Buffy sat in Angel's office on the phone with Willow. "I hate leaving you guys with everything going on up there…."
"It's ok, Buffy." Willow said. "They need you. We've got things covered down here. If anything goes wonky, we'll call you. Just…. Focus on getting Angel back and stopping that Beast guy."
"That's the plan. Wesley, Cordy, and Connor are going to talk to the shaman to see if he can track Angel's soul."
"Anything I can do to help?"
"Right now? Just…. Make sure Dawn is ok. I'll keep you updated on stuff down here. If we need you…."
"I'll be ready to help."
"Buffy? Stay safe."
"I'll try." Buffy hung up and heard Angelus on the monitor.
"Awfully quiet up there." He was saying. "I've had time to think, and I've realized something important. Being evil is wrong. I want to be good. I want to be Angel again. You hear me? I'm ready!"
Gunn, who was standing with Fred in front of the monitor, tested his flamethrower he'd just spent the last ten minutes refueling. "I'm ready too, fang boy."
"We all are." Buffy said, walking out of the office to join them.
"He knows, doesn't he?" Fred asked. "That his soul's missing?"
"He knew before we did."
"I hope that shaman can help us."
"That shaman should never have been brought here." Gunn said. "Now, instead of just worrying about the big bad Rocky, we got Darth Vampire living in the basement."
"Bringing Angelus out was our best chance."
"That you talking, or Wes?"
"You were pushing for it too, Charles."
"Then maybe I did the wrong thing."
Buffy shook her head and headed up to Angel's room. She'd decided to stay in his room while she was here since it was already made and because she wanted to torture herself, apparently. As if Angelus being back wasn't torture enough. The dream/vision thing the shaman had sucked her into had brought forth some feelings she usually kept buried incredibly deep within herself when it came to Angel. Surrounding herself with him definitely wasn't the greatest idea, but she just wanted to feel him again.
Buffy laid down on the bed and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, letting in Angel's scent. It was the same as it always had been: A forest after a spring rain. She never had figured out why he smelled like that, but she loved his smell. With the smell came the memory of the fantasy.
Angel's hands holding her firmly against him.
His mouth and tongue making her breasts tingle.
The feel of him moving inside her.
His teeth grazing the scar on her neck, making her shudder all the way down into her bones.
The complete love with which he looked at her.
The look of horror on his face when his soul began to leave him.
Buffy shot up and looked around the darkened room. She didn't know how much time had passed. With the sun gone, the only way to tell was by looking at a clock. Which Angel didn't have for some reason. There was a knock at the door. She shook her head and got out of bed, going to answer the door.
Connor was on the other side. "Did I wake you up?"
"No." Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. "Did you get the shaman?"
"No. He wasn't any help. We've got an even bigger problem. Lilah from Wolfram and Hart was in the basement with Angelus."
"I don't know. Wesley went after her."
"Still locked in his cage. Gunn shot him with a tranquilizer."
Buffy moved past Connor and headed downstairs. He followed close behind. Gunn, Fred, and Cordelia were down in the basement. "Lilah or not, something is doing the Beast's dirty work." Gunn was saying.
"It would explain how giant lava boy could tiptoe past us to take out Manny." Cordelia said.
"And butcher that family, those priestesses." Connor said, walking down the stairs with Buffy.
"Even though Lilah's evil, I don't see her hacking up all those people." Fred said.
"I have a theory." Buffy said. Everyone's attentions diverted to her and she shrugged as if the theory were completely obvious. Which it should be. "The Beast doesn't have minions. It is the minion?"
"It can't be." Fred said. "We've seen what it can do."
"Morons." Angelus said. "Why is it the blonde is the only one with a brain in this place?"
"Buff's right. The big rock doesn't have minions. It is the minion. And all that stuff you've seen? Just the warm-up act."
"What are you saying?" Cordelia asked.
"I'm saying there's something bigger. Something worse. The Beast has a boss."
"Worse than the Beast?" Gunn asked.
"That's…. that's not possible."
"It's entirely possible." Buffy said.
"How do you know there's something worse than the Beast?" Connor asked.
"Probably because I'm in the middle of a war with the First Evil. I don't think it gets worse than that."
"Before that…. You said…."
"Oh. Right. Well, from what Angelus said, actually." She looked at Angelus and he nodded.
"The Beast I knew was big into smash and slaughter." Angelus said. "Had the brawn to be really good at it too, but the big picture? Not his strong point. But whoa! Flash forward. Now he's all rain of fire, destroying the Ra-Tet, blotting out the sun. Big moves for a guy whose head is made out of rock."
"Maybe he got smarter." Cordelia said. Buffy looked at her for a moment and then back at Angelus before Cordelia could notice her gaze.
"And maybe I'll sprout some wings and flutter away."
"My apocalypse back home and this one could actually be connected. The First is great at pulling strings and using minions to do its heavy lifting. Bringers, Turok-Hans, Spike…. The Beast could just be another one of its puppets."
"Ooh, don't know about you, but I'm just dying to find out."
"Ok, everyone upstairs." Buffy said, rolling her eyes at Angelus. "Let's leave tall, dark, and evil pacing in his cage." Everyone filed upstairs except for Buffy. She and Angelus were having a staring contest.
Connor noticed and stepped between Buffy and Angelus. "Are you ok?" He asked her.
"Maybe you should stay down here and guard me." Angelus suggested.
"You don't have to." Connor said to her. "We've got the monitor."
"Don't tell me you have a crush on my Slayer." Angelus rolled his eyes. "As if banging Cordelia wasn't bad enough."
Connor glared at Angelus, but Buffy pushed him up the stairs and out the door. They made it into the lobby just as Wesley and Lilah walked in through the front doors.
"What, no cake?" Lilah asked.
"Where is it?" Fred demanded.
"Where is what?"
"Angel's soul." Cordelia said.
"Oh, that what."
"She didn't take it." Wesley said.
"How do you know?" Connor asked.
"Because she told me."
"And you believe her?" Gunn asked. "Lying's her job."
"He's got a point." Lilah said as she opened her coat and turned around, revealing a deep stab wound. "You wanna search me?"
"What happened?" Buffy asked.
"She was injured in an attack by the Beast on Wolfram and Hart." Wesley said.
Lilah's eyes locked on Buffy. "Well, well, well. This is a surprise. Angel's favorite Slayer is in the mix. I should've guessed they would call you in if Angelus was on the outside."
"What were you doing downstairs with him?"
"She was gathering intel." Wesley said.
Buffy's eyes didn't leave Lilah's. "I didn't ask you, Wesley."
"You don't like me, do you cupcake?" Lilah asked.
"No. I don't. I've been told enough about you to know that you're worse than Angelus."
"I don't get off on killing people."
"I find that very hard to believe."
"I'm with Buffy." Gunn said. "Lilah's the only one to make it out of Wolfram and Hart alive, then she shows up right after Angel's soul goes missing. That doesn't add up to anything good."
"I've already told you, she didn't have anything to do with that." Wesley said.
"Maybe she knows who did." Connor said, stepping up beside Buffy. Buffy didn't miss the glare Cordelia shot their way. She didn't have time to analyze its meaning, though.
"Or who's controlling the Beast." Fred added.
"Controlling?" Lilah asked.
"The Beast is being controlled." Buffy said. "Know anything about that?"
"Are you certain?" Wesley asked.
"I've seen enough apocalypses to know a minion when I see one."
"You haven't seen the Beast, though." Lilah said. "Not that I'm aware of."
"That's a long story." Wesley said. He walked up to Buffy. "That's what he's been trying to hide. There might be something in the text we…."
"Text?" Cordelia asked.
Wesley held up a book. "Lilah found a passage in Rhinehardt's Compendium."
"But we searched that already." Fred insisted. "There's nothing in there."
"Because all references to the Beast have been erased in this dimension."
"I got my copy of Rhinehardt's way out of town." Lilah said. "I'm surprised you didn't think of that."
"That's why Angel didn't remember the Beast." Buffy said. "His memory was wiped like the book was."
"Why does Angelus remember?" Connor asked.
"He was locked in his cage behind Angel's soul when the spell was cast."
Wesley walked up to Fred. "We should compare this passage with the information Wolfram and Hart extracted from Lorne. There might be…."
Gunn grabbed the flamethrower. "Yeah, have fun with that."
"Charles…." Fred started.
"Somebody needs to be downstairs, make sure nobody else tries to intel our boy." Gunn said.
"It won't be you." Buffy said.
"Gunn, you're extremely emotional right now and that makes you extremely vulnerable to Angelus. Trust me, you do not want to be alone with him in your state. Just…. Go cool off somewhere. Get your head in check." Gunn glared at her, but set down the flamethrower and walked off. "I'll go play guard dog. You guys figure out what's coming, if it's connected to the First, and how to get Angel back before it gets here."
Connor started to follow her. "I'll come with."
"No. I'm best equipped to deal with him." She laid her hand on his bicep and noticed Cordelia side-eyeing her. "Besides, your dad wouldn't want you spending any more time with Angelus than you have to."
"I think he would feel that way about you, too."
"Probably. But I was never a good listener." Buffy smiled at Wesley as she heard him give a snort. She squeezed Connor's arm and headed down to the basement.
Angelus watched her from the shadows, enjoying the way her muscles moved under her skin. "I'm curious, Buff, is it because you're not quite right anymore that you've screwed Spike and that you're down here with me, or have you just finally accepted that you belong in the dark with the rest of us demons?"
Buffy calmly sat down on the bottom stair and looked over at him. "No one else deserves your torture."
"Interesting wording. You think you deserve torture?"
"Don't I? I let Angelus out. They didn't know what they were asking when they agreed to bring in that shaman. I knew exactly what I was doing in that fantasy. You're here because of me."
"You're taking too much credit. Pretty sure that shaman would've yanked my soul out one way or another. It probably would've been with Cordelia if it wasn't you." Angelus shuddered. "I'm happy it was you."
"Because you're mine. Cordelia means nothing to me."
"And I actually mean something to you?" She scoffed and shook her head. "You hate me."
"If I hated you, why would I mark you?"
"You tell me."
"I tried every way I knew to get rid of you in Sunnydale. But you never succumbed to me. Always fought back with everything you were. Eventually it became a fun game just to see what kind of rise I could get out of you."
"And that's why you tried to end the world?"
Angelus shrugged. "I was impulsive."
"You call trying to suck the world into hell impulsive?"
"I've had time to think since our stint together in Sunnydale. Angel killed my sire and then she killed herself for the walking disappointment of my loins. I would much rather have someone at my side that's not so easily…. Disposed of."
"Well, I'm definitely not easily disposed of even when I'm looking to be disposed of, but I'm not really looking to be at your side. In case you forgot, you're still my enemy."
Angelus smirked. "When has the great Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever wanted to be disposed of?"
Buffy looked up at him. "No."
"You seem to forget that I'm pretty much the only person in Angel's life that can distinguish between him and you. I'm not talking to you about that. You'll just use it against me."
"Fine. Have it your way. You owe me two hours. While the idiots are running around trying to distinguish their asses from their elbows, you come in here and make good on your deal." He watched her contemplate what he was saying. "Come on, Buff. You know I'm a better ride than old Spikey."
"You're one to talk about old." She stood up and walked up to the bars, ignoring the red line. "What's your angle?"
He moved his face as close to hers as possible through the bars and chuckled. "I doubt that you forgot my angle is just slightly upward and hits exactly where you like it." His hand ran up her hip and began to move up under her shirt.
"Why do you want me?"
"There's no one like you. Why wouldn't I want you?"
"Because we're mortal enemies. And while you share his body…." Buffy pushed Angelus back and stepped behind the red line. "You're not Angel."
He didn't seem fazed by the rejection. "I can taste the darkness in you, baby. Tell me truthfully: why did you screw Captain Peroxide? I know why he did it. The idiot has been disgustingly obsessed with you for years."
"And you weren't?"
He shrugged. "I don't want to shower you with hearts and flowers like that dunce. I just want to make you mine in every way possible."
"I'll never be yours."
"Really? That mark says differently."
"This is Angel's mark."
"I told you, he doesn't have the balls to leave a mark on that perfect body of yours. He didn't even have the balls to stay with you."
"He was trying to avoid you coming back out to play."
"Do you really think that he wouldn't be able to be with you?" Angelus chuckled. "There's plenty of ways to have fun with you without losing his soul. Plenty of ways for you both to get off without risking me. He knew that. He just denied himself because we all know how much he loves flogging himself." Buffy didn't say anything as she leaned against the wall. "You know, he could've gone out and found a cure to his little loophole. Kept me at bay forever."
"There is no cure."
He watched her for a long moment, trying gauge the thoughts rushing in her mind and almost clearly legible on her face. "I'm sure there's one out there somewhere. And you believe it, too."
Angelus rolled his eyes. "What about him?"
"He has his soul now. I don't know how…. He's never actually told me beyond saying he fought for it in some kind of demon trials."
"Of course he got a soul. Little freak has always tried to be me. Guess he figured getting a soul was the only way to get back in your pants. Just proves my point, though. Angel didn't search for a loophole cure because he loves his soul more than you."
"Do you honestly think he didn't try? I've seen all the books in his little collection upstairs."
"Come on, Buff. I'm in here all the time, just under the surface, and I can assure you the thought of closing that loophole and being with you scared him. Dumbass believes he has to suffer every minute of every day and he knows for certain that he wouldn't suffer with you around. In fact, he knows firsthand what it's like to spend a whole day in bed with you."
He covered his mouth and feigned shock. "Whoops. Said too much."
"You said exactly what you meant to say."
She watched the grin spread across his face. "You got me." Buffy rolled her eyes and turned to head up the stairs. "That time you came out here after Thanksgiving all hurt and angry that he'd shown up and skulked around behind your back…." She stopped and turned to look at Angelus expectantly. "He was human for a whole 24 hours."
"I don't believe you."
"You don't? Then walk up those stairs." She didn't move and he smirked. "That demon that jumped through the window…."
"He killed it."
"And you questioned how he knew how to kill it. Like you knew something was up."
"I just assumed he'd faced one before."
"He had. You both had. You just don't remember because he had the day reversed. He…. And me…. Are the only ones who remember that day." He hummed with pleasure. "And what a day it was! I loved how you licked ice cream off my chest." Buffy had a flash of a memory of a dream she'd once had about her and Angel eating ice cream in bed. He had dripped some on his chest and complained about coordination, but she had instantly silenced him by showing him how fun melting ice cream could be. It was just a dream, though.
Fred rushed down the stairs suddenly with Wesley not far behind her, making both Buffy and Angelus look at them sharply. "Cordelia had a vision." Fred said to Buffy. "She knows how to put his soul back."
"I guess the Powers saw how bad you guys suck." Angelus said.
"Doing better than you!"
"Fred…." Buffy started.
"Ooh, she really has put on spunk, huh, Wes. Not the same, shy, bitchcow we pulled out of Pylea." Angelus taunted.
"There's only one bitch here and I'm looking at him." Fred snapped.
"Oh, come on, we all know it's for the best. Now you can go for the real prize." Angelus moved closer to Wesley. "Mmm…. Man, I'm telling ya, if I swung that way…. Look at him…. All rugged and handsome and brains…. He's damn-near perfect."
"Thank you." Wesley said, ushering Fred back towards the stairs.
"Except the part about banging Lilah for the past six months. That kinda takes the shine off him."
Fred laughed nervously and looked at Wesley. "Fred…." He started.
"No, it…. It's none of my business. I should…." She turned and rushed up the stairs.
Angelus chuckled as he watched Wesley walked up the stairs after her. "Cute kids. Maybe they'll make it one day."
Buffy was torn between going up and helping and staying down here to learn more about what Angelus had meant by Angel being human. She decided to go upstairs and help. Better than torturing herself with what could've been or wasn't ever.
Gunn and Connor stood in the hole they were digging in the cemetery while Buffy stood off to the side. They had been tasked with getting the soul-eater skull for Cordelia's spell.
"Are you sure this is the right spot?" Connor asked.
"The landmarks look like what Cordy described in her vision." Buffy said.
"You know, you could help us." Gunn said to Gunn.
"I could, but I was raised to believe that the men did the grave digging and the women have the babies." Connor let out a loud laugh as Gunn shot her a glare.
"I've never fought a soul-eater before." Connor said to Buffy. "Have you?"
"Good thing we won't have to, then." Gunn said. "Cordy says this thing was buried by the Chumash a couple hundred years ago. Don't expect it to put up too much of a fight."
"So, what if we can't find it?" Connor asked.
"Then we're screwed. The skull of the soul-eater is the main piece of the spell Cordy saw. Without that…." Gunn's shovel hit something metallic.
Buffy walked to the edge of the hole as their shovels both hit the metal thing again. "Clear it off."
"Ooh, thank you, Powers that Be! About damn time." Gunn reached down to try the lock on the box.
"Want me to do that?" Connor asked.
"Uh, I got it." Suddenly a creature's hand shot up out of the box and grabbed Gunn's throat.
Buffy was suddenly there yanking the creature's hand away just as Connor stabbed it with his sword. Buffy, Connor, and Gunn scrambled out of the hole. "You ok?" She asked Gunn.
"Oh, I so don't need that kind of crap."
"Don't feel bad. It's happened to me too."
"A demon hand popped out of a box and choked you?" Connor asked.
"Yup. Well, it was just an arm, but yeah. So we need to just chop this things' head off and get it back…." Buffy moved over to the hole and looked down. The soul-eater was gone. "Of course it moves fast. Why wouldn't it?"
She turned just in time to get punched in the jaw. Connor stopped her from falling in, but they both tumbled in when the soul-eater hit Connor in the back. Gunn tried to take the thing on alone while the two of them disentangled themselves and clambered out of the hole again. Buffy closed her eyes and ignored everything else. She opened her senses, listening and feeling where the soul-eater was.
Gripping her sword, she suddenly spun and Connor and Gunn yelped as her sword connected with the soul-eater's neck. There was a bit of hard bone that her sword caught on for a second, but her strength kept the momentum going. The head flew off the body as she opened her eyes.
"Nice!" Gunn and Connor yelled.
"Ick…. It smells awful." Buffy said, her nose wrinkling.
Connor leaned down and picked the head up. "You think it'll work?"
"It better. If there's really something badder than the Beast, we've got to get Angel back before it comes." Gunn said.
"There's definitely something badder than the Beast." Buffy said. "Why do you people keep doubting me?"
"Because honestly, I don't want to wrap my head around it. The Beast is pretty bad. You'll find out when you face him."
"Seriously, there's nothing worse than the First Evil. It's the evilest of the evil. It can take on the image of any dead person. It has these acolytes called The Bringers that look like eyeless monks that use these large curved daggers. I had to fight this…. Neanderthal vampire…."
"Huh?" Connor asked.
"The vampires that existed before the vampires that exist now. This thing was the hardest thing I've ever had to kill. I staked it and it didn't die."
"How did you kill it?"
"I cut its head off with barbed wire."
"Come on, let's get this thing back to the hotel so we can get Angel's soul back."
An hour later, Buffy, Gunn, and Connor, carrying the head, walked into the lobby. Cordelia, Fred, Lorne, and Wesley were already there with the other things they'd needed to collect for the spell. Connor walked up to the reception counter and set the head down in front of Cordelia.
"We got the skull of the soul-eater." He announced. "Buffy killed it with her eyes closed."
Cordelia scoffed. Buffy wasn't sure if it was at the head or at Connor's enthusiastic remark about Buffy's abilities. The brunette shook her head. "I'm just saying…."
"It looks rather fresh." Wesley said.
"We had to move up its expiration date." Buffy said as she sent a quick text message to Willow. Her comment caused Gunn and Connor to snicker.
Cordelia closed her eyes for a moment. "I just see the skull. It doesn't have any…. You know…. Parts."
"Right." Wesley looked at Gunn. "Take it to the kitchen. Remove the flesh and the soft tissue." Connor and Gunn groaned as they took the skull out of the lobby with Cordelia right behind Connor.
Lilah walked into the lobby just then. "It's just like being at work, except suits by Liberace."
"Buffy, you're a strong, intimidating woman who has a reputation for beating up bad guys. Would you be a lamb and please warn this walking infection that I haven't forgotten how she poked my head open like a Capri-Sun; and while my love for humanity allows me to tolerate her presence, if need be you will smack her down! Thanks." Buffy smiled at Lorne as he stood and walked out of the room. She liked the demon so far. Her gaze fell on Lilah and the smile melted. With one last glare, Buffy headed for the basement door. No one was watching Angelus at the moment and that was when he was most dangerous.
"I see you missed me." He said as she walked down the stairs.
Buffy said, sitting down on the last step. "Someone has to play babysitter and there's only two people in the building with superpowers. The other one doesn't need to be anywhere near you because his dad asked him not to be, so here I am."
"Well, you're prettier to look at, at least."
"So where were we before we got interrupted? That's right, I was telling you why Angel values his precious soul over anything else. Including you."
"Save it. I'm done talking with you. Angel will be back soon enough."
"And then what? You confront him about what mean old me said? He confirms it, proving that I was right all along, and you walk away for good; head back to William the Bloody Awful and wish he was me every time you spread your legs for him?"
"I never wished he was you."
"Me, Angel, what difference does it make? You've spent years trying to find a substitute for this body. But none of them were good enough, were they? Not that one night stand you had with the college playboy or that Ken doll who played dress up as a G.I. Joe and especially not that creepy mama's boy William. All those nights of never quite being satisfied…. They added up. That little fantasy we were both sucked into showed me that." She didn't say anything for a long time. "Come on, Buff. I know you want it."
Thankfully, Lorne opened the door just then and walked down with Cordelia, Connor, Gunn, Wesley, Lilah, and Fred. They began setting up the magical circle from Cordelia's vision. The cleaned skull sat at the center with twigs arranged in the shape of a circle around it. Lorne and Fred worked on lighting the white candles around the perimeter.
"Have you all lost your mind?" Angelus asked. "You're going to use black magic to restore my soul? People, this never goes well. Am I the only one paying attention?"
"Ten-to-one, the entire hotel gets sucked into a hell dimension." Lilah said.
"You, two with the shutting up." Gunn snapped.
"Talk about eleventh-hour desperation." Angelus looked at Buffy standing in the corner watching everything with a concerned face. "Even the mighty Slayer isn't sure about this set up. Face it, you're grasping. No jar, no soul."
"You sound pretty desperate yourself." Connor said, instantly coming to Buffy's defense even though she didn't need it. Buffy didn't miss the glare Cordelia sent to Connor's back. Something was really off.
"Do you have the vial?" Cordelia asked.
"Let's be realistic. Even if your precious champion makes another guest appearance, you can't stop the apocalypse. Bottom line is you're going to lose. The last thing you smell will be each other's blood."
"That's your opinion." Fred said as Cordelia poured the contents of the vial on the skull.
"You tell him, honey." Lilah quipped.
"You, shut your fat mouth."
"Look at you…. heroes. So tangled up in your own crap, you can't even find the world to save it."
"Does everyone have their talismans?" Cordelia asked. She looked at Buffy. "Why don't you have one?"
"Why do I need one?"
"We all need one."
Buffy shook her head as her phone began buzzing in her pocket. "Good thing I'm opting out of this, then." She pulled her phone out and saw that it was Willow calling her. "I've got to take this." She walked up the stairs, answering her phone on the way so no one could protest.
"I'm looking into spells that use those ingredients and none of them are good." Willow said. The text Buffy had sent earlier had listed the ingredients of Cordelia's spell with the words what spell and a question mark.
Buffy headed up to Angel's room in case anyone tried to follow her and eavesdrop on the conversation. "I've got this weird feeling about Cordelia."
"What's new there?"
Buffy chuckled. "True. But this time is different. She's…. Different. I can't quite put my finger on it, but this spell to suddenly restore Angel's soul…."
"Is that what she's saying this spell does?"
"Yes. She said she had a vision from the Powers that told her that this spell would restore Angel's soul."
"None of the spells that use those ingredients involve soul restoration. The only ones I know of that restore souls are the gypsy curse and whatever demon trials Spike went through. And those don't account for a soul trapped in a jar that happens to be lost."
"Then what does this spell do?"
"There's a few different options, none of them good. This is dark magic stuff, Buffy. Nothing that inexperienced people should be messing with. One of the spells destroys a person's sanity slowly. There's one of them turns a child into a vessel for a demon to come through to our world. Another one suppresses empathy. And then there's this one…."
"Wait…. Suppresses empathy?"
"Like…. Prevents an empathic demon from being able to tell whether someone has their soul or not?"
"Buffy, you need to stop that spell."
Buffy hung up and ran downstairs. Lilah was standing at the bottom of the stairs holding a tray of coffee mugs. The Slayer's sudden appearance startled the lawyer and Lilah dropped the tray. Wesley, Connor, and Gunn jumped at the noise. Angelus suddenly appeared outside of the office.
"Who let him out?" Buffy asked.
"There was a change in plans." Angelus said. "Cordy actually talked me out of staying down there. Now, I've got my own mission." He was edging towards the door.
Buffy moved forward. "You're not going anywhere."
"Don't you trust me?"
"I trust Angel. You're not him."
"Lorne said…." Connor said.
"Lorne's wrong." Buffy launched herself at Angelus before he could make it to the front doors. They rolled and Buffy managed to pin Angelus underneath her. She could see in his eyes that the soul that made this body Angel wasn't there. She had always been able to tell the difference. He grinned up at her before punching her hard in the temple. She tumbled off him and he took the advantage to kick her in the midsection, sending her sliding across the lobby floor and crashing into the settee, before running out the front doors.
Gunn and Connor raced over to Buffy's aide while Wesley grabbed a handgun. Fred came out of the office and looked around in confusion. She spotted the unconscious Cordelia laying on the ground of the cell in the basement on the monitor and rushed downstairs. Buffy got to her feet and stopped Wesley from going after Angelus.
"I'll go." She said.
"We're coming with you." Gunn said, going over to the weapon's cabinet.
"Angelus is dangerous."
"He's just another soulless vampire."
"He's not your average vamp. Far from it." Buffy spotted Cordelia coming out of the basement with Fred.
"Buffy…." She started.
"You did this."
"I don't understand how the spell didn't work."
"Connor, you're with me. Fred, you and Lilah stay here and don't let Cordelia out of your sight. I have some questions for her when we get back."
"What's going on?" Fred asked.
"Your only advantage is Angelus might think we want to capture him." Wesley said. "I think we're all agreed that's not an option anymore."
"You don't get a say in that." Buffy snapped.
"Angelus is on the loose cause we brought him in this world." Gunn said. "It's our job to take him out of it."
"None of us are killing Angelus. Understood? Tranq darts only. We're going to capture him, put him back in that cage, and Willow is going to fix this. If any of you have an issue with this, take it up with someone who cares." Buffy turned to Connor. "Let's go before we lose his trail."
Connor followed Buffy out. Wesley and Gunn finally caught up to them in the truck a few blocks away from the hotel. Connor stopped in the middle of the street and looked at Buffy in confusion. "I don't understand." He said. "It doesn't make sense."
"What doesn't?" Wesley asked.
"Angelus' scent ends here."
"It ends here? Somebody pick him up?" Gunn asked.
"He would go to the place where he could wreak the most damage." Buffy said. She looked around the sparsely populated area and shook her head. With LA a war zone and humans scarce, where would he go? She could slap herself for not seeing the obvious sooner. "He doubled back."