"In a Demonic Way"
Cordelia was nervous, in a way she hadn't been for a long time. Which was stupid. Cordelia Chase didn't get nervous about dating. Cordelia Chase never got nervous about dating. Dating was like one of her special talents. If she didn't like the guy, that was one thing, but this was... different.
She wasn't sure she wanted to admit to herself that she was doing this for all the wrong reasons. Or at least most of the wrong reasons. But when Serena had told her about Wilson Christopher, and how she'd been going on and on about how Cordy would be just perfect for him, and then he'd said he wanted to meet her--well, come on. Wilson Christopher. Maybe she had some... feelings, for Doyle, but that didn't mean she was going to pass up the chance to go out with a big time fashion photographer. If nothing else, she'd have a good time, and with a little bit of luck Doyle would get the hint that if he was interested, he'd better do something about it.
It wasn't like she was going to wait around forever.
Turning back to her reflection in the lobby window, Cordelia started to carefully apply a second coat of her new lipstick.
"You look nice," Angel said behind her, like from nowhere because hello, vampire, and she couldn't see his reflection in the window. She jumped, smearing her lipstick, then spun around and gave him a look of disgust. When she turned back to the window, there was a streak of bright red from the corner of her mouth halfway up her cheek.
"And now," she said, frowning at herself, "I look like the Joker." Sighing, she pulled a tissue out of her bag and wiped off the streak.
"Sorry," Angel said. And he did sound kind of sorry.
Wiping away the last of the smear, Cordelia fixed the corner of her mouth with more lipstick. "Yeah, well. Hopefully I'm still too young and carefree for a heart attack. Would it kill you to hum a little when you sneak up on people?"
She turned around again. Angel was holding a file in his hands, and looking from it to her with confusion on his face. "I don't hum," he said absently. "I'm confused here. Why is Mrs. Bensen filed under 'P'?"
Cordelia took the file from him and checked it, then handed it back. "That's not a 'P'," she told him. "It's an 'F.' Or maybe an 'R'."
Angel looked at it again. "I don't know. Maybe we can be a little less--young and carefree?--with the filing?" He said it like he didn't expect her to agree, which was good. It wasn't like there was anything wrong with her filing method.
Another second of thought and it came to her. "Oh! I remember now. It's an 'F'."
"All right, so..." Angel chuckled and scratched his head. "Why is it Mrs. Bensen is filed under 'F'?"
God, sometimes he could be so dense. "Because she's from France," Cordelia emphasized. "Remember what a pain she was?"
Stepping into the room from the back office, Doyle tried to come to her rescue, which actually just annoyed Cordelia more. "I remember," he offered. "It made me want to drink a lot."
"Well, that's the French for you," Cordelia said. "Except wait--everything makes you want to drink a lot."
Doyle's face fell a little bit, and she did feel a tiny bit of guilt for being mean to him. On the other hand, she told herself, sometimes people needed a push in the right direction. It wasn't like she'd be doing him any favors by being all fake-nice when really she was annoyed.
Just then, they all heard a noise and turned to look as Wesley walked into the office.
"Hello. I was just in the neighborhood, patrolling with my new Bavarian fighting axe." Wesley held up something that, yeah, pretty much looked like an axe. "Then I suddenly thought ‘perhaps Doyle has had a vision’, perhaps you need my help in the battle against evil."
Doyle stuck his hands into his pockets and gave Wesley that look of his, the one that made it clear that he wasn't too crazy about Wesley. "We seem to be evil free at the moment. So thanks for dropping in, but --"
The but was that Wesley kept right on talking. "I also packed along a ‘Word Puzzle 3-D’ if any of you have the nerve to take me on."
Cordelia suppressed a laugh. "Gee, Wesley, I'd love to, but unlike you, I'm not in my 80s quite yet." She didn't get how someone with so much potential could be such a dweeb. "Doyle, on the other hand..."
Doyle made a wordless sound of protest, and Wesley straightened up. "If shaking your booty at the latest trendy hot spot is your idea of a life, then call me..."
That was when Serena and Emily walked in, looking pretty damned hot even if Cordelia wouldn't say so herself.
"...sick with envy," Wesley finished.
"You're goin' out?" Doyle asked.
"Well I certainly don't dress like this when I'm planning a quiet evening at home," Cordelia told him, holding her arms out at her sides to show off her cute new top and skirt in illustration, and turning to her girlfriends. "Hi guys."
Serena smiled, but she was turning it in Wesley's direction instead of Cordy's. "Hi. I'm Serena." God, she was practically fluttering her eyelashes. "Nice axe."
Wesley laughed nervously. "Uh, ah, no. This old thing." He swung the axe like he was trying to be all casual guy, and went too far, getting it stuck in the wall next to him.
Smooth move, Wesley, Cordelia thought, as Angel looked from Wes to Serena with an eyebrow raised. Surprisingly, he seemed to have enough sense to keep his mouth shut.
Returning her attention to Cordelia, Serena tossed her hair back. "We're late. Wilson practically had to have phone sex with the manager at Lounge La Brea to get us in."
"Okay, okay." Giving a quick spin and feeling kind of like she was back in high school, waiting for the approval she knew was coming, Cordelia asked, "How do I look?"
"As good as ever," Serena said. "Wilson won't be able to take his eyes off of you."
"Er... who's Wilson," Doyle asked. He was wearing on of those expressions that said he was jealous and uncomfortable but trying to hide it.
He so didn't get women.
"Christopher?" Serena said. She obviously didn't know Doyle very well if she thought that was going to clear up the confusion.
"Christopher Wilson?" Doyle asked.
Emily finally spoke up. At least she could still talk--maybe that meant she wasn't brain damaged yet from the endless rounds of binging and purging. "Wilson Christopher," she clarified.
"No," Wesley said. "The ethno-archeologist from Brandeis?"
Serena reached out to primp Cordelia's hair. "No, the fashion photographer from L.A.," she said, giving Wesley a weird look. "He's dying to meet Cordelia, after everything I told him about her." She looked at Cordy. "Who's your best friend?"
"It's totally you," Cordelia said, watching Doyle from under lowered lashes to see if she could figure out how he was taking all of this.
"So, you're seeing someone new," Angel said, sounding like the biggest dork in the world. "How come you didn't tell us?"
Saying 'Because I thought it might have a little bit more impact on Doyle if it was a surprise' didn't seem like the best move, so Cordelia said the second most honest thing instead. "Because I'm ashamed of you. Not to mention how you'd embarrass me by giving him the third degree if I was stupid enough to let him come pick me up here."
Blinking coyly, Emily said, "Your boss could give me the third degree anytime."
"God," Serena said in a low voice to Emily, rolling her eyes. "You're such a sucker."
"So, La Brea," Angel said, after exchanging a weird glance with Doyle. "Sounds like that could be an evening with all sorts of... evening type... I heard the bands there are--"
"They don't have any bands," Serena interrupted.
"Which I like," Angel said. Smooth. "Because if it's too loud..."
Emily smiled. "You guys could come. The more the merrier."
Horrified--having any of them tagging along so wasn't part of her plan--Cordelia shook her head quickly. "No, they really couldn't. They have... stuff to do. You know, detective stuff."
Whatever it was Angel was trying to accomplish, at least he had enough sense to bow out. "Yeah. And I don't... lounge all that well."
Wesley laughed and clapped Angel on the back. "Good one! Oh yes. No, he's, ah, he's no lounger." He put an arm around Angel's shoulder.
"Yeah." Doyle looked like he'd rather be pretty much anywhere than where he was. "You girls go ahead--have a good time." He didn't meet Cordy's eyes.
Serena gave Angel and Wesley another glance. "The good ones are always gay," she said, with some disappointment, then turned to Cordelia as Wesley moved away from Angel again. "Cor, tick tock."
"Right," Cordelia said, smoothing the front of her dress down again and heading for the door. "Night, guys. See you in the morning."
♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣
Angel: Changes in Seasons
"In a Demonic Way"
Written by: WesleysGirl
With original dialogue/plot by: Howard Gordon
Edited by: Ginny
♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣
Doyle continued to stand there in stunned silence as he watched Cordelia leave the office.
Wesley was already saying something to Angel about the Word Puzzle thing, but Doyle wasn't paying him any attention. It wasn't that he hadn't realized that things between him and Cordy were... well, not what he hoped they'd be. But the thought that she was already moving on...
He didn't have time to say anything about how it might be nice if Wesley would get the hell out, or how maybe he'd go home. Because next thing he knew, there was that one second of clarity that a vision was coming, and then *wham.*
It hit so hard and fast that Doyle pretty much just collapsed to the floor, but as usual he wasn't up to paying a lot of attention to where he was at that moment--too busy with the flashing lights and pictures and the sounds. He was dimly aware of Angel grabbing onto him, a strong arm behind his back as he writhed against the cold tiles.
The window of a house, the sort of cheap housing he was well familiar with, and something shadowy moving on the other side of a decent sized plate glass window. Looked like a Venus fly trap kind of, all waving tentacles and... was that an egg? Hatching? Some big hands, equipped with big claws... A sign that said 'Cabrillo' and a number... twenty something...
Another flash of the hatching demon sizzled through his brain like lightning, and he felt his body arch in response, felt Angel's hand tighten on his shoulder.
And then it was over, and Doyle let himself slump down, the heel of his own hand pressed to his forehead like maybe that'd drive back some of the lingering pain, even though he knew it wouldn't.
Angel was smart enough to keep his voice low when he asked, "What was it?"
"Something hatching," Doyle muttered. "House. Something Cabrillo." Then he added the most important part. "We don't have a lot of time."
"Okay, then let's go." Angel helped him to his feet and Doyle took the two necessary steps to the desk, aware that Wesley was standing there watching him.
"Need painkillers," Doyle said, leaning one palm on the desk to support his weight. He hoped it looked casual, like he didn't really need it. He rummaged in the drawer until he found one of the bottles of cheap aspirin he kept stashed around the office and pried it open, swallowing three tablets dry when a quick glance didn't reveal anything to drink close at hand.
Angel had gone into the back office to get his coat, and reappeared in the doorway as he was shrugging it on. The look of concern that he gave Doyle was comforting. "You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah. Let's just get there before this thing hatches and starts eating people's cocker spaniels or something." He straightened up as Wesley cleared his throat.
"I don't suppose you'd need any help?" the British guy asked hopefully. "Not that an evening with Word Puzzle 3-D isn't plenty exhilarating in its own right..."
Angle nodded at the weapon still embedded in the wall. "Might want your axe," he said.
Doyle refrained from commenting. They sure as hell didn't need any help from Mr. Uptight, but right then he didn't feel like getting into it. If Wesley was a problem--which seemed pretty likely--then Angel could handle him.
He followed Angel through the doorway into the hall, then stood there with him watching through the window as Wesley pulled once, then again on the axe's handle. On the second try it freed itself from the plaster so abruptly that Wesley's own momentum carried him right over onto his back, leaving him laid out flat on the floor.
Doyle and Angel exchanged glances.
"Gonna help, is he?" Doyle asked.
Angel shrugged. "At least it'll keep him off the streets."
Cabrillo turned out to be one of those communities where there was a central courtyard. It made looking for the house in question easier than it might have been, if, of course, Doyle had been sure of the house number in the first place. Which he wasn't.
"It might be 23," he said, gesturing at the house.
"You're not sure?" Wesley sounded snooty, and hearing that tone in his voice irritated Doyle.
The curtains to the left of the front door were closed, but there was a sudden screeching sound and some flickering lights from inside.
"Sounds like this is it," Angel said, and strode up the steps. "Wesley? You want to do the honors?"
Hell, if Wesley wanted to be the one to kick the door in, who was Doyle to complain? He kept his mouth shut and waited at the base of the stairs as Wesley, who'd traded his axe for a crossbow in the car, slammed a booted foot against the door and, wonder of wonders, managed not to fall over. And the door actually opened too. Imagine that.
Wesley moved through the open doorway into the house immediately, and as Doyle went to follow the two of them Angel recoiled, obviously repelled by an invisible barrier. But that meant...
"Don't move a muscle!" Wesley shouted. "Demon spawn!"
Stepping into the living room behind Wesley, Doyle saw an older couple sitting in matching recliners and facing a television that they we no longer looking at. Instead, they were staring in open-mouthed confusion at the well dressed British man (and the slightly less well dressed Irishman) who'd just broken down their door.
"Cowards, don't make me thrash it out of you!" Wesley continued, even though the older man was just sitting there blinking at him innocently. "Where do you lay your eggs? In the cellar?"
Christ. "Um, Wesley..." Doyle started. There was no doubt in his mind that they were in the wrong house.
"In the bedroom?" Wesley was holding the crossbow pointed at them menacingly.
Angel cleared his throat behind them, and Doyle glanced back to look at him. The vampire jerked his head away from the house. "Yeah, that's right," he said. " Termites... they lay their eggs anywhere. Like, for example, next door."
Doyle backed up and looked out through the doorway as Wesley stayed where he was, still threatening the couple, who hadn't moved a muscle. Next door, he could see the waving tentacle arm that he remember so vividly from his vision. "And we fight termites wherever they roam," he ad-libbed quickly, stepping back out onto the porch.
Behind him he could hear Wesley apologizing for the broken door, but he was too focused on getting into the other house to pay him much attention. Damn, what if they were too late? He should have been concentrating, should have known for sure what the right address was, but he'd been all distracted by the whole Cordelia dating thing.
Throwing his shoulder against the door--he was too short to get a boot high enough for any kind of effectiveness--resulted only in a sore shoulder.
"Angel, little help here?" he snapped, and Angel came up and broke the door in with what seemed like barely a flex of his muscles.
What happened after that was a little bit blurred--it all went so fast. The baby demon, screeching and probably less confused than the couple next door had been, still hadn't managed to pull itself free of its egg or whatever, but that didn't mean it was easy to kill. It took all three of them and a total of five weapons, and even then it was a chancy thing for a couple of minutes there. At one point Doyle found himself slammed into a wall so hard that plaster crumbled, and at another Wesley got himself tossed out through the front door with a shriek that would have made Doyle laugh if he hadn't been so busy getting the crap beat out of him.
Finally the thing was lying in little pieces on the floor--and yeah, the walls and ceiling too--and the three of them stumbled outside into the fresh air that didn't reek of the acidic orange slime that passed for the demon's blood. They were all spattered with the stuff--clothes, hair, skin--and Doyle couldn't say he was too fond of it.
"That was bracing," Wesley said, sounding pretty pleased with himself.
Wiping his sword off on his sleeve--which Doyle guessed made enough sense, since it wasn't like the shirt had much chance of being saved--Angel said, "Yeah, baby just hatched."
"Wouldn't want to run into him when he was full grown and had a driver's license," Doyle said darkly.
Wesley gave him a look. "It's unfortunate you sent us to the wrong house," he said. "Another five minutes and that thing might have been loose in the world."
Before Doyle could snap back at him, Angel said, "Huh. Well, it all worked out."
"This time," Wesley said, glancing back at the house. "Maybe we should clean up? Unless... do you think a Tahval demon leaves a hefty security deposit?"
Doyle didn't understand how the guy could go from accusing to conciliatory in a matter of seconds, but on the other hand, it was Angel that Wesley was talking to, not him.
"I wouldn't worry about it," Angel said, turning and starting back to the car.
"Well, it's not my place," Wesley said, following on Angel's other side and speaking in something barely above a whisper. "Doyle is your employee, not mine, but he does seem to be... distracted. Shouldn't he be paying more attention to his duties?"
"Hey!" Doyle said, moving faster and turning around so that he was standing in front of Angel but walking backward. "You try having a hot poker jammed into your skull and see how easy it is to figure out everything you're seeing." He eyed Wesley with more than a little distaste. "And you've got slime on your face."
Wesley wiped it off. "And what about Cordelia?" he asked, still directing his attention toward Angel like Doyle wasn't even there. "I mean, no one's more fond of her than I, but if she wants to go gad-abouting with those doxies..."
Seething, Doyle turned around and kept walking, pretty sure that there was nothing he could say to that. Was it any surprise that he was distracted, what with Cordy going out on a date when she knew how he felt about her? Christ, she'd just about rubbed it in his face.
"I think they liked you," Angel told Wesley behind him.
"Really! I - I didn’t mean doxy in the sexual promiscuous sense, exactly. I - I... You don’t think sticking the axe in the wall put them off?"
"No, that was charming," Angel said.
"What about the fact that they thought we were gay?" Wesley asked.
Angel cleared his throat. "Adds mystery."
As they got back into the car, Doyle did his best not to think about what Cordelia was probably doing at that moment.
Cordelia's friend Serena leaned over the bar at La Brea, showing off her cleavage as the bartender handed her a drink.
"Here you go."
She smiled at him. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it."
Serena's smile turned into something closer to a smirk. "I won't. But I will tip for it." She turned around and slid a hand up the back of her date's shoulder sensuously. "Jason? Moulah."
Jason turned his head to meet her eyes and grinned, handing her a folded bill, which Serena then passed to the bartender. "I'm not saying it was worthy of a kiss," Jason said, in that way that meant he expected one, and it wasn't like Serena wasn't happy to oblige.
They were interrupted by Emily coming over to join them. "I'm bored."
Serena looked at her. "Emily, do you know what it takes to get in here?"
Turning to the corner where Cordelia and Wilson were sitting, Serena said, "Well, Cordy's not."
There was only like a foot between them, and Cordelia was started to feel like even that was too much. She'd forgotten that this date was all a ruse to remind Doyle of her true worth, what with Wilson's wide smile, and the way he looked at her when she talked, like she was actually really interesting. Like everything she had to say was valuable.
"So you left Sunnydale and came to L.A. What was that like?"
Cordelia made a face. "Like skydiving without a parachute." Wilson chuckled, so she went on. "Except for the smashing your body to bits part. Actually, no, it was like that too. Oh! And that guy that was supposed to be here when you arrive...?"
"Guy?" Wilson looked puzzled.
"With the big bag of fame and fortune."
"Oh right. That guy."
"So what happened to him?" Cordelia asked.
Wilson shrugged. "He comes and goes. He's sort of fleeting that way."
"Well, if you see him, will you tell him to fleet my way?"
Laughing, Wilson nodded, then his laugh kind of tapered off into a thoughtful smile. "Thank you," he said.
Now it was her turn to be puzzled. "For what?"
"For making me not hate dating. Serena is really something. I'm going to send her flowers..."
Cordelia raised an eyebrow.
"...for introducing you to me."
Oops. "I knew that." She laughed a little bit. "God, for the first time, I like L.A.. In high school I knew my place--and okay, it was a haughty place, and maybe I was a tad shallow..."
"Oh, hey, nobody feels like they belong here," Wilson said. "I mean, that's the point of L.A. -- to make you feel as insecure as possible."
Cordelia looked at him skeptically. "You don't feel that way."
"Sure I do."
She snorted. "Right. You're doing what you came to L.A. to do. You're photographing all these gorgeous, famous people... Where's the insecure?"
"In the pictures! Which are further proof that everybody is having a real life except me. I'm the guy behind the camera, watching and recording life, not... living it, each and every moment. Like you." Wilson was watching her with that little smile again.
"Wow... I'm living life?" Cordelia tucked her hair back behind her ear and smiled back at him. "Look at me."
His gaze softened. It made her feel kind of warm and tingly inside. "Look at you," he said quietly.
When they got to her apartment, Wilson insisted on walking her to her door, even though Cordelia tried to tell him it wasn't necessary.
It was kind of nice though.
"Well, here we are," she said, unlocking the door, stepping in and turning around. "Thank you. For the club, and for driving me home, and for listening to my entire life's story. I think I may have left out a couple of weeks in early 1987, but..."
Wilson didn't let her finish. "I had a great time, and you didn't talk too much. I want to know everything about you."
It sounded like he meant it, and actually, Cordelia was starting to feel less guilty for leading him on the more she liked him. "Me too. I mean, about you, not... because I already know... about me..." She was starting to sound seriously stupid, and was relieved when Wilson stepped over the threshold and kissed her.
Extra bonus points for not being a vampire, she thought.
"Can I call you tomorrow?" he asked, after pulling back.
"Um... you don't have to..."
Wilson laughed. "Call you?"
"Go home? I mean, right away? It's still early..." He checked his watch, and Cordelia added, "In Australia." They both laughed. "Will you come in?"
As Wilson followed her inside, Cordelia turned the lights on.
"Nice," he said, looking around.
She closed the door and then reached to dim the too-bright lights. "Yeah. Compared to my old apartment, it's Buckingham Palace."
"You live alone, right?"
Cordelia had just reached the center of the room where he was standing when the lights went suddenly bright again. "In the sense that I'm the only one living here that's actually alive," she said, going back and turning them down a second time.
"That was a yes, I think."
The lights went bright again, and Cordelia sighed and cursed Dennis silently. "Wiring," she explained. "Old buildings."
"Well, no worries," Wilson said. "Besides, I like looking at you."
Wow, he was so... smooth. Not to mention nice. Cordelia thought he probably deserved an honest explanation. "Look... the truth is, my dating game skills are kind of rusty. You're the first person I've had over in a long... well, ever." They both laughed, and it felt... natural. "So... I'm open to suggestions."
Wilson smiled. "Music?" he suggested.
Duh. "Right. Music." Cordelia moved over and turned on the radio, but as soon as she straightened up again the channel changed from the mellow station it had been on to something like folk instruments on speed.
"That's some jaunty polka," Wilson said, bemused.
All she could do was laugh and turn the radio off again.
"Oh, I know, I know, the wiring," he said.
Trying to think of something that would get her out of the room for a minute, Cordelia asked, "How about some tea?"
"That'd be great."
"Okay. Hang on a sec and I'll be right back." She moved quickly into the kitchen, determined to put a stop to this once and for all. Just because Dennis liked Doyle--and okay, maybe that thought brought her up short again for a moment or two--didn't mean she had to put up with his crap. This was her life. "All right, Dennis, knock it off," she hissed as soon as she thought Wilson couldn't hear her anymore. "As it turns out, I actually like this guy, and if you keep killing the mood, I'll kill you!"
She got the kettle. "All right, empty threat, you being a ghost and already dead and all." She filled the kettle with water and put it on the stove, turning the burner on. Suddenly inspired, she went on, "But... I'll do something worse! I'll play 'Evita' around the clock." Hands on her hips, she threatened, "The one with Madonna!!"
"Who are you talking to?" Wilson asked from behind her.
Startled, she whirled around. "Um... my ghost. I have a ghost. He's jealous." She realized how totally stupid that sounded. "I'm kidding," she said quickly. "The apartment's great, but things are always breaking and, um... and I have no one to complain to, so sometimes, just to keep myself company, I talk to myself."
Instead of thinking she was crazy, or maybe just to shut her up, Wilson leaned forward and kissed. When he pulled back, Cordelia found herself looking into his eyes, realizing that he was exactly what she'd been hoping to find when she'd first come to L.A. Good looking, rich, plus he had the whole genuinely-nice thing going for him.
She'd be stupid to turn him away, right?
Before she could get all guilt-ridden and change her mind, Cordelia pressed in closer and kissed him again. This time, the kiss grew heated quickly, his hands on her back pulling her tightly against him.
It wasn't long before, by mutual but unspoken consent, they moved to the bedroom, and for once, Dennis had the decency not to interrupt as Wilson slowly peeled off her clothes and pushed her down onto the bed.
When Cordelia woke up the next morning, sunshine was streaming in through the curtains and she felt pleasantly relaxed. For about three seconds, until she realized that her alarm should have gone off ages ago.
She turned to face the other side of the bed. "Wilson?"
He was gone. But maybe, she told herself, he'd had a photo shoot to get to, or something, and he just hadn't wanted to wake her. He was that kind of guy--thoughtful, considerate.
Cordelia reached for her alarm clock, turning it so that she could see the time. It was 10:47 am.
Pushing herself up to a sitting position, she muttered, "Uh oh, somebody's going to be late for work." She threw the blanket aside and then froze, staring down at her body in shock.
Her stomach was hugely distended, round and stretched like she'd swallowed a beach ball or something.
Or like she was pregnant.
Doyle was worried.
He wasn't sure if Angel would have been willing to admit how worried he was too, even though anyone who knew him could have figured it out by one look at his face. Well, that and the way the vampire had insisted on coming with him when Cordy hadn't turned up at the office and their phone calls had gone unanswered.
"What time is it?" Angel asked, once they'd gotten underneath the canopy and he wasn't in danger of bursting into flames.
"Twelve fifteen," Doyle said, glancing at his watch as they reached Cordelia's door.
Angel had those worry lines on his forehead. "I left two messages. She should have called back." He banged loudly on the door, then again. "Cordelia!"
"You think she's gonna just let us in?" Doyle had been trying not to think about what might have happened. He couldn't forget her previous date, when she'd told them if she didn't come in to work the next day, they could clean out her desk. There was something between them--or at least, he'd thought there was until she'd pulled her little stunt last night--and he didn't want to consider the possibility that she'd skipped out on them--on him--without so much as a goodbye. As Angel finished banging on the door a third time, Doyle suggested, "Maybe she, you know... slept somewhere else."
The thought of it made him sick, but not really surprised.
"I've got a bad feeling about this," Angel said, and turned the doorknob hard, snapping the lock. He went into the apartment, calling her name again, and Doyle followed. "A really bad feeling."
"I thought it was just me," Doyle said, closing the door. The apartment was quiet, no lights on.
"This isn't like her," Angel continued, as they went through the living room and into the hallway. "Cordelia?" Reaching the closed bedroom door, he turned the handle, and the door swung open with both he and Doyle standing side by side in the doorway.
Cordy was sitting up in bed, tearful and clutching a handful of tissues, but she didn't turn her head to look at them even though it was obvious she'd heard the door open.
She was... pregnant. Extremely pregnant, by the looks of her.
Snapping out of his shock before Doyle could, Angel went cautiously into the room as if he didn't want to startle her.
"Angel?" she said, still not looking at either of them.
"It's okay. We're here," Angel said.
"I'm ready to wake up now." Cordelia sniffled. "I - I don't seem to be waking up. Help me."
Angel sat down on the edge of the bed and reached for her hand as Doyle finally managed to get himself to go into the room. "We will. What do you remember?"
She sounded just about ready to burst into tears as she answered. "Well... we went to the club. And Wilson and I just sort of hid out on this couch, and we talked and talked, and then he drove me home and I asked him to come in." She still wasn't looking at Doyle, like she was ashamed of herself. "He was really nice. I didn't think he was going to be that nice, you know? And we, uh... you know. And it was... normal. And he was normal, and it was safe... it was... it was all really safe." Her voice broke at the end.
Seemingly frustrated, Angel got up, and Doyle sat down in his place, taking Cordy's hand. "Shh," he said. "It's gonna be okay."
He glanced up at Angel, who asked, "Have you talked to him?"
Cordelia's grip tightened on Doyle's hand. "No. I haven't talked to anyone. What would I say to him? 'I had a really great time, I think you left something at my place?'" She looked down at her stomach. "I don't think this is right," she said, sounding young and confused.
Angel picked up the cordless phone next to her bed and held it out to her. "Whatever it is that's happening, he must have some answers."
She shook her head. "I can't."
"Just dial his number," Angel said gently. "I'll talk to him."
With trembling hands, Cordelia took the phone and dialed. "Oh God," she said. "I'm being punished."
Doyle knew something about punishment, and no matter what his feelings over what she'd done, he wasn't going to let that one slip by. "You are not being punished," he told her firmly, as Angel held the phone to his ear and waited. "You haven't done anything to deserve this. It's gonna be all right--we're going to fix this."
With a quiet growl, Angel hung up the phone and replaced it on the base with what Doyle thought was a bit too much force. "He's... not answering right now," Angel said, with a little shake of his head to let Doyle know that it wasn't that simple. "I want you to rest. We're going to handle this, okay?"
There was no response from Cordelia, whom Doyle suspected was in a mild state of shock at best.
"Hey!" Angel said, a bit more loudly, and she glanced up at him. "You're not alone."
Cordelia looked down at her stomach again, running the hand that Doyle wasn't holding over the rounded surface. "That's sort of the problem, isn't it?"
Doyle and Angel exchanged a look.
She sniffled again, letting go of Doyle's hand and curling down onto her side away from them. "Could you - I just want to be alone for a little while," she said.
"We'll be right outside," Doyle promised her, more because he wanted a minute with Angel than because he thought it was a good idea to leave her alone in this state.
They went out into the hallway, shutting the door but not latching it.
"I'm going to call Wesley," Angel said. "He knows a lot about mystical stuff, he might have some ideas."
"What about this Wilson guy?" Doyle asked, keeping his voice low as they moved back to the living room where the other phone was.
"Phone's disconnected." Angel looked as worried as he felt. "Look, stay with her while I make some calls. I don't think she should be alone right now."
Doyle nodded. "Right. Let me know if there's anything else I can do." He started back toward the bedroom, then paused. "What about Cordy's friends? Those girls from last night, I mean?"
"What about them?"
"You think we should call one of them? Seems to me like she could use, you know. Female support. Plus maybe one of them knows something about Wilson--like how to get a hold of him."
Angel finished dialing what Doyle assumed was Wesley's number. "Yeah, good idea. See if you can get her to give you their numbers."
It took Wesley less than twenty minutes to show up at Cordelia's place, and by that time Doyle had managed to weasel the names and phone numbers of her friends out of her. Of course, none of them were answering their phones--but, as Cordy had pointed out, they were probably both at work.
She'd just dropped into a restless doze when Doyle heard the front door to her apartment open, so he slipped out of the room quietly and joined Angel and the newly-arrived Wesley in the living room.
Angel was just hanging up the phone.
"Any luck with your contact?" Doyle asked.
The vampire shook his head in frustration. "Wilson's home and business phones have been disconnected, no unlisted numbers, no forwarding addresses, no criminal record."
"Well, that's something," Wesley said. "How is she faring?"
Doyle shrugged. "Think she's practicing the time honored tradition of denial."
"I suppose that's to be expected." Wesley said, standing up a bit straighter.
Angel crossed his arms in front of his chest and sighed. "I'm guessing it's some kind of procrea-parasitic demon."
Wesley nodded with that air of intellectual superiority that he exuded like cheap cologne. "Hmm, a demon who can only reproduce by implanting a human women with its seed. Yes, I've heard of such entities. The human mothers-- "
"Rarely survive labor," Angel finished for him. "And the ones that do wish they hadn't."
Feeling slightly panicked at the thought, Doyle said, "Well what are we gonna do about it? I mean, you've seen her, Angel. If she's that pregnant in one night, she could have the--whatever it is, demon baby--any minute!"
"We have to move fast," Angel agreed. "Doyle, you're with me. Wesley, you stay with Cordelia--you're gonna have to see what's inside her."
Doyle stiffened at the same time Wesley did.
"I beg your pardon?" Wesley said, looking shocked.
Angel smiled. "Pre-natal exam. Get her to a doctor and get one of those scans."
"Oh, of course," Wesley said. "But--not to argue the finer points, but am I really the best person to deal with this particular facet of the situation?"
"Much as it surprises me, I've got to agree with him there," Doyle put in. "Cordelia's in a delicate condition. Shouldn't she have someone with her who's, you know, sensitive?"
Wesley looked offended. "I'm more than capable of sensitivity. I was merely suggesting that another woman might provide the kind of support that she needs."
"What about Harry?" Angel suggested, interrupting their argument.
Doyle stared at Angel. "Harry? My Harry?"
"You had a Harry?" Wesley asked, frowning. "But I thought you... and Cordelia..."
"Harry's my ex-wife," Doyle explained. He thought about it for a minute and concluded that it might not be a bad idea. After all, Harry and Cordelia had seemed to get on well, and at least then he'd be able to relax, knowing that Cordy was with someone who'd understand the whole female-parts thing. "Yeah. Here, let me give you her number..."
He rummaged in the nearest couple of drawers until he found a scrap of paper and pencil, then scribbled down Harry's phone number and handed the paper to Wesley. He tried not to think too much about the fact that he had Harry's number memorized even though he didn't call her.
Wesley took the piece of paper. "I'll call her and see if she's available to accompany us. What about you two?"
Angel grinned, the expression predatory. "We're going to find Daddy."
It didn't take Doyle and Angel long to find the La Brea Lounge. They went in, spotted a bartender at the bar, and went over.
Angel cleared his throat.
"I didn't see you," the bartender said.
"Yeah, he gets that a lot," Doyle said.
"What can I get you?"
"We need some help," Angel said, leaning on the bar with one hand.
The bartender looked kind of uncomfortable. "I'm kinda busy..." he said, gesturing at the glasses he'd been drying.
"Yeah, we can see that," Doyle said. "We won't take up much of your time. A friend of ours was here last night--her name is Cordelia? Big smile, real pretty?"
"Yeah, we get a lot of that," the bartender said, looking unimpressed.
Angel took out some money and set it on the bar.
"What this?" the bartender asked.
Looking down at the bills underneath Angel's hand and then back up at the guy, Doyle said, "Probably an insult. My guess is you serve drinks day and night to guys that think money buys everything."
Looking a little more interested, the bartender came around the bar. "Yeah, that'd be a good guess."
"One of those guys hurt our friend," Angel said quietly. "We need to find him, fast."
"Who was it?"
"Wilson Christopher," Doyle said, disliking the need to even say the guy's name out loud. The bartender nodded, so he went on, "Look, we could use anything you can tell us. Who his friends are, where they hang out..."
"Pretty much wherever Serena tells them to," the bartender said.
"Serena," Angel said.
"Yeah, the girl from last night," Doyle said, shooting the vampire a look.
"You know her then." The bartender shrugged. "They travel in packs. The guys have the money, the girls have the pretty. The girls decide what club's the flavor of the month, and Serena rules the girls."
"Thanks," Doyle said, as he and Angel exchanged a look and turned to go.
"So you're her boyfriend?" the bartender asked from behind them.
Doyle wasn't sure how to answer that. "That's still up for debate," he said, as they headed for the door.
Cordelia felt awkward and stupid and very, very bitchy. It was kind of like PMS, only seriously more severe, to the point where she wanted to snap at the woman on the other side of the hospital waiting room who was sniffling and blowing her nose. Sick people shouldn't go to doctor's offices and spread their germs to everyone else who was waiting.
The woman sitting two chairs over looked at her. "Do you know what it is?"
She gaped in horror--other people could tell that there was something wrong with her!
But then the other woman said, "Boy or girl?" and she got it, even if she still didn't know what to say.
Wesley came back over and sat down on her other side. "Shouldn't be long." He leaned closer to her and whispered, "I told them it was rather urgent."
"You're carrying low," the woman said, still talking, like Cordelia was interested. "I bet it's..." She reached out like she was going to touch her, and Cordelia freaked, jumping up out of the chair.
"Shut up! Don't touch me!"
The woman gave her a weird look and backed off, thank God, and right then the door to the waiting room opened again and Harry came in. Cordelia thought that she'd rarely been so glad to see another woman in her life.
"Hi," Harry said, coming over and sitting down in the seat between her and touchy-feely woman. "I'm sorry it took me so long to get here. Have you seen the doctor yet?" She exchanged a glance with Wesley.
"Not yet," Cordelia said through gritted teeth. "But if they don't get me in there soon I'm going to start rearranging furniture or something." She was so on-edge, it felt like she wanted to crawl out of her own skin.
"Don't worry. I'm sure it won't be long." Harry had enough sense not to try to touch her, at least. She looked at Wesley again. "Hi, I'm Harry. You must be Wesley."
Wesley actually looked flustered, though maybe not as much as he had the night before--jeez, had it only been one night?--when he'd met Serena and Emily. He could be such a dork around women. But he took Harry's offered hand and shook it. "Yes, I'm Wesley. It's nice to meet you. It was very good of you to come."
"No. I'm glad you called." Harry turned her attention back to Cordelia, thank you, and said again, "I'm sure they'll call you any minute. How are you feeling?"
Cordelia made a little sound like a laugh. "Fat?" she suggested, indicating the enormous swell of her stomach. "Um... and kind of hungry."
"Should I see if I can find a vending machine?" Wesley offered, but just then a nurse appeared in the inner doorway and called Cordelia's name.
She got up eagerly--well, as eagerly as she could, considering how hard it was to get up out of the chair--and followed the nurse into the exam room with Wesley and Harry right behind her. They didn't have to wait long for the doctor to come in. He was reading what must have been her file.
"Hi, I'm Doctor Wasserman." He barely looked at Cordelia, just giving her belly a quick appraising glance. "You're what, eight and a half months along?"
Wesley looked at Cordelia. "Feels like only yesterday, doesn't it?"
She tried to smile, to show him that she appreciated his attempt to be funny. On the other side of the exam table, Harry rubbed her shoulder. It felt soothing.
The doctor was still talking. "Well, I see you left a lot of blanks on the patient information form. It would help to have the name of your previous doctor."
"You're the only doctor we've been to..." Cordelia started.
"In California," Wesley said, with an apologetic look. "We just moved here from England."
Dr. Wasserman nodded. "Lovely country." He handed the file to the nurse. "So. How are you feeling?"
Yes, at last, a chance to complain to someone who would listen. "I'm as big as a house! Everything hurts, I --"
But of course the stupid doctor didn't want to hear it either. "That's all normal at this stage. And once your little one comes out, which will probably be in no time, you'll feel a lot better."
Right. "God, it's a nightmare," she said with feeling, and Harry patted her shoulder again. Strangely, she still didn't find it annoying.
The doctor and the nurse exchanged a look like they thought she was blowing things way out of proportion, and Cordelia was tempted to tell them the truth of it--that when she'd gone to bed last night, she hadn't been pregnant. Not like they'd believe her anyway.
"Hormones," Wesley explained.
The doctor pulled some piece of medical equipment closer and said, "All right, Mrs. Pangborn, why don't you lie back and we'll see what's baking in the oven." He folded down the top of Cordy's overalls and pulled her shirt up just far enough to expose her stomach, then squirted some gel onto her skin.
"Have you folks settled on a name yet? It's the hardest part for a lot of people." Dr. Wasserman moved the little computer mouse looking thing around on her stomach while looking at the screen.
"I keep telling them if it's a girl, they should name her after me," Harry piped up.
"Hmm, looks like someone's having twins," the doctor said, still looking at the monitor.
It took everything Cordelia had not to sit up. If Harry's hand hadn't been on her shoulder, she probably would have. "Twins?!" she screeched, at the same time Wesley did.
But the doctor was still looking at the screen. "No, there's a third heartbeat."
The nurse came over and looked too. "There's another one," she said, pointing.
Cordelia was starting to feel kind of confused--stunned, but also kind of proud, or something, which didn't make a lot of sense.
"Five... six..." The doctor sounded just as shocked. "Oh my God!"
She did make a motion to sit up then, and Harry helped. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"I - I'm sure it's nothing," Dr. Wasserman said, glancing at the nurse. "But I - I'd like to withdraw a little of the amniotic fluid. Just... just to make sure that everything is, uh... ship-shape. So, nurse, if you'd prep Mrs. Pangborn right away?"
Wesley, who had moved over closer to the monitor so that he could see too, looked back at her with what looked like a carefully blank expression.
Serena's building was nice. Doyle didn't know what she did for work, but from what he guessed the rent probably cost, he figured some of her boyfriends had to be contributing in a major way for her to be able to afford the place. The hallway was dimly lit though, and he glanced at Angel as they paused in front of Serena's apartment.
Angel knocked. "Serena?"
Her voice came through the closed door. "Just leave it outside."
They exchanged another glance. Doyle tried. "Serena? It's Cordelia's friends. Angel and Doyle? Can we come in?"
After a second, she answered, still through the door. "Okay. Yeah, sure."
He reached out and turned the handle--the door was unlocked, and they went in cautiously. The place was pretty dark. There were a bunch of lit candles around though, and as he and Angel went further into the room, they could see Serena, her back to them, lighting another candle that was sitting on a table.
"Serena?" Angel said.
With her back still to them, Serena said, "The light hurts my eyes lately."
Next to Doyle, Angel made a little sound. "Yeah, I know the feeling."
"I thought you were the liquor store," she said, then lifted a nearly empty bottle of what looked like vodka to her lips and took a swallow. "I'm almost dry." She took another swallow. "I know what you're thinking. I shouldn't, right?" Serena turned, revealing the enormous swell of her stomach. "It'll hurt the baby?"
She took another sip and looked down at her belly defiantly. "I hope."
Dr. Wasserman was really freaking Cordelia out with that huge needle, and she had to turn her head away and not look at it.
"It's okay," Harry said, holding her hand. "It's going to be fine."
"I need to tell you that there is a point five percent chance of miscarriage with this procedure," the doctor said. "Not, it's a very small risk--"
"I'll take it," Cordelia said, cutting him off. She didn't care about the risk--she just needed to know.
"Now, you'll feel a pinch," he said, and holy cow was that an understatement--she yelped a little bit despite herself when the needle stabbed into her. "Just count backwards from five, and we'll be done."
Cordelia took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "Five... four... three... two... one." But she could still feel the syringe pulling, burning. "One... one... one..." She opened her eyes again and raised her head, looking at the doctor with more than a little annoyance.
Thankfully, that was when he actually finished. He slid the needle out--ow--and looked at the fluid in it. "All done," he said, handing the syringe over to the nurse. "That wasn't too bad, was it? Now we'll just run a few tests, and--"
"Dr. Wasserman!" the nurse said, turning back around, her expression one of horror as she stared at the syringe in her hand. As they all looked at it, the pale yellow fluid inside seemed to eat away at the glass, causing it to crack. The nurse screamed and jumped back, dropping the syringe onto the floor, where it shattered.
Cordelia sat up and watched, feeling weirdly detached as the fluid started to eat a hole in the tile floor.
"This is... um..." The doctor was obviously losing it. "Excuse me," he said, and he and the nurse both left quickly.
Going over and staring down at the hole in the floor for a minute, Wesley then straightened up and looked at Cordelia. His mouth was kind of hanging open.
"You saw what's inside of me?" Cordelia asked.
"I think we should find Angel," Wesley said, but it seemed like it was more to Harry than it was to her.
"Wesley, please, just tell me!" She was desperate to know, to be reassured.
Harry was the one who tried to talk her out of wanting to hear it. "Cordelia..."
But they didn't understand, because what she really wanted to know was, "Do they look healthy?"
Wesley and Harry both stared at her.
Serena's apartment was quiet.
"It's like it's not real, but it is," she was saying. "Right? It's really happening?"
"It's real enough," Doyle told her. "And it's happening to Cordelia too."
"Oh God." Serena got to the bottom of her bottle and set it down. She didn't seem particularly drunk, just upset. "I can't reach Jason," she said. "He's gone."
"So is Wilson," Angel said.
She went over, a bit unsteadily, and sat down on the couch. "I didn't know this would happen."
"But you knew something," Doyle said. He was sure of that, at least.
"Yeah, I knew... I knew the guys--Jason, and Nick. And then Wilson wanted to meet Cordelia. I don't know." Serena sighed. "I knew something wasn't right. Their money..."
Angel glanced at Doyle. "What about their money?"
"Tell us anyway," Doyle said.
"It kind of--smelled." Serena looked at them apologetically. "I mean, really smelled. And sometimes the guys were, like, jumpy. But this town... you know? Everything is fake. Things are weird and you stop asking questions." She sighed again. "Are you sure this is really happening?"
Angel sat down on the edge of the table in front of her. "Do you have someone you can call?"
"Call?" She looked confused.
"Family," Doyle clarified.
Serena shook her head. "No. No one. The guys--it seemed like they liked that. Wilson asked about Cordelia and I told him that she didn't have anybody either."
Leaning forward a little bit more, Angel asked, "Serena, where can we find--"
But before he could finish the question, Serena wrapped both arms around her stomach and folded in on herself, screaming.
Cordelia had been quiet on the drive back from the hospital, sitting in the back seat with Harry holding her hand. Wesley was grateful for the other woman's company--she seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, as well as a gentle way of interacting with Cordelia, both of which were rather valuable under the current circumstances.
It wasn't until they were in the lift going down into the basement where Angel lived that Cordelia screamed.
He and Harry were both startled, but they did their best to support her between them, and led her out of the lift as soon as it had stopped moving. "It's all going to work out," Wesley said soothingly. "You'll see. Everything's going to be just fine."
"I know it will be," Cordelia said, calmer than he would have expected.
They took Cordelia into Angel's bedroom and eased her down onto the bed. "There's a brave girl," Wesley said. "I'm sure Angel won't mind if you rest in here. Just relax, get comfortable, well... as comfortable as is possible, at any rate."
Harry pulled a blanket up and settled it over Cordelia. "We're right here if you need anything. Do you want one of us to sit with you? Or do you think you'll be able to sleep?"
But Cordelia ignored Harry's questions, looking at Wesley with narrowed eyes. "You're afraid," she said.
"What?" Wesley asked.
"You're afraid of what's inside of me. You think it's horrible." Cordelia was watching him carefully. "You think that I won't be able to handle it. That if I find out, I'll do something... bad."
He tried to be as honest as possible. "Cordelia, the truth is I haven't yet formulated a theory. I need time to analyze the ultrasound and weigh the data, and - and the moment there is anything concrete to report--"
"There are seven of them," Cordelia said, interrupting him and rubbing her stomach in slow circles. "There are seven of his children... growing inside of me. They're talking to me. They're talking all at once." As if talking to her belly, she said, "I can't understand."
Wesley sat down on the side of the bed opposite Harry. "Cordelia, I know how difficult this must be for you..."
"No!" Cordelia said sharply. "You don't know."
"You don't know what it's like to be a partner in creation," she whispered.
Harry tried to break in. "Cordelia, I think Wesley meant--"
"I know what he meant," Cordelia said, her voice soft. "Wesley?"
"Yes?" His own voice was also very quiet, and Harry was utterly still on the other side of the bed as if afraid of breaking the spell.
"They're not human," Cordelia whispered.
"I imagine that's true."
"But, I mean... that could be okay, right?" Cordelia was pleading with him now. "I mean, look at Angel. He's not human. And Doyle, he's not either..."
"Shh," Wesley said helplessly, reaching out and patting her hand. "Shh."
"I mean, not totally," Cordelia said. She looked on the verge of tears. "And he's good." Relaxing with a sigh, she closed her eyes, seeming to fall asleep within seconds.
Wesley and Harry looked at each other across the sleeping form of the girl. "Thank you for being here," Wesley said very quietly.
"No, it's okay." Harry sounded so sympathetic. "Cordelia's my friend."
"Well... you're a very good friend." Not knowing what else to do, Wesley pulled the blanket up further over Cordelia. Then he heard someone say his name softly behind them, and turned to find that Angel and Doyle had returned.
"Go ahead," Harry urged.
"We'll be right outside," Wesley said, then went to join Angel and Doyle. "Any luck locating Wilson?" he asked, once he thought they were far enough away so that Cordelia wouldn't be disturbed by their conversation.
"Not yet," Angel said.
Doyle's arms were crossed over his chest. "But we did find Cordelia's friend Serena, and no big surprise, she's in a demonic way too."
"As big as Cordelia," Angel confirmed. "And Wilson's rich buddies are in on it." The vampire moved over to the desk and picked up a phone book, beginning to flip through it. "Four of them, maybe more."
"There's no way of knowing how many women they impregnated." Doyle looked as worried as Wesley felt--maybe more so.
He took the piece of paper from his pocket and offered it to Angel. "And it's worse than you know. The ultrasound results. Seven heartbeats, at least, maybe more. And with multiple pregnancies..."
"Someone's raising an army," Doyle said flatly.
"An army of what?" Wesley asked.
Angel looked up from the phone book. "Good question. We need to find the demon fathers."
Glancing over at the page Angel had the book opened to, Wesley said, "Gun clubs? Guns can kill them? Well I say, that makes it easier."
Doyle rolled his eyes. "Serena said that Wilson and his friends hang out at some private gun club. Guns and Cigars. She doesn't know where exactly--that'd be too easy by half--but we figure that's the next place to check."
Nodding, Angel said, "We need to narrow down the species. Maybe we can figure out a way to terminate this without hurting her."
"And if we can't?" Wesley asked.
"Yes, well, it mustn't come to that," Wesley said. "The odds of her even surviving are..."
"Don't say it," Doyle ordered sharply, but before either of them could say anything else, Angel tilted his head as if he'd heard something, then went through the living room and into the kitchen with Wesley and Doyle both following.
Cordelia was standing in front of the open refrigerator, Harry hovering nearby.
"I tried to tell her I'd get her whatever she wanted," Harry said apologetically.
Wesley couldn't help but notice the look that passed between Harry and Doyle. "It's okay," Doyle said to her, as all four of them watched Cordelia drinking blood directly from one of Angel's containers, gulping it down as if she were terribly thirsty. A trickle of dark red liquid escaped the corner of her mouth and ran down over her chin.
Swallowing audibly, Angel said, "I don't think I ever realized how disgusting that was. Get her back to bed."
"Yes," Wesley said, moving toward Cordelia as she set the container back in the refrigerator and wiped her mouth on her sleeve.
"Maybe order her a pizza or something?" Doyle suggested.
Wesley nodded as he and Harry each took one of Cordelia's elbows to guide her back to the bedroom. "Good idea."
Cordelia's only comment was rather flat, inanimate. "I was hungry."
Doyle and Angel stood behind Wilson Christopher for a good four minutes without him knowing they were there. He was wearing one of those protective device things over his ears as he practiced his target shooting, and when he reached the end of the next clip he turned around, pulling the ear protection down around his neck as he did so, then paused for the barest second when he saw them standing there.
He took of his safety glasses. "You shouldn't sneak up on people like that in here," he said, taking the clip out of the gun and putting in a new one, pretty casually. Doyle had to give him credit for that at least. "That's how accidents happen."
"Yeah, you know all about 'accidents', don't you," Doyle started, taking a step forward, but Angel stopped him with a hand on his arm.
Wilson tried to look bored, and almost succeeded. "This is a private club. Featured word -- 'private.'"
"Yeah, well, you don't talk to us, I'll kick your ass," Angel said. "Featured word -- 'ass.'"
"Angel, right? Her boss?" Wilson turned a little bit, just enough to be able to point his gun at Angel. "She told me all about you, man."
True to form, Angel grabbed Wilson's gun hand, squeezing to the point where Wilson obviously had no choice but to drop the thing, then twisted him around with one arm across the front of Wilson's throat. "Yeah, well, somehow I doubt that."
With one quick movement, Angel tossed Wilson up against the wall. "You're human," Angel said. "So you can't be the father."
"He's human?" Doyle asked, not realizing how convinced he'd been that Wilson had to be some kind of demon until he heard the surprise in his own voice.
Wilson tried to make a break, but Angel caught him easily and pushed him up against the cement wall. "So you and your friends are just a link." Angel's had a fistful of the front of Wilson's shirt. "How does it work? Huh? If those things come to term, she'll die. You do know that?"
"So? I'm not telling you anything," Wilson spat back, and it took everything Doyle had not to go over there and punch the guy, to stand back and let Angel do his job.
"I was so hoping you'd say that," Angel said, and hit Wilson hard. Wilson retaliated with a punch of his own, but it was too slow--Angel blocked it easily and hit him again, kneed him in the stomach, then hit him one last time and let him drop to the floor.
Just then, two other men came around the corner.
"Hey," one of them said, kind of casual-like. "Someone's mommy didn't teach him to play nice.
Wilson got to his feet, straightening his clothes, and nodded as he looked from Doyle to Angel. "You have no idea what you're dealing with," he said.
"How long do you think they'll be?" Harry asked Wesley, who glanced up from the book he'd been looking in and into her concerned eyes.
He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, which was becoming tense with the research as well as the situation. "Hopefully not long," he said. He looked at the ultrasound again, and then picked up the magnifying glass and used it to more closely examine the engravings in the book. One of them seemed... he looked at the ultrasound again, and then back at the engraving. Definitely a match. "Eeesh!"
"Did you find something?" Harry asked anxiously.
Before Wesley could respond, Cordelia appeared next to them, making him jump.
Cordelia looked at the book. "That's him, isn't it." She picked the book up, looking at the engraving more closely.
Quickly, Wesley said, "I ask that you not overreact. Keep in mind that oft times these 16th century engravers tended to exaggerate." He looked at Harry, hoping she might say something reassuring.
"Right," Harry said, with a little apologetic shrug that clearly told him she'd no idea what to say. "This picture could be a total exaggeration."
Cordelia seemed mesmerized by the drawing.
"Cordelia?" Wesley said, looking at her worriedly. "I - I know it seems dire, but now that we've identified the species, there is every chance that we will be able to stop what's happening to you." Cordelia looked at him. "That's right," he said more gently. "We mustn't lose hope."
With a strength and speed he hadn't realized she possessed, Cordelia turned and slammed the book against the side of Harry's head, dropping her to the floor almost silently.
"You're not going to hurt my babies," Cordelia said, taking two steps and hitting Wesley in the head with the book as well.
He staggered, trying to grab onto the table, but the blow was too sharp and he could feel the pull of unconsciousness.
"No one's going to hurt my babies," he heard Cordelia say, rather dimly, just before the darkness took him.
"You know, I'm starting to get the big picture here," Angel said. "You guys proxy for big daddy demon, he imbues you with his life force or whatever it is you're implanting in these women."
"He has trouble finding his own dates," one of the men said. "We just--help him out a little, that's all."
"Shut up, Jason," Wilson told the man.
Doyle looked at them all with a combination of disgust and fury. "And you get what in return? Fame, money, sex? That's it, isn't it? How else would losers like you get ahead?"
"Yeah," Angel added. "You'd have to become procreative surrogates for a vile demonic entity."
The one guy--Jason--smirked. "Well mostly, I do it for the sex."
It was only the knowledge that Jason wasn't the one who'd slept with Cordelia that kept Doyle from punching him.
"Welcome to Los Angeles," Wilson said, spreading his arms out slightly. "There are worse things to be in business with."
Angel moved closer, getting right up in Wilson's face. "Where is he? Where is this demon you worship?"
Wilson smiled, and the third guy pulled a gun out from under his sweater. "Even if we did tell you where to find him, it wouldn't matter, since the two of you are about to have a little accident." He shoved Angel backward suddenly, caught the gun as the other guy tossed it in his direction, and shot Angel three times in the chest before Doyle could even move, not that he'd probably have been able to do anything.
Then again--Angel. Vampire. Who straightened up from his bent over position in vamp face, which wiped the stupid smirks off all three guys' faces.
Angel stepped forward and kicked the gun out of Wilson's hand. "I really don't like it when people shoot me."
Praying that none of the others had guns hidden under their clothes, Doyle jumped into the fight, punching one guy in the face while Angel threw one against a wall. A minute or so later, with his knuckles aching as he gasped for breath, Doyle watched as Angel kicked Wilson through a glass door and then stepped through the shards casually and put his boot on Wilson's chest.
"Now," Angel said, "you're going to tell us what we need to know."
Cordelia didn't know how she'd gotten where she was. She didn't even know where she was. But that didn't matter. She was going to him, and it was what she needed to do.
It was a big warehouse, and it looked deserted, but she knew it wasn't because her babies were telling her to go there. There were other girls too--Cordelia thought that she saw Serena, but she was so distracted by the voices that she couldn't do anything but listen to them until they were inside the building.
The voices were so loud.
It was a tight fit, both of them in the phone booth, but that wasn't what Doyle was complaining about.
"Jesus, would you stay still?" he said to Angel as the vampire squirmed.
"You're digging bullets out of me," Angel said through gritted teeth. "Sorry if I'm not the best patient in the world."
He'd just finished dialing the phone, and was holding it loosely to his head so that Doyle could hear the ringing too.
"Why aren't they picking up?" Doyle asked worriedly, just as he heard the click on the other end of the line and Wesley's voice.
"Hello?" Wesley sounded... wrong. Something was wrong.
Angel glanced at Doyle, making it clear he was thinking the same thing. "Yeah, Wesley, it's Angel."
"Oh, Angel, thank God."
"We found Wilson. Whatever it is Cordelia is carrying around inside her, he's not the father."
Wesley's voice was stronger now, but Doyle still moved in closer to Angel, their heads almost touching as they shared the phone. "I know," Wesley said. "It's a Hacksaw beast, an inner earth demon. Oh, this is all my fault."
"How is that your fault?" Angel asked.
"Cordelia ran off." For a second there Doyle's heart skipped a beat. "I tried to stop her. She became insanely protective when I identified the Hacksaw as the father of her - her, ah... she may have knocked me out, and she hit Harry as well. I'm so sorry."
"Harry?" Doyle burst out before Angel could say anything. "Wesley, tell me she's okay."
"She's fine," Wesley said. "She's right here. A bit of a bump, but she's fine. It's Cordelia that we need to worry about at the moment... I fear she may have gone off to rendezvous with the demon."
"She has," Angel said. "Miliken Industrial Park in Reseda."
"What?" Wesley said.
"That's where Wilson and his friends built their shrine," Angel explained.
Doyle could just about hear the gears in Wesley's head turning as he went back to the job of taking the last bullet out of Angel's side. "How does Cordelia know that?"
"She's telepathically linked to its unborn. That's how it's controlling her."
"Of course, a psychic umbilical cord," Wesley said. "The Hacksaw's telepathic connection is what's sustaining its unborn spawn."
Angel winced as Doyle got the last bullet out. "So all we have to do," he said, "is cut the cord."
"We slay this demon and poof! No more evil pregnancies. Well, this is good news--we can end this without harming the women. Only..." Wesley suddenly sounded somewhat less than relieved. "There is just one tiny problem."
Doyle leaned in closer to the phone again.
"What's that?" Angel asked.
"Well, I don't wish to use the words 'impossible to kill,'" Wesley said. "But... fire won't kill it, decapitation won't... and it's really huge."
That little light came on in Angel's eyes, the one that gave Doyle hope because it said that the vampire had a really good idea. "Wesley. Can you shoot straight?"
Even from across the room, Doyle could clearly see when Wesley entered through the far door and started toward the center, where the girls had collected.
As soon as he'd seen Cordelia there, dressed in a white robe like all the other girls and looking unbelievably beautiful, he'd been hard pressed not to go to her, but Angel had seemed to get that. The vampire had squeezed his arm and shook his head, and after a minute Doyle had nodded and gone back to waiting even though it was killing him to let Wesley be the one to do this.
The girls, with Cordelia in front--always had to be in the spotlight, that was Cordy--walked up some steps and then back down into a huge vat that was full of some kind of yellowish-green liquid that smelled particularly foul, until all of them were standing in it, the stuff up almost to their waists and none of them gagging even though Doyle knew he would have been.
That was when Wesley stepped forward. "Cordelia!" he called, walking up close to the vat. "Come out of there this instant! All of you, please."
Cordelia's voice was clear when she spoke. "We don't expect you to understand."
"Oh, I understand," Wesley said. He walked up the steps and stood on the wide rim on the vat, then he crouched down near Cordelia. "You'll die unless you come with me, and... that is the most vile smelling filth I've ever had the displeasure of inhaling, so don't make me come in there after you."
"We serve our master," Cordelia said, haughty like the princess she was.
Wesley shook his head. "Please come before..." He trailed off as the building began to tremble with the force of what Doyle knew had to be the demon's giant footsteps.
He was pretty sure he wasn't the only one in the room turning to look at the Hacksaw demon as it stepped through an enormous hole in the wall. The thing was huge and looked like a cross between a devil and a gargoyle come to life, all stony and, frankly, terrifying.
When the demon spoke, its voice was rough like thunder. "Who is the interloper to think you could disturb the birth of my children? Who are you?"
And Doyle had to give Wesley credit, at least a little bit, because the guy stood up. "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, rogue demon hunter," he said, and Doyle rolled his eyes. Wesley held up his fists the way a four year old might, all steely-eyed false bravado. "And I'm here to fight you, Sir, to the death--preferably yours."
"You?" The demon didn't sound amused.
Angel glanced at Doyle, and Doyle nodded back at him, then set his booted foot on the very large canister that they'd wrestled to that spot earlier as Angel moved cautiously down the ramp, trying to avoiding being spotted by Creature of the Black Lagoon.
"As a heathen I wouldn't expect you to be familiar with the biblical story of David and Goliath. But I assure you it's of particular relevance to this situation." Wesley was still standing there.
"You said you came here to do battle, then let's fight and be done." The Hacksaw demon's teeth seemed to make talking kind of hard, what with the gobs of saliva hitting the floor and all.
Wesley glanced around, then moved slowly toward the demon along the rim of the vat. "Yes, well... as a point of courtesy, I... like to get to know my opponents before I engage them in mortal combat. Do you, ah... do you have any hobbies?"
"Enough talk," the demon rumbled threateningly. "I'll come to you."
Angel looked back at him Doyle from the bottom of the ramp.
Doyle didn't hesitate--he leaned forward against the canister until his leg was bent, then gave it an enormous shove, sending it rolling down the ramp toward Angel.
Everyone turned to look as Doyle jogged down the ramp after it until he was standing only a few feet from Angel. "Sorry we're late for the baby shower," he said.
"But hey. We brought a little gift." Angel picked up the canister, spun around once, and then threw it right at the Hacksaw demon with what Doyle thought was remarkably good aim. The demon caught the canister, and there was no recognition on its face despite the label that read 'Liquid Nitrogen,' not like there probably should have been.
Before anyone could react further, Wesley did his part--pulled out the gun he'd had tucked in the inside pocket of his jacket, and shot a hole in the tank faster than Doyle could blink. The Hacksaw demon did what any reasonable demon would have done--dropped the canister and then screamed as a stream of liquid nitrogen sprayed from the hole, shooting onto the demon and creating a thick white fog in the air.
It continued to scream, and its voice was so loud that for a minute Doyle didn't realize that the girls in the vat were screaming too. Cordelia was screaming, clutching her stomach and screaming, and it didn't matter to Doyle that he should probably wait to see if things were taken care of, because he had to go make sure she was okay.
He darted across to the vat, to where the stairs were, but by the time he'd gotten there Cordelia had stopped screaming and begun to wade through the liquid toward the stairs, looking more determined than he'd ever seen her and, okay, maybe a bit possessed too.
Doyle paused at the top of the steps and offered Cordelia his hand, but she just gave him a look and walked past him without taking it, which maybe, considering the look, was actually doing him a favor. Still, he trailed after her closely in case anything happened, noting distractedly that her pregnant belly had deflated, leaving her looking normal again under the robes which were, being white and soaked, more than a little bit see-through.
Cordelia walked along the edge of the vat to where Wesley was. By the expression on his face, Doyle figured she was probably giving him one of those looks too, because Wesley tried to back off quickly as Cordelia reached for the gun in his hand.
He let her have it though, which as far as Doyle was concerned was a really bad idea on his part. Except all Cordelia did was turn slightly, aim the gun at the now totally frozen Hacksaw demon--thing looked like a liquid-nitrogensicle--and shoot it.
Just one bullet, but the demon shattered into a million pieces than rained down all over the floor of the warehouse.
Cordelia handed the gun back to Wesley, who took it cringingly, then turned around and looked at Doyle.
"I really hate dating," she said.
Two days later at the office, Angel and Doyle were both feeling Cordelia's absence. There were only so many times they could straighten up the stuff that she complained about, and bump into each other as they tried to keep busy when they had no cases, before they started to get on each other's nerves.
Doyle had had a talk with Harry, thanking her for her help and apologizing for the whole being knocked unconscious thing, but Harry had waved aside his thanks and kissed him on the cheek, then whispered something about him knowing how to do the right thing that he was pretty sure was supposed to have given him confidence but instead just made him feel more insecure.
He finished dusting off Cordelia's desk and glanced up at the wipe board, where he'd written 'Welcome Back Cordelia' in blue pen.
Angel came in and dropped a pile of magazines onto Cordelia's desk, right on top of the papers he'd just straightened. "She likes magazines," Angel said. "I got a few, you know, for when she comes back."
Doyle glared at Angel and picked them up, trying to find a place on the desk where a neat pile of magazines would look, well, neat.
The door opened, and Doyle glanced up, stunned to see that it was Cordelia. She was wearing a pale green shirt and a beige skirt and she looked amazing.
"Cordelia!" Angel sounded just as surprised as he was. "Hi! You look great."
Annoyed that Angel had had a chance to say it before he had, Doyle said quickly, "Not just great. Stunning!"
"I mean, it's only been two days," Angel said, as both men went over to meet her. "You didn't have to come in so soon."
"Yeah," Doyle said. "If you need more time, we can manage."
Cordelia stretched to hang up her jacket on the hook on the wall and Doyle tried not to note how hot she was.
"Of course, if you're ready to come back..." Angel said hopefully.
Smiling, Cordelia said, "I'm fine. I had this great audition today for Max Crax--you know, the little crackers?"
"That's terrific," Angel said.
"Yeah, that's great," Doyle echoed.
Cordelia went over behind her desk and put her bag down.
Angel tried to keep going. "Because, you know, a cracker is something everyone can..."
"Eat," Doyle offered.
Offering them another, bigger smile this time, Cordelia gushed, "This producer was so nice! He said that I'm his first choice... we're going out to dinner tonight."
Doyle and Angel exchanged a glance.
"Uh-huh. Tonight?" Angel asked.
Cordelia nodded, not looking up from the papers on her desk, and Doyle felt a little bit sick. Not that he didn't deserve her turning away from him, not with the way he'd treated her before, but still... part of him had hoped.
"Well... suppose it's better you get back on the horse," he said, kind of shakily. "I mean, if he seems..."
"He is so sweet," Cordelia said, turning back to her bag to get something. "He says that all I have to do is let him impregnate me with his demon master's seed and I've got the part!" She looked back over her shoulder and smiled at them. "Guys... I appreciate all the concern, but I'm okay. I mean, it was an ordeal, but I got through it... and I'm a lot stronger than those loser demon surrogates thought."
Doyle looked at her, feeling relief mixed in with the hurt now. He figured that was something.
"I'm starting to learn that," Angel told her.
"I learned something too," Cordelia said. "I learned, um... men are evil? Oh, wait, I knew that. I learned that L.A. is full of self-serving phonies. No... had that one down too. Um... sex is bad?"
Angel smiled. "We all knew that."
"Okay, I learned that I have two people--well, three, if you count Wesley--that I trust absolutely, with my life. And that part's new."
As he looked at her, Doyle thought that maybe Harry was right--maybe he did know how to do the right thing. Maybe he just needed a little more time, maybe no matter how badly he wanted things with Cordelia to work out there was too much working against them, maybe...
Maybe tomorrow was another day, with new chances to get it right.
That was good enough for now.