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Tragic Farce I: Better Off Dead

by Oni

     Subject: [glass_onion] Better Off Dead   - NC-17 -  part 1/4
     Date: Sunday, September 15, 2002 6:25 AM

     TRAGIC FARCE
     A COMEDY IN THREE PARTS

     Title: Better Off Dead (Tragic Farce, part 1)
     Author: Oni
     Rating: NC-17 Thar be rape, oodles of violence, sex, sex,
     sex and rude language here. People gonna die. Very dark to
     start. I promise it lightens up later on, but sensitive
     souls should probably go read something else. Still here?
     Enjoy.
     Content: C/A(us) primarily.
     Summary: Angelus gets loose and does major damage. The PTB
     call on Wesley to fix the situation.
     Spoilers: Up through BTS "Grave" and ATS "The Price"
     Disclaimer: They still don't belong to me, and I'm still not
     getting paid. Gosh darn it!
     Distribution: Just ask, I'm easy.
     Author's Notes: Set in the same universe as my fics "Now
     It's Dark", and "Cold and Clear" Where Cordelia had a one-
     night-stand with Angel right after he got the news about
     Buffy.  But they've moved past that.  Kinda, sorta... I've had
     to fiddle with  the timeline a bit - several months, rather
     than a few days pass between the events in "Sleep Tight" and
     "The Price"  There are two more stories planned in this
     series.
     Feedback: Yes please. wasabioni@hotmail.com 
     Website: http://wasabi-oni.populli.net/

Part One: Better Off Dead

Wesley rolled over and blinked blearily at the clock. 5:30 a.m. Bloody buggering hell. Who on earth would be knocking on his door at this hour? (Or at all.) It can't be Lilah. He kicked her out a little after 10, and while her pride is a highly flexible thing, he doubts she'd come back quite this soon.

Then again, his judgment of character and other things has hardly proved to be terribly reliable of late.

Still knocking. Whoever it is obviously isn't going away. And if he doesn't answer it soon that bitch in 107 will complain about him to the landlord again.

He yanked open the door and glared sleepily at the complete stranger standing on his doorstep. A pale little man with a comedic face, beady eyes, and a suit that could blind at twelve paces. Before Wesley can say a word he pushes past him and enters the apartment. Not a vampire then.

"Excuse me," Wesley grits. The little man stands looking around at the living room, making no attempt to hide is disgust at the state of it. Looking around, Wesley has to admit it is a complete tip, but he really hasn't been up to housekeeping these past few weeks. His visitor shakes his head and turns his attention back to Wesley.

"Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, right?" He sounds like an American, but not from this coast. "Sheesh. Musta been a helluva party. What the hell is that stink?"

"Who the hell are you?" Wesley growls.

The absurd little man turns and looks up at him, his face grim. "Bearer of bad news mostly. Name's Whistler."


"It's warm... it's very warm." Angel says. It really is. It's so warm that there are beads of moisture glistening on his face as well as hers. That's just wrong, a vampire sweating; it's even wronger that it makes him look so hot.

"Angel," someone croons with her voice. No way is it her, she'd never be irresponsible enough to let the moist heat clogging the room seep inside her, or lean towards him wetting her lips and deliberately giving him a good dose of cleavage.

Once, she slipped up one time and nearly ruined everything. Never again.

"Yes," he says. This can't be him, not Angel with that deeply sexy undercurrent in his voice. She can feel his dark eyes sliding over every inch of her skin like heated oil.

"Make love to me," It sounds like her voice, but it can't be her begging him to touch her, saying things to him she could never say, even if they were true, even if he felt the same, because ...

"Is that what you want?" he murmurs into her ear. "But you're afraid."

Yes she is afraid, she should be afraid; she shouldn't be here, her hands roaming over his chest, his shoulders, drowning her fear in his silken skin and the stone solid muscles underneath, in the feel of his hands on her and the taste of his mouth. "What if he finds us?" Because she knows he's close by, he's always there just waiting for his chance.

"I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid of anything." He pulls her close.

"This is wrong..."

He doesn't care. "Hush..." he whispers, and ends her protest with a kiss.

So wrong. To have Angel on top of her. To have him kiss her, again and again, to feel his hands everywhere. He kisses her neck, her collarbone, deft hands slip the straps of her dress over her shoulders, and down...

Impossible. They can't...it must be two other people, locked together on the couch under the flickering gaslight. Burning together, melting in the overcoming heat..

His cool mouth, leaving trails of heat on her bare belly...

No... oh no....

"Princess," Groo says reluctantly pulling his lips away from hers. She can see the love and devotion shining in his blue on blue eyes and she smiles, because he's perfect. Handsome and strong, and caring. He's warm, not cold; completely devoted to her, his princess. So what if he isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer? She can have Groo, and she'll never let him suspect that he's her consolation prize. Because she knows too well what that feels like.

"Wake up sleepyhead."

He sounds happy, she thinks.

She opens her eyes. He's standing next to the bed. His king-sized bed, with the expensive sheets that's really, really comfortable. That she remembers cuddling Connor on, so many nights. His bed, where they'd lain side by side (perfectly platonic, and she's tired of explaining that to Groo, tired of the wounded look in his all-blue eyes) offering each other silent comfort after Wes' betrayal and the loss of Connor. His bed, where she'd fallen asleep exhausted and alone last night after he'd disappeared, after hours of her mind being cursed with images of all the ways he could kill himself. But he's here now. Typical. She spends all night worrying about him, and he's fine.

"Angel," she says rubbing her eyes. "Where have you been? We were really worried..." She looks into his eyes.

Happy.

She's not sure what it is that gives him away, but she knows, even before he smiles. This isn't Angel. It's Angel's face, Angel's voice, Angel's body, but Angel's not home. Angelus grins.

"Hiya Cordy." She's never seen an uglier smile. "Missed me?"

She rolls off the other side of the bed but he's there to meet her and he tosses her back onto the bed. He crouches over her trapping her with his knees on either side of her hips his hands bracketing her head. When he lowers his face to hers and tries to kiss her she turns her face away, then reconsiders when she realizes she's exposed her throat to him. She freezes, realizing that she's got nothing but bad choices and he takes the opportunity to make a cold and brutal assault with lips and tongue that leaves her gagging and her mouth feeling bruised. He lets her go, and laughs.

"What's up darlin'? Kinda late to go all shy on me, not like we haven't done this before."

"I never had sex with you, asshole," she snaps. She manages to get her hands up between them and shoves at his chest, just for something to do. It has about as much effect as she thought it would. She'd probably have better luck towing Mt. Baldy with a Yugo. Angelus smirks and sits back, his weight immobilizing her legs.

"Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot it was Angel you spread for. Angel's hands, and Angel's mouth and Angel's cock filling you till you screamed." He runs his hands down his body, checks himself out. "Hmmm, all present and accounted for. So why don't we make sure everything's in working order?"

"Fuck off and die," she suggests. Angelus slaps her so hard her brain goes a little haywire. When the blurriness passes he's straddling her and her shirt's unbuttoned. He reaches over and squeezes her breasts left then right, like a shopper comparing cantaloupes.

"One of your best features." She yelps as he rips her bra off with a quick jerk. "You wouldn't believe how much time the wuss spent thinking about your tits. Baby, he had it bad." He shifts a little so he can unfasten her jeans. He slides a cold hand between her legs. "After the ballet? He couldn't get the taste of you out of his mouth; he spilled gallons of spunk in that shower thinking about you. Sent you off on that little honeymoon with the slug figuring he'd remove temptation. Cause y'know, wouldn't want to risk - let's see what was it? Oh yeah: me. Kinda ironic, huh." He stretches out on top of her, closes his cold mouth over her nipple and sucks ungently.

"It was just the ghosts, the possession. Not real," she mumbles trying to squirm away from him. He lets go her nipple, but keeping working his fingers deeper inside her.

"Nope. Hell, he even told the Powers. But hey, cheer up, it would never have worked out." He idly traces a line up her body from her navel to the pulsing artery in her neck. "You and me though, that's got real possibilities

She drags out a laugh from somewhere. "You and me. Yeah, right. Like I'd ever be interested in a creep like you. Aack." She gasps as his hand closes over her throat.

"Watch what you say to me, bitch, I'm not your puppy." He relaxes his grip so she can answer. She looks into his dark gaze and reads her future. It involves pain, a lot of it, and it ends with her ugly death. It's dj-fucking-vu all over again. Damned if she's going to be a wuss about it.

"Again, you and me?" she spat. "You: big, bullying, psychotic, not too bright, leather-obsessed fashion victim and all-around jerk. Me: so not interested. Lonely? Go find Miss Looney Tunes Drusilla. Maybe she wants you."

"Naughty girl. That was unkind." The fey voice comes from behind Angel's hulking form.

Oh. Shit. No.

"Hey baby." He rolls off Cordelia, which is good, except that it leaves her exposed to Drusilla. The vampire's mad eyes glitter like the water at the bottom of a drain as she settles on the bed. Same old Drusilla, pasty face and straggly hair and her Miss Gothick 1982 ensemble. Cordelia's too scared to move, caught between the two of them. Drusilla creeps closer, her fingernails hovering over Cordelia's eyes as her mouth twists into a pout.

"Daddy, she's a very rude little doll; throw the nasty thing away and play with me instead."

Angelus chuckles indulgently. "No, Dru. She just needs a little --guidance. We need to teach her, you and I."

"Oh, yes! Please! You be headmaster, and I'll be top girl!" Drusilla laughs and bounces on the bed.

"Do me a favor, and hold her for me Dru." Cordelia can't help letting a whimper slip out as she's jerked upright by her hair and held with her back pressed to Drusilla's bony chest. "Yeah. Just like that." Angelus nuzzles the length of her straining neck. He nibbles with human teeth, and pinches her nipples roughly. Right about now would be a good time for the cavalry, she thinks. Or if not, could he at least quit fooling around and just do it.

Unfortunately, Angelus is in no hurry. She jumps as he bites down just hard enough to break the skin with still human teeth. His tongue investigates the shallow scrapes with excruciating thoroughness. Drusilla shivers, and becomes agitated.

"Little brother's coming. Hurry, hurry, hurry, my Angel. We have to go and kill him." Sighing, Angelus lifts his head, wondering what she's on about this time.

"Dru, I'm busy right now. Why don't you... Hey, ever heard of knocking?" He jumps to his feet as the door slams open.

Cordelia's heart leaps as Groo charges in, looking every inch the Champion. He's beautiful, even wearing Angel's slightly too large castoffs. He charges with sword drawn. Angelus rushes to meet him, grabbing a sword from the collection on the wall. They meet and the clash and zing of metal fills the air as they go back and forth, blades flashing so fast she can't really see them, tearing up the room as they do Hong Kong moves on the walls, the ceiling, and the furniture. Drusilla's grip on her hair and the arm locked around her waist keep her from saying anything out loud. But in her head she's cheering him on: Go Groo! Kick his ass! Crazy Lady's mumbling to herself, she doesn't sound pleased by this development. Drusilla hisses venomously when Groo slashes Angelus across the chest and Cordelia winces as her sharp nails puncture her skin.

Without warning Drusilla throws her across the bed. The back of her head smacks into the headboard. She's lying there dazed when Gunn arrives. He looks at the duelists, and realizes that getting in the middle of all that supernatural speed and strength would be a bad idea. Then he makes eye contact and heads straight for her.

He lowers his weapon and reaches out to help her up. "Hey girl, let's get you outta here..."

"Gunn! Look out!" Cordelia screams as Drusilla pops up behind him. Gunn spins, bringing his axe up, but she blocks the blow with a bony arm, catches his wrist and twists brutally until he drops the ax. She grabs his throat with her other hand and lifts him off his feet.

"Hello pretty skin," she purrs.


Wesley stands before the dumpster, delaying the inevitable. He doesn't want to do this. Doesn't want to confirm his darkest fears, but it isn't as though he has any real choice. This too is his duty, for it seems his miserable purpose in life is to do the dirty and necessary jobs that no-one else will.

He takes a deep breath and lifts the lid.

She's so pale, her dark hair spread across the shiny black bags, her limp body devoid of the kinetic energy that made her Fred. Despite her twisted neck and the bloodless wound gaping in her throat she looks peaceful. He hopes to God it was quick, that she didn't suffer.

"He'll pay, Fred. I promise."

One last look, and then he's forced to leave her to the dark again. He'll need to move her before he calls the police.

Later, a little after sundown, Wesley watches Gunn emerge from the service entrance of the Hyperion into the side street. He's wearing the same grey pullover and jeans as always. He looks quite normal as he stops to stare up at the evening sky, apparently fascinated by the stars. It's only as he steps out of the hotel's shadow into the hazy orange street light that Wesley can see the dark splotches and stains, the ripped collar and the unmarked skin under it.

"Gunn," he says softly.

Gunn snaps back to earth. His expression is wary for a moment then he smiles. "Hey, Wes. You're back!" He walks toward him with a grin, just as if Wes hadn't told him the last time they'd met to never come near him again. He's all guileless smile and sparkling eyes; his hands are empty and open.

And that's quite close enough.

"Man, we can really use your help."

"No," Wesley says and fires. Gunn shrieks and drops to his knees as the taser darts scramble his nerves. Fighting the pain he struggles back to his feet, clawed hands reaching for his attacker. He goes down hard as the third and fourth darts hit. While he convulses on the ground, Wesley steps up to deliver the coup de grace with the baseball bat he's been holding behind him.

Angelus lifts his head, distracted by the scream of agony. Sounds like his fledgling has gotten himself into trouble. Too bad, the boy had potential but hey: easy come, easy go. He listens for a moment in case whoever had dusted Gunn was stupid enough to come inside, but there's only the sound of a car door slamming, the engine starting and then receding into the distance. Oh well. Another time maybe.

He lowers his head and continues where he left off. Cordelia groans and it makes him just that little bit harder. Damn, she's tasty.

"I'm hungry," Dru whines. She does that a lot. Whine and pout. It's starting to get on his nerves. On the other hand this wouldn't be nearly as much fun without her.

"Patience baby," he soothes. "You'll get your turn."


Fuck, his head hurts. It feels like his brains are leaking out of his nose and ears. What the hell had he been drinking last night? Every muscle in his body aches. Plus, he's hungrier than a motherfucker. He's starving.

"Open your eyes." He does and his mouth drops open at the sight of Wesley with a big black taser in one hand and a plastic bag in the other filled with something red. Damn that's a pretty color. The deepest, most intense red he's ever seen. Yearning, he leans forward - and can't reach it. Whatthefuck? He's chained to a wall with an iron belt kinda thing around his waist and manacles holding his wrists above his head. Where the hell is this anyway? Some kind of basement, he can see cinderblock walls and a rough concrete floor with a drain in it.

"Hey, Wes. This ain't funny," he growls.

Nausea surges in Wesley's throat at the sight of Gunn's features distorted by the demon inside him. By the demon that is him now. He can't afford to forget what it is he's really dealing with now. He keeps his face perfectly blank.

"Here." He steps closer, holding the bag up to Gunn's mouth. He's transfixed by the color, and the smell -- it reminds him of the best meal he ever ate. What the fu...

<Blink>

Huh? There's a taste in his mouth, salty and warm and good. He licks his lips. More. He needs more. Wesley tosses away the empty bag, and offers another. This time he's aware of biting into it and sucking down the warm contents. The blood. This is blood. Damn it's good. The bag's empty.

"More," he says. Something's wrong with his teeth, they don't seem to fit inside his mouth right. Then Wes offers another bag, and that smell wipes all other concerns from his brain.

Wesley feeds his prisoner. It takes four units before he stops gulping it, after another two he's drinking at a normal rate. Once a Watcher, always a Watcher, he can't help finding himself fascinated by the process, the slow return of Gunn's human face as the demon is satisfied. He's seen Angel drink his mugs of microwaved blood countless times, but this is entirely different. Primal. He knows he's seeing the true face of the beast. Gunn takes his time with the eighth bag and when Wes reaches for another, shakes his head, smiling. "Naw man, I'm good."

He feels really good, better than he remembers feeling in, shit - ever. His whole body tingles with warmth and a sense of power, like he could leap tall buildings with a single bound and kick Superman's ass. Not even Wes with that sour-lemon look on his face can dent his high. Even the being chained and the general freakiness are no big deal right now.

"Hey, Wes. Whassup? You gonna let me down anytime soon?" He giggles as he rattles his chains.

"Possibly. I need some information first. Is Cordelia in the hotel?" Ol' Wes looks about as grim as he's ever seen him. Looking damn skinny too, and apparently he don't shave regular anymore.

Gunn frowns, his high's starting to crash. "Don't know, I haven't seen her since..." His voice trails off as he tries to remember. Wesley feels uncomfortable sympathy with the confused vampire, but he doesn't have time for this.

"Wrong answer."

Gunn shrieks as the taser sparks against his chest. He snarls, rage filling him and flexes, testing the chains. "Shit! What was that for!"

"Is Cordelia in the hotel, alive?" Wesley calmly repeats the question.

"Yeah," he says surprising himself. How the hell does he know that?

"Anyone else?"

"This freaky chick, no tan, long dark hair, spacey eyes. She...aw shit." Gunn! Watch out! Cordelia screaming, trying to warn him. "She took me out."

"Drusilla," Wesley says, unsurprised. Gunn's eyes widen with comprehension.

"Drusilla. Darla's um, sire. Figures. She kept calling him Daddy."

"You have no need to feel bad about being defeated by Drusilla. She's quite mad, but her powers make her extremely dangerous. She's killed at least one Slayer."

"Tell me about it," Gunn sighs. Hello pretty skin.

"I need to know everything that happened. Start from the beginning." His tone is mild, but Gunn gets that good ol' Wes won't be unlocking any chains unless he does some talking.

"O.K. Me and Groo'd had just got back to the hotel. We'd been over in Venice, taking down this nest of demons."

"You and Groo? Where was Angel?"

"I forgot, you been out of touch. It's been a hard few weeks. Cordelia's still getting the visions but Angel ain't been in any shape to deal with them. He's pretty much stayed in his room since..." Suddenly neither man wants to look each other in the eye. "...y'know, the whole thing with Connor. Since she got back Cordelia's been spending most of her time up there with him, making sure he eats and doesn't take up sunbathing."

"So last night Cordelia wakes up and Angel's gone. We went out looking, but not a peep. And then she got a vision."

"We got back and no-one's around. I called out for Fred and when she didn't answer, I figured she was upstairs or something..." He stopped and took a ragged breath. Wesley wonders if the obviously painful confusion he reads in the vampire's eyes is real, or only an echo of the man who used to be his friend as he waits patiently for him to resume.

"Then Cordelia screamed. Groo was up those stairs like the Flash. I'm right after him, but by the time I got there Angel and Groo were whacking at each other with swords fighting going at it so fast I couldn't see a way to get in and help. Saw Cordelia lying on the bed, looking woozy, so I went over there and start to help her up..."

"And - like I already told you." Gunn obviously doesn't want to continue, but Wesley can't allow that. He needs to know everything.

"Tell me the rest." Wesley says.

"Shit. Woke up still in the room, tied to a chair. Getting kinda sick of that," he pulls absently at the chains. Wesley nervously eyes the staples he hastily fixed into the wall earlier today. "Drusilla had her arm around Cordelia's throat. Then Angel walks in..."

"Angelus," Wesley corrects him.

"Whatever." He doesn't want to think about this and if he can just get these damned chains off he'll rip those stitches out of English's throat and not have to deal with this shit.

Too damn late, the memories are already unreeling behind his eyes.

"Hey, Charles, how's it going?" Angel grins and strokes Cordelia's hair, she's tied up and gagged, and she looks scared. Gunn feels guilty. Cordelia's always come through for him and he'd fucked up when it was his turn.

"Motherfucker. I knew I shouldn't ever have trusted you."

Angelus gets off the bed. The punch makes Gunn's head ring and his vision shimmy. "Language, Charles. There are ladies present. Anyway, you shouldn't call me names when I'm about to do you a big favor." He gives Gunn a big toothy grin. "I'm gonna make you immortal."

Oh. Fuck no. Angelus chuckles at the realization on Gunn's face. The sound of Angelus' amusement clues him in about why Wes and Cordy were always a little nervous whenever Angel seemed a little too happy.

"No!"

"Oh yeah! Dru insists. She thinks you'll make a nice brother. And face it, how can I resist? The big bad vampire killer becoming a vampire. Can you say I-ro-ny? I knew you could!"

Gunn starts to fight the ropes, tries to unbalance the chair, anything. There's a scared kid screaming for help inside his head.

When Cordelia figured out what Angelus is planning, she goes a little nuts herself. She struggles against her captor's iron grip until Drusilla closes her pale fingers around her golden throat. "Sssh, Daddy's busy now," she whispers reprovingly into her ear.

Angelus moves behind him. Gunn can feel him standing there, like a wall of ice sucking all the warmth out of the air. He jumps when Angelus runs one cold finger down his sweaty neck. Then he leans over the back of the chair and drapes an arm companionably over Gunn's shoulders. He mouths the curve of Gunn's neck. "Mmmm. Salty.

"Y'know, son, when you wake up tomorrow night, you're gonna be really hungry. Maybe I'll leave Cordy here for you. What do you think?"

"Fuck you."

"Naw. Hey Dru, show our contestant the prize." He grabs the nape of Gunn's neck in a steely grip, squeezing so hard he can feel the bones grinding together so he has no choice but to watch as Drusilla rips the sad remnants of Cordelia's blouse off. Cordelia shudders as her nipples are circled by Drusilla's sharp-claws; tears start to stream down her cheeks.

He feels sorry for Cordelia, but all he can really focus on is the teeth scraping along his neck. Please, Lord Jesus, don't let him...

The teeth go in and the wave of pain wipes out everything else. Hurts. Fuck it hurts. And it goes on so long he starts to forget there'd ever been anything else but this long white streak of agony spreading from his throat to his entire body. He can feel himself being slowly fucking eaten. Oh man, he should've gone to church more often because God has got to be really pissed off at him to let this happen, and he's sorry and he'll be good if only He makes it stop now. Please God, please...

Then it does stop, but he's not dead. Pretty close though. He doesn't have the strength to hold his head up as Angelus turns the chair around so Gunn can see him, flushed and grinning.

"Damn! That's good!" he says smacking his lips. "Full bodied, robust, and lots of it. Want a taste Dru, before I finish him?"

"Yes please." Gunn gets one last glimpse of Cordelia's despairing face as Drusilla dumps her on the bed. Then his world is filled by Drusilla, who climbs into his lap. She's way heavier than her frail appearance would suggest and she reeks of jasmine, a putridly sweet scent he's always fucking hated. He's not going to look in her eyes. Not this time. She giggles.

"Pretty," she murmurs, then wrenches his head sideways and bites. The pain's not so bad this time, he's too cold to feel much. He lets himself go with it, spiraling down...

Suddenly she's gone. There's a crash and he opens his eyes, to find Drusilla lying on the other side of the room, right under a big new dent in the wall. She licks the blood off her lips. "More?" she wheedles.

"Greedy bitch," Angelus says fondly. "Nearly fucked up my fun."

"Daddy spank?" she asks hopefully.

"Later. Gotta finish up here first." Angelus slices open the palm of his hand and clamps the bleeding wound across Gunn's mouth. Gunn seals his lips, determined not to give in. Just got to hold on, a little longer. Don't give in. He can feel his heart starting to falter, his lungs feel like he's been running a marathon. Almost outta here. It's getting dark, he doesn't mind. Baby Jesus, here I come. The darkness closes over his head, and he's drifting down and away. Nothing hurts now. He's going to sleep...

...in the darkness something salty leaks past his lips, seeping into his mouth, and suddenly his mouth is so dry. He's dying of thirst. Or just dying. Part of his brain screams no, but, he can't help himself.

He swallows.


"Which one did it?" Wesley asks when it becomes obvious that Gunn isn't going to say any more.

"Angelus." Gunn's face has lapsed into demon again, yellow eyes seeping hatred.

Wesley hides his disappointment at the news. So much for his first choice. He'll have to go with plan B. "Ah."

"Sonofabitch thought it was real funny. Why don't you let me go so I can show him how funny I think it is?" He returns to human with an effort. "C'mon, you can't keep me here all night."

"First things first. Are you certain that Cordelia was alive when you left?"

"Yeah. I could sense her breathing, her heartbeat." Gunn stops himself before he gets to the blood, and the smell of her sex.

"Did you try to find her?"

"No. I knew they were both with her. No way were they gonna share..." He freezes, realizing what he just said. He waits for Wes to stake him cause he sure as hell would've. But Wesley doesn't react, doesn't seem to have noticed his slip.

"Did Angelus say anything about Sunnydale? The Slayer?"

"No."

Gunn is disturbed by how aware he is of Wesley's pulse jumping enticingly under the stubble. Is this what it was like for Angel? Is this what it's going to be like for him? Every time he looks at Fred is he going to be thinking about eating her?

Fred.

"Hey, where's Fred? She got out and called you, right?"

Wesley doesn't say anything.

"Wes, where's my girl?"

Wesley's mask cracks, his eyes aren't so much cold as barren. "I'm sorry Charles."

"No. Fuck. No. Not Fred. NO!" Losing his human aspect in the grip of all too human pain, Gunn lunges at Wesley and is brought up short by his bonds. Wesley is very glad he didn't follow the impulse to unchain him immediately after he'd fed. He stands well back, letting Gunn rant and curse until he runs down into dull acceptance and finally, silence.

"I'm going to kill that bastard!" He swears, yellow eyes damp. He hasn't noticed yet, but he's pulled one of the staples securing his chains halfway out of the wall. Wesley knows that time is running out.

"Yes, I agree. Angelus must die. And the man who set him free," Wesley agrees.

"You know who it was?" he growls.

"Yes. And I have a plan to deal with both of them."

"OK. I'm with that. Let's go. What are we waiting for?"

Wesley hesitates. This is the crux. He has to decide. Gunn has slipped back into his human face, but that means nothing. He knows he isn't really dealing with his former friend Gunn, or at least not just him. Vampires are demons. Vicious predators with no better angels to their natures. Gunn the vampire could, and very well might rip out his throat and go on his merry way, uncaring.

On the other hand, he can't do this alone, and the last thing he needs tonight is an angel.

Gunn stands perfectly still while Wesley unlocks the cuffs and steps back. Free, Gunn stretches. He's aware of Wesley's fear. It tugs at him, makes it hard to keep his focus. But he's gonna be strong and ignore it. He can do anything he has to in order to get the bastards who killed his girl. Fred. Oh man.

"Where is she?" Wesley doesn't have to ask who she is.

"I called the police - anonymously. She's at the city morgue."

"I want..." Gunn stops, because he doesn't really want to see her, he knows he'll need to eventually, but not right now. "...A funeral. I know we're broke, but... oh man, what about Roger and Trish?" He growls unhappily, hunching his shoulders against the pain. "Shit. Wes, how come I feel like this? I thought when you got vamped everything human...went. So how come I feel like my heart's been ripped out?" Wesley steps closer, reaches out a tentative hand, then thinks better of it.

"It's not something the Council advertises..." he says in that lecturing tone that about drove Gunn crazy when he was alive, but is surprisingly comforting now. "...but the fact is that vampires frequently retain human emotions -- unfortunately, generally the less admirable ones of anger, lust, jealousy, but occasionally the higher ones: love, loyalty, empathy, and devotion, persist as well." For a little while, he adds silently.

"So it's going to keep hurting like this?"

"Not forever," Wes promises. Gunn shakes his head and stands straight.

"Hope you've got more blood for me, cause I'm gonna need all the damn super-strength I can when we go to cut Cordelia loose. You have a plan?"

Wesley nods and pulls another two bags out of the hot box. "Yes. But we aren't going to the hotel."

Gunn pauses a millimeter away from biting into the bag. "What? Why not? What about Cordelia? Or do you figure she's already dead?"

"Gunn - no. I don't believe she's dead or turned. But all the two of us charging in there would accomplish is getting both of us killed."

"I can take him."

"No, you can't. Gunn, he's your sire. If we went to the hotel... you wouldn't be able to fight him, and if he asked you to kill me, you probably would."

"Bullshit."

Wesley sighed. "Think about what you'd like to do to Angelus. Cut off his head? Set him on fire? Shove a stake right through his black, withered heart? Tie him out to face the sunrise? Drain every drop of his blood and lock him in..."

"Stop!" Gunn's complexion has gone grey with horror. He shudders. "Shit."

"What's the matter, Gunn?"

"Hearing you say that, thinking about it was -- just bad. Like liver ice-cream, or you and Fred and me having a threesome. Times two."

Wesley pauses for a moment, disturbed by the imagery, then nods in agreement with Gunn's main point. "As I said: as your sire Angelus holds very real power over you. There's nothing we can do about that. I'm sorry."

"So what are we gonna do?"

"Deal with the person who's ultimately responsible for this mess, and make him pay."


She rises slowly to consciousness.

Where?

What?

Who?

Who is she? Cordelia, she's Cordelia Chase. Formerly of Sunnydale, and what the hell is going on? She's suspended in the midst of cool heavy flesh, her body penetrated forward and back and being moved between the two of them, back and forth and her mouth is open on smooth skin that tastes of blood and honey and sex and there are hands reaching round to caress and she's battered and tumbled by the waves of sensation moving through her body. Never felt anything like this before; it feels like heaven, like some drug that will leave her mad and lost. Soft breasts pressed against her back and hips grinding against her ass, whimpering with pleasure at each stroke deep inside her. In front an iron hard body thrusts into her, stretching and claiming her. Sparks run from each place of connection, filling her with light and she can feel her orgasm hovering over her like a huge wave. A soft snarl and the hint of teeth at the nape of her neck pushes her over and she screams, and thrashes as delight crashes down on her and rolls her under.

Surfacing, she remembers. Still being rocked by her partner's lusts, but her joy has drained away and left her stranded on the barren sands of reality.

It's Drusilla behind her, she knows the sound of her approaching crisis too well. Knows how the strap-on lodged inside her feels rubbing against her clit because she's had her turn, she'd knelt behind Drusilla riding each thrust of Angelus into his daughter's ass as she screamed from the pain and pleasure and Cordelia had shouted as she came...

Angelus slams into her so hard when he comes that he knocks the air out of her lungs. In that long, breathless minute she's vaguely aware of Drusilla squealing and clutching her tight in the throes of her orgasm.

After, both vampires collapse, temporarily sated, holding their toy between them. Cordelia lay silent and numb, feeling her living heat being leached away into dead flesh.

Her neck stings where they've bitten her over and over. She'd begged them not to stop. She feels lightheaded from blood loss, and with a little luck maybe she'll faint. Unconscious would be good. Anything not to remember the things they've done to her, together and separately. The things she's done, willingly, eagerly with them.

Drusilla nibbles playfully at the back of Cordelia's neck, then stops. "Oooh, Daddy, dolly's awake."

"Hmmm? Yeah?" He sits up and studies her face. "Hiya Cordy, welcome back. Hungry?"

She doesn't answer him.

"Didn't I tell you she'd be fun," he tells Drusilla.

"Oh yes. She was lovely. So sweet, and soft, and obliging. She tastes of blackberries. Mmmm."

"Yeah, Gotta say Cordelia - you were great." He savors every wince as his words hit home. "Really, you were quite a ride. Best I've had in years."

She closed her eyes. She doesn't want to see him, doesn't want to remember. Can't help remembering.

Cool skin and soft mouth and his cock in her mouth and she strains eagerly to take all of him in and when he comes she gulps it down like it was ice cream. Drusilla whimpers, and holds her in place with narrow iron thighs and all she wants is more, more, fingers and tongue and cock filling her and she's come so many times it hurts but it was like an itch, the more she scratched it the more she wanted...

Angelus chuckled. "Now, I could have forced you to do all those things --well most of them anyway -- with old-fashioned brute force but Dru's way is just so much more fun. Baby, if you could only see the look on your face right now - priceless."

He killed Gunn. She'd been forced to watch him be drained and then forced to drink. Gunn's a vampire and she doesn't know if she can stand to see him that way.

Groo. Poor Groo. Angelus proudly showed her his head, beautiful eyes gone dull with death and so much blood... He left it on the table for awhile, where it oversaw her degradation, but Drusilla complained about the smell and the flies. She doesn't know where it is now.

"So baby, you up for another round?"

Cordelia doesn't say anything. She closes her eyes and lets herself slip away into welcome darkness.

Angelus pokes at her once or twice, he's not surprised when he doesn't get a response.

"Angel?" Drusilla questions.

"Cordy's taking a little nap." He gets up and starts to get dressed. "You stay here and keep an eye on her darlin' while I go get us someone to eat."


Linwood checks his watch as he walks the short distance between the elevator and his executive parking space. It's almost 9 p.m. He sighs, remembering the 40 hour work week with a kind of sour nostalgia. Hard to believe he'd ever been young and unimportant enough to go home after only 8 hours service to the senior partners. He'd been married back then to his first wife Louise, a nave girl who'd married him for his money. He'd been quite fond of her, and regretted having to kill her when she figured out what had happened to the children.

His current wife, Marcie, is a far more suitable choice for him. She'd been an attorney; he'd met her at the firm. An ambitious, clever woman who might have made herself quite a career with Wolfram and Hart - but she'd decided instead to take the safer route of marrying him. In that way she got to enjoy the benefits of sin, without the very real risks climbing the career ladder at the firm would have entailed. She's everything a trophy wife ought to be: beautiful, socially adept, and it's quite soothing to not have to censor himself when he's with her. She's been there, done that, and dictated the memo re: Approved Disposal Procedures.

"Hello Linwood."

He recognizes the voice and the face despite the stubble and the grim look in his eyes. Mr. Wyndham-Pryce has certainly changed since Linwood took over the Special Projects division. Through surveillance cameras, Linwood has studied the man interacting with his colleagues in the Hyperion. Been played by him and had the satisfaction of knowing that he'd been played in turn by Sahjinn into stealing Angel's child. He's pored over the man's medical reports and the depositions of the eyewitnesses to Angel's murderous attack. And of course he receives regular reports on him from Lilah. She'd reported him missing from his apartment this morning.

"Wesley. I'm glad to see you."

"Really? How convenient, since I need to talk to you."

"Ah, well, you should have made an appointment. I'm afraid I don't have time right now." Linwood knows the importance of maintaining a calm and professional deportment when dealing with demons and other dangerous beings. He continues moving towards his car, pressing the button on his key ring to unlock it. There's a panic button on the dashboard if he can just reach it. "If you'll call my secretary in the morning, I'm sure..." He puts his hand on the door handle. The former Watcher places his hand firmly over his, stopping him.

"In a hurry Linwood?"

"Yes, as I said, call my secretary..."

"I'm afraid this matter is urgent. I need your help restoring Angel's soul." Deep breaths Linwood, never let them see you sweat. He smiles.

"Angel. Is that what this is about? Lost his soul again? Well, I'm afraid that's not my problem."

"I think it is," Wesley says calmly and nods, which is all the warning Linwood gets before he's shoved face first into his car. The person behind him holds him in place with one hand and no sign of effort, and whoever it is isn't breathing. Linwood's betting vampire.

"So, Linwood, shall we start again? Remembering that I know it was you who arranged for Angel to lose his soul."

Linwood smirks, he can't help it.

Of course he'd done it.

"They'd kill you before they'd kill me." The bastard had taunted him. The memory of sitting there in a pool of his own piss and hearing those words just before he made that call to Lilah haunted him. Because it was the truth. Angel is an "invaluable resource", whereas Linwood Murrow, even after all he's sacrificed for the firm: his children, his first wife, his soul - is eminently dispensable.

The memory is never going to fade, but it hurts a lot less now. He may have sold his soul, but he still has his pride.

If he'd arranged to have Angel dusted the senior partners would have eaten him alive, literally. He was not interested in dying any sooner than he has to; especially since judging from the meetings he's had with the late Holland Manners, afterlife as a fully-committed employee of Wolfram and Hart leaves pretty much everything to be desired.

Granted, the senior partners probably won't approve of his removing Angel's soul, but at least it isn't a 100% certain death sentence. 50/50, tops. Worth it. Because he can't let this go. Can't let that smug bastard terrorize and hurt him (two cracked ribs, multiple contusions, a black eye he had to call a firm healer in to fix...) and get away with it.

It was surprisingly easy to arrange. There were several Shamans in the LA metro area who were capable of doing the job. He picked the most highly recommended, paid a large sum of money, and hey presto! Angelus.

"Yeah, you got me: I confess: I did it." He raises his hands mockingly. "Take me away officers." He only has to stall a few more minutes. There's a security patrol scheduled every 10 minutes.

He's spun around and slammed against his car again. He's nose to nose with the vampire who's been holding him. The guy's in full demon-face so it takes him a moment to recognize him, street kid - Gunn, Charles Gunn. Angelus' work he bets. The guy looks pissed off. He wraps one hand around Linwood's throat and squeezes, cutting his air off inch by torturous inch.

Through the haze starting to blur his vision, Linwood hears Wesley's voice. "I suggest you watch what you say. Gunn isn't very happy with you. His girlfriend died last night."

"What do you want?" Linwood has to struggle to force the words past the cold fingers throttling him. Wesley sighs.

"Again: We want you to help restore Angel's soul."

"I don't know," he temporizes. Gunn growls, and Linwood feels the last of his airway being closed down. "O.K., O.K.," he rasps. He's been keeping his eyes fixed on Wesley. He's sure he knows who's really calling the shots here and he feels a certain satisfaction when, just as his lungs feel like they're going to explode, the Englishman nods and Gunn lets him go.

Linwood falls to his knees, gasping for air. Dammit. He's sick and tired of being mauled by the fucking undead. Well, at least he can have the satisfaction of having this one killed. Slowly, by preference. Right now though, breathing has priority.

He looks up to catch his two opponents trading a glance.

"It's going to be expensive." He warns them.

Gunn hits him in the face, he feels the crunch and through the nauseating pain he can tell his nose is broken. Wesley shakes his head at him sadly. "I'm afraid that's not our problem, is it Linwood? Whatever it costs, I'm sure you'll pay it."


The Asian kid in the booth looks up as Angelus enters the All-Nite Mart. He gives him a half smile before dropping his gaze back to the textbook he was reading. The kid knows him - well, the wuss really - from his late night shopping trips to pick up food for his human pets and emergency diaper runs for the brat. Come to think of it he should probably get something for Cordelia. It's been awhile since she ate and he doesn't want her fainting or anything. When he gets back he plans to do her again, rape her the old fashioned way this time with the traditional screaming and hopeless struggling. He's looking forward to using the chains. He grins. Going to be a party.

Now that Dru's influence has worn off Cordelia is dealing with a huge load of horror, disgust, and self-loathing. He can almost see her, lying there huddled in his bed, despairing, probably thinking she wants to die. Which is a crock. Give her a few hours rest, and yeah, something to eat, drink, and suddenly she'll be interested in living again.

One of the many things he finds endlessly amusing about humans is their blind, idiotic, drive to stay alive. It's why no-one ever successfully resists being turned. No matter how resolute their purpose, no matter how much they hate and despise vampires, when it comes down to it, when they get that taste of unlife in their mouth with its unspoken promise that they don't have to end, not right now anyway, possibly never, the primal urge to keep living takes over and they drink. They always drink.

He'd really wanted to turn Holtz. It doesn't get much funnier than turning a vampire-slayer into a vampire, and he really would've enjoyed being Holtz's sire. But Darla wouldn't hear of it. Didn't want anything as grizzled and unattractive as Holtz hanging around for decades offending her aesthetics. For a former whore she had a lot of damned pretensions.

Well, Darla's dust, this time for good, and he's damn well going to turn Cordelia. No way is he depriving himself of that face, that mouth, that incredible body. Her tits alone -- those perfect globes, with their large, highly sensitive nipples - shit, he could suck on them for days. Once she's turned he thinks maybe he'll put a nice big ring through each nipple, a smaller matching one through the hood of her clit, link them with a fine chain and make her into his little love puppet, make her dance. He stands a little closer to the shelf and adjusts himself. He needs to get back to the hotel ASAP. Damn shame to wash the taste of her out of his mouth with someone's else's blood, but he's worked up quite an appetite.

He walks around the store, picking up some soup, a carton of orange juice, and some candy bars for Cordelia, while he checks out what's on the menu. Pickings are kinda slim this time of night. The clerk's young and juicy, but he's safe behind three inches of plastic: too damn much trouble when he's after something quick and easy. There's a wizened alky in search of something cheap to go with his pint of vodka - not unless he really has to. A couple of towering, under-aged, teens are trying to work up the nerve to try and buy a 32 oz. They'd do, except that handling the two together might be tricky. A plump middle-aged woman, nervous about being out this late, in this neighborhood, buying milk and bread. Not exactly filet, but she'll have to do. Doesn't want to keep his girl waiting.

He pays for his shopping, and hurries out of the store, dumps the groceries in his car and then waits, hidden in the shadows at the side of the store. A few minutes later his target emerges and heads for her slightly dented Honda civic.

"Excuse me, miss?" The woman looks up at him apprehensively, then relaxes when she sees his face. Sure is handy being this pretty. He smiles. Almost in range. Couple more steps, and he can snap her neck, scoop her up before she falls and have her in his car before anyone is sure there's anything wrong. Then back to the hotel, share a quick snack with Dru and he can continue Cordelia's education. He wants her fully trained before he turns her. Not broken; he's had enough of that with Drusilla. The madness thing has definitely lost its entertainment value. Right now she's useful for keeping Cordelia under control, but once he's sired Cordy he's thinking it might be time to cut Dru loose. Or dust her. Whatever.

Just one more step.


It feels like it takes fucking forever to track down the guy they need. Gunn watched with growing uneasiness as the minutes ticked by and Wesley's ability to hide his nervousness started to fray at the edges. He's not feeling too great himself. Linwood's bleeding, and this thing inside him, the demon he guesses, won't give him any peace about it. It don't help that every time he looks at the lawyer he thinks about Fred and how he won't ever see her smile again. Even if she wasn't dead, he'd have lost her. She'd never want him like this.

He's just about to kill Linwood and fuck the plan when they locate a Shaman demon who Wesley feels confident is capable of the necessary spells. The amount of money the nervous heavily robed non-human demands stuns Gunn, but Wesley never blinked and after a momentary twitch Linwood arranged the transfer.

So, now there here, back in the basement of the old factory where Wesley had had his little talk with Gunn. The candles and incense are burning; the shaman stands in the center, eyes closed while he thinks. He's cradling a rough sphere of what looks like dull grey stone against his chest.

"Are you ready?" Wesley asks the shaman, who blinks his red eyes a little nervously before nodding.

It's showtime.

The shaman bows his head and raises his rock to eye level. His eyes glow, and suddenly he's a much more impressive being. He begins to chant in a language that sends slivers of electricity through Gunn's bones.

< Angelus, Ihre Seele wird zu Ihrem Krper, um heftig gezerrissenes gesprungen asunder nie wieder zu sein, hren mich Gtter meiner Leute, Energien der Schwrzung, Energien des Lichtes, lie seine Seele gesprungen warden... Angelus, Ihre Seele wird zu Ihrem Krper, um heftig gezerrissenes gesprungen asunder nie wieder zu sein, hren mich Gtter meiner Leute, Energien der Schwrzung, Energien des Lichtes, lie seine Seele gesprungen warden>

Gunn doesn't understand the words, but he can tell the shaman is repeating himself. As he chants the rock starts to glow, faintly at first, but the radiance grows, from dull gray to a warmer golden hue, growing brighter with each repetition of the incantation, till it shines like a misplaced sun, and Gunn flinches instinctively from the light. The shaman's words flow in a river of sound, commanding not begging in aural counterpart to the pulsing light.

The light flares and the words thunder and Gunn feels something move through and past him like a warm breeze, like a reminder of something he didn't know he'd been missing, and then it's quiet and dark again.

The shaman opens his eyes and nods.

"Is it done?" Wesley asks.

"Yes. His soul is restored, and bound."

"Good."


He's kissing asphalt again. Not for the first time, probably not for the last. Everything feels really distant and hazy. Like how he got here. Last thing he remembers was leaving the hotel because...well, that's kind of vague too.

"Cordy?" He knows she's somewhere near. He can smell her, almost taste her...

"Hey man, you O.K.?" He rolls over to find the two tall adolescents from the store peering down at him, concerned.

No he's not O.K. Where's Cordelia? He...

Cordelia. Oh God. She's alone at the hotel, with Dru.

The boys jump when the guy on the ground groans. They freak when he leaps to his feet and glares at them, and all three take a great sigh of relief when he ignores them and runs away into the night.

"Dude! Did you see his face?"


She's awake, and she's breathing. But all she really feels is -- numb. She doesn't care enough to even think about trying to escape. Though she seems to be alone right now. It's kinda funny that Wesley's the one person likely to survive the destruction of Angel Investigations. He picked a really good time to become a pariah. Even if Angelus goes after him, he'll be too much on guard to be caught easily.

"Thief!" Drusilla hisses.

"Huh?" Cordelia gapes at Drusilla who stands at the foot of the bed, naked and ugly as an albino cockroach. No trace of the little girl in her eyes, just the psycho killer. Shit. Suddenly dying doesn't seem such an attractive option.

"Trying to steal my Angel away. I won't let you! I'll eat you up and bury your bones in the garden and you won't be any more trouble." In a flash she's on top of Cordelia, pinning her arms down with bony fingers and her body as she brings her fangs down. Cordelia screams. With no whammy haze to dull the pain it feels like someone's shoved a broken bottle into her neck. She fights, twisting away, feeling the wounds rip wider. Drusilla clamps a hand onto her forehead to hold her still. She claws ineffectually at Drusilla with her free hand, kicking her legs desperately as she tries to shift the bitch's dead weight. Drusilla doesn't even react to her struggles. She murmurs contentedly to herself as she takes Cordelia's life in ladylike sips.

"Angelus!" Cordelia screams. When Drusilla freezes and lifts her head to look for him, Cordelia takes advantage of her lapse by getting her leg up between them and kneeing Drusilla as hard as she can in her gut. Drusilla grunts as she's kneed again and her grip slips a little. Cordelia shoves with her other leg and rolls both of them off the bed.

Drusilla lands on the bottom and the back of her head hits the thinly carpeted floor with a pleasantly solid thunk. Finally, she lets go. Cordelia scrambles to her feet. She puts her hand to her throat, there's blood, a lot of blood, dripping down the side of her neck and down her chest. She's got to get out of here. Get help. Get...

Drusilla tackles Cordelia from behind, wrapping her arms around her waist her nails jabbing into Cordelia's stomach like fishhooks. Cordelia staggers as Drusilla bites into the soft flesh just above her hip; moaning with pain she claws at the arms holding her until they bleed, but Drusilla hangs on. She tries to drag her dead weight toward the door but she doesn't have the strength. She sways and Drusilla holds her upright as she continues to feed.


"Er, excuse me," Linwood says in as deferential a tone as he can manage after being stuck in a chair for two goddamn hours. "We're done here, right? Angel has his soul back. Our business is concluded."

Wesley looks at him and nods curtly. Linwood lets the breath he hadn't known he was holding. He raises his cuffed hands.

"Great, good news, now if you'll just remove these..."

Gunn hits Linwood, knocking him out of the chair to land in a clumsy sprawl on the dirty concrete. The lawyer glares at him outraged.

"Hey! I did everything you asked. He's got his soul back, better than new! We're even!"

Wesley says nothing. The Shaman demon seems to shrink back into his hood.

Gunn kicks Linwood in the back. The lawyer's howl is cut off short by a kick to the belly. Fuck, that hurt, that felt like internal damage. Good thing the firm has that Healer on retainer... Gunn hauls him to his feet by his throat cutting off thought. Can't breathe, can't breathe...

"Let me go! We had a deal!" He tries desperately to make eye contact with Wesley, the Shaman, anyone but the creature holding him.

"Look at me," Gunn snarls. "We never had a deal."

"Help me!" Wesley doesn't answer. Gunn growls in satisfaction at the thick scent of fear dripping off the man. Fuck, that smells good.

"You got me killed, which is bad enough." Gunn shakes Linwood. "But mostly you're gonna die because you got Fred killed. Winifred Burkle. She was sweet and loving, and she didn't fucking deserve to die. So I'm gonna make you pay a little of what you owe, a down-payment on what's waiting for you in hell."

Linwood looks into Gunn's dark, angry, human, eyes, and panics.

"Wesley! Do something, please! We had a deal!" He hopes for a moment when the man finally makes eye contact.

"That you'd pay for restoring Angel's soul? Yes. Thank you for all your help Linwood." And Wesley deliberately turns his back on Linwood.

"Look at me," Gunn says.

Linwood screams for a long time.


The doorframe splinters when he slams it open.

"Get away from her," Angel's voice is raw and deadly. Drusilla lifts her gory face and he can see the evil calculus going on behind those yellow eyes. She opens her mouth to taunt or beg or seduce him, and he doesn't care, he doesn't have time for this.

She makes a horrible gagging sound when the shard of wood he throws enters her mouth, pierces her tongue, the back of her throat, and lodges in her skull. She lets Cordelia go and Angel's there to catch her before she can fall.

"Cordy?" he whispers. Her normally warm complexion has turned that chalky color he's so familiar with. The smell of her blood makes the hairs rise on the nape of his neck, he clamps his hand over the wound in her throat, compressing it, but he can feel damp warmth spreading on her side as well. She needs a doctor, right now. Drusilla still lies on the floor, writhing in agony as she tries to remove the skewer. Angel kicks her out of his way and then forgets about her. He adjusts his hold on Cordelia slightly, and runs.

It's 10 blocks from the Hyperion to L.A. General. Even this time of night there are people out, but the ones that see him hesitate to accept the witness of their eyes -- a man running so fast he blurs, carrying a naked and bloody woman - until he's past and they can pretend they never saw anything at all.


The smell of blood hangs in the air. Linwood is finally dead but Gunn holds him upright against the wall, his face buried in the dead man's throat. Feeding. There can't be much left in him, but Gunn seems determined to get every last drop.

The shaman closed his eyes as soon as the screaming began and hasn't opened them since. He jumps when Wesley taps him gently on the shoulder.

"Now," Wesley says. The shaman nods and begins to chant.

Even lost in the intoxication of feeding and revenge Gunn hears the low, insistent drone of the shaman chanting. He ignores it. He kneads the dead flesh, feeling the broken bones slide under the skin as he tries to coax a few more drops out of his prey. He wishes it could have lasted longer, almost wishes he hadn't killed him, because the taste of fear in fresh warm blood is the best thing he's ever had.

The demon starts to grumble, then screech as the chanting increases. Kill him, stop him! it howls, and Gunn lifts his head and lets the corpse tumble to the floor. He feels the chanting like a dull hammer pounding in his skull, and a crawling electrical sensation inside his bones. It's warm and seductive, painful and irritating at the same time. The demon is in a panic. Killkillkillkillkilll - stop it. Stop them. He moves toward the shaman and Wesley, unsure of his intent. The words roll like thunder through him. His face shifts as the demon takes control. The light from the stone sphere is searing. He snarls. He doesn't want this. He wants...killing and blood and freedom. The shaman and Wesley are going to take it away from him. Killhimkillhimkillhim.

Light flares from the sphere in a slow wave that ripples through the room and passes through the walls like they were no more solid than smoke. Gunn groans as light flares in his eyes. He drops to his knees beside what's left of Linwood Murrow.

Blood. Linwood's blood. He's kneeling in it. More on the dead man's ravaged throat, spoiling the Armani, mixing with the dark patch at his crotch. Blood on his hands, on his teeth, in his belly. A moment ago it was ambrosia, now the taste of it curdles in his mouth.

"Oh fuck, fuck, no..." Wesley watches, struggling to maintain his detachment as Gunn heaves, desperately trying to expel the lawyer's blood. He fails; the vampire has priorities that trump his shiny new soul.

"You don't look well. I'll go along to the hotel. You follow when you're feeling better."


"Hello?" Wesley's voice dies away unanswered and the hotel falls back into silence. He hurries across the lobby, eager to escape the sound of his footsteps echoing off the marble floor. He notices a whiff of corruption coming from the office, but he doesn't investigate. He's done enough, he's almost finished.

He takes the elevator to the third floor, Angel's floor. He sees the shattered door - no need to knock then. Still, nothing stirs but himself. He steps inside.

"Cordelia?"

The bed with its stained and rumpled sheets seems to glower at him accusingly. Sticky dark splotches of blood mark the carpet.

A tattered scrap of cloth that used to be a top he remembers Cordelia wearing.

He'd been so sure. Angel loved her and Angelus couldn't help but be obsessed with her, as with Buffy. He been quite certain he wouldn't kill her. Not immediately. Not before he could save her.

"Oh god, Cordelia," he whispers.

"Wesley, what are you doing here?" Lorne's voice snaps at his back. The demon's voice has an edge that Wesley hasn't heard since Pylea, and his expression is unforgiving. "And what do you know about what happened here?"

"More than I want. Angelus got loose. I've dealt with the situation." He says calmly. "But there are a few things you need to know, about Angel...and Gunn."

Lorne's anger abruptly collapses as he gets a premonition of what he's about to hear. "I'm not going to like any of this, am I?"

Wesley shakes his head. "No."

Just as he's about to start, Lorne's cell phone rings.

"Hello? Angel?" Wesley deliberately avoids eavesdropping. He studies the backs of his hands with deep concentration until Lorne hangs up. He looks Lorne in the eye. The demon looks grim.

"That was Angel. He's at L.A. General. Cordelia's going to live."

Oh thank God. He can feel Lorne's red eyes on him, reading him.

"Wesley. I think you'd better finish telling me your story. It's getting close to dawn, Angel'll be back here pretty soon. And you'd better not be."

"Yes. You're probably right. "


"So what happened to the plan Wes?" Whistler blocks his path as he leaves the hotel grounds. The little demon is obviously angry. "You were supposed to contact Gunn's crew, come back here and rescue Cordelia. Right away, as in this morning when I talked to you. Instead you go all Lone Revenger on me."

Wesley stares coldly at the Power's messenger. "Ah yes. The plan. Tell me, how many of Gunn's friends would have been killed if I'd followed your plan? And once they found out Gunn was dead, I don't think they'd just let Angelus go. Or Gunn."

Whistler shows his not-quite-human teeth. "Angel - wasn't the priority. The Seer..."

Wesley raises an eyebrow. "So all the PTB care about is Cordelia nowadays? Interesting that Angel's no longer their golden boy. You wouldn't like to tell me why that is I suppose?"

"Need to know, Watcher. And you don't."

"Fine. Well, I've dealt with the situation as well as I could. "

"And I knew Angelus wouldn't kill Cordelia."

"You weren't so sure a moment ago."

"No, I wasn't. But unlike you and the powers that you work for, I actually care. You came to me, to pull your chestnuts out of the fire. It might have helped if you'd warned them of what was coming, or called me a little earlier, say before Angelus murdered Fred and Gunn and the Groosalugg." To his credit, Whistler does look a little embarrassed at that.

"We didn't know. Kinda into the big picture, they tend to miss the details."

"Details." Wesley says. "Details." He's shaking. He has a gun tucked into the small of his back and he seriously considers using it. "Get out of my way, and don't ever come near me again," he snarls. Whistler looks into his eyes, and moves.


Angel hates hospitals. The quiet air of desperation, the constant undertone of pain, and the distracting scent of blood.

Cordelia's blood, on his hands.

He doesn't remember what he told them about how Cordelia got hurt. Must have been a good story because he detects no suspicion or censure from the doctor who came to reassure him that his friend had needed a lot of blood but she's stable now, she'll be fine, she's in Room 401. Visiting hours are normally 9:30 to 5:00 p.m., but if he'd like to see her, just be discreet.

He can't do it. Can't stand to see her pale and battered. Not while the memory of his hands inflicting each wound, and the pleasure he'd taken from plundering her body, is sharp and clear in his mind. Not while her blood is still running in his veins.

Lorne slides into the seat beside him. "Hey Angelcakes. Have you seen her yet?"

"No. I can't Lorne." He looks into his friend's kind red eyes searching for understanding. Lorne shakes his eyes.

"She's going to want to see you sweetie, trust me. And you need to see her, and know she'll be O.K. And then you need to get out of here before the sun comes shining through those great big windows over there."

"Why? What's the point Lorne? I keep thinking I'm on the right path, and then... Anyone who gets close to me ends up hurt or dead. Connor was just a baby, an innocent, and he's dead because of what I did all those years ago. Cordelia - my best friend who I raped and nearly killed. It'd be best if I just ended it now."

"No, Angel. It'd be easier for you is all. Coming back from this is going to be hard. It's going to hurt, and I can't promise Cordelia will ever be able to look at you the same way as before. But you have to try. You're her Champion: act like it."


Home again, home again. Wesley thinks as he walks up the stairs to his apartment. There's a half-bottle of scotch in the kitchen. He'll have to go out tomorrow and restock. Or perhaps Lilah will oblige.

His hand shakes as he tries to fit the key into the lock. He's exhausted. It's been a very long day. Something flickers in his peripheral vision and he turns to find he has a visitor.

Drusilla.

She wavers, as if uncertain of her intent and for a moment he thinks he might just make it, turn the key, twist the knob and throw himself through the doorway before - she moves quicker than his tired eyes can follow and she's suddenly pressed up against him, holding his face between her small hands and looking up at him with a grave but somehow innocent expression.

"Drusilla," he rasps. Her eyes are dark, bottomless. It would be so very easy to lose himself in them. It's a possibility he finds himself giving serious consideration to.

"Watcher. I didn't see you until it was too late," she comments. "Daddy's gone, and Grandmother's gone and my Spike's gone, and I'm all alone in the garden. We're both alone."

He can't argue with truth. "Yes."

"Mmmm." Her eyes gleam. "All alone in the dark. What will you taste of I wonder? My Spike tasted of ashes and now he's gone forever."

"I'm sorry to hear about that," he says as she seems to expect an answer.

"Hush baby bunting, Daddy's gone a hunting -- but he'll be home soon, bright and terrible boy." Wesley stifles a sigh and wonders how Spike stood the endless stream of non-sequiturs.

"What do you want Drusilla." He winces as her nails dig into his face. A polite reminder.

"Rude, we haven't been introduced. Very rude, to keep me on the doorstep, like this. You ought at least to invite me in dearie."

He shrugs, yielding to the inevitable. "Come in Drusilla," he says and opens the door, gallantly motioning her in ahead of him.

"Thank you." She minces across the threshold.

He has the distinct impression that she is no more impressed with his apartment than Whistler had been, but ladylike, she says nothing. She settles on the couch, regal amidst the sagging cushions and empty pizza boxes. He watches her warily.

"Come sit with me." He's much too tired to argue. He sits beside her and doesn't protest when she pulls him close, nestling her head against his chest. The silence of her seems to still all the random noises of late night, cars and crickets and the nervous hammer of his pulse.

"Sssh," she whispers. "It will all come right in the end." She twists her head to look into his eyes. "I can be her for you now if you like."

And it's her, dark eyes and delicate features, almost ethereal in his arms, but not. Her mouth sensual and soft with a slight tang of chili. "Fred," he whispers.

"Wesley," she moans. And it's Fred's sweet drawl, and Fred's delicate body as he's imagined it in his arms and her lovely sparkling eyes...

"No." He says harshly pulling away. Drusilla stares up at him, her mouth wet from his kisses. He stares at her stark white face and dead, dreaming, eyes. There's the taste of old blood in his mouth. "Don't be her. Be you. Be Drusilla for me." He puts a hand over a cool breast as he bends down to kiss her tepid mouth. She'll probably kill him, and he probably ought to worry more about that, but right now he can't bring himself to care.

END Better Off Dead


Coming soon(ish): Brand New Way

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