
fighting with demons now that I'm not one."

"I'm cool with that," Gunn replied with a shrug.


"Angel, that's a two handed sword, means you should be using one more
hand," Gunn said, watching the sword waver in Angel's grip. "Here, try
this one, it was meant for what you want to do."


"Give it up Angel, no one's fast enough to finish that move before they
end up dead," Gunn said.

"No one mortal," Angel sighed. "Personally I always liked it."


"How'd you do that?" Gunn asked looking down at the point of Angel's

"Not everything is about brute strength, or even inhuman reflexes,"
Angel replied with a slight smile. He leaned down to pick up Gunn's
sword and handed it back to him. "Ready to go again?"


"Did you find anything?" Angel asked as soon as Wesley answered the

"There were some possibilities," Wesley said. "I'm looking into them.
How did things go with Gunn?"

"It wasn't a complete disaster," Angel replied. "The bruises haven't
faded yet."

"Give it a couple days," Wesley suggested.

"That long?" Angel asked. "Is there anything I can do to help with

"If you could, find me a copy of the Traden Diaries," Wesley requested.

"I haven't heard of that one, but I'll check into it," Angel said.

"Tomorrow we'll go over everything," Wesley said. "Tonight you look for
the book, I've still got to finish translating another of my texts."

"Tomorrow," Angel replied hanging up the phone.

"The girl isn't doing well?" LaCroix asked, stepping out of the

"No and I don't know how to help her," Angel admitted. Then, more
suspiciously, he asked, "Is there a reason you're here?"

LaCroix's fangs emerged. "Actually there was."

"Don't," Angel protested, understanding the ancient vampire's intent
instantly. "Don't do this. I don't want it."

"You need it," LaCroix replied. "Your Slayer lives in a fantasy world.
Following her wishes will lead you to the grave."

"My choice, not yours."

"Sometimes children don't know what's best for them," LaCroix said.
"Sometimes it's a parent's duty to make the wisest choice for them."

"The way you tell it, the final choice has to mine," Angel replied.

"You won't choose to die," LaCroix said. "Buffy, your redemption, your
friends, you have too much to live for."

"I won't be forced," Angel said. "Don't put me in a corner, you won't
like the results."

LaCroix's eyes faded to blue. "This would have been the easy way out,"
he said. "You would have been what you are meant to be and the Slayer
couldn't have blamed. I've always been the villain; I could have lived
with your hatred, but you picked the one consequence I won't risk."

Angel smiled sadly. "And then I would never know if I could make it as
a human. I promised Buffy I'd try; I won't go back on that. Besides I
prefer not to have reason to hate you."

"And I would rather face your hatred than your death," LaCroix said
softly. "If I try to turn you will choose to die. If I leave you a
mortal you'll get yourself killed and even if you manage to avoid that
you will still die, it's what mortals do. Why must you make this so
difficult? How can you be so enamored with death?"


"Miss Chase."

Cordelia shrieked as she jumped and spun to face LaCroix. "Do you have
any idea how much I hate that you don't need an invitation?" she asked.

"I come offering assistance with your illness," LaCroix said.

"What do you mean? How?" Cordelia asked.

"I am offering to turn you."

"Into a vampire? No thanks," Cordelia said. "I know about vampires."

"You know that what you call a vampire wouldn't be you. It would only
be a corpse with your face and memories animated by a demon," LaCroix
replied. "I assure you that is only true of the Failed, if I turn you,
you will remain Cordelia Chase."

"You're only offering 'cause you think it will help you convince Angel
to let you change him," Cordelia accused.

After a pause LaCroix said, "Do you expect me deny that?"

"Well, kind of," Cordelia said. "If you're trying to seduce someone to
the dark side telling them they're just exhibit A isn't really very

"You should find my motives reassuring," LaCroix replied.

"How so?"

"If what I've told Angelus was untrue I'd hardly volunteer to do this,"
LaCroix explained. "It would defeat my purpose."

"Why do you care so much about Angel being a vampire?" Cordelia asked.

"Because the demon was correct; I weary of burying my children,"
LaCroix said softly.

"Angel isn't dying anymore," Cordelia argued. "And he isn't really your

"My blood runs in his veins," LaCroix said. "That is real and he is
dying, just as everything mortal is dying. Each tick of the clock is a
step in their inevitable march toward death."

"Can I think about this?" Cordelia asked.

"Be my guest but if Angelus is killed before you decide, my offer is

First Night Back


Angel walked into Gunn's home base, and then stopped and stared. The
old warehouse resembled an ant's hill that had just been kicked. People
were rushing around, shouting and tossing weapons to one another.

"You're just in time!" Gunn greeted Angel as he waded through the
chaos. "Derrick spotted a demon nest."

"What kind?" Angel asked.

Gunn shrugged. "He said they were metallic looking things, scaly but
human shaped."

Angel frowned the description sounded familiar but given the amount of
time he spent digging through tomes of demon lore that was hardly
surprising, especially when one added in over two centuries of knocking
around the demon world.

"So you in or out?" Gunn asked.

"I'm in," Angel said pushing aside the almost memory. "It's about time
I got back in the fight."


Angel hung back with the main group of Gunn's demon hunters as Gunn
himself drove his modified truck through the warehouse's loading dock

As soon the nest was breached Angel and the others hurried in,
spreading out around the truck.

The demons, gleaming like polished brass even in the dim lighting,
quickly moved to meet them.

Angel aimed a blow at his first opponent only to watch his sword glaze
harmlessly off the demon's scaly armor. From the dismayed cries around
him, Angel knew he wasn't the only one having problems.

Gunn's people were forced back toward the truck and surrounded.

A sudden, triumphant cry from a human throat caught everyone's
attention. Angel saw one of the demons go down with a crossbow bolt
protruding from its chest.

"Their armor's no better than plate," Angel realized.

In the moment's distraction the man to Angel's left fell. The former
vampire moved to aid him, but not quickly enough. Before Angel could
reach his side the downed man was pulled deeper into the warehouse,
away from his fellow demon hunters.

Angrily Angel turned his attention back to the fight at hand. The next
time he managed to gain enough respite to go proactive he lunged
forward using his sword like a spear, putting his whole weight behind
it, hoping to pierce the demon's armor. The sword sank deep into the
demon's body, but before Angel could free his sword another demon was
on him, tearing the sword from his grasp, hitting him with heavy
metallic fists. Angel went down under the assault and received a
viscous kick to the head. Sparks shot though his vision than everything
went dark.

Angel woke to a throbbing skull and the nauseating sensation of being
carried slung over someone's shoulder. From the uncomfortable feel of
hard metal scales digging into his abdomen it wasn't hard for Angel to
deduce he'd been captured by one of the demons.

Before he could gather his wits to struggle he was unceremoniously
dumped to the floor and the demon turned and left.

Angel blacked out again as his head hit the floor. When his vision
cleared for the second time Angel found himself staring at the rocky
ceiling of a cave. "Below the warehouse?" he wondered.

Angel could feel warm blood trickling down the side of his face and
back through his hair. He raised a hand to wipe it away and was shocked
to feel a painful gash along his temple under the blood. For several
minutes he puzzled over the warmth of his blood before remembering he
was human now.

Out of the corner of his eye Angel noticed movement and turned toward
it. Soft, unfinished looking humanoids approached from the shadows,
they were roughly the size of a five-year-old and the color and texture
of maggots.

One of the disgusting things leaned over a body lying on the ground
and, for the first time, Angel realized he wasn't the only captive
here. Several dozen other humans, some of them Gunn's people lay
scattered about the cavern. The white things crawled on to the first
body they encountered and pressed their featureless faces to the
unconscious captives in a parody of a kiss.

The almost memory that had been dancing on the edges of Angel's mind
solidified into knowledge as he watched one of the things disappear
into the body of one of the other captives.

Then Angel felt a slight weight drop on to his chest. Small, nailless
fingers tangled in his hair and pulled his head back to face one of the
maggot things. Angel raised an arm to push it away, ineffectually. It
was either much stronger than it looked or he was hurt worse than he

At the last moment Angel remember the spring-loaded stakes hidden
beneath his coat sleeves. He raised his hand to the side of the
creature's head and triggered the stake. It sunk into the thing's skull
with a dull crunching sound then the creature collapsed into death
becoming a thick viscous mass of liquid.

Angel rolled to his hands and knees, unsteadily he pushed himself to
his feet and staggered deeper into the caverns, toward the darkness
where the maggot things had come from.

Eventually he saw a glowing, pulsating mass in the dark before him.

Behind Angel one of the other captives, eyes glowing with an inhuman
light, scales sprouting from its skin rolled to its feet and stalked
toward the ex-vampire.

Angel dropped to his knees by the glowing mass searching the ground for
a stone or any other sort of makeshift weapon.

The transforming former captive yanked Angel away from the fleshy mass;
hauling him to his feet and wrapping it's hands around his throat.

Angel dug into a pouch on his belt; he pulled out one of the throwing
stars he regularly carried now since becoming human hadn't altered
their effectiveness. He shoved the sharp edged piece of metal between
the growing scales on his opponent's throat and was rewarded with a
gush of blood. They fell together and Angel ended up pinned beneath the
other man's body. He couldn't seem to find either the strength or
coordination to push the dead weight off of him.

After several futile attempts to free himself, Angel stretched his arm
back behind his head until he felt the warm slimy mass that was the
demon's center. He triggered his remaining wrist-stake, hoping it would
do enough damage as unconsciousness reclaimed him.

The mass lost its glow, becoming an unremarkable gray lump. The
remaining small demon things dissolved into puddles as the infested
captives began vomiting up the remains of the creatures that had merged
with them.

Back in the warehouse above, Gunn and his few remaining people watched
in amazed relief as the bronze warriors staggered off to collapse,
vomiting and coughing violently as their scales fell away to reveal the
human hosts beneath them.


Wesley was too deeply engrossed in his research to even notice
something so mundane as a phone ringing but long practice as a teenage
girl ensured that Cordelia reached it by the second ring, despite
having been in the Hyperion's kitchen when the first ring sounded.

"Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless," she chimed in her
receptionist voice.

"It's Gunn," the caller replied. "Gunn?" Cordelia echoed, his tone sent
ice through her veins.

"I'm at the hospital," he said. "A third of my people are dead, three-
fourths of the remainder are hurting. I figure all of us would have
died if Angel hadn't been there."

"He's not?" Cordelia asked choking on fear.

"He's hurt," Gunn said. "The doctors are looking at him now. He was out
when we found him, hasn't woken since, but he's still got a pulse."

"Which hospital?" Cordelia asked, then waited while Gunn relayed the
question to someone on his side of the line.

"St. Francis' on 12th and Market," he answered.

"We'll be right there," Cordelia replied hanging up.


The hospital emergency room was crowded and hectic. Cordelia and Wesley
joined Gunn in one corner.

"Angel's got a fractured skull along with a bad concussion," Gunn told
them. "Doc said it was one of those wait and see if he wakes up
situations. He's still better off than the people that got used as
hosts by the demons. Almost an hour and they're still gagging on demon
remains. Three people died so far, and it's showing no signs of being
over. The stuff gets in their lungs and they suffocate."

"I'll look into it," Wesley offered.

Gunn waved over one of his remaining people. "Take English here to see
Jamill, he may be able to help."

"I'd like to see Angel first," Wesley objected.

"Angel's stable, plus what are you going to do about a cracked head?
The others are dying because of some demon thing," Gunn argued.

"All right," Wesley agreed, turning to follow his guide.

"Where's Angel?" Cordelia asked.

"They moved him to one of the rooms upstairs," Gunn said. "217, I

"I hope Wesley can help with your friends," Cordy offered before
heading for the elevator.

She found Angel's room without incident. He was almost as pale as she
had been used to seeing him up until a few weeks ago except for the
dark ring of bruises around his neck. There was a bandage wrapped
around his head and his eyes looked sunken.

Cordy took his hand and sat silently beside him for a while. "I guess
I'd better call Buffy and LaCroix," she said after a long while. "You
couldn't wake up and save me from that could you Angel?"

She waited for several minutes, hoping against all odds that he'd
respond to her request.

"So which is going to be worse?" she asked. "Well, I'll call Buffy
first, she's got the longer trip and she can't fly. I hope she'll bring
Giles or someone calming with her. I so don't look forward to
refereeing between her and LaCroix. You know how they both are, but I
still have to call them, in their own ways they both love you. So do
Wes and I so you better wake up, okay?"


Buffy and Giles arrived to find Cordelia and LaCroix with Angel.

As soon as they walked into the room LaCroix was at Buffy's side, his
hand wrapped around her arm in a bruising grip dragging her toward

"This is your doing," he said, shaking her roughly. "If not for you he
would be a vampire again and healed by now."

"Let me go," Buffy said pulling away from LaCroix. "Angel promised he
would give himself time."

"He did," Cordelia objected. "He was training with Gunn and he was with
Gunn's team when it happened. Gunn's great at the fighting, but not so
good on the research end of things. They didn't have a clue as to what
they were walking into. Angel should have know better, but that has
nothing to do with him being human."

"It was too soon. He shouldn't have been there," Buffy said.

"He had to be there," LaCroix replied. "It's his nature, nothing can
change that, but I can give him the ability to survive it."

"No," Buffy protested.

"I can make all of this," LaCroix's gesture took in the entire
hospital. "Go away."

"No! He'll get better. I won't let him get hurt again," Buffy said.

"How will you stop it?" LaCroix demanded.

"I will!" Buffy shouted.

"Okay, not the place," Cordelia said. "Giles, Wes is downstairs dealing
with a bunch of people who are dying from the after-effects of demonic
possession. Go help him fix them. As for you two, I think one of you
visiting Angel at a time is all he can handle."


"We actually make a good team when we're not trying to show up the
other," Wesley said watching the last of the demon's victims relax as
the potion the two ex-Watchers had concocted disintegrated the last of
the residue.

"That we do," Giles agreed. "It seems it is well past time we set aside
our earlier difficulties."

"It shouldn't be hard. The Council fired both of us after all, and we
aren't vying for the same job anymore," Wesley pointed out. "And
there's more than enough work to keep both of us busy. In fact, I could
use your help looking into a problem with Cordelia's visions."


Cordelia trudged tiredly through the hospital halls to their new home
away from home, or at least that's what Angel's room felt like,
especially since Wesley had moved a number of his books there so he
could continue researching her condition while they sat with Angel.
Cordelia couldn't help but think how sick she was of hospitals. If the
doctors weren't running a new barrage of tests on her she was sitting
beside Angel waiting for him to wake up. She hadn't been to the
Hyperion except to pick up more books and her apartment was just a
place to take a shower and change clothes.

"Look what they did to my hair," an unexpected and familiar voice

Cordelia broke into a wide smile ad darted around the doorway to see
Angel sitting up in bed, running his fingers over the shaved spot on
the side of his head.

"It'll grow back," Wesley assured him. "Now will you leave it alone,
you're going to pull out the stitches."

"Angel!" Cordy squealed happily giving the former vampire a hug.
"You're up and talking and yeah! So there's no brain damage or anything

"He can count fingers without difficulty, knew his first name and it
only took him two guesses to figure out which last name we'd given

"Wes could have told me I was your brother before he called the
doctor," Angel said.

"Yes, well I didn't realize they would ask that," Wesley replied. "He
doesn't have a clue as to who the president is, but knows the dates and
names of every major war since he was turned. Finally he broke out
laughing upon being asked the date of his birth. The doctors are fairly
concerned, but I'm satisfied that he's fine."

"That sounds like our Angel," Cordy said smiling and kissing him on the

"They should have a different set of questions for ex-vampires," Angel

"We'll be sure to explain that to the medical board," Cordelia said.
"Why didn't you call me Wes?"

"Because I knew this would be your first stop after your tests," Wesley
replied. "Buffy should arrive momentarily and LaCroix will arrive at

"Speaking of Buffy," Angel said grinning at the blond slayer standing
in the doorway.

"Guys, could I talk to Angel alone for a few minutes?" Buffy asked.

As Wesley and Cordelia left they heard Buffy exclaim, "You scared me
half to death Angel! What the hell were you thinking!"

Not In Memory


Doctor Gerim stepped into the waiting room with Cordelia in tow. "Mr.
Chase, could I speak with you for a moment?" he asked.

When no one responded he repeated. "Mr. Chase?" in a louder voice.

"Angel!" Cordelia hissed.

Startled Angel looked up from the thick tome of supernatural remedies
he'd been reading.

"Come on, the Doctor's going to show you, how to give me my meds,"
Cordelia explained.

"If you'll both follow me?" the Doctor requested.

As they trailed along several paces behind him Angel whispered. "Why do
I have to keep using your last name?"

"Because it's all over your hospital records okay? I think they'd
notice if you changed it now."

"Why didn't you just use the last name we put on my ID's?" Angel asked.

"I'd already told them you were my brother so they'd tell me what was
going on," Cordelia explained.

"You could have been married or we could have had different fathers,"
Angel complained.

"I didn't remember what name you'd used," Cordelia replied. "If you
actually bothered to carry a wallet they wouldn't have had to ask me."

They ended their whispered argument abruptly as the doctor led them
into a small office.

Once they were seated he set a small box on the desk between them.

"I've prescribed a daily medication that should help to prevent the
migraines from occurring," The doctor explained. "But we're treating
symptoms not causes so it won't be a hundred percent effective. That's
were you come in Angel. Cordelia tells me you two work together as well
as being family so you stand a good chance of being with her when one
of the episodes occurs. I'm prescribing a second medication, it thins
the blood and dilates the veins which should help to restore proper
circulation. The sooner Cordelia receives this drug after one of her
migraines begins the better her chances of coming through it without

Angel nodded watching the doctor with an intensity that assured him
that Angel was taking this very seriously.

"The medication needs to be administered intravenously and given the
effects of the migraines Cordelia won't be able to do it for herself,
so I'm going to teach you to do it. Cordelia, if you have a roommate
I'd like to teach her, or him, as well."

Suddenly Cordelia broke into a fit of giggles. "I'm sorry," She gasped.
"It's just."

She looked at Angel and erupted into fresh giggles. As their eyes met
Angel knew exactly what she was thinking. He envisioned the doctor's
reaction to Cordelia's roommate, and then considered the idea of being
taught how to locate a blood vein. Of course he was human now. As a
vampire he'd frequently been almost painfully aware of the blood
rushing just beneath the skin of his mortal friends, now. Suddenly
Angel was very nervous. What if he couldn't do this? What if Cordelia
died because he did something wrong?

Dr. Gerim waited patiently for their reactions to run the course. He
wasn't surprised at the odd outbursts. An unexplainable illness was
horribly stressful in and of itself for a family. Add to that Angel's
recent injuries, probably the result of being mugged, and given Angel's
unnaturally pale pallor it seemed likely that Cordelia wasn't the first
member of the family to suffer a serious illness. Obviously the
siblings were suffering from an awful case of it never rains but it

It was amazing that they were dealing as well as they appeared to be.

"I've found the most effective way to teach this is a partner and a
saline solution."

"I'm not volunteering," Cordelia objected. "You guys have already made
enough of a pin-cushion of me. You doctors are practically as bad as
the vampires."

"No worries, one of the nurses will be helping Angel. They're drawing
straws now."

"Won't it hurt her?" Angel worried. "Maybe I should practice on a dummy
or something first?"

From the door way behind them a woman said, "It's not that bad, but if
you want, you could take me out for coffee afterwards as an apology.
I'm Jessica by the way."

Cordelia took one look at the way Jessica was looking at Angel and
groaned. "He's already got a girlfriend," she informed the other woman.


"Have you reached a turning point in your life?" LaCroix demanded of
the city. "Why do you hesitate? The present is unsatisfactory. Clinging
to the past is impossible, time moves forward and so must you. The
future beckons yet you resist."

Angel frowned at the radio, "Why do you listen to that?" he asked

Angel's ban on the program had gone out the window since Wesley had,
for all intents and purposes moved into the hotel a few weeks ago. It
saved precious minutes for him to sleep closer to the books. Not that
he or Angel had had much real sleep since learning that her visions
could literally kill Cordelia.

At Cordelia's insistence Angel was still sparring with Gunn regularly.
Still patrolling with him as well, but that was Angel's secret. Wesley
and Cordelia would have supported his choice, but the news had to be
kept from both Sunnydale and LaCroix, which meant the fewer people that
knew the better.

Wesley glanced up from the book he was studying with a confused look on
his face.

"I just asked why you like listening to LaCroix's ranting," Angel

Wesley smiled. "Because they frequently provide insight into what
you're thinking."

Angel made a face. "Not tonight," he said.

"Perhaps not," Wesley replied. "I think your new-found mortality is
creating difficulties for him."

Angel's eyes glinted with a sudden spark of mischief. "It would be
awful of me to rub that in wouldn't it?" he asked, reaching for the

LaCroix's greeting echoed from the phone to the radio. "This is the
Nightcrawler, do you have something to share with our audience?"

"I just thought you seemed a little off tonight," Angel said. "I was

"Your concern is touching, Mon Fils," LaCroix replied with an unusual
good-humor. "But I'm not always speaking to you."

"Oh," Angel said and Wesley almost laughed at the hurt expression on
his face.

"Tonight I speak of internal constraints against progress, uncertainty,
doubt, fear of the unknown and the future is always unknown is it not.
I do not speak of external constraints, such as those imposed on us by

"Are you sure it's her that's the external constraint and not
yourself?" Angel asked.

"I know your heart Mon Fils. Light is only an illusion, it is
redemption you crave," LaCroix answered.

"Why can't I have both?" Angel asked.

"You already know why," LaCroix said. "But we could always speak of
that at more length later. I await your invitation."

"Not right now," Angel said hanging up.

"You miss him," Wesley accused.

"Why would I miss having the most dangerous person I've met in
centuries trying to control my life?" Angel asked. "Besides, I know
he's just being more subtle in how he manipulates me lately."

"You really do miss him," Wesley insisted as they returned to their
respective books.


"I was listening to that!" Cordelia complained when Dennis turned off
the radio.

Instead of meekly turning it back on her ghostly roommate opened the
door to her bedroom and turned down the covers invitingly.

"Not you too," Cordelia groaned. "These are visions people! It doesn't
matter if I'm well rested or not!"

Not that Angel or Wesley cared a fig for logic. Oh no, she was sick,
she had to go home and rest. Well after Angel had made sure Dennis
could treat her if she did have a vision.

Cordelia grinned evilly at the memory of Angel teaching Dennis to give
shots. She saw the painful bruises he'd received in the process as his
just disserts for treating her like an invalid.

"Turn the radio back on Dennis or I'll just get up and do it myself,"
Cordelia threatened.

Contritely the radio clicked on, just in time for Cordelia to catch
LaCroix and Angel's conversation.

Cordelia sighed. She had a feeling she knew who LaCroix was talking to
tonight. But making the choice wasn't as easy as he made it sound.

The best-case scenario was she would be Cordelia Chase only she'd be a
vampire too. On the plus side vampiric healing meant no worries about a
stroke, assuming that it would even be a concern with a dramatically
reduced metabolism. Her problems stemmed from decreased blood flow to
her brain, but Angel had been able to survive no blood flow at all with
no worse side effects than dizziness for hours. She'd also have
strength and speed to rival a Slayer's, not to mention being able to
fly and to talk anyone into anything. Then there was the whole
immortality thing, which looked great in theory, but did she really
want to live forever? The downside included no sunlight, ever, which
would put an end to her aspirations as an actress. How could she
explain no natural lighting to a director? It would also severely limit
her diet. During the months after LaCroix first donated blood to Angel
they'd all noticed his sudden inability to stomach anything other than
blood. and the whole drinking blood at all was a major eeew in
Cordelia's book. Although she probably wouldn't feel that way after the
change and that was a terror too.

That was the best that could happen, the worst included the possibility
of her friends being forced to stake her demon-infested corpse.

And still LaCroix made it sound like the only possible solution to even
be considered. Like she should be honored that he'd even offered.


"I can't remember!" Cordelia sobbed as soon as the phone was answered.

"Cordy, what's wrong," Angel demanded, his voice filled with concern.

"I don't know, there's someone out there who needs us but I don't know
where or who or why. I can't remember the vision at all Angel. I had a
vision and it's gone and we're not going to be able to help them
because I can't remember."

"You had a vision? Are you all right? Did Dennis remember to give you
your shot? Should I contact the Doctor?" Angel asked, rapid fire, his
worry for Cordelia overwhelming all else.

"I'm fine Angel!" Cordelia snapped. "But I can't remember the fucking

Angel paused for a moment. "It's okay, as long as you're okay."

"It is not okay Angel!" Cordelia yelled. "Someone is out there, dying
maybe, because I can't remember. That is not okay and you know it.
That's why you aren't living happily ever after with Buffy isn't it?
Because it's not okay for us not to be there when people need us."

"It's not your fault," Angel replied. "I'll go to the new oracle. I'll
make him tell me what the vision was. Don't worry Cordy, I'll make it
all right."


"What if Angel's too late?" Cordelia asked. "Maybe you should have gone
with him. What if he needs back up and he doesn't have time to come
back here?"

"If I'd gone with Angel he'd be too distracted worrying about you to
accomplish anything," Wesley said. "I'm certain he'll call Gunn if he
needs help, he's been quite good about observing his limits since the
last hospital visit."

"What if he doesn't have time? You know he'll go. Angel could get hurt;
I never should have taken that stuff. It's why I can't remember."

"Cordelia stop it!" Wesley exclaimed.

Cordelia took several deep, calming breaths. "I'm sorry," she said. "I
just feel so helpless. Like I'm failing everyone. Doyle trusted me with
the visions and I'm not strong enough. It's so hard, feeling their
pain, their fear, but I deal because by feeling it I can make it
better. Now I can't do anything and I hate it Wesley."


Cordelia pounced on Angel the moment he walked through the door.
"Well?" she demanded.

"A cult practicing human sacrifices," Angel reported. "All I had to do
was tell the police where and when."

Cordelia sighed in relief.

"It all worked out fine," Angel said. "You didn't have to worry. Things
may be a little awkward until we find a way to make the visions safe
for you, but we'll manage."

"Right," Cordelia said with a smile. "We always do."

"Of course we do. Now I'll give you a ride back home and you can get
back to resting, okay?" Angel replied.

Cordelia made a face, but it was two in the morning. Bed didn't sound
that bad really, even if Angel was being over-protective again.


Several hours after dawn, Angel returned to the Hyperion in a foul
mood. He stormed downstairs and proceeded to pummel his punching bag.

When Angel failed to reappear after what Wesley considered a reasonable
amount of time the ex-watcher decided to check on him.

Angel was still pounding on the canvas bad with a frustrated fury.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Wesley asked.

"Do you think I could force one of the Conduits to the PTB to fix
Cordelia," Angel asked. "I could torture one."

"I wouldn't advise it," Wesley said. "Things weren't resolved as simply
as you led Cordelia to believe were they?"

"Things weren't resolved," Angel snapped. "They didn't know what Cordy
had seen. 'Each Seer receives different glimpses of what will be,'
can't tell what yours might have seen. They're all useless! They won't
help Cordelia. They can't help me. Do they even care about anything?"

"Why did you lie to Cordy?" Wesley asked.

Angel turned away from the punching bag to face Wesley. "Do you know
what the fastest way to break someone is? You do it for no reason.
You'd be completely awed by what a human can tolerate for the sake of a
cause, but take away their causes and they break like twigs. I won't do
that to Cordy. I won't let her know her suffering was for nothing!"


"It is your fears that hold you back," LaCroix declared in his
Nightcrawler persona. "Share them with me. Let them be revealed for the
harmless shadows they undoubtedly are. The future will not wait
forever, step into it before it's moment is past and you are left with
nothing but your fears."


"Vision," Cordelia shouted.

Angel leapt to catch her as Wesley hurried to prepare her medications.

"Wait," Cordelia protested. "Not until I've told you."

Then the vision took her completely. Angel laid her on the couch and
began to sterilize her arm in preparation for her shot.

"Shouldn't we wait?" Wesley asked.

Angel's eyes were hard as he took the hypodermic from Wesley. "If the
Powers want my help then they can find a way to deliver their messages
that doesn't endanger Cordelia he said administering the shot.

They watched the lines of pain smooth out of Cordelia's face.

"Cordy?" Angel asked. When she didn't respond he repeated her name in a
louder voice.

"Cordelia?" Wesley echoed.

"She's not coming out of it," Angel said.

"We need to get her to the hospital," Wesley said.

Angel scooped Cordelia up. "You're driving," he said.


"Miss Chase is going to be fine," The doctor said. "You did everything
right and minimized the damage. She woke up a few minutes after we
started the exam."

"Can we see her?" Wesley asked.

"Yes, go right ahead," the Doctor said. "But you can't stay long, she
should rest."

"Thank you," Angel said.

Together they entered Cordelia's room.

"How are you doing?" Angel asked.

"You gave it to me," Cordelia accused. "The vision's gone again."

"It doesn't matter," Wesley replied.

"How many times do I have to explain to you two?" Cordelia exclaimed.

"I'll take care of it Cordy," Angel said. "Just like last time, no
worries remember?"

"Well get a move on it." Cordelia said making shooing motions. "Times


"Angel what are you doing?" Wesley asked in alarm as he watched Angel
prepare for war.

Wesley had seen this ritual before, had watched Angel methodically
empty his weapons cache, check each instrument of destruction before
strapping it to himself. Angel would never use more than one or two of
the things, but he'd carry many more and every one of those weapons
would come to his hand at a moment's notice. Angel would never
humiliate himself hoping around a battle trying to free a knife he'd
taped to his ankle, not even now when Angel was as human as Wesley
himself was.

Wesley watched Angel pick up his ax, spin it awkwardly then exchange it
for a lighter one. Gunn's training was showing. Angel had
systematically shifted to lighter weapons that a human would wield with
the same speed and grace he'd once had with they're much heavier

Wesley had seen the ritual before and it always meant trouble. When
Angel over-prepared it was always personal.

"What are you doing?" Wesley repeated.

"I don't care if torturing the new oracle is a bad idea," Angel said.
"I'm going to make him fix Cordelia."

"Please Angel," Wesley asked. "Be reasonable."

"I can't stand by and watch her suffer," Angel growled.

"I know. I feel the same way. Still torturing a representative of the
Powers that Be?" Wesley asked.

"I don't have a choice."


Cordelia looked around, everything was quiet in her corner of the
hospital. She lifted the phone and dialed LaCroix's radio station.

"The Nightcrawler is listening," LaCroix answered.

"I made a choice," Cordelia said.

"We're off the air," LaCroix said.

"I want you to turn me," Cordelia said.

"What brought about this?" LaCroix asked.

"I won't be helpless, I won't fail and I don't want to die either,"
Cordelia replied.

"A reasonable attitude, I only hope Angelus will prove as pragmatic,"
LaCroix said. "Where are you?"

"At St. Francis', room 315," Cordelia said.


As soon as Angel stepped into the Egyptian temple the cat-headed being
said. "The crossroads have been left behind. There is nothing left for
you to do."

"What do you mean?" Angel demanded.

"The visions can no longer harm your Seer. She has seen to that."

"How?" Angel asked.

"That is for her to say. Now be gone." With a flick of it's wrist the
creature sent Angel flying back through the portal.

Middle School Stalker


The phone rang; Angel picked it up without interest. The former vampire
looked awful, his clothing was rumpled, it had been days since he'd
shaved and the dark circles under his eyes attested to very little time
spent asleep in recent weeks.

"Angel Investigations," he said.

"What happened to 'We help the hopeless'?" Cordelia asked. At the sound
of her voice Angel seemed to come to life, a frantic energy replacing
his earlier exhaustion.

"Cordy! Where are you? What happened? Why didn't you call?" Angel
stammered. At his words Wesley jumped up off the couch and hurried to
Angel. He switched the call over to the speaker so they could both

"I did call," Cordelia protested. "I left a message, didn't you get

"Yes," Wesley said. "We came back and found you missing from the
hospital, the only clue as to where you'd gone was a two minute blurb
on the answering machine about a potential cure and then a month of
nothing. We've been worried sick."

"It's been a month?" Cordelia asked. "How could it be a month? It
doesn't feel like a month."

"Thirty-three days, four hours and twenty minutes since you disappeared
off the face of the earth," Angel said, his voice wavering between
relief and anger.

"I'm sorry," Cordelia said. "I really didn't realize. it's all been so
intense. I'll be back soon. Don't worry. I'm better. I called because I
had a vision, the first since that night. You wouldn't believe how much
it didn't hurt. Anyway, I saw a gym; it was set up for a dance. I think
their mascot is some sort of cat. The people looked pretty young,
probably middle schoolers. There was something stalking them."

"We'll start looking into it," Wesley said. "Now where are you
Cordelia? We'll come get you."

"Not yet, okay guys? I'm better I promise, but I'm not ready to come
home quite yet," Cordelia replied.

"Give us a number, some way to contact you," Angel pled.

"It'll be just another week or so, I promise," Cordelia said. "I miss
you two."

Wesley and Angel stared at the now dead phone.

"Something's wrong," Angel said.

"I don't doubt it," Wesley replied. "She's hiding something, but what
can we do?"

"Look into her vision," Angel said. "At least it will keep us busy
while we wait."


"I found a middle school with a mascot to match Cordelia's vision,"
Wesley reported. "And their homecoming dance is scheduled for the night
after tomorrow."

"We're going to look really out of place," Angel said.

"We'll pretend to be chaperoning parents," Wesley said.

"I don't think we look that old," Angel argued.

"I think we can fake that more easily than if we claimed to be
students," Wesley replied. "I'm certain some of the parents are in
their early thirties."

"I was twenty-six when I was turned," Angel complained.

"Wesley sighed, "You do realize that it's just wrong for someone who's
seen the century turn more than once to be sensitive about their age.
What are you going to do when you actually start getting older?"

"There are some drawbacks to humanity," Angel said with a grimace. "It
wouldn't have been a bad thing if I'd stayed a vampire for a few more
years, Buffy could have caught up. You don't think I'm too much older
than her?"

"Isn't it a little bit late to worry about that now?" Wesley asked.
"How old was Buffy when you started dating, fifteen?"

"She was sixteen, and it didn't matter so much. I knew she'd catch up
eventually." Angel replied. "Besides she never really seemed younger.
When I met her I was averaging decades between conversations. I'd
forgotten just about everything I knew about socializing. Buffy thought
I was being cryptic to annoy her, but the truth was I didn't know how
to talk to her. Plus I figured she'd realize what I was and kill me if
I spent more than a few minutes near her."

"And I thought talking to attractive women was stressful for me,"
Wesley said with a smile.


"What the hell am I supposed to wear for this?" Kate demanded.

"Don't complain to me Kate. Unlike me, you asked for this case,"
Detective Jacks said.

"I didn't realize it was going to entail chaperoning a junior high
dance," Kate replied. "When I passed the ninth grade I swore I'd never
set foot in another one of those hell holes."

"It wasn't that bad Kate, and besides you're the authority figure now,
doesn't that make it better?" Jacks asked. "And it's called middle
school now."

"No, it just makes me have to ask what does an authority figure wear to
a middle school dance," Kate replied.

"I was going with a suit and tie," Jacks said.

"I don't see that working for me," Kate said.

"How am I supposed to know what women wear to this sort of thing?"
Jacks asked. "Wear something like the chaperones wore when you where a

"Look, I didn't go to dances in junior high, or high school for that
matter," Kate exclaimed. "I thought they were a waste of time. It never
occurred to me that they could be considered research for future
undercover work, okay?"

Jacks rolled his eyes. "Wear a dress, I remember you wore one to your
father's retirement party so you must own at least one. I'm sure that
will work, so stop fussing already."


He combed his hair carefully, checking the picture in the in the
magazine from time to time. His cloths were laid out on the bed
already. Sure he'd been hunting LA for about a month now, but it always
paid to take a few extra lengths to make sure everything was right.

Teen, especially early-teen, fashions were just so variable and looking
dated wouldn't do.

He pulled out a strand of hair and checked that the frosting was still
present. He hated his hair; it was always the hardest thing to get

Oh well, he thought, it could be worse; he could have been a girl. Then
he'd have to worry about make-up too.

He dressed in slacks and dark blue button down shirt that the sales
lady swore brought out the color in his eyes. He ran a comb through his
hair one last time and then grinned at the empty mirror.


"How can anyone think with all this noise?" Angel asked, yelling to be
heard over the music.

"I don't believe thinking is on anyone's mind tonight," Wesley yelled
back. "I wish the lighting was better, do they do this on purpose to
make chaperoning impossible?"

"As long as they keep the strobe off I'm fine," Angel said.

"I don't see how, you don't have a vampire's enhanced senses anymore,"
Wesley said.

"I know, but my night vision is still much than average, in fact my
eyes haven't really adapted to daylight yet," Angel replied. "I'm just
as happy most of our cases happen at night."


"This is what the fuss was all about?" Kate yelled to her partner
looking around the darken gym. "I actually thought I might have been
missing something."

Jacks sighed. "I just hope the killer shows before I get a migraine
from all this racket.

"He'll show," Kate replied. "There's been at least one body at almost
ever middle school event this month. The only ones he's missed were
because he couldn't be in two places at once. This dance is the only
event tonight. He'll show."


"Are you new here?" a girl asked.

"Just started classes last week. I'm Matthew," he said.

"Josey," the girl replied. "Wanna dance?"

With a smile Matthew lead her out on the floor.


Angel stared at the couple working their way toward the door. The girl
stared adoringly up at her companion, who leaded close to her ear and
said something that made her giggle.

Angel tried to ignore the cropped hair with bleached tip and focus on
the face beneath it. The secretive dark blue eyes and confident, cocky
smile hadn't changed in the last hundred and fifty years.

"Matty," Angel said putting a name to the face. "Come on Wes, we've got
our demon."


"Come on," Kate said, recognizing Angel as he stepped into the well-lit

"You saw something?" Jacks asked.

"A PI who's always neck deep in some kind of trouble," Kate said.

Together they worked their way across the gym as quickly as possible.
Even so, by the time they reached the hallway it was empty.

"I'll take the left," Jacks volunteered.

"Sounds good," Kate replied.


"Wes stay back, be ready to get the girl to safety," Angel whispered as
they trailed the couple into the school band room.

"You're sure this boy is a vampire?" Wesley asked.

"Matty's the only one I ever turned by accident," Angel replied. "That
made him fairly memorable."

"Accident?" Wesley asked.

"He was supposed to be a snack, only he bit me back," Angel explained.
"Wait here."

Angel swaggered boldly into the darkened room, imitating Angelus'
manner. "Matty, it's been a long time," he said.

Matty looked up from his prey in surprise, his eyes already glowing
yellow, giving Josey her first good look at what she had been necking
with. Whimpering she struggled futilely in his grasp.

Matty smiled broadly, revealing a mouthful of jagged fangs. "Angelus!"
he exclaimed.


Peering into the band room Kate pressed her hand to her mouth holding
back a gasp as she saw the boy's demonic visage.

"Angelus!" he greeted the older man in pleased recognition and Kate
knew that if Angel were to turn toward her his handsome face would also
be distorted into something monstrous. But he didn't turn; all she
could see was the back of his head.

"Come on, let's get out of here," Angel ordered. "This place is a

"You think I don't know that?" Matty replied. "It's not like I can hunt
bars looking like this. Couldn't you have waited a few years?"

"Come now, did you think I wanted my own Peter Pan tag-along?" Angel
said with the good-natured familiarity of someone entering into an old,
old argument, one carried on for tradition's sake with all the sting
long gone. "You should have kept your teeth to yourself boy."

"You're one to talk," Matty snorted. "If you wanted someone who'd lay
down and die for you, you should have stuck to Gentles like Dru's pet
and left street rats to their devices."

"And yet William was always the one to embarrass me when we went out in
public," Angel commented.

"Is Will still trying to compensate for having been a unmatched prig
when he was human?" Matty asked.

"He was having a punk phase last time I saw him." Angel said and Matty

"How are the others? Does Dru still talk to that doll?"

"Yes, and before you ask Miss Edith is still a very bad girl and gets
punished regularly. Penn got dusted."

"Penn always was an idiot. That serial kill schick of his was bound to
get him more attention than he could handle. I saw Darla not a decade
ago. What the hell happened between you two that she'd go back to old

"You know how it goes, a guy develops a few new interests and your girl
takes it all wrong," Angel fabricated.

"Don't tell me," Matty laughed. "I've got a gorgeous new little sister
and you paid more attention to her than Darla. So dearest Grandmumma
stormed back to her sire in a jealous rage, right?"

"Something like that," Angel said. "Ready to be leaving yet?"

"If you hadn't noticed I was just about to have dinner," Matty replied
gesturing to the girl still cowering in the back of the room.

"Don't you ever get tired of teeny-boppers?" Angel asked with a
distasteful glance at the girl.

"Again, not much selection what with looking thirteen and all," Matty

"What say you forget her and we do a joint hunt," Angel offered. "With
my help you could do better."

Matty grinned. "For old time's sake and all. Let go 'Gelus."

As the pair left through the far door Kate hurried to the young girl's
side. "Go back to the others, don't let anyone get you alone," Kate
ordered then hurried after Angel and Matty.


As Angel led Matty past Wesley's hiding place he turned and grabbed the
child vampire. Pinning Matty's arms to his sides. In that moment before
Matty could free himself or even react to the warmth of Angel's now
human touch, Wesley staked him.

The feel of the body of his accidental child crumbling to dust in
Angel's arms sent a wave of guilt and even sadness through him.

"Matty actually bought it," Angel said tiredly. "All of the others knew
I'd changed. He didn't even fight. How could he not know? I'm more
different now than I ever was before. How could he not realize I was
going to betray him?"

"It had to be done," Wesley said.

"I know," Angel replied. "It doesn't change how I feel about what I
just did."

"Where is he?" Kate demanded breaking into the quiet hallway, her gun
held before her.

"It's taken care of Kate," Angel said tonelessly.

Kate pointed the gun squarely at Angel. "Where is that creature,

"Forget him Kate, you'll only hurt yourself chasing myths," Angel
replied. "Matty will never kill again, be satisfied with that."

"I can't do that," Kate said. "There's something going on, something I
should understand and don't think I won't figure it out." Reluctantly
she pointed her pistol past Angel and continued down the hallway
looking for Matty.

Angel and Wesley turned and left.


As Angel and Wesley walked back toward the car Angel sensed someone
behind him a second before a pair of delicate, powerful hands gripped
his shoulders and lifted him up into the night sky.

"This is so great!" Cordelia exclaimed. "I can't believe you wouldn't
let LaCroix teach you to fly. I adore it."

"Cordy?" Angel's voice was filled with a disbelieving horror. "What did
he do to you?"

Cordelia set Angel back on the ground then moved to face him before
answering. "I chose to save myself," she said firmly.

"Let me see," Angel ordered, though he dreaded having this be real.

Cordelia didn't have to ask him to clarify his request. She closed her
eyes for a moment when they opened they gleamed gold.

Angel stepped closer and tilted her face up to the light, scrutinizing
every change; the faint hint of fangs pressing against her lower lip,
the molten gold of her eyes, but looking beyond that there was no
change. Her features were smooth and lovely; her skin was human, not
the more leathery vampiric version. For a long moment he stared deep
into her eyes, trying to see his best friend's soul in their golden

"Is it that awful?" Cordelia asked worriedly, her eyes turning back to

"No, you're beautiful," Angel reassured her. "Exotic even."

"But I'm a vampire," Cordelia finished. "I swear Angel, I'm still me

"Are you?" Angel asked uncertainly still staring into her eyes.

"Really truly," Cordelia promised. "I mean okay, there is the whole
bloodlust factor. That's why I had to stay away at first, but look at
me. Here I am, sure I'm aware of the blood in your veins, of your
pulse, especially with your thumb pressing against my jaw and all..."

Angel dropped his hand and stepped away from her quickly.

"But I'm in control," Cordelia finished a little forlornly.

"I'm sorry," Angel said. "I should know, better than anyone, the things
that make dealing with mortals harder."

Cordelia smiled sadly, accepting the apology but not able to ignore the
spark of fear in Angel's eyes. She understood it, no matter how much
she trusted Angel she had never forgotten that he was, by nature, a
predator of humankind. Now the situation had been reversed and it was
Angel who exhibited a trace of caution in dealing with a creature that,
even though she was his friend, was still designed to hunt him.

"I know you don't like what I did, but I didn't have a choice Angel.
I'm only twenty, I didn't want to die," she said.

"And it's my fault you were put in that situation," Angel replied.

"It's not your fault!" Cordelia exclaimed. "And it's not that bad
either. Just, please don't push me away."

Angel took her hands and squeezed them warmly. "Never," he promised.



Angel woke up to an aching head and a painful soreness in his arms. He
remembered the man appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the road,
remember swerving to miss him and the pain that had preceded blackness
as his head hit the steering wheel while the car hit the concrete
barrier on the side of the road.

He didn't remember how he came to be here, his arms chained to the wall
above him making him a prisoner in what looked like an upscale

Somehow he wasn't surprised though. Angel thought it must be a law of
nature that he and Buffy couldn't possibly spend time together like a
normal couple. Something bad, usually of the demonic variety, just had
to happen no matter what their plans were.

Up until he'd tried to leave town it had been a remarkably disaster
free weekend.


Angel took a deep calming breath and rang Buffy's doorbell. He was
nervous, that was beyond denying. Sure he'd met Buffy's family before.
and been told to get the hell out of her life before he wrecked it. but
back then his own beliefs about whether or not he had any business
being a part of Buffy's life had made that sort of reception expected.

Now he was human. He'd proven that he wasn't helpless, at least to
himself. Buffy still wanted him and for the first time he had hope that
Buffy's mother might approve of his dating her daughter. That was why
he was nervous. Before there'd been no point in hoping, no parent in
their right mind would have approved their child having a relationship
with a literal monster, but he wasn't anymore so maybe. Angel felt
guilty that he was relieved that Buffy's father wasn't around to judge
him, Joyce was hard enough to face and if he remembered correctly
fathers were supposed to be worse than mothers when it came to this
sort of thing.

Buffy opened the door and greeted him with a quick kiss and a
reassuring smile. "Relax Angel, you've been dealing with LaCroix for
months, my mom's going to be a piece of cake."

Under his breath Angel muttered, "But LaCroix likes me."

The plan was for them to have lunch together with Joyce and Dawn, thus
giving Buffy's Mother a chance to get to know Angel. Buffy had chosen a
restaurant that had a patio; Dawn had told Angel it was because Buffy
thought it would help her mother to see Angel in a different light if
she saw him in the sunlight. Angel decided Buffy was becoming a fairly
decent tactician.

Ten minutes into the meal Angel found himself wishing desperately for
his sunglasses. He left them behind because he felt it was rude to hide
his eyes and he didn't want to do anything that might make a bad

In addition to his eyes' sensitivity to light being out in direct
sunlight still made him feel vaguely uncomfortable. Oh he loved the
sun, the feel of it, warm and welcoming against his skin, but the
brightness was less enjoyable.

Angel had spent months trying to convince Cordelia that his preference
for low lighting in his rooms wasn't just him setting the mood for
brooding but was done because it was more comfortable for eyes
naturally adapted to the dark. It had taken her becoming a vampire to
convince her that he was telling the truth about that.

Angel hadn't expected that sensitivity to remain now that he was human,
but that was the case or maybe it was all in his head. One of the few
things Angel actually remembered about Hell was that it was bright,
bright and cold. Not at all the lava lit pit he'd envisioned, instead
it had been a cold barren, plateau without a single shadow to hide in.

More than once Angel had had to stop himself from correcting someone
when they used the phrase "When Hell freezes over," to mean never. Or
maybe that was just how he'd perceived it because they'd know how he'd
hated the cold and the unrelenting brightness was it's own subtle form
of torture. When Spike described being a prisoner in the Initiative
Angel had felt an involuntary pang of sympathy, it sounded like the
Initiative had created their own little slice of Hell.

Maybe his discomfort in brightly lit places was just bad associations.
Or maybe he was just so used to being part of the shadows that he
didn't know how to leave them behind and let people actually see him.

Still Joyce did seem to be giving him a chance.

"Um. Angel how old are you?" Joyce asked and Angel wondered if his
previous thought had been premature.

He glanced down at the table, fidgeted with his fork for a few seconds
then said. "I was turned in 1753."

"I didn't mean." Joyce began. "I meant how * old * are you?"

"Oh, twenty-six," Angel replied, hoping that wasn't going to be too

"Oh." Joyce echoed, and from her tone Angel knew it was a bad as he'd
feared. Still he was certain that some of the guys Cordelia had gone
out with were more than six years older than she was.

"Riley was twenty-four," Buffy reminded her mother quietly.

Joyce smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry Angel," she said. Then changed
the subject. "Buffy mentioned something about one of your friends being
ill? How is she?"

"Cordelia's not in any danger anymore," Angel replied relieved that it
was true even if he wasn't entirely certain about the cure she'd found.

"You found a way to stop the visions?" Buffy asked.

"No, but they don't really hurt her now," Angel replied, unable to
bring himself to tell his girlfriend, to tell the Slayer, that the
young woman whom he thought of as family was now a vampire.

"You aren't doing anything about the visions though?" Buffy asked

"They're messages from the Powers that Be," Angel said gently.
"Ignoring them isn't really a choice."

"Of course not," Buffy replied without conviction.

"It hasn't been anything too bad yet," Angel reassured her. "A child
vampire, a drunken feryal demon."

"Giles got turned into one of those on Buffy's birthday last year,"
Dawn volunteered.

"How did that happen?" Angel asked.

"Ethan Rayne," Buffy replied.

"It fits his style," Angel commented.

"Ethan's almost fun," Dawn said. "Remember Princess-Buffy being all
'Save me! Save me!' while Xena-me kicked Spike's butt?"

"Dawn!" Joyce exclaimed.

"What? I did, it was cool," Dawn replied.


Despite Angel's fear the day had gone extremely well. He'd been shocked
to realize that he was disappointed when the check had arrived ending
the event.

He'd expected that to be the Buffy/Angel catastrophe of the weekend,
not this.

A very human looking man knelt in front of Angel and gently peeled back
the bandage on his forehead.

"What's going on?" Angel demanded. "Why are you holding me prisoner?"

"It's not me, it's Glory who captured you," The man insisted. "I'm just
treating your head wound. By the way how are you feeling?"

"Constrained," Angel replied tugging against his restraints.

"Look, I need a real answer," Ben sighed. "You were out for quite a
while, I'm worried that you might have a concussion."

"My head hurts," Angel said.

Ben pulled out a penlight and flashed it in first one eye than the
other. "Pupils react equally," he said. "You'll be fine."

"You're sure about that?" Angel asked. "Maybe you should take me to a

"I'm a medical intern, I know what I'm doing."

"Why are you doing this?" Angel asked.

"The Hippocratic oath, I'd be better off if you just died."


"Glory's going to trade you for the Key."

"The what?"

"Your girlfriend is the Key's guardian. Glory needs the key. If she
gets it I'm screwed. I wish her damn minions had been just a little bit
stupider and killed you before I ever saw you."

"You could let me go," Angel suggested.

"I'd love to, but they won't," Ben said pointing to the brown habited
minions just visible through the door.

"Unchain me, give me a chance. I'll get out," Angel said meeting Ben's
eyes with absolute certainty. "Or die trying. I won't be used as a
hostage against Buffy."

"Do you really think they'd trust me with the key to your manacles?"
Ben asked with a snort.


"You aren't even speeding," Xander said to his co-worker as they drove
out to the day's job site. "Can't we listen to the radio instead of the
police scanner?"

The complaint was almost a tradition after three months.

"Black Plymouth, license plate number NKO 714, found off the road at
mile post 43 on HWY 110," An officer reported.

"You should." Xander's co-worker began but Xander held up a hand to
silence him.

"The vehicle is abandoned. There's blood on the windshield," the report

"Find a payphone," Xander said urgently.

"What is it?" the other man asked.

"The guy that drives that car dates a friend of mine," Xander said.


"What happened to just sparring until I decided you were ready for
active duty?" Buffy had asked once she and Angel were alone.

"Reality happened," Angel said. "LA's demons, not to mention the
lawyers at Wolfram and Hart aren't going to take a vacation until I
convince you I'm still capable. I can hold my own with any of Gunn's
people and I know my limits well enough to know when I need back up. If
I need supernatural help I've got LaCroix and . and a few other
contacts in the demon world."

Buffy listened to the rock solid certainty in Angel's voice. Her
expansion was caught between fear and something that almost looked like
relief. "You're back aren't you?" She asked. "Nothing I could say is
going to stop you from being the PTB's warrior is it? Because you know
you can do this."

Angel felt surprised at her reaction. "We're not going to have a knock
down drag out fight about this? No emotional blackmail?"

Buffy frowned at his choice of words. "I never."

"The Hell you didn't," Angel cut her off, smiling slightly to take the
sting out of his words.

"Alright I did," Buffy admitted. "But only because I was worried about
you. You were all 'I'm going to go out and get myself killed to prove I
can't make it as a human.' You didn't care enough not to jump in over

"And now?" Angel asked.

"You wouldn't be Angel if you didn't insist on helping people anymore,"
Buffy said.

"You're not going to try to keep me out of this Slaying like you did to
Riley and Xander?" Angel asked suspiciously.

"You're not Riley or Xander," Buffy sighed. "For Riley this stuff is a
job, Xander does it because he's my friend. Which isn't to say that
Xander isn't a big help a lot of the time. With him I think I just got
scared. Riley, I don't know, he wanted to help but it never felt right
to have him along. Still, neither of them have the PTB sending them
messages. I can't keep you out of this any more than Mom could keep me
from being the Slayer."

"So you're really okay with this?" Angel asked.

"We're okay," Buffy said.


Angel smiled a little at his memories.

"You're not paying attention to me!" Glory pouted, slapping Angel.

Angel rolled his eyes. "What do you want now?" he asked boredly.

"What do you think of this dress?" Glory asked. "Be honest."

"Don't your minions have more practice at that sort of 'honesty'?"
Angel asked.

On key two of the minions immediately broke into a spade of "Oh most
beauteous Glorifious, no mere article of clothing can do justice to
your overflowing radiance."

"Shut up!" Glory commanded. "I want an opinion from a person with
actual taste."

"Could we please get to what you actually want?" Angel asked.


"Do we know what happened to Angel?" Xander asked.

"Glory has him," Buffy said. "She wants to trade the Key for Angel."

"What did you tell her?" Willow asked. "I mean we don't have the Key."

"That it would take a couple of days for me to get the Key back from
where I'd hidden it," Buffy said. "That gives us time to figure out
where she's got Angel and rescue him."

"Where do we start looking?" LaCroix asked walking into the Magic Box,
Cordelia a step behind him.


Angel's mouth quirked as he watched Glory terrorize her minions over
some inadequacy in the repairs they'd done on one of her outfits.

The vain goddess's aversion to damaging her cloths, nails, hair, shoes
and everything else related to her appearance was going to provide
Angel with his escape route. Like he'd told Ben, he wouldn't be used as
a hostage against Buffy.

"I guess you're more interested in that dress than you are in the Key,"
Angel said casually.

In less than a blink of an eye Glory was standing in front of him, her
hand tangled in Angel's hair forcing him to look up at her. "What do
you know about my Key?" she demanded.

"I could lead your minions to it," Angel offered. "Being in your
company is more torture than I can take."

"Really, you could? Now aren't you just the sweetest thing," Glory
purred. "Tell me, where is my Key?"

"I said I'd take your people there," Angel replied. "Your mush brained
minions wouldn't learn the directions in a century, and you don't
really want to go into the sewer tunnels yourself, do you?"

"Oh minions," Glory chimed. "You're going with this sweet man to get me
my Key."


Spike glanced at Cordelia, then a second later he frowned and turned
back for a second, more appraising look. "Pale looks good on you
Ducks," he said with a leer.

Cordelia glared at him irritably. "You'll keep your eyes and your mouth
to yourself, Fangless, if you know what's good for you."

"You do look a little pale," Willow said, sounding concerned. "Are you
sure everything's okay now?"

"I'm great, wonderful really," Cordelia babbled. "I just need to catch
up on my sun-tanning."

"Daughter," LaCroix reprimanded in a voice too soft for human ears.

Cordelia mentally pouted at him, it didn't change the disapproval he
was directing back to her.

This was part of the deal. LaCroix didn't want her hiding what she was
from Angel or any of his and Buffy's friends who were in the know about

Cordelia had tried to explain that this was going to backfire, because
there was no way they were going to accept the new her. Wesley would
and maybe she and Gunn could establish an understanding like he'd had
with Angel, but telling the Sunnydale crew. It was just a bad idea.
They'd hate her and that would nothing to forward LaCroix case for
Angel letting himself be turned but the General didn't take advice from
his daughter.

Which meant she couldn't try to hide it. Even though Xander had been
arguing that Angel should be staked from day one and would probably
want her dead too now. Then there was Giles who wasn't exactly fond of
vampires, souled or otherwise since Jenny. Plus Buffy and Willow didn't
like her as a human, why would they like her any better now?

LaCroix's stance hadn't softened even a little.

"And if I live to be a thousand, which is a possibility, I never will
be doing any Sun-bathing again. Sun-anything sort of off the menu from
here on out," Cordelia sighed, bracing herself for the explosion.

Giles took her hand and pressed his fingers to the underside of
Cordelia's wrist.

"If you wait long enough it will happen," Cordelia said. "I'm a real
live vampire, not a dead one like bleach-boy over there."

"You did this to her!" Xander accused LaCroix indignantly.

Slowly LaCroix turned, daining to make eye contact with Xander. "Of
course," he said, as if it amused him to humor an insect such as this.
Cordelia wondered how many decades LaCroix had spent perfecting his
ability to reduce a person to nothing with just a look.

"Bastard!" Xander hissed, grabbing LaCroix's jacket.

Cordelia closed her eyes tightly, not wanting to see Xander turned into
a pile of assorted body parts.

"Release me," LaCroix commanded, putting enough whammy in his voice to
make Xander trip over his own feet in his haste to obey.

"It was my choice," Cordelia declared moving to stand between LaCroix
and the Sunnydale crowd.

"How could you do something so stupid?" Buffy demanded.

"Gee, souled vampire minus the curse part or brain damaged soon to be
corpse," Cordelia said tossing her hair over her shoulder disdainfully.
"It was such a hard choice."

"So it's all Angel's fault," Xander said regaining his feet and his

"You'll never suggest that to Angel," Cordelia commanded throwing every
bit of whammy that she had into that order, hoping it would work.

Whamming didn't come naturally. It took practice, and Cordelia was
fairly hesitant about actually overriding someone else's will. Sure
she'd made Wes get her coffee on a regular basis, but she could never
be sure that it was her powers and not his manners that made it work.

She'd tried it on Angel once, a harmless little suggestion about paying
her a week early so she'd have the money to take advantage of this
really great sale, but Angel had recognized what she was doing
instantly and the betrayal in his eyes hurt so much Cordy knew that
she'd never try influencing him that way again.

"If you're done harassing my daughter, shall we look into rescuing my
son?" LaCroix asked.

"Angel isn't yours anymore," Buffy huffed.

"He will always be mine," LaCroix replied with a fierce possessiveness.
"Nothing changes that."


Angel led Jinx and Dredge through the least habitable parts of
Sunnydale's immense underground.

Every few feet the former vampire slipped on the slimy floor, forcing
the two minions to rush to catch him and help him back to his feet.

"Please, be more careful most gracious and knowledgeable one," Jinx
pled. "Our illuminous Glory would inflict untold suffering on our
insignificant selves if anything should happen to you before we recover
the Key."

"I'd have a lot better balance if you untied my hands," Angel
suggested, covering a grin.

"This we cannot do, most helpful Angel," Dredge simpered.

"Road's only getting worse a head," Angel said. "Narrow, steep, bad
footing. I'll have to go first of course, since I'm the only one who
knows where we're going. If I fall, you won't catch me, I'll probably
break my neck."

Jinx and Dredge exchanged worried glances. "Our most creative and
lovely Glorious will define new forms of torture for our punishment,"
Jinx pointed out.

"Perhaps we could untie you," Dredge offered. "If you swear that you
won't try to escape."

"Scouts honor," Angel replied innocently.

"Hi," Glory said walking into the Magic Box. "I just dropped by to say
I don't need you any more. At this very moment your boyfriend is
leading my minions to the Key. You know I expected him to be the noble

"Angel wouldn't help you," Buffy said. Plus he doesn't even know about
Dawn she thought, which makes this a plan of some sort.

"Sure he would Honey. I'm a god," Glory replied. "He figured out which
side is going to win."

"You, little girl, are supposed to be a god?" LaCroix asked.

"I am a god!" Glory screeched, backhanding LaCroix.

LaCroix surged off the floor into Glory. Using his ability to fly, he
slammed her against the wall, about halfway between floor and ceiling.

Buffy and Spike exchanged a glance then a shrug and went to join
LaCroix in pounding on Glory.

The Hell-goddess swatted LaCroix away and both crashed to the floor.

Before Glory could get up, Spike kicked her in the ribs. When he tried
for a second kick Glory grabbed his ankle and squeezed. Spike gasped in
pain as the small bones were reduced to splinters by her grip.

Glory stood, tossing Spike across the room as she did so. Then Buffy
punched her. The two exchanged a few blows before Buffy was sent
flying. When Glory tried to go after the Slayer, Cordelia grabbed her
from behind, pinning her arms to her side.

A moment later Cordy hit the back wall of the shop, smashing into a
display cabinet.

"Desist!" LaCroix ordered his voice filled with an icy power.

Glory paused.

Angel grinned smugly at the two minions groaning on the cavern floor.

"You promised," Jinx whimpered.

"Well, you know I never was a boy scout," Angel replied glibly. "As far
as I know, I've never even eaten one. I'd say it's been fun guys, but
it really wasn't. Be sure to tell Glory worst of luck with that Key
thing, will ya."

Still looking very pleased with himself, Angel turned and headed back
out of the tunnels.


"You're trying to screw with my mind?" Glory asked LaCroix in
disbelief. "Baby, that's just not how it works."

Glory drove her fingers into the sides of LaCroix's skull and the
ancient screamed.

A second later Cordelia echoed him.

In a Parisian nightclub a woman's glass tumbled from suddenly nerveless
finger. As she collapsed the man she'd been talking to leapt to catch
her. "Jeanette!" he cried in alarm.

In the tunnels beneath Sunnydale Angel stumbled, falling to his knees.
"LaCroix?" he asked, concern filling his voice. He forced himself to
take a deep breath then climbed back to his feet and took off running.

In a tightly shuttered loft apartment with the still atmosphere of a
crypt, a presence glanced up from its intent study of a particular spot
on the floor in front of the fireplace. It wavered and for a few
moments seemed to disappear. Then strengthened and resumed its vigil.

In the magic shop Glory shrieked in outrage and staggered back from
LaCroix. "Fine," she spat. "I didn't need it anyway. I'll just go get
my Key!" With that she stormed out of the store.

"LaCroix?" Cordelia asked unsteadily. "Are you okay?"

"Bleeding bitch broke my leg," Spike exclaimed.

Willow checked his injury and made a sympathetic face. "Smushed it is
more accurate," she said.

"LaCroix?" Cordelia asked again, her voice wavering.

"I'm well child," LaCroix replied without opening his eyes or moving
from where he slumped against the wall. After a pause he added. "Thank
you for your assistance in repelling that vile creature from my mind."

"No big," Cordelia replied going to sit beside him.

"I violently dislike her," Buffy said craning her head to inspect a
bruise forming on her shoulder.

"So, would Angel really take her to this Key thing?" Xander said.

"How would he do that?" Giles asked. "When he doesn't know the first
thing about it?"

"Oh right," Xander said with a touch of embarrassment.

"Spike broke the cash register when he fell on it," Anya said

"Next time I'll ask her to throw me at you instead," Spike grouched
wincing as Willow used her magic to harden the bandages she'd wrapped
around his ankle into a cast.

A few minutes later Angel burst through the doors, completely out of
breath from running across town.

"You escaped," Buffy exclaimed happily launching herself into Angel's

"Is everyone all right?" Angel asked.

"More or less," Buffy said.

"Less, most bloody definitely less," Spike complained.

"LaCroix?" Angel asked as he hugged Buffy tightly.

"You heard me call," LaCroix said with satisfaction. "Even as you are
now, you heard and responded."

One of the Gang


“So do we call you Dead-girl now?” Xander asked Cordelia.

LaCroix smirked with satisfaction as Angel visibly stiffened, his eyes
flashing with anger.

“If you don’t mind being totally wrong,” Cordelia returned. “Oh, look
who I’m talking to, go right ahead.”

“I shall be returning to Los Angeles. I wish to look into this Glory.”
At the hell-goddess’ name LaCroix’s voice sank into a threatening
snarl. “Cordelia, see if you can keep Angelus out of trouble until his
visit to this place is concluded.”

“I escaped on my own,” Angel pointed out.

“This time Mon Fils, but you are such a magnet for trouble and you’re
only mortal,” LaCroix said. “For the moment.”

“Forever,” Buffy contradicted LaCroix.

“Mortality is never forever, girl,” LaCroix said coldly.

“Why are you investigating Glory?” Giles asked.

“I don’t care for loosing,” LaCroix said.

“We… um… would appreciate it if you would let us know anything you
learn about her as well,” Giles stammered, feeling like he was making a
deal with the devil.

“Certainly,” LaCroix replied, the glint in his eyes showing that he
knew precisely what Giles was thinking.


For a brief second sparks lit the darkness, they reflected off gleaming
bits of metal.

“So this is what it feels like to be a vamp,” a deep, perpetually
sardonic voice said. “Buried alive, I guess that’s another thing I can
thank Finn’s girl for.”

Once again the crack of metal meeting concrete sounded muted in the
tight confines.

The voice broke into an evil chuckle as the concrete began to crumble
under the repeated blows.


“Cordy’s cure was to get vamped,” Buffy said. “You sort of forgot to
mention that.”

“Didn’t seem to be a good time,” Angel replied

“But she’s still good?” Buffy asked.


“And you’re not thinking maybe LaCroix had ulterior motives?”

“He openly admits it.”

“You’re not tempted or anything, right?” Buffy asked.

Angel smiled at her. “Why should I be, I’m doing fine as a human.”

“You are aren’t you,” Buffy said. “You did get away from Glory with
nothing worse than a bump on the head.”

“Buffy, Glory’s tough sure, but she’s not all powerful,” Angel said.
“She’s vain, stupid and unstable. You can’t slug it out with her, but
that doesn’t mean you can’t beat her. When she went after LaCroix’s
mind we didn’t stop her with brute force. Which isn’t to say he didn’t
try. LaCroix isn’t used to running into anything stronger than he is,
he’s two thousand years old; you know vampires only get stronger with
age. When that didn’t work he called on Cordy and I plus a couple of
others I didn’t know and he threw all that power at her, which didn’t
work either. We still won though. We sent her chasing after shadows and
illusions, she got frustrated and impatient. She blustered around for a
while; did some random damage then withdrew in a huff. We won’t beat
her by playing to her strengths Buffy, but she’s got plenty of weakness
to exploit.”

“Sounds like I’m getting a dose of my own medicine here,” Buffy said
with a sigh. “I miss the old days when I could just pound the baddies
into dust.”

“We’ve got a body,” Angel said, pointing to a hand sticking out from
under a bush.

“I hate this part of being the Slayer,” Buffy said as they moved to

“We’ll deal with whatever it is,” Angel said solemnly.

As they rounded the bush Buffy froze at the sight of a dissected,
inhuman corpse. “Deja vu of the worst sort,” she said.

“What?” Angel asked.

“This, it looks like Adam’s MO, but not even the Initiative would be
stupid enough to build another of those,” Buffy explained.


“How’d I get nominated to patrol with you?” Cordelia asked.

“Because no one else wanted a vampire for a partner Ducks,” Spike
replied. “You’d better get used to being treated like a leper, cause in
their eyes, that’s what you are now.”

“Hostile 17, been looking for you.”

Cordelia and Spike turned to stare at the six-foot collection of spare
parts and bits of bare metal gleaming through charred flesh.

“Well if it isn’t Mr. Bits the second,” Spike said. “Looking a tad more
assorted than usual.”

“You know this patchwork quilt of eew?” Cordelia asked. “Why am I not

“Hostile 17 and I go way back,” Forrest said. “In fact he owes me an

“So that’s why you’re chopping people, and others, up, for replacement
parts?” Cordelia asked.

“My old pal Riley did some damage with that fire ball,” Forrest said
flexing one fist, showing the metal substructure showing beneath the
burned flesh. “Course the eye is curtsey of your boyfriend there, seems
fitting he should provide the replacement.”

“Well, info gathering over,” Spike said turning to run.

“He’s not my boyfriend!” Cordelia protested vehemently.

Forrest started after Spike but after only a few steps it was obvious
he’d never catch up. “Well you’re still here,” he said turning to
Cordelia. “Yours’ll even match brown-eyes.”

“I think not,” Cordelia said rising to hover in the air a few feet out
of his reach. “What is it with people wanting to gore out my eyes

“Hey! Come down from there,” Forrest said pointing at Cordelia, a gun
barrel erupting from his arm.


“Ow,” Cordelia moaned, squirming as Angel used tweezers to extract the
bullet embedded in her shoulder. “Getting shot really hurts, even now.”

“It’s something to be avoided as much as possible,” Angel said. “Even
if it can’t kill you it’s never a pleasant experience.”

“I’ll be sure to add it to my list of things not to try again, right
below being impaled with a rebar.”

“Impalement is one of the more important things to avoid, especially if
wood is involved,” Angel replied. “Got it.”

Cordelia whimpered as he extracted the bullet. “We didn’t really treat
you like leper back when I was in high school did we?” she asked a
moment later.

“What brought this on?” Angel asked.

“That’s what Spike said they’d treat me like, because of… you know,”
Cordelia said. “And you’re avoiding the question aren’t you.”

“It’s not the same situation Cordy,” Angel said. “You know how good I
am at socializing. I avoided them as much as they avoided me. You’ll be
fine. Just give them a chance to get use to the idea of you being a


“Forrest is back?” Buffy asked.

“Former Initiative flunky turned the son of Adam? Yeah, that’d be our
new mate” Spike reported.

“So we’re going to do a repeat of combo-Buffy?” Xander asked.

“I’m afraid the First Slayer wouldn’t co-operate again,” Giles said.

“He’s probably just a cheap copy anyway,” Willow said hopefully.

“Hey, look everyone, vamp-girl’s back,” Xander said as Cordelia and
Angel returned from the training room.

“Are you alright?” Willow asked.

Cordelia smiled and gingerly flexed her arm. “The bullet’s gone, the
bleeding’s stopped, the pain is fading. Some times I really like being
a vampire.”

“Cordelia told me what we’re up against,” Angel said, glaring at
Xander. “Do we have a plan?”

“We need to immobilize him long enough to get to his battery out,”
Buffy said.

“I could try whamming him,” Cordelia suggested. “He didn’t seem like
the mentally focused type.”

“You could really make a person stand still while we cut a vital part
out?” Xander asked. “That’s pretty cool… in a very scary way.”

“LaCroix could,” Cordelia said. “I can try.”

“Cor…” Angel objected.

“You’re the one who’s always going on about how you have to keep taking
risks Angel.” Cordelia said. “Well I have to do this. What’s the point
of having these nifty powers if I don’t use them?”

“We’re going to practice,” Angel said firmly.

“Okay, so Cordy tries this hypno-thing. If it works I move in with
cutting implements,” Buffy said. “If not Cordelia flies off, no harm

“Minus a few more bullets in her,” Angel cautioned.

“It won’t kill her. She’s a vampire, so who really cares anyway?”
Xander said.

Angel grabbed Xander by the arm and dragged him back toward the
training room. “Could we talk?” he asked grimly then sent Xander
stumbling ahead of him. Angel shut the door behind them.

“What was that about?” Anya asked.

Cordelia felt herself trying to blush as Spike explained, “Peaches is
threatin’ bodily harm to the twit if he doesn’t knock off with the
vampire cracks. Must be fun getting ta to get even for all of Xander’s
crap in the name of chivalry.”

“God, this is embarrassing. Couldn’t they have picked someone else to
go all macho over?” Cordelia asked.

“If Xander’s involved in macho posturing it should be over me,” Anya
declared, stalking to the closed door and throwing it open.

“You know, I hate to sound like Anya,” Buffy said. “But this time I
have to agree, any stupid testosterone displays my boyfriend gets into
should be about me.”

“So it’s unanimous,” Anya said, stepping through the door to glare at
Xander and Angel. “If you two want to fight over a girl it has to be
about Buffy or I, preferably me.”

“Cordy’s family,” Angel said. “That means I get to defend her. Right

“You know ex-Deadboy, the growl’s less impressive now that you’re
human,” Xander said irritably.

“Excuse me,” Cordelia interjected, noticing the angry glitter in
Angel’s eyes. “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”

“I’m sorry Cordy,” Angel said. “But he doesn’t have any right to treat
you like that.”

“Why not?” Xander asked. “I do it to you and Deadboy jr., why should
Vamp-girl be any different?”

“Because she’s Cordy in every way that counts,” Angel replied hotly.
“And unlike Spike and I, she hasn’t killed anyone, so just drop it

“Maybe we should get to work on the plan,” Buffy suggested awkwardly.


“Practice, right,” Cordelia said. “Are you sure about this Angel?”

“I’m sure,” Angel said.

“So should I tell you what I’m going to make you do?” Cordelia asked.

“Probably not,” Angel said. “Just try not to embarrass me too much

“It’s a deal,” Cordelia said. “Wanna try?”

“Let’s do it,” Angel said sitting down across the table from her.

Cordelia concentrated; let the sound of Angel’s heartbeat fill her
senses. Once it steadied she met his eyes and immediately exploded into

“What?” Angel asked.

“Okay, let’s try again, without the giggles,” Cordelia said. She forced
herself to calm down and caught his heartbeat again. Then she met his
eyes and watched them loose focus.

“I guess that makes it truth or dare time,” Cordelia muttered. “Okay
Angel, remember back before I knew about you being a vampire?”

“Yes,” Angel replied expressionlessly.

“I used to try to get you to notice me, what was I doing wrong?”


Cordelia blew out a breath in an exasperated sigh, “I was certain it
was working.”

Cordelia reached for Angel’s heartbeat again, but to her surprise it
was still perfectly steady, slow and even, just like it was supposed to
be. “Okay, let’s try another question. Why didn’t you notice me?”

“You weren’t Buffy.”

“Maybe it did work,” Cordelia said consciously letting Angel’s mind go.
“Did it work Angel?”

“It did,” He replied shaking off the last of the effect. “Now try
again, this time I’m not gong to make it easy for you… and next time,
go for dare.”


“I think we should be aiming for maximum carnage,” Buffy said. “Even if
Cordy’s idea works I think Forrest will snap out of it when I start
cutting into him. Giles do you still have that chainsaw from last

“Are you sure Buffy? A chainsaw makes a clumsy weapon,” Giles warned.

“Plus you hit one of his metal parts it’ll be the same as trying to cut
into a spiked tree,” Xander said. “You could get hurt.”

“So what do you advise?” Buffy asked.

Giles dug through his weapons chest and produced a long elegant sword.

“Wow, pretty,” Buffy said testing the balance. “But looking for big
damage, remember?”

“It’s a katana, Buffy. Watch the edge, it will cut through almost
anything.” Giles said.

“Like a light-saber, only without the cool sound effects?” Xander

“Precisely,” Giles said.

Buffy and Xander both stared at him in slack jawed amazement. “You got
a cultural reference,” Buffy stammered.

“Please, I was in my twenties when Star Wars came out, of course I’ve
seen it.”


“We’re ready?” Cordy asked.

“Ready,” Buffy said. “As soon as we’ve got a place we’ll be on our

“It worked!” Willow exclaimed and Tara shifted uncomfortably. “Last
year we tried this spell to find Adam and it kerplooied, but look!” She
pointed to the map of Sunnydale drawn in sand on the table, a
concentrated spot of red grains moved across the campus.

Buffy sheathed her katana, “Let’s get this over with,” she said.

Cordelia studied the map for a few moments more then walked out the
door. “Wish us luck guys,” she said wrapping an arm around Buffy’s
waist then the two girls lifted off.

Cordelia touched down a few yards from Forrest’s position and the two
girls approached on foot.

While Buffy waited in the shadows Cordelia stepped out to confront the
monstrosity. She reached out with her mind, but more than one rhythm
defined the creature before her.

“The flying chick,” Forrest said smiling evilly as he recognized her.
“Wonder if I could add that ability to my arsenal. Cutting you up is
going to be a pleasure.”

Cordelia picked what seemed to be the major pulse and made eye contact.
“Freeze,” she commanded.

Forrest’s advance ground to a halt. Buffy waited a few seconds, but
when he remained statue-like she moved forward, sword held high.

Cordelia felt the secondary pulse go wild. “Hurry up!” she yelled. Then
the primary pulse faltered, Forrest’s eyes gained focus.

The gun in his forearm popped out and he began to turn. Cordelia lunged
forward and grabbed his arm with both hands. Multiple shots exploded
into her chest at point blank range. Still Cordelia retained her hold
on him even as she collapsed.

Buffy swung the sword; it passed through Forrest’s body just above his
power source. The two halves joined Cordelia on the ground. Buffy
spotted the glowing battery shining through the gore and ripped it out.
“I guess we’ll have to take it back to Willow for disposal this time,”
she said.

“Did we win?” Cordelia asked in a pained whisper.

“Oh god, Cordy!” Buffy exclaimed. She dropped to her knees beside
Cordelia. “You’ll be okay, bullets can’t kill you anymore,” she

“Hurts,” Cordelia whimpered blood sweat dotting her forehead.

“I’ll get help. Just hang on,” Buffy promised.

Cordelia coughed violently, bringing up blood. Then her eyes fluttered

“Stay with me,” Buffy begged, shaking the other girl to no effect.
Desperately Buffy cut her hand on the sword blade and let her blood run
into Cordelia’s mouth.


“Is she going to be alright?” Buffy asked as LaCroix descended from
Giles’ loft.

“Cordelia will recover,” he said and the whole group released a
collective sigh of relief. “I find that I am in your dept Slayer.
Cordelia was too young to survive that magnitude of damage alone, your
blood kept her stabilized long enough for me to return.”

“No you’re not,” Buffy replied. “Cordy’s one of us. What I did, it had
nothing to do with you.”



Kate stared at the autopsy report, the neck punctures that had been the
only wounds found on her father weren’t as clean as those found on
Richard Corin, but the similarities out weighed the differences.

Richard Corin had been killed by a vampire, so had her father. Angel
had been there when her father died, of that Kate had no doubts. Her
father had been killed by a vampire. A vampire like that boy she had
seen with Angel. A vampire like Angel.

Angel had been there when her father had been killed by a vampire.
Opportunity and means, that just left motive.

Richard Corin was connected to her and he was a vampire hunter.
Something involving Angel had happened and it had been bad. So bad
she’d developed mixed feelings about Corin. She hadn’t wanted him as an
ally, not after what had happened, whatever that was. Trying to think
about that blank in her mind made Kate sick to her stomach. She’d been
in involved in something bad. Something that had been done to Angel.

Her father had been killed by a vampire. Motive.


Cordelia groaned, her hands flying from her still intensely painful
chest wound to her throbbing temples. Just what she needed, Cordelia
thought disparagingly, a vision headache on top of a shattered
breastbone and healing heart and lungs.

The vision came, a blur of color and panic, then everything became
clear for a moment and Cordelia could see a street sign.

After giving her head a few seconds to clear, Cordelia swung her feet
over the side of the bed with a sigh. Slowly she made her way
downstairs to Giles’ living room. He and Angel were discussing
something in hushed tones over tea.

“Cordy, you should be in bed,” Angel said, jumping up to help support
her down the last few steps.

“Vision,” Cordelia explained with a grimace. “I got an address, it’s
back in LA. There was a lot of panic, this is going to be a public

“Call Wesley, let him know we’re coming. I’ll go get us a car,” Angel

“I’ll drive,” Giles volunteered. “I’m certain Buffy will want to come
along as well.”

“That isn’t necessary,” Angel said firmly.

“You are short a team member with Cordelia injured,” Giles pointed out.
“And if you’re going to be fighting in a crowd you’ll need to finish it
as quickly as possible to avoid having innocents caught in the middle.”

“Okay,” Angel replied reluctantly. “Collect some weapons for her, I’ll
get Buffy.”


Kate looked around the empty lobby nervously. She wanted to get this
over with, not sit around and think about it.

She was going to avenge her father’s death. Angel wasn’t really the
handsome private detective who’d saved her life and whom she’d been
attracted to, not really. The truth was he was a monster.

The boy-vampire had called him Angelus and that was a name that
survived in legend. Kate had found several books mentioning him already
in her apartment, evidence that she’d looked into his past before he’d
messed up her mind.

Angelus, the one with the angelic face, the scourge of Europe, was one
of the most evil creatures to ever exist. After what she’d learned of
his past Kate couldn’t believe how he could have put up such a
convincing front.

A part of her wondered if it were possible that he’d changed but she
crushed down that traitorous thought. Angelus was the thing that had
killed her father. A cruel and remorseless killer who’d escaped justice
for centuries, nothing more.


Angel carried his coat draped over his arm, hiding the sword he was
carrying. Buffy discretely hid her knife in a gym bag as they blended
into the crowd surrounding the demon’s body. Thankfully the crowd was
too busy staring at it to really pay attention to the pair that had
killed it.

“I think someone must have been giving that bear some kind of drugs,” a
witness confided loudly to a police officer.

Several other members of the crowd offered conflicting theories, all
equally implausible but easier to take than the truth.

“I told you the aliens were coming!” One man exclaimed and Angel
grinned, sometimes fact and fiction could be equally strange.

“I haven’t heard that one before,” Buffy said.

“I’m just glad Kate didn’t show,” Angel replied dumping the sword into
the trunk of Giles’ car. “The last thing she needs is to connect me
with another supernatural incident.”

“Perhaps she took your advise from the last time and has given up her
hunt for demons,” Wesley said.

“We can all hope,” Cordelia replied twisting back to look at the others
from her place in the front seat.

“Don’t squirm,” Wesley reprimanded her. “You’ll aggravate your
injuries. You really should have stayed at the office.”

“And if you’d needed back-up? Who has the mental link with the really,
really old vampire?” Cordelia asked.

“I have a cell phone with Gunn’s number on speed dial,” Wesley replied.
“And I’d prefer his assistance, it doesn’t come with strings.”

“You used to like LaCroix,” Cordelia rebuked Wesley.

“Before he used your illness to further his agenda with Angel,” Wesley
replied. “I always knew we couldn’t trust him, but until then I hadn’t
realized the depths he’d sink to to get what wants.”

“Am I going to have to go through this with everyone?” Cordelia whined
to Angel.

“Wes isn’t attacking you Cordy,” Angel sighed. He hesitated for a
moment then regretfully added, “And he’s right about LaCroix.”

“I trust you completely Cordelia,” Wesley assured her. “This has
nothing to do with you, it’s about LaCroix; he’s amoral,

“He’s doing his best to take care of his family,” Cordelia argued.
“He’s not amoral, he follows his beliefs about what’s right and wrong
without fail, they just don’t match yours. He really cares about us,
Angel and I anyway, that’s more than I can say of my human parents.”

Buffy shifted uncomfortably, bothered by Cordelia’s impassioned defense
of the ancient.


Kate prowled restlessly around the office, twisting her crudely carved
stake in her hands, before trading it for the more comforting
familiarity of her gun.

She wished she’d found something to back up her conclusion that Angel
was a monster and mass murderer.

Sure she’d found well-maintained weapons and blood in the refrigerator
in the lobby. But the weapons weren’t even circumstantial evidence, her
father’s death had been caused by fangs not weapons and the blood was
actually a mark in his defense, he wouldn’t have needed it if he were

“He did kill my father,” Kate reminded herself sternly.

“Would a jury find him guilty?” Her conscious asked. “You don’t have
any hard evidence.”

“He screwed with my mind! He’s hiding something,” Kate argued.

“But is it murder or just that he’s a vampire?”

“Even if he didn’t kill my father, which he did, he has killed,” Kate
shot back. “He’s a vampire, by definition that makes him a serial

“What if he’s changed?”

“The thing I read about, that doesn’t change. Psychopath doesn’t even
cover what he is, he’s a monster, plain and simple.”

“He saved your life.”

“He killed my father!”


“I’ll be right back,” Angel said. “I need to get the demon blood off my
sword before it corrodes the metal.”

“An excellent thought,” Giles said with a significant look at Buffy.
“I’m certain Buffy’s ax could use some attention as well.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Bring an extra rag,” she said to Angel. “Maybe
if you’re here I won’t get the lecture on proper weapons care again.”

“I’ll give it to you myself,” Angel said walking into his office.
“Kate,” he exclaimed in unhappy surprise. “Is there something I can
help you with?”

“Angel,” Kate replied walking toward him, her hand at her side, the gun
she held hidden by the folds of the long jacket she was wearing.

“Why are you here?” Angel asked.

“I figured it out,” Kate said raising the gun. She fired twice then as
Angel staggered back she pulled the stake from her coat pocket and
drove it into his chest.

Angel collapsed to his knees, a fresh gout of blood spurting from his
chest as the stake was wrenched free. Shock held everyone frozen for a
timeless moment. Kate stared, horror-strickened at the blood on her
hands. Slowly her eyes rose to meet Angel’s uncomprehending gaze. He
coughed wetly and blood flecked his lips.

Kate screamed and suddenly the paralysis that had gripped the room was

Buffy kicked the gun out of Kate’s hand, breaking the detective’s wrist
in the process then knocked her back against the office’s far wall.

Cordelia caught Angel as he lost consciousness and gently lowered him
to the floor, pillowing his head on her knees.

Wesley opened up his cell phone.

Giles moved to stand guard over Kate as Buffy went to Angel.

“He’s alive,” Cordelia reassured the Slayer.

Buffy took Angel’s hand and squeezed it tightly. “You’ll be okay,” she
told him with complete and baseless certainty.

“The ambulance is coming,” Wesley said.

Kate was still staring at Angel. “He isn’t…” she was muttering. “Oh
god, I was wrong. I was wrong. He’s not…”

“Do shut up woman,” Giles snapped harshly.

Kate pulled her knees to her chest and began rocking slowly back and

The sound of shattering glass announced LaCroix’s arrival. He didn’t
ask any questions, between his residual link with Angel and his full
link with Cordelia he knew everything that had happened.

Gently he lifted Angel from Cordelia’s lap. Buffy glanced up as Angel
was moved, seeing LaCroix’s golden eyes and bared fangs she reacted
automatically. Bracing her hands on the floor she twisted from her
kneeling position to kick LaCroix away from Angel.

Hardly expecting to be attacked LaCroix fell back.

Moving inhumanly fast Cordelia managed to catch Angel and settle him
back without jarring him.

Buffy didn’t give LaCroix a moment to recover, springing to her feet
and delivering a spinning kick that knocked him on his back.

LaCroix snarled, fury and fear for Angel turning his eyes a burning
crimson. He lunged off the floor, plowing into Buffy with brutal force.
They landed in a heap, LaCroix’s much greater size pinning Buffy
beneath him. He tangled one hand in her hair and jerked her head back,
baring her throat to him.

Buffy managed to get one hand under LaCroix’s chin and forced his head
back, away from her jugular vein.

Wesley grabbed LaCroix by the shoulder and tried to pull the ancient
vampire away from Buffy.

LaCroix turned toward Wesley growling, his fiery eyes bore a mad glow.

“Angelus!” Wesley exclaimed. “It’ll destroy him if you kill her! You
know that.”

LaCroix abruptly released Buffy and rolled to his feet, his eyes
regaining a measure of sanity along with their more familiar golden

“Tell her to stand aside!” LaCroix ordered. “We’ve run out of time for
this fool’s game.”

“Angel won’t die!” Buffy insisted. “The ambulance is coming, they’ll
make him better.”

“Don’t delude yourself,” LaCroix growled. “I am the only way to save

“Let the doctor’s try,” pleaded Wesley.

“I won’t risk my child!” LaCroix snapped.

“You’ll have to go through me,” Buffy shouted back.

“Through all of us,” Giles amended as he and Wesley moved to flank

“Can you do that to Angel, kill the people he cares about?” Wesley
asked. “And would he return to you if he sees our deaths in your

“Don’t include me,” Cordelia stated. “LaCroix’s right, you’re not
protecting Angel, you’re killing him.”

“I won’t sanction turning him,” Giles said firmly. “Even if he dies
it’s better this way.”

An astounded sound burst from Cordelia. “You’re a bunch of idiots!
Being a living vampire is way better than a dead human.”

The ambulance crew rushed in disrupting the stand off.

“There,” Buffy said gesturing to Angel. Reluctantly Cordelia fell back
letting the EMT’s have access to Angel. LaCroix turned away, hiding his
eyes, with a visible shutter he forced his human seeming back into

“What the hell happened?” one of the EMT’s demanded carefully removing
a palm-length splinter from Angel’s chest before applying a compression

“This woman attacked him with a wooden stake after shooting him,” Giles
said, his tone implied that he couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever
dream of using a stake for anything other than securing a tent.

“He’s going into shock,” The second paramedic announced. “The sub-
clavicle artery was damaged, there’s heavy internal bleeding.”

A third member of the ambulance crew relayed the information back to
the hospital.

LaCroix stepped forward but Buffy reminded him of her ultimatum with a

“They’re here, just give them a chance,” Wesley begged quietly. “Buffy
will stand aside if he’s not going to make it, but let him have the
chance to survive as a human.”

LaCroix took a deep breath and Cordelia sensed a brittle version of his
customary icy control replacing the near panic he’d felt since Angel
had been injured. “We have to stay close,” He said guiding her toward
the door. “I won’t be able to do anything if he actually dies. But
Wesley is correct, the safest path is to give him every chance to
survive as a human. I can’t be certain what he’ll choose if I try to
turn him now.”

The EMT’s transferred Angel to a stretcher as a couple of uniformed
police officers appeared on the scene. They stared at Kate with shocked

“Detective?” the younger one asked, shaking her lightly.

“I’m going with Angel,” Buffy insisted forcefully and room was made for
her in the ambulance.

“I was wrong. Oh God I was wrong,” Kate repeated staring blindly into

Cordelia and LaCroix discretely worked they’re way out of the Hyperion
and took to the skies to follow the ambulance.

“Send someone to the hospital to take the girl’s statement the older
officer ordered before turning his attention to Wesley and Giles.


The atmosphere in the waiting room was painfully tense. Buffy and
LaCroix stood in opposite corners, glowering at each other, while
Cordelia hovered by the door, listening intently, flinching every now
and then, looking pale even for a vampire.

“They’re still operating?” Giles asked as he and Wesley joined them

“They’re doing some sort of tests,” Buffy said.

“It’s bad,” Cordelia added. “I don’t understand a lot of what they’re
saying, but it’s really bad.”

“As long as he’s not dead I can fix this,” LaCroix reassured Cordelia.

“No,” Buffy said, but her voice wavered uncertainly.

“Would you let him die?” LaCroix asked. “Your insistence that he remain
human is the only reason we’re here now. Will you not end this
stupidity and let me offer him the protection being a vampire

“It was a goddamn stake, LaCroix!” Buffy snapped. “Being a vampire
isn’t protection against that.”

”She missed. The danger to a vampire would be pasted by now.”

“If you hadn’t screwed with her mind she wouldn’t have gone after Angel
in the first place!” Buffy accused angrily.

“She tortured him extensively with holy water before I ever met her,
and if it weren’t for Angelus’ all too human sensibilities she wouldn’t
have been alive to present any further threat to my son after that
incident.” LaCroix said.

“Angel doesn’t want what you have to offer!” Buffy insisted. “He won’t
accept it, you’ll just finish killing him if you try to turn him.”

“You don’t want him to accept it,” LaCroix said. “His desire to please
you is what is killing him.”

“He’s not going to die!” Buffy exclaimed.

“He is dying and your wishes are all that kept him clinging to
humanity,” LaCroix replied. “Grant him your permission to choose and
see what he decides.”

“He’s happy as a human.”

“He was and he will be again once he truly understands what being a
vampire is,” LaCroix admitted. “Mortality is fleeting. Angelus’ is
over. We aren’t debating human or vampire any long. The choice is
between vampire and corpse.”

“I don’t accept that!” Buffy said stubbornly.

“They’re finished,” Cordelia hissed backing away from the door. “The
doctor’s coming.”

A tired looking older man appeared through the doors Cordelia had been
listening at. “Is Ms. Chase here?” he asked.

“How is he?” Buffy asked.

“Ms. Chase?” The doctor questioned.

“That would be me,” Cordelia said. “What’s going on?”

“May I speak with you in private?” the doctor asked.

“What’s going on? Angel didn’t die, so what is this?” Cordelia

“Please allow me to speak to you alone,” the doctor requested.

“Fine,” Cordelia snapped. “Just tell me what’s going on!”

The doctor led Cordelia to his office. The others remained fidgeting
impatiently in the waiting room, trying to ignore the ominous feeling
settling over the room in the wake of the doctor’s request.

LaCroix used his link to Cordelia to eavesdrop on her conversation with
the doctor. After several minutes he stormed out of the hospital
without a word of explanation.


The police officer mindlessly stood by as LaCroix walked past him into
the room containing Detective Lockley.

As she had at the hotel, Kate was still curled in a ball mumbling her
endless protestations of guilt-leadened remorse. LaCroix stared down at
the woman without pity.

I shouldn’t be here, LaCroix thought; I should be turning Angelus right
now regardless of his or the girl’s feeling on the matter.

This was literally his worst nightmare since Angelus became human
almost five months ago; Angelus’ life was in jeopardy and LaCroix could
do nothing. The Slayer would force him to kill her rather than accept
that the only chance to save Angelus was to return him to his proper
state. And while LaCroix had no moral compunction about killing her he
could hardly expect to successfully turn Angelus when his culpability
in Buffy’s death would lie plainly in the blood he would have to share
to turn him. Angelus would see that and flee from him straight into the
arms of Death.

LaCroix’s control was too precarious to risk an extended debate with
the girl the moment. Her stubborn denial of simple facts was more than
enough to tempt him into killing her. Until he had gained a measure of
control it was best that he stayed away. And LaCroix was forced to
admit he was fearful of trying to turn Angelus at this point. Until he
tried he couldn’t fail. LaCroix didn’t want to face loosing yet another
child so soon after Nicholas, but there were so many things that made
turning Angelus, at this juncture, a potential disaster.

He looked down at Kate, LaCroix had thought her the perfect target for
his fearful frustration and rage, and yet…

“I’m sorry, I was wrong,” Kate was still babbling.

LaCroix caught her chin and forced her to look at him. “Once before you
threatened to take my son from me,” LaCroix said. “I foolishly allowed
you to walk away from that without repercussions. That mistake may cost
me his life but it will be rectified. Although, at this moment, ending
your pathetic existence seems almost a mercy. Still it is a mercy I am
willing to grant.”

LaCroix gripped the back of her head with his free hand then twisted
her neck sharply. Kate’s body dropped bonelessly to the floor, dead
even before she fell.

LaCroix turned away from his empty revenge and walked out of the
precinct, his departure no more remarked upon than his arrival had


“Angel isn’t going to make it, not as a human,” Cordelia said bluntly,
stalking up to Buffy. “Maybe not even as a vampire.”

“Don’t say that, especially not here!” Buffy hissed angrily with a
significant glance at Angel’s unconscious form.

Cordelia shuttered at the numerous tubes and wires practically hiding
Angel beneath them, remembering what the doctor had told her about his
condition. Then her earlier anger returned in a rush. “It doesn’t
fucking matter what I say!” she snapped shoving a sheath of papers into
Buffy’s hands.

“What are these?” Buffy asked in confusion.

“Organ donor forms,” Cordelia explained mercilessly. “Kate damaged the
arteries supplying blood to Angel’s brain, it took the doctors too long
to restore the blood flow. Angel is brain dead. LaCroix isn’t even sure
if changing him will fix things. If you hadn’t interfered at the hotel
it wouldn’t be an issue. The damage wasn’t caused directly by what Kate
did; it was the delay in treatment. If we’d been able to change him
immediately there wouldn’t have been any damage,” Cordelia accused.

Buffy’s knees gave out and she slumped into a chair beside the bed, “I
was trying to protect him,” she whispered staring up at Cordelia with
wide grief stricken eyes.


Angel stared down at the headstone with dismay.

He didn’t understand what was happening; he knew where he was, if not
how he’d come to be here. But he didn’t understand why he couldn’t
leave. The cemetery covered less than a acre, he should have been able
to walk to the edge in minutes, but no matter how he tried he always
found himself back here, staring down at the very grave he’d risen from
centuries earlier.

Determinedly he turned his back on the stone once more and began


Buffy met LaCroix at the door to Angel’s room, “Tell him I love him and
I want him to come back to us,” she said tremulously.

LaCroix nodded sharply as he walked past her to Angel’s bedside. How
was it, he wondered that these setting could make anyone appear so

LaCroix reached through the tangle of medical equipment to brush his
fingers across Angel’s cheek. LaCroix’s eyes closed for a second and he
sighed in relief at the faint spark of life he could still sense.

With renewed certainty LaCroix turned to study the various machines
surrounding Angel. The last thing he needed was for one of these
devices to bring a nurse at an inopportune moment.

After several minutes study LaCroix deftly switched off the alarms.
Then he gently removed the respirator tube from Angel’s mouth as well
as the IV lines in his arm.

LaCroix bit into Angel’s wrist, flinching almost imperceptibly at the
dull taste, a faint, distant, confused frustration was all the life
left in his blood. Hopefully that would be enough. LaCroix used his
fangs to open the veins in his wrist and pressed the sluggishly
bleeding wound to Angel’s mouth.


Angel glanced down at one of the other tombstones in the cemetery then
stared, transfixed. The name and dates silently accused him, but Jenny
Calendar’s final resting place was in Sunnydale not Galway.

Fearfully Angel read the names on several more stones, he recognized
them all.

What was this place?

Angel hurried forward only to find himself standing over his own grave
once again. He turned to walk away and was confronted with a closed
door, standing alone in the middle of the cemetery.

A man in his mid-thirties with disarrayed blond hair sat casually
leaning back against one of the tombstones surrounding the doorway.

“Is that the way out?” Angel asked.

“It’s one way,” the man answered opening crystalline blue eyes and
smiling up at Angel. “Possibly not the way you want.”

“What are you doing here?” Angel asked uncertainly.

“Enjoying the sun,” The man replied and for the first time Angel
realized he’d been walking unharmed through the sunlit cemetery for
what seemed to be an eternity.

“It hasn’t hurt either of us yet, so I’m not going to worry about it,”
the man… no, the other vampire said. “I like your representation of
this place better than my own, at least yours has grass.”

“You know where we are?” Angel asked.

“It’s the place where we choose, the place between life and death,” the
vampire said. “You can go through the door, to where-ever it leads, or
go back and live, but as a vampire again. Or for the first time, you’ll
actually be a vampire if you go back now, not one of the Failed.”

“What’s you’re purpose in all this?” Angel asked. “Guide? Gatekeeper?

The blond vampire grinned boyishly. “I’m not actually sure. When I was
in your place I thought the person I met was a gatekeeper. The first
time she was a lovely woman who begged me to crossover. The second time
our esteemed parent barred my way and told me I still had to make
amends in the world.”

“That doesn’t sound like LaCroix,” Angel commented.

“You’re right, he isn’t much of an advocate of redemption,” Nick said.
“It might be that our minds, our subconscious thoughts give form to
this place. Nat would tell you that this is all just a hallucination
brought on by the lack of blood to the brain. Something scientific and

“Except I’ve never met you, so why would my subconscious conjure you
up,” Angel said.

Nick shrugged. “Science can’t explain everything.”

“What would your lady say?” Angel asked good-humoredly remember the
Natalie Lambert’s journals had relieved that the doctor had possessed
little tolerance for Nick’s belief in the supernatural.

“What would yours say?” Nick replied lightly.

Angel smiled fondly. “My lady is not overly fond of science.
Particularly when it is encountered in the form of a quiz.”

Nick laughed softly.

“But you’re not a gatekeeper?” Angel asked returning to the subject at

“I don’t feel like a gatekeeper, more like an older brother,” Nick
said. “Someone who’s been here before, several times actually, and
might be able to offer advise.”

“Well I already know how you chose,” Angel said sitting down beside
Nick. “So I guess why would be the better question.”

Nick sighed. “I chose between death and vampirism six times, half of
those with regard to my own life. The first time I chose to go back not
knowing what I was going back to but afraid to go on.”

“I made a devil’s pact with LaCroix to keep him from offering this
choice to Fleur, my sweet, little Fleur. She was innocence and
sunshine, I couldn’t imagine her as anything else. No matter how well
intentioned, a vampire can never be innocent, not when we hunger for
human blood.”

“A few years ago I tried to unmake my original choice, I told you what

“Jenette, my lover and my sister as you are my brother, found mortality
and death and I forced her to face this choice again. With her I
couldn’t imagine her being dead anymore than I could imagine my mortal
sister as a vampire.”

“Finally Nat, my beloved Natalie, demanded that I either step fully
into her world or take her fully into mine. I failed to do either and
so I joined her in death.”

“Usually you need to go to more than one person for conflicting
advice,” Angel commented.

“I said I’d been here before, not that I knew what I was doing. I
haven’t much experience in giving advice or taking it either for that
matter,” Nick replied and to his own surprise Angel found himself
smiling in response.

“So what’s on the other side of the door?” Angel asked.

“For you? I honestly don’t know. Unlike myself, you don’t bare full
responsibility for your past. The demon may have taken form from what
you were in life, but it wasn’t exactly you. I envy you that.”

“It doesn’t wash the blood from my hands,” Angel said quietly.

“Then perhaps you should return. You’ve a destiny to fulfill and people
who would miss you. The door will always be here and they’re worried
for you.”

“That was pretty straight forward. Buffy would give you points for not
being cryptic,” Angel said. “But aren’t you breaking some sort of rule?
I thought messages from the PTB were required to be obscure.”

“Who said I was that?” Nick asked lightly. “I’m just a manifestation of
your subconscious remember? And since you always knew what you wanted
why should I confuse the matter?”

“A fairly independent manifestation,” Angel laughed. “Goodbye Nick, I’m
glad I met you. Say hello to Natalie for me.”

Nick’s eyes turned sad and serious. “Some promises can’t be kept. Death
was neither what I hoped for or what I feared.”


Angel’s dark eyes blinked, for a few seconds he just took in what had
happened. Then his gaze met LaCroix’s; relief was evident in the older
vampire’s expression.

“You turned me,” Angel said. “With Buffy’s blessing.”

“You were dying Mon Fils,” LaCroix replied.

“Oh,” Angel said, uncertainly. Then he glanced around himself. “How can
we explain…”

“Your sister and I will see that the good doctors see nothing untoward
about your sudden recovery,” LaCroix promised.


“So is it different?” Buffy asked absently, playing with a button on
Angel’s shirt as she reclined against his chest.

“Not entirely,” Angel answered. “There’s still the need for blood. If
anything that’s stronger now, more a part of me. It’s strange I never
realized how separate the demon was before. No standard of comparison I

“So this isn’t better?” Buffy asked.

“No, I wouldn’t say that,” Angel replied. “I feel more in control, more
whole, not soul and demon, just me. There is the blood lust; I am still
a vampire, but no demon. The hunger is a darkness in me, but it isn’t
the absolute evil that the demon was. I can live with this.”

The End