Title: 39, 23, 59: part 14
Author: Scorch
Rating: NC-17
Category: Humour/Smut
Content: C/Aus
Summary: And he thought he knew eternity.
Disclaimer: I own nixies.
Distribution: AO, FSB, the places of Cal and Lea. Anyplace else, just ask and you can have.
Notes: Sorry this part has taken so long, but between a poorly laptop screen and an ear infection, time has been spent arguing with the repair shop or trying three different types of antibiotic. Neither was fun, believe me. Anyhoo, enjoy!
P.S. I'm not happy about this bit, but never mind!

Day 27...

She looked so pretty in his bed.

Chestnut hair artistically arranged on a pillow, her face pale from blood loss and skin oily from dried tears. Her pouting mouth parted, the slow and even breaths pulling his shirt tight over full, pert breasts, revealing a teasing hint of cleavage. Her neck beautifully shaped and slender with gentle, sloping curves leading down to her shoulders.

He slowly moved her head to the left, his thick fingers tracing those gentle slopes and curves until her flawless skin rise up into a bruised, reddened bite mark. Brown eyes flashed black, reflecting the smirk forming on his face as he vividly recalled sinking his teeth right into her. His ears still heard sound of fangs piercing flesh, still heard her lovely scream of pain before she breathed out the pleasure, still heard how her heart had pounded heavily enough to crack a rib.

Those sounds would stay with him for a long, long time.

Sure the bite had been done out of necessity, but he'd still bitten her and that was all that mattered. Ends justifying means and all that crap. She belonged to him now. After all, possession was nine tenths of the law. Not that she hadn't belonged to him before the biting, of course, but never mind.

She'd belonged to him the day she walked into his club when she drank and laughed with him, slept in his bed, and everything else. His little bite merely sealed the deal.

Angelus combed his fingers through her hair and shifted to place his knees at either side of her hips, his thighs taking the brunt of his weight as he straddled her, his nose capturing all the joys of her new scent. He'd enjoyed her scent before. Lillies and roses and sun warmed honey made for an intoxicating combination, but now...

The honey was gone, replaced by his, and now she smelled of them. Night and Day. Black and White. Masculine and Feminine. All different sides of the same coin and all perfectly suited.

Fuck, she wore him well.

Unblinking, he stared at her with demon's obsession in his eyes, his gaze leaving that pretty, pretty bite to focus on her face. He relaxed his thighs to lean on her a bit, just to feel her body heat crawl through him.

Almond shaped hazel eyes hidden by flickering, creamy lids and framed with dark lashes. A lovely little mouth, defiant chin, and high cheekbones sporting a soft, rosy flush despite blood loss. Smooth skin barring a beauty mark and pixieish ears that held two tiny jewelled studs.

Angelus followed the breadcrumbs, his touch going lower and lower until he reached the top button of his shirt. He opened it, exposing more of her cleavage for his viewing pleasure. He couldn't be blamed for being an opportunistic pervert.

Not after spending the better part of the night with her wrapped around him.

He thought of it and groaned, feeling his balls tighten as arousal hardened his cock. He was helpless against the softness of her panties and pussy, and helpless to stop his hips inching higher. God, it'd be so damn easy to slide his fingers down and rub her lucious clit raw.

He gripped her wrists, moving them above her head, squeezing enough to start the motions of waking up. He watched those creamy lids fluttered open, showing off her glazed and dazed hazel irises. He listened to her heart pick up speed and change in rhythm.

It was a wonderful tune and one he could contentedly listen too every morning.

"Angel?" Her voice was everything sleepy and husky.

Angelus swept a thumb across her mouth, inwardly smirking when she closed her eyes and pressed a little kiss to the digit.

Cordelia sighed a sigh full of relief and guilt, and grew slightly dizzy when she reopened her eyes a tad too fast. Though she was suffering the after effects of both almost killing him and his bite, she could see there was something not quite right. Like he was... Different.

She hissed when she felt a painfully sharp sting in her throat. Her hand came up to soothingly hold the bite. "Ow."

A dark eyebrow arched in mild bemusement. He pulled her hand away and traced the sore flesh, purposely pressing on the punctures from his two main fangs. "Most people don't prod a vampire bite seventeen hours after they get one."

She beautifully flinched from the pain and arched away. "Most people don't normally survive a vampire bite. Certainly not one of yours... And has it really been seventeen hours?"

He nodded briefly, removing his hand just so he could openly stare at it. It was a pretty good bite in his own humble opinion. Each fang had left an imprint so deep, they would all leave a scar, it was perfectly situated and curved up with a nice outline to define the shape. No doubt about it, there was no mistaking it was his bite, and the longer he looked at it, the more proud he became.

Cordelia shook her head as much as she could without getting woozy. He was such a vampire. She tried to push him off her so she could sit, but her arms were oddly light and she didn't have strength enough to move his finger let alone his entire self. "Lemme up."

Angelus went to do just that, but paused for thought. If he got up, then she wouldn't be vulnerably at his mercy, and therefore he wouldn't have a chance to play with her for a while. "No."

No? "Come on, Angel. Seventeen hours is a long time to lay down. Let me up."

A smirk slowly tilted his mouth up. This was a delicate moment and if he wasn't careful or played it right, she'd treat it as a game. Not what he wanted at all. "I said no," he feigned deep thought. "Or maybe you misheard."

She frowned and it was beautiful. "I heard you, now let me up before I get all achy."

Her wrists once again captured and pinned, by one large cool palm, above her head, his fingers flexing strongly around the slim joints. She was blinking up at him now, her mouth set in a loose pout, and the shirt good n tight over those perky tits of hers. Yep, this was definitely a nice place to be.

Angelus smiled as he shook his head. "Nah-ah," he chuckled when a her pretty hazel eyes flashed with annoyance and not fear. Guess he had to put some effort into this little game. He squeezed her wrists that bit tighter, enjoying her sharp gasp of pain. "Feeling trapped in our relationship already, Cor?"

Cordelia searched his face and eyes for any clues he was kidding around, but there was nothing except hellish intent. So this was where he turned on her. Not that she expected anything else of course, at least not after shooting and almost killing him last night. She closed her eyes to prevent him from seeing the hot tears welling up and somewhere in her brain, she heard Buffy's voice.

One dead vampire is one less to worry about.

Yeah, well, that vampire just happened to be the one she was head over ass for. The same vampire who was excercising his every right to punish her for the sheer stupidity she'd shown at treating a weapon as a toy. Seventeen hours obviously wasn't time enough to deal with the fact she'd almost killed him.

He watched in amused confusion as her eyes glistened with tears and sad resignation while her head gave a tiny nod. Still there was no fear, only a bittersweet tang that came with goodbyes. Christ, the scent of it was so damned strong, he could freaking taste it.

She spoke before he had chance. "I'm sorry, Angel. I could've come to you any time, I should have come to you the first chance I got, but..." She shook her head and ignored the salty liquid trickling down her cheek. "No, there's no excuse. I fell and I was scared."

Angelus one thought centred around the word huh.

Cordelia smiled through her tears, preparing to take whatever he was going to do like a woman. "You've been, well, you've been you to me and I like it, so I won't fight or resist or scream... Unless you want me to scream, then I can. Had lots practice."

Ooohkay. This really wasn't how his game was supposed to go and to say he was confused was an understatement. The only thing he could make out of her nonesense was the fact she liked him and wouldn't put up a fight while he tortured her, but that couldn't be right. Just to be sure, "You fell for me so you're going to sit back and take me torturing you?"

She nodded and exhaled what could very well be one of her last breaths.

Forget the first game, this one was so much more fun.

His grip on her wrists tightened almost unbareably and he smirked at the flash of pain that crossed her face. There was still no fear. She was either stone cold insane or a secret sadist. If the latter, then wow. He'd hit the jackpot when it came to a human woman.

Making sure her gaze never left him, he let go and got off the bed, taking slow and measured steps to one of his cabinets and purposely opened it in a way that made it creak. Her heart rate turned faster when his hand showed off a small, lethal dagger with a strange black tip.

Cordelia ceased to breathe and quickly tried to cover up her moment of weakness, but it was no good. God, she'd never seen anyone express so much evil with so little a smile. She started to shake. Guess taking it like a woman was a lot harder than she thought.

Angelus casually strolled back to the bed, turning the dagger this way and that, showing off every inch of the shiny silver blade. "This was made for me years ago. Press this button here," he did and some part of the hilt clicked open. "Perfect for pouring poison inside. When used, the tip leaks said poison straight into the blood stream. Kinda like a scorpion's tail. Cool, huh?"

She wasn't sure if he wanted an actual answer, so she remained quiet.

He crawled onto the bed, keeping the dagger at her eye level and watched as the hazel disappeared into two saucer sized pupils. She was barely able to stop from flinching when the cool blade touched and slid up leg, going high enough until she felt it pricking the elastic of her panties.

She swallowed back a thick lump of increasing terror and reminded herself she deserved this for being such a deceptive, vindictive bitch who'd kept her mouth shut because she liked him. Like? Ha. Like didn't begin to describe it no more and since she was living her last, she was going to damn well admit, at least to herself, that she loved him.

That's right, her brain yelled at an imaginary Buffy Summers, I'm in love with Angel. So there.

What the hell had Spike turned her into? She vowed to come back as a ghost and make him suffer.

Angelus was having a ball. Straddling her, teasing her, frightening her... It was such a fucking turn on, even if he wasn't entirely sure about why she was letting him play.

He dragged the blade further up, scraping the very tip all over her pussy, right from her tight little hole across those puffy little lips and purposely circled her lovely little clit. She gasped, her wide eyes fluttering at the cool cool contact.

For crying out loud, what was she thinking? She so could not find this a turn on. It was wrong. Really, really wrong. Right. She was being punished. Must remember that. If only it wasn't Angel doing the punishing, then she'd be properly scared, but it was and she just couldn't stop from reacting to him.

He increased the pressure, but only for a second, and moved so the dagger was under the bottom two shirt buttons. Another second passed and the blade sliced through the shirt like it was thin air.

Cordelia watched as he brought the knife up and held it directly over her heart and closed her eyes, struggling with everything in her to keep the hot stinging tears from falling. She didn't want to see him do it, then there was a sensation of excruciating nothing.

She waited, waited some more, and then waited some more, but felt nothing bar the torn shirt graze her skin. Cranking one glistening eye open, she watched and listened to him slam the dagger straight into the wall, sending bits of plaster tumbling down around her head.

Angelus was smiling a crooked smile and shaking his head in disbelief. "You," he started, his voice laced with equal disbelief. "Have to be the craziest dame I've ever met. What possessed you to think I was gonna torture you?"

Uh? "You mean you're not?"

His brows touched his hairline. "You want me to hurt you?" His previous thought about her being a closet sado masochist came to mind and he couldn't stop the grin if he tried.

Why was he smiling at the thought of her want... Oh. Cordelia was only to quick to answer. "No. I don't want you to hurt me, but why aren't you going to hurt me?"

"Why are you expecting me to hurt you?"

Hello. "Didn't I almost kill you?"

"Wasn't it an accident?"

Her lips slightly flickered and she gave a teeny tiny shrug. "I don't know," she paused and he was ready to claim victory in their new game. "Do you know if it was an accident?"

Scheming little bitch tricked him. "Were you serious when you held me hostage?"

"What if I had been serious?"

"Shall I demonsontrate the consequences?"

"Haven't you already given a taste of such consequences?"

"Didn't you like the game?"

The sheer incredulity in her voice was not fake. "That was a game?"

He looked so damn proud of himself that she struggled not to giggle. "Yep!" Angelus exclaimed with all the jubulence of a five year old and it lasted until he realised he'd just lost the round. Miserably.

Cordelia finally let go of the headboard and stroked his jaw while she laughed quietly. "I really am sorry, Angel." She glanced at his chest, seeing no signs he'd been shot seventeen hours ago. There was nothing to say how close she'd come to killing him.

God. She really had almost killed the man, the vampire she loved.

Angelus shifted so she could sit up and found himself with little choice as her slender arms curled around his neck, her lips cheekily stealing a sly kiss from his, smirking when he immediately tensed. She guessed the resident evil of Sunnydale didn't do spontaneous displays of affection.

Keeping one hand on his shoulder, she used the other to dry her eyes before pulling back to gaze up at him with more than mild amusement. She didn't bother fighting the urge to grope him or the urge to smile at him. Her hands went from his shoulders to chest, where her fingers splayed across pale pec muscles. "So no punishment for Cordy?"

"Does Cordy deserve punishment?"

"How can you make punishment sound like a reward?" It was one seriously uncanny talent.

He grinned down at her with all the wickedness in him. "I make it that way. You'll appreciate it when I get my hands on your pert little ass."

Wasn't that just a world of possibilities? Cordelia unconsciously licked her lips when something inside her clenched. "Sure of that?"

"Princess," Angelus groaned at the light arousal emanating from her sweet place. Seemed like he wasn't the one who saw the potential in a solid spanking. Lowering his voice to a whisper, "I'll make sure of it."

"I'll look forward to it," she said, trapping her tongue between her teeth and trailing her nails down his stomach until she felt the waistband of his pants. She arched an eyebrow, "Hundred percent silk says a lot about a man."

It was his turn to arch a brow. "And flirting says a lot about a woman. A woman, I might add, was ready and willing to let me do whatever my evil heart desired." A bubble of laughter escaped his throat. "You're either crazy or guilty. Since you're dating me, you can't be crazy, so my guess is guilt."

She tried to make a joke of it. "Yeah cus dating a soulless vampire just screams common sense."

"It does when that soulless vampire is me."

Cordelia sighed on seeing her remark get no reaction other than a bland egotistical comment. "You could have been dust and..."

"I'm no foolish fledgling, Cordelia. I know it was an accident so there's no need to get your panties in a twist."

Was he serious? "No need to get my... My panties are not in a twist. Don't you get it? I almost killed you!"

"Gods, woman. Get a grip!" He yanked her hands off him lest her nails dug out his intestines.

How dare he tell her to get a grip? "I was scared, Angel. You were bleeding and the arrow wouldn't come out and then it did and then you bled some more and it went everywhere!"

Much to his pained ears, she didn't stop there. She went on and on, her voice getting more and more panicked, the story getting more and more elaborate until it sounded like she'd been sent in by Buffy to assassinate him.

Angelus rubbed his forehead, sighed, and slapped a hand over her mouth. It had to be impossible for a human to talk that much, that quickly, without pausing for a breath. He ignored her glare. "I'm going to take my hand away and you're going to be quiet, okay?"

Cordelia nodded, but the second his actions mirrored his words, she opened her mouth, forcing him to replace his hand.

"Yes, you shot me, and yes there was probably a lot of blood, but I bit you. We're even."

She shook her head and shook off his hold. "You only bit me out of need, not..." Not desire, she wanted to say, but fell silent instead.

He fought the kiss or kill urge and took a few moments to deal with increasing irritation. "Desparation or desire. Doesn't bother me." He forced her to meet his deceptively serene gaze. "And we both know that's what matters."

She saw the threat for what it was and tough noogies. "What matters is you not being a pile of dust on the basement floor. So go ahead, glare and threaten me all you want. I'm glad for it. I just wish you'd bitten me under better circumstances."

Angelus frowned. Surely she couldn't be that distraught over a little accident. He was a vampire, but not just any vampire. The very vampire that had terrorised her friends last year before growing bored. The vampire who pinned her to the ground and whispered to her everyfuckingthing he wanted too do to her. For her to be concerned enough to cry then she had to have a damn good reason.

"What circumstances would better ones be, Cordelia?" The insant he asked was the intant she froze and gave him all the answers he needed.

The sixty four thousand dollar question was how humiliated could one girl be?

Cordelia had a fair idea and God, the feeling wasn't at all pleasent. She groaned into her hands, sinking so deep into the tub, the water came up to her chin. Her nails lightly scratched her head as she raked her fingers through her damp hair, her legs straightened out and she lay against the side, relishing the cool feel of it on her back.

It was a nice tub, she thought offhandedly and popped her big toe onto the shiny silver faucet. A dark plum corner unit that was large enough for a six foot plus vampire to comfortably laze in it for hours. More importantly, it was large enough for her to comfortably laze in it for hours and why she never kne he had it until now was totally beyond her.

Sure, she had an en suite bathroom that comprised of a fitted power shower and sink with excellent water pressure, but it was nothing compared to this and neither was her parents' en suite bathroom. The wall lights gave off a relaxing glow similar to a few candles and she guessed they were dimmers, the floor was marble and the walls were a deep shade of berry that seemed to soothe.

She took it back. It wasn't just nice, it was heaven, and no matter what happened from here on out, she'd risk life and limb to comfortably laze in the tub for hours more.

Cordelia sighed and rolled her neck, this time stretching her arms across both edges while the little girl in her giggled like a maniac. All she needed was a good sized bottle of bubble bath, her favourite Tigi haircare products, a trashy romance novel and she'd be set forever.

Not to mention it'd take her mind off her current embarrassing situation.

Seconds before sending her to get pretty for him, he'd used a solid ten of the cheesiest pet names just to make her react. Baby, honey bunny, sugarplum, muffin, love, darling, kitten, sugar, dumpling, and dollface. Then came his personal brand of pet names, which were by no means cheesy, and those were used to make her blush.

She'd tried fighting back by coming up with her own, but unfortunately her mind didn't have over two centuries worth of experience, and so her names had been less than pathetic. It hadn't helped when each time she came up with something she thought half decent, he'd preen and proudly display himself like a farmer's prized peacock.

It'd gotten to the point where she seriously considered shooting him again, but that idea went as quickly as it came. She didn't think she would ever pick up another crossbow let alone use one, and definitely not around him.

Cordelia slid her ass along the bottom of the tub until her hair was able to float. Christ, she could practically swim in the thing and the feeling was glorious. Huh. There was a mirror on the ceiling and it was a perfect match to the huge one covering one wall. Why on Earth would a vampire, a creature with no reflection, have mirrors like that in the bathroom?

Maybe there was no answer, maybe he just liked how they looked, or maybe he was right and old habits really did die hard.

She smiled up at her own reflection, watching how her hair responded to the ripples caused by her arm movements and got the reason why. Angel had them for reflections alright, only not his own. They were in place so he could happily perv over whoever he had in here with him.

She remembered when he'd had a soul and been with Buffy. How many times had she been in here, doing and thinking the same things she was? How many times had Angel watched Buffy on those mirrors?

Cordelia sat up and began to rub herself down, making the task more business than pleasure, then squeezed out her hair. The quicker she was out, the better she'd be.

Her body was half out the water when the door flew open, the sudden commotion making her jump out of her skin.

"Jesus, Angel!" She shrieked and sank back down, the mirrors and Buffy Summers taking second place to restarting her heart. "Could you not do that, please?" Both arms went directly across her chest and a leg came up to hide the rest. Did he have no shame?

"Missed you too, babydoll." A box of what appeared to be toiletries was held up. "Thought these might come in handy," and tossed the box her way, amused to see it land in the water and not in her hands.

"Do you mind?" She managed to inch her body round so the side of the tub covered up the important parts.

Angelus gave a smooth smile. "Why bother hiding?" He asked. "Already seen it."

Cordelia felt her face flush with heat. "Not completely."

"No," he said, his eyes drifting up toward the upper mirror which gave a lovely view of her ass. He grinned, "Not completely."

She followed his line of sight and her scowl deepened. "Are there no limits to your perviness?"

His gaze still hadn't returned to her face. "Not really." Now that was one beautifully tight little ass. All wet and curvy and so very, very biteable.

Cordelia rolled her eyes, once again shifting so her tush was fully submerged, thus bringing his attention back to her. "That's more like it. What's in the box?"

"Toiletries pour femme courtesy of Dru." Angelus leaned against the doorframe and folded his arms. "Thought you might be in need of something sweeter than my stuff."

She picked up the box with one hand while using the other to keep from flashing him. "Alterna," she stated, impressed. Obviously the vampiress had taste and good taste at that. "Not bad at all."

"It beats her phase of using virgin's blood to bathe in."

She cringed, wishing she wasn't in possession of such a vivid imagination. If they weren't being sacrificed to Gods and demons, they were used as hygiene products. Poor virgins. She certainly sympathised. "That's really comforting."

His face split into one of the largest grins she'd ever seen. Didn't take a genius to figure out the scenarios her brain had cooked up. "Don't be so worried, honeydew. She grew out of it in the late 1900's."

"I'm not worried," Cordelia protested halfheartedly while wondering how she could pass herself off as a hooker, an experienced hooker at that. Maybe if she bleached her hair and wore a trashy red lipstick...

"Of course you're not worried." That's why she was probably conjuring up ways to lose her cherry without actually losing it.

"I'm not!"

Angelus chuckled. She could rather adorable when she wanted to be. "I'll be ordering brunch..."

Did he mention food? Hazel orbs quite literally sparkled and her stomach growled at the thought of sustenance. "Mmm. What we having?"

Fuck adorable. Adorable didn't cover it, not when she was lounging in his tub and looking at him with those bambi eyes of hers. "Something to tickle the taste buds pink."

Sounded good to her. "Great, now get out and lemme bathe in peace."

He was about to leave the room when her voice stopped him. "Angel?"

He glanced over his shoulder, silently questioning the tiny slice of hesitation on her face. She drew patterns on the tub edge. "The mirrors?"

"My private rooms are just that, Cor. Private."

"I know, but what about..."

Angelus smirked. "I was too guilty to splash out on the luxuries of life. My previous apartment consisted of a few necessities. Hardly enough room to swing a cat let alone have something this sweet."

He made it sound so empty, so cold. Her head crinkled up the thought of someone like him, even with a soul, living in a place like that. Not knowing what to say to the confession, Cordelia simply nodded and offered up another smile.

"Enjoy the rest of your bath, baby. I'll come get you when brunch arrives."

Angelus jogged down the steep stairs, his face stuck in a permanent grin. He never knew a human could blush so much. The deep red hue had gone from the tips of her ears all over her cheeks and disappeared down the front of his shirt. How amusing it was listening to her defensively babble on about how she didn't even like him let alone love him, about how Keanu was the only man for her.

Yeah, and there was gonna be an influx of peace loving Martians arriving at JFK in half an hour.

She couldn't lie to save her life and she certainly couldn't lie to him. She loved him. Ninety-three percent in fact.

As reward for the sheer entertainment she'd given him, he was going to splash out on a hearty brunch for her, complete with a half fat latte with a dash of walnut syrup. It wasn't just because she'd entertained him with her particular brand of affection, but for the simple reason she needed to replenish what he took last night.

A nice variety of cold meats and bread and other good things had to be ordered, plus a small tub of iron pills that wouldn't hurt for her to take, aversion to tablets or no.

He paused on the last step and cocked his head to the side. Maybe flowers would be a nice touch. Roses? Nah. Not for Cordelia. At least, not for Cordelia today. Not lillies, either. Tulips? God no.

Daisies popped into his head as did the image of her wearing one in her hair and the picture was so pretty, he decided that yes, daisies was the right choice. Now that the brunch menu and flowers were sorted, all he had to do was find his damned phone. He recalled the last place he'd been downstairs was the basement and to the basement it was.

Angelus took a moment longer to move as a faint, toneless noise came from his rooms. He winced and felt fairly grateful he'd left when he did. He pushed off the bottom step, not bothering with politeness as he brushed past Spike, who glanced upwards with an identical wince.

"Bloody hell, mate." When had his grandsire taken up the cat killing hobby?

Expressionless brown eyes landed on the blonde. "Bloody hell what, Wimple?" Just because he thought Cordelia couldn't hold a note didn't mean anyone else could.

Spike held up his hands, one of which gripped the cellphone Angelus wanted. "Surprised to see you is all. Looking for this?" The phone was flipped up and caught. "Dru found it in that dreary dojo of yours this morning."

Angelus snatched it off his grandchilde and securely stuck it in his back pocket, offhandedly wondering how many long distance calls had been made on it. "That it or was there something you wanted to bother me about?"

The younger vampire made a show of inhaling deeply before smirking. "Been getting your fangs on, mate? Can't say as I blame you. Not with the bit you got."

Angelus grin turned sharp, edgy. "I really hope you mean that respectfully, William."

Ooh. The human name. He'd be in trouble if he wasn't careful. "Course I did. Never cut another vamp's grass. Care to tell me how half your body weight in blood got on the basement floor?"

"She shot me."

"Ain't that the sign of true love." Spike snagged his smokes and lit one up. "She shot you, you bit her. How'd she taste? Like spice I bet..." Suddenly, he was seeing a dozen Tweety Pies flying round and round his dizzy head, each one chirping out it's own rotten chirpy song.

Walls were surprisingly hard, he thought dazedly as the back of his skull once again met the solid surface. A strong scent of blood had him making the correct assumption that the chit and her blood supply was off conversation limits.

Angelus watched with twisted satisfaction as his grandchilde struggle unsuccessfully to remove the grip from his windpipe. It did more than make things worse, it made Spike's throat become the home for both large palms that squeezed hard enough to force blood to turn Spike's unnaturally pale face red. He wasn't done, wouldn't be done until he drove the message home.

His fingers all but crushed Spike's windpipe into shards of cartilege as he spoke in a low voice. "Ask that again," Angelus ground out through gritted fangs. "Please ask me that again."

Spike tried fruitlessly to remove the increasing pressure from his throat before his head was squeezed off. "Alright, alright," he coughed up blood and brought his hands up in submission. "Ease up."

Angelus slammed Spike's head off the wall one more time on basic principle and let go, smiling as though nothing happened. Now that was fun. He rubbed his hands together. "Glad we understand each other. Get someone to clean up the mess in the basement, I don't want her to see it." What was it he was going to do before being so rudely interrupted?

Oh yes. "Now if you'll excuse me, I got brunch to order." Since he was already getting her food, flowers and coffee, he may as well go the whole hog and get her a piece of pretty, but what?

He turned back to Spike who was still crumpled on the floor grasping his throat. "What's classed as complimentary pieces for women these days? I would give her a heart, but I've done that way too many times. Not special, you understand. Any ideas?"

He got a harsh cough as a reply. "Never mind," Angelus said and began to pace back and forth. "Jewellery doesn't appeal. I need something symbolic, something that shows my regard. Something that says respect, you know?"

Spike stared at his grandsire as though he was insane, which he obviously was. What the bloody hell had the chit done to him?

Angelus came to a sudden halt when a metaphorical lightbulb went ping above his head. "Of course," he exclaimed and smacked his forehead. "Why didn't I think of that before?" His head shook from side to side. "I really worry about me sometimes."

The blonde's expression of abject terror went unnoticed as his grandsire continued to be more concerned on making a good impression with gifts and brunch. He wondered if Cordelia knew exactly what she'd gotten herself into. Okay, what he'd gotten her into. Actually, no. Cordelia had gotten herself into a whole world of obsessive trouble. Weren't his fault.

He may have put the two together, but it wasn't like he could be fully blamed, was it? Getting his grandsire all fluffed up was entirely her own fault, though he'd give his right arm to know how she did it. Obviously words were long overdue with the bit.

Brown eyes gleamed with self congratulation, pride, and so much childish excitement, he was practically bouncing. "Would love to stay and chat, but I really don't wanna. Man, she's gonna be thrilled." He really couldn't wait to give it to her.

Spike watched in fascination as his grandsire quite literally flounced off towards the part of the mansion housing one ugly arse rock. Words definitely needed to be had with that girl.

"Can I have a hint?"


"Not even one itty, bitty hint?"


"Is it breakable?"


"No it's not breakable or no you're not telling me?"

"No I'm not telling you so stop asking."

"Can I wear it?"


Disappointment washed over her face. "Oh. Is it at least pretty?"

Angelus rolled his eyes. "Do you ever shut up?"

She grinned. "No."

"You're not funny, Cor. You know that?"

This time she giggled. "No," then gasped when he nipped her throat, biting her lip at the feel of him rubbing his nose against the mark. "Ease up there, Nibbles. It's still sore."

He smirked and pulled away. "I know, and if you don't let up on the pet names, I'll make your boob job public knowledge."

Cordelia's jaw hit the floor. "I have not had a boob job!"

"You know that, I know that, but no-one else knows that."

"You wouldn't dare."

His giggle was everything wicked. "Wouldn't I? I'm soulless, remember? I'm evil."

She paused and he felt her mouth curl up into a smile belonging to film noir femme fatale. "What was your human name again? Lianne?"


"No, no. I'm certain it was Lianne."

Angelus glared at the back of her head. "I'm all man, Cordelia."

"You know that, I know that, but others don't know that." She paused again. "Could a vampire have a sex change? I mean if Liam did become Lianne, would the healing thingy you people have make it grow back?"

Her mind was an incredibly scary place to be. "Just because we heal better than humans doesn't mean we have the talent of regeneration. So we're clear, Liam will never be or ever was Lianne."

Cordelia gave a careless shrug. "If you're sure..."

"Yes. Very sure. Start walking, Cor. I'm getting bored."

In other words he couldn't wait to give her the present. "Relationships are give and take, you know."

He saw where this was going. "Lemme guess. I give and you take?"

She grinned. "Exactly. Everybody wins."

Angelus couldn't stop his mouth from turning up into a smile identical to hers. "I'm still not telling you."

She resisted the urge to stamp her foot and huff. "Oh come on, Angel. Please? I'll act surprised. Like mega surprised."

There was only one way to deal with a woman when she was in this mood. Bring on the guilt trip. He sighed in resignation and stopped guiding her forwards. "You're not the easiest person to surprise, Cordelia. I mean what do you get the woman who has everything? I wracked my brain for ages trying to figure out what to get you. If you don't want to be surprised, then I'll tell you."

Her pout belonged in the Guiness World Records. For crying out loud, he could feel hope for getting one teeny tiny clue fading out of the eyes hidden by his hands. "Alright," she puffed out eventually. "You win. I'll take the surprise. Just one last question then I'll be quiet. Promise."

"Ask away," Angelus directed her to where he'd set up an old, small table that held the food he ordered.

Cordelia grinned sheepishly. "What is..." She was halfway through asking when the scent of ambrosia rose up and filled her nose like gassy heaven. Oh God of Gods. "Is that coffee?"

"Yep! Half fat latte with..."

"Walnut syrup. Angel?"


"I love you," and it was terrifying just how true that statement was.

Chuckling, Angelus moved her into a position.which would ensure she'd get the full effect of all his hard work. "Of course you do, sugarcube. Now I'm gonna remove my hands, but keep your eyes closed until I say." He waited for her to nod before actions copied words. "Stay."

Cordelia scowled. "I'm not a dog," then listened to a click that was closely followed by a quiet hiss. Hm. A lighter perhaps? Her arm tingled at a sudden, soft wave of heat. Curiouser and curiouser. "Can I look yet?"

"Not yet." He adjusted the scarf into a perfect red bow and stood back to admire it all. A perfect intimate candle-lit brunch for two and the perfect present made the whole thing perfect. He'd really outdid himself this time.

She felt him come up behind her and shivered at the feather touch of his cheek brushing against hers as he leaned down to whisper, "Now."

It took a second or two for the fog to leave her eyes clear enough to see what was right in front of her. A dark little table held a feast consisting of croissants, spreads, various cold meats, fruit, cheese and crackers, coffee, juice and other good things. In the very centre of the table sat a beautifully arranged bouquet of large daisies with multicoloured petals, and next to them was a deep red candle flickering happily. "Oh. Oh wow. For me?"

"It's certainly not for Spike."

"Dumbass." This was the second time he'd treated her to breakfast, but it was just as nice as the first time. Cordelia lowered her gaze lest he see and read and know the emotion in them. She may have admitted to herself, he may know the strong liking she had for him, but she wasn't ready to have him know just how deep that liking ran. "This is beautiful, Angel. Thank you."

She was so gonna have to think of something for him.

Angelus rolled his eyes. How could such a perceptive, observant person miss the present itself? "Don't get all female on me. It's only breakfast and this isn't the present."

It wasn't just breakfast, at least not to her. Hold on. Did he say this wasn't her present? "What?" Hazel orbs snapped up to meet his. "There's more?"

The sheer surprise and disbelief on her face was absolutely stunning. She was so damned expressive, it was unreal. "Look to the right."

Look to the right? Okay.

Cordelia turned and her forehead crinkled up into a confused frown. There was a large, grey statue sporting a vibrant red silk bow below its wide open mouth. Her brows touched her hairline as she took in the detail. Two stone, pointy fang like teeth came out of what passed for its lower jaw, its eyes were grey and cold in its emptiness, and there was a seriously creepy air about it that chilled her to the bone. She swayed, watching those lifeless eyes followed her every move.

She slowly walked round it, tracing the intricate pattern on its sides and back, her head tilting to one side so she wouldn't miss a thing. It didn't have much of an ass, she offhandedly noticed, or much of anything bar a strangely powerful presence and that it had in abundance. She had just one simple question. "Not to be rude or anything, but what is it?"

Angelus grinned wildly. "It's Acathla."

Say what? Her head peered round to stare at him. Acathla? "Acathla as in Mouth to Hell Acathla?" He could not, absolutely could not, be giving her Acathla. No way could he be giving her Acathla.

"The very one." He went to stand next to her, his chest puffing up with manly pride. Her face was priceless. "Surprise!"

He was! He was giving her the key to hell. She cleared her throat so her words didn't come out in a croaky noise that expressed her exact feelings. She wasn't sure what those exact feelings were, but never mind. "I'm certainly surprised. Very, very surprised."

He smiled happily. "None of my other ideas seemed right, ya know? Too cliche, overdone, not special, not you or us. So then I got to thinking about the night we went to Havana's and how that clever brain of yours figured out how to make Acathla work..."

Cordelia sucked in so sharp a breath, it stung her lungs. "Please, please tell me we're not going on a wild ride." Aw hell.

"And delay our breakfast by a hundred years? Perish the thought." Angelus gave her a crooked grin. "What do you think?"

"I think it's unique." His face fell into slight disappointment and boy did she feel like an ungrateful bitch. "A good unique," and unique it definitely was. How many other girls could say they'd been given the key to a hell dimension? She frowned as she thought about it some more. Dimension was another word for world, right? So he'd given her the key to another dimension, a hellish one yes, but still another dimension and that meant he'd given her a world.

She blinked, her brain trying its damndest to absorb the fact he'd given her a world. And I thought thousand dollar champagne was too much. "I understand, Angel," and she truly did. Her lips curled up and up and up until all her white teeth were on show. "Thank you."

Cordelia returned to the front of the statue, her eyes staring up at its freaky face. "So what was supposed to happen when it opened? What was supposed to open?"

"His mouth, and as for what was supposed to happen... Well, I was hoping for a big swirly hole and big gale force winds." Angelus answered and watched her rise up on tiptoes to peer inside said mouth, a little huh. "Aren't you going to unwrap it?"

It was wrapped? Oh yeah. The bow. "Oh, uh. Sure." For some reason, nervousness rose up as she touched the red bow, feeling it come loose and slide like liquid silk through her fingers, tickling her skin. Shock and horror washed over her face as she watched herself drop it, only his reflexes managed to save it from the cold ground.

"Allow me," he whispered, thouroughly enjoying the amazing emotions flashing in her eyes. He folded it in half and keept three fingers in the loop, then placed it artistically round her neck, and threaded the two loose ends through the loop. "There you go, gorgeous."

She smoothed it down and watched how the rich shade contrasted with her tanned arms and his dark crimson shirt. It was beautiful. Soft, soft silk in the most vivid shade of red she'd ever seen. She was so gonna wear it everyday. She vowed to treat him to something special, but what? She'd have to think on it. "I really don't know what to say, Angel. Thank you. Especially for Acathla and the scarf. I've got the perfect dress for it."

He beamed, pleased his idea for a gift worked. "I just knew you'd love it."

To save them both, mainly herself, from a truly embarrassing emotional moment, Cordelia swiftly shook off any and all girly feelings, sure he'd either laugh or wave it away. "Can we eat now? I'm starving." God knew she'd need food for thought.

Where the hell was she going to put it?