Escape Clause, ver 3.0

Summary: Angel enters his office and walks into an ambush. Things get weirder from there.

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine, as they remain the property of their owners/creators. . .I just saw "The Witch" again and had this wacky idea. . .

Rating: PG-13, for violence, language, and general intensity.

Time Frame: Fourth season, some time after "Superstar" and "Eternity."

Archiving: Please do, but e-mail me at eilandesq@aol.com because I'm interested in where stuff I write ends up, and I'll want to see what else you've got there.

ESCAPE CLAUSE, VER 3.0


Angel opened his eyes and looked at his clock-radio: 4:45 PM. It had been a long and exhausting night dealing with that nest of vampires in the Garment District. It had taken Angel and Wesley over two hours to locate and dust all ten of the vampires in the warehouse. . .after Wesley's crossbow and Angel's axe had claimed six of them, the others had sensibly fled, requiring pursuit. Both were bone tired by the time that they finished and headed back to their respective residences, and Angel took advantage of Cordelia's absence from the office for a commercial audition to get a decent amount of sleep.

Angel grabbed a cup of coffee in his kitchen and walked upstairs: he was feeling relaxed and did not notice the dark-haired figure in the corner until it raised a tranquilizer gun and leveled it on him. He only had time to recognize the intruder and hiss, "You," before the dart struck him and the heavy tranquilizer caused him to lose consciousness.



* * * * *


Cordelia opened the door and found the office quiet and dark. She glanced at the wall clock: 9:15. Maybe Angel had already gone out for the evening, and taken Wesley with him. She walked over and saw that there were seven messages on the answering machine, which turned out to be routine. . .still, it wasn't like Angel to leave stuff like that undone. She shook her head. . .maybe that hunt last night wasn't as easy as the two of them made it out to be. She took the elevator downstairs, and called out, "Angel?"

After a moment, Cordelia heard Angel call out, "Cordelia? I could use some help here." She walked into his bedroom and saw that he was chained to his bed. . .this was getting old. He gave her a sheepish look and commented, "Nice to see you. . .we've got a problem."

Cordelia didn't fold her arms and tap her foot, but she somehow managed to convey both in her tone as she replied, "No. . .it seems like you have a problem. What was it this time? Nightmares. . .great sex. . .some movie star slipped you a Mickey? Or did Faith blow into town and decide it was time for payback?"

Angel glowered at her and replied, "Funny. Spike ambushed me. . .apparently he thinks that the cure for his temporary 'just say no to violence on non-demons' problem was to be found in my library. . .he tranquilized me and went through my books. . .he's been gone for awhile. Let me loose, and we'll call Wesley and try to stop him from going back and ambushing Buffy and the others."

Cordelia gave him a hard look, but the story was plausible given the reports Angel and Cordelia had received from Sunnydale in the last few months. Giving her boss a dirty look, she was moving forward to get the key for the shackles when a familiar voice shocked her into immobility: "Cordy, no!"

Cordelia slowly turned and saw Wesley standing there with a concerned look on his face, and next to him. . .the source of many of her ups and downs over the past three years. . .Xander Harris. It had been his voice that stopped her in her tracks and caused the confined vampire to hiss in frustration. She raised an eyebrow and commented, "Well, it seems we've got a convention of my exes in town. . .mind telling me why Angel is chained up?"

Wesley brightened momentarily at being called an "ex", then frowned and replied, "That's not Angel any more, Cordelia. . .he's turned for now, until the curse can be re-cast. . .Xander came from Sunnydale to warn us."

Cordelia turned back to the chained figure on the bed, who was openly leering at her with an evil glint in his eyes. "Cordelia, Cordelia, Cordelia," Angelus snickered, relaxing now that he was unmasked, "you've got a great body, but the brightest girl in the world, you're not. . .a little sob story, and you were ready to cut me loose."

Cordelia looked hurt for a moment, then her eyes hardened as she snapped back, "Look who's talking. . .you're the one who fell for my 'holy water in the Evian bottle' act and let Wesley kick his ass."

Wesley grinned briefly at the angry look on Angelus' face, then realized that there was an implied put-down in her comment. Xander turned and gave him a sympathetic look: he had been there, more than once. Their camaraderie was interrupted by Cordelia turning to them and asking, "Wait a minute. . .how did you know that Angel was going to lose his soul again, Xander? What's going on?"

Helpless to act, Angelus glared as Xander led Cordelia out of the bedroom and began whispering to her. After a few seconds, Cordelia gasped, and Angelus vainly tried to hear as Xander whispered for a while longer, causing Cordelia to exhale in obvious relief. They walked back into the bedroom, and both of them watched as Angelus struggled against the chains in vain and snarled, "So what did happen. . .did another prophecy come along. . .are the End of Days here at last? I hope Soul Boy takes a permanent powder before then. . .hotel reservations for big events are a bitch to get, you know."

There were a few tears in Cordelia's eyes, but she quickly blinked them away as she speared Angelus with a look of utter contempt. Somewhat surprised, the vampire waited for her to say something, and long moments of silence passed before she shook her head and whispered, "You know. . .I've hated the fact that my feelings for one of my best friends have been screwed up by the fact that you've always been there. . .waiting for him to slip up so you can go out and do things he has to feel guilty about later. I've hated being afraid. . .but, you know what? I'm not afraid of you any more. . .I've figured you out. You're so caught up in your sadism that you can't do anything. . .you spent so much time tormenting Buffy that you couldn't stop her from kicking your ass all the way to Hell when your big moment of triumph arrived. You were so caught up in the enjoyment of torturing Giles that it never occurred to you that you could have just turned him and gotten all of the information you needed that way, you idiot." Angelus blinked hard at that comment, and Cordelia smirked at his discomfort as she continued, "Oh, and that performance a little while back. . .why didn't you just wear a sign saying 'Hi, I'm Angelus. . .and I get off on getting my ass kicked by the office help.'" She shook her head again and leaned over him, concluding, "Sad fact is. . .you're more impotent than Spike is."

Angelus snarled and strained against his chains, and Cordelia moved away, intentionally turning her back on him and walking back to the doorway. The vampire visibly calmed himself, noting the presence of one of his favorite targets, and called out, "She's quite a handful, isn't she, Loser Boy? Then again, you seem to have a taste for the nasty ones. . .so how's the little demon bitch you call honey?"

Xander's eyes flared momentarily, and Cordelia squeezed his arm, fearing that he'd do something foolish. But the lapse was brief, and Xander's eyes turned cold again as he slowly walked over to the bed and stared down at his old foe. After a moment, he replied, "She's fine. . .and so is Buffy. You know, I told you once that you were going to die, and that I would be there to watch. That would have been fun, but this is better. The Hellmouth is its usual fun self, but we're all doing pretty well. . .and you, well, you're just the crazy uncle who gets locked in the attic and breaks out once in a while. You get to watch while the rest of us. . .including Dead Boy when he gets back. . .get on with our lives, in which you-much like the sight of Giles wearing a sombrero-are but an unpleasant and distant memory. Think about that while you're waiting for that soul to come home to stay." He snickered, then shook his head and turned away, walking back to the doorway to stand next to Cordelia, who gave him a supportive look before turning to glare at the figure on the bed.

Wesley took a deep breath and was starting to walk over to the bed when Angelus gasped and his eyes shone with light briefly before fading, leaving a confused vampire wildly looking around and gasping, "What? How? I . . ." He spotted Xander and snarled at him, "You shot me, you bastard!"

Xander smirked and replied, "All in a good cause, Dead Boy. . .kind of like you sucker punching me last March when you were pulling your scam on Faith." Angel looked confused, and Xander elaborated, "Buffy said that it will come back to you in a few seconds. . .no point in explaining it before then."

Angel nodded, then his face went blank as realization set in. He snarled again, this time in exasperation, and shouted, "What now, damn it? What in the world did I do to revoke the curse this time?"

Xander sighed and responded, "As much as I hate to admit it, Angel, you did absolutely nothing this time. . .it was just another moment of Sunnydale wackiness, courtesy of the latest prophecy that Giles found." He turned to Wesley and prodded, "Why don't you tell him. . .this is your gig, not mine. . .and this whole thing has seriously creeped me out."

Wesley nodded, and after Cordelia had-after giving Angel an irritated glare-removed the chains, they adjourned to the living room and sat down. Wesley paused for a moment, more than a little annoyed that he hadn't had a chance to vent his spleen at Angelus before the curse took effect yet again, then began, "From what Xander has told me and what Mr. Giles told me on the telephone, last night Mr. Giles found a prophecy that read as follows, 'The coming of Valis to the Mouth of Hell will see the mage at the Slayer's side fall in battle, and malice will follow.'"

Angel's eyes widened. Valis was a demon notorious for wielding a huge axe, which he loved to use to decapitate his foes. A chill ran through him as he remembered something that Buffy had told him long ago about her confrontation with Catherine Madison: "So Giles tells us that there are two ways to get rid of the spells, including the one that had me babbling like an idiot. . .find Amy's spell book, or cut off her head." Tears came to his eyes and he whispered, "Willow? No. . ."

Xander sighed. He knew that Angel loved Willow as if she were his own sister, and that had always irritated him, mostly because it made it far more difficult for him to despise the vampire. He coughed self-consciously and replied, "She's all right, Angel. . .at least she is now. We didn't know for sure whether Willow or Giles was the subject of the prophecy, but we did remember that little tidbit about cutting off a witch's head to undo her spells, and the 'malice' line made us think that it would probably be Willow." He took a deep breath-he hadn't totally recovered himself, even after hearing Willow's voice on the other end of the phone-then continued, "Giles knew about a spell used in certain dark rituals. . .one that would prevent death for a short time after losing one's head, and another one that would repair the damage if the blow cleanly severed the neck. Apparently this Valis is a good shot. . .or we would have lost Willow for good. Anyway, Willow and Giles cast the spell on each other, and after. . .it happened, Buffy and Giles killed Valis, then Giles cast the repairing spell. . .just in time to save Willow. After everyone took time out for a few minutes of hysteria, they called me, then Giles and Willow were going to cast the curse together. . .to prevent a repeat of this little problem unless they both get a close haircut." Xander frowned, then continued, "My job was to make sure that Angelus didn't run loose in L.A. while the curse was being re-cast. If it had been Giles who got the axe, Buffy was going to call me and ask me to bring you back to Sunnydale, since apparently the prophecy involved some other baddie. . .and she wanted your input."

Angel sighed in relief, then asked, "All right, I see why you had to ambush me. . .but why take that risk? You could have hidden Willow away, and the rest of you could have dealt with Valis."

Xander shook his head and replied, "Giles said that the prophecy indicated that he or Willow would be the target. . .and the rejoining spell had to be cast within eight minutes, or it wouldn't work. By the time we would have gotten Willow back there after killing Valis . . ." His voice was grim, making elaboration pointless.

Cordelia paled and exclaimed, "This is terrible!" The others turned to her and waited for her to continue. After a moment, she asked, "She's going to end up with one of those icky Frankenstein scars, isn't she?"

Angel rolled his eyes and looked away, and Wesley restrained himself from snickering with difficulty: the return to normalcy was just too much of a relief for him to absorb the Cordyism with equanimity. It was left to Xander to sigh and reply, "No, Cordy. . .that's the great thing about magic: no muss, no fuss. . .and no need to have the plastic surgeon on speed dial like some people will in a few years."

Cordelia snorted in annoyance and left the room in a huff, and Xander shook his head in déjà vu as he followed her. Angel cradled his head in his hands, and Wesley sat across from him and asked, "Are you all right?"

Angel looked up and smiled tightly, replying, "I guess as visits from Angelus go, it was pretty lightweight. . .Xander and Cordelia gave him better than they got from him. . .but, it's getting a little irritating. . .between the close call with Giles' old buddy the soul sucker last year, getting slipped that Mickey, and this. . .maybe the risk isn't worth it any more. . .who knows what might break the curse?"

Wesley nodded in understanding, then replied, "As it happens, Willow has been thinking along the same lines, and has passed along a possible solution." He held up a computer CD, and explained, "She has been refining Miss Calendar's original algorithm. . .this is what she has come up with. It should serve to help us translate the various sorcerous works written in the ancient Kalderash tongue, giving us a more thorough understanding of the principles behind the curse. . .it should give us ample warning of any other potential pitfalls."

Angel sighed in relief, then smiled in amusement. Wesley raised an eyebrow, and Angel felt obliged to explain, "I was just thinking. . .Willow finished this while she was facing possible death by decapitation that had been foretold centuries before. . .it's a good thing she didn't lose her head. . .before losing her head."

It was Wesley's turn to roll his eyes, and it was several seconds before the smile on his face matched Angel's own. They headed upstairs: the night was shot as far as work went, but there was no reason not to celebrate having dodged a bullet. As they left the office, Angel only gave a brief glance to the tranquilizer rifle that had so unexpectedly helped to save the day before shuddering and closing the door behind him.




As always, comments are welcomed and desired