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Disclaimer: the author does not claim ownership to the characters or plot development mentioned from of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Angel". These properties expressly belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Greenwolf Corporation, 20th Century Fox Television, WB Network, etc. Any other characters contained in the original story are the author's.

Historical Note: The action in this story takes place just before "Expecting".

Author's Note: It's frustrating to actually get the story completely written and then the show does something that completely throws off an important set piece. Aaaaaarrrrrgh! Maybe I should start reading spoilers.  By the way, there is a sexual scene, but it's not graphic. If I should re-rate the story though, I'd appreciate the input.  e.c. 7 feb 00

22 feb 00: After the airing of 'Prodigal' I came back into this story and reworded a couple of items.  I left the name 'Ange' in as a term of endearment instead of inserting the name 'Liam' except for the finale of the opening sequence.  I will try to avoid speculating in the future.

1 jul 00:  One final note.  This is still my favorite story of all I've written.  After the airing of "Blind Date" I made one more final revision.  I've also decided that I'm going to continue to speculate all I want to.

by Evan Como

Ago: Galway 1752

"What troubles you so?" he finally asked, more impatient than concerned.

Corrine busied herself with stowing away the utensils and uneaten food from their picnic lunch, so involved with her thoughts that she didn't hear his question. When he reached to sweep up the rest of the items into his hands, dumping them into the tote without regard, she turned to him.

"Did you not hear my question, Corrine, or was your private conversation more to your liking?"

The petite young woman, not yet twenty, squared her small shoulders and sat high on her knees. The bright glare of the midday sun behind him caused her sensitive eyes to tear, so she dropped her chin slightly against it. She did not want to appear weak.

"My father," she began, trying to find her voice, "is uprooting the family for a move to the continent. He leaves in a month and one week."

As his features relaxed, his brown eyes brightened. "And you've been afraid that I would refuse to change the date of our wedding to one that would allow your family to celebrate?" He reached out to hug her, laughing, taken slightly aback when she leaned away from his embrace. "How could you think me so cruel that I would refuse my betrothed this one small request? I will inform my mother immediately, although we may have to settle for a less than elaborate event."

Corinne forced herself to focus. She loved the timbre of his voice, the sound of his laughter. When he was in a good mood, no one could refuse him anything.  Taking a deep breath, she tried to do just that.

"I do not want a wedding at all, Ange." She held that breath and watched his good humor, in less than a heartbeat, grow ominous. "My father presented me with two possibilities. One that I would remain here in Galway with you and yours or the other that I would bring you with me and mine. I decided for neither."

The corners of his eyes creased against his suppressed anger. Experience had taught him to appear calm and he would eventually be placated. "Explain yourself, my love," he replied smoothly. "Your words make little sense to

"I decided that I do not want to spend the rest of my life waiting in our empty marriage bed listening for my besotted husband's boot-fall on our threshold as he returns from a night of whoring." There, she thought, I said it; and began to feel an immense sense of relief.

He studied her for a moment, his face impassive at her accusation. Realizing that he could either evade the truth or confess, he tried the more noble approach. "A man gives up his whores on his wedding night, Corrine. It
concerns me that you utter such language. It seems you have been listening to rumormongers who would sooner destroy our marriage than present us with a gift."

She swallowed hard. Expecting him to lie, Corrine found herself suddenly lost for direction. He was seductive with words, the ones he spoke and the way he spoke them. It seemed plausible that she had overreacted, already half-believing that his were merely the follies of a late-marrying bachelor, already middle-aged by the day's standards.

Concentrating, she pressed on. "Children, Ange. You would give me children?" She watched for the seductive hand to his throat as he moved his bent fingers beneath his chin. She used to find the gesture masculine, making him seem so intelligent. Her heart stopped beating for a millisecond, just long enough to make her understand that his hold on her was disappearing.

"Of course I would give you children, Corrine," he warily replied. Every night he dreamed of bedding her, imagining that her body was no less lovely than her face. No where in those dreams did he imagine her as the mother of his children. He wanted no part of parenthood, a decision finally sealed for him by one errant
encounter. "As many as your heart can love. My future is set and we would hardly lack the prosperity to manage them."

Before taking to her feet, Corrine smoothed the throat of her dress against his lascivious consideration. At one time she would have blushed against such a look from him in anticipation of so much more than the one tender kiss that they shared at parting. Her stance hid the shudder that enveloped her body as she considered how often those lips had been shared with others.

"How many years would we have been wed? How many years that I would remain childless? Years, Ange, you would have allowed me to believe that it was my fault that we could not conceive? Would you have ever told to me the truth or would you have left me as diseased as yourself and no less demented than you appear to me now?" Anger gave way to an inner strength that she did not know she possessed.

He stood to face her. Few men of his day were his height, his build. Most stood in awe and in deference to him.  When they didn't, used his considerable talents of persuasion to make them yield. He never had to use them against a woman before.

"You are asking me what?"

Standing, she knew her disadvantage and tried to turn the conversation's tone; there was no reason to be spiteful. "I ask nothing except that you leave me go without fuss. Make up any story that you want to soothe the embarrassment my breaking our engagement may have on your father's house. But I'll not be the wife of a man the likes of you. I want much more. I deserve much better."

He welcomed the rage as it swelled from deep within him to spread throughout his body. It struck him odd that he rarely felt this way in the daytime, preferring to vent his anger at night as he caroused. The feeling seemed
so much more acute in a sober state.

"And what of the love that you've confessed to me these almost two year?"

Corrine paused to consider his question, picking up her tote and the blanket they had rested on. "I loved you at one time, but no more." It was that simple she knew.  She felt nothing for the man who stood before her; as handsome as she once considered him; more desirable than anything she had ever known. The connection completely dissolved, she merely turned and walked away from him.

Less than a minute later he caught up to her, grabbing her from behind even before he stopped running.  Spinning her around, he backhanded her sharply across the face. Corrine heard as bone cracked upon impact, but she fought against recognition of the pain when she noticed that his eyes were wild with fury--incongruous with the smile twisting his lips. The tote dropped from her hand as he battered her again, spilling her onto the gravel where she tried to break the fall until her wrists gave way against her weight.

"You're going nowhere, woman!" he screamed at her. "As long as I live, I'll never let you leave Galway! I will not have the likes of you proclaiming your morality as so much better than mine. Where does a virgin learn the vile speech that you used to accuse me of such immoral acts unless she, herself, is a harlot in disguise?"

He dropped to his knee and held her shoulders in his hands, squeezing her intensely and causing her to cry out as he dislocated her shoulder. She fought against his mouth as he bore down on hers, kissing her harsher and more deeply than he had ever tried before. Panicking, she began to breathe too quickly, the pain of her breaking body causing her to lose consciousness for a moment until she heard fabric tear, felt the sun on her bare flesh.

"Liam, no..." she whimpered to no avail.

He pulled her arm up against her back, distressing the torn wrist further as he ripped the rosary from her dress pocket.  First counting each minute bead in front of her blurring vision then slowly, meticulously, he used the edge of its attached silver cross to carve a replica on her torso for each one.

"Say your prayers, Corrine. What says your God when you revoke your love?" He panted heavily as he worked on her, deep in concentration, his mind closed off to her wails.

Raising his face to the heavens, he endured a moment of exhilaration before returning his contemptuous gaze to her face. Letting her go, tilting her gently to the path, he bent down to speak in her ear after tenderly wiping a tear from her cheek with his thumb and tasting it. "I could never just let you leave me, Corrine. Beautiful, Corrine. Look, a symbol for every time that you told me you loved me. How strange that the count was exactly the same."

He drew the bloody crucifix to her left cheek and dragged it across her skin. "...and one for when I said it back.  Take it with you, love, so that whenever you view your reflection, you will know that I cared for you once, too."

When he pulled away from her at last to review his handiwork, the full impact of it left him breathless. But he shook off his horror and ran off down the path, yelling for someone to help them as Corrine lay there broken and disfigured. Eventually, as the sun gave way to dusk, she was neither unconscious nor rescued and her prayers for death remained unanswered.

Galway 1753

Corrine sat alone, oblivious to her surroundings as she rested in her father's yard. The late August evening air carried a presence that she recognized and she froze within. When she finally saw his face, that beautiful face that she had loved once, she recoiled at the pallor of his complexion--unnatural for the time of the year--visible under the full moon's illumination.

"Corrine. Beautiful Corrine," he lied, whispering. Coming around to kneel at her side he gently traced the scar above where he had fractured her skull, retracting his hand from the fading lines of the cross he had engraved. He finally met her eyes, her sad lifeless green eyes.

"Remember when I told you that you'd never leave Galway for as long as I live?" He smoothed the auburn hair away from her shoulders and loosened the collar of her dress. "Well, there was the strangest occurrence as the summer began..."

Wednesday, 27 January 545AM

That dream came back. I hate dreaming. I should just stop trying to sleep altogether for the little rest it provides half of the time. So, a woman was on her way. You know, THAT dream--the one that doesn't mean anything other than to be on female alert. So, I was. Instantly. In my heart of hearts, I was hoping that it just meant that Kate and I would resolve our differences and our relationship would start mending. But, that's not why I dream that dream. Not for the women present in my life, but for the ones that re-appear or crop up brand new to cause me grief.

First off, I should have, but didn't, keep a running track on the day to days like I usually do. I got kind of caught up in what this all became, so now I'm trying to go back--looking at it from afar, so to speak. Trying to be objective about everything that happened and my own place within the events. I dreamed Corrine off and on for about a week until the one it announced finally appeared.

Cordelia set up the appointment as usual. As usual, of course, meaning that we either have zero potential clients to speak with or five. And, then all five are booked at the same time, preferably after ten and before lunch.  Well, that's what I get for letting Cordelia assume all the responsibility for managing my time. She's not an especially effective budgeter of it. When I mention anything about it, though, her response always refers to the fact that 'its not like time is [my] enemy, so [I] should just zone'.

Sometimes I don't know why I kept her after the first week, she exasperates me so. Then, she'll have a vision and I have to curse Doyle for suggesting I hire Cordelia in the first place, passing his Sight on to her so I'll never be able to let her go. Sigh. Seriously big sigh. The truth is that I often can't stand working with her but I'd find life difficult to manage without her. The Powers That Be must have a very torqued sense of irony.

On this particular day three weeks ago, the last appointment before lunch was a woman by the name of Meredith Franklin. Her husband had been missing for almost a month. The usual story included a police report, an investigation, no signs of foul play, etc. Everything she said was very basic 'missing husband' stuff.  Everything except her husband happened to be a demon--Vampire to be more exact. Cordelia, who tries to pretend that she's not eavesdropping (and usually isn't because she's on a personal phone call or too busy filling out a Cosmo questionnaire) slammed the file cabinet a little too hard in response.

As she stood in the doorway between our offices to finish listening to Meredith's story, I would have to say I shared her shock since Meredith was definitely human. Actually, if Cordelia hadn't been standing in view to
provide comparison, I would have to say that Meredith was uncommonly beautiful. I usually don't dwell on physical attributes, so it's odd that I would notice her appearance. I mention Cordelia, though, because, there is a simple beauty that radiates from her no matter what she's wearing, how she's done her hair or
makeup. Meredith's attractiveness had that L.A. artificial edge to it--an inner glow related to the newest diet fad, too many hours at Pilates, all smoothed over by clothing that had been too meticulously chosen to denote her lifestyle, bank account, and political leanings. Oh, yes.  And she was a bottle redhead.

Doyle was the one who got me into this whole legitimate business thing. In some ways I could thank him everyday--if he were still around to thank--but in other ways I wonder if my life wouldn't have been more stable if I remained shadowy. I have to admit that I really enjoy the helping people part--the PTB gave me more direction as far as that mission was concerned--and when the results are positive, nothing undermines that feeling. But, sometimes, things just don't happen the way that they're supposed to and those times are the ones that knock the wind out of me, figuratively. Something about Meredith was suffocating.  My better judgement was nagging at me. It was all too unreal to be co-incidence--déjà vu to the extreme. Meredith was the woman I'd been anticipating.

Call me a sucker for a demon/human relationship. I was intrigued. She had cash in hand to retain me and that was enough to intrigue Cordelia.

So, that's the premise. A sad wife, lonely for her lost husband, hires a private investigator to locate his whereabouts.

Thursday, 27 January 245PM

Today: Cordelia took off the day for an audition. Usually she'll work half but I figured that since it was a morning audition, she would probably spend the rest of it trying pick up her spirits over losing the casting. Doyle used to be great at that, but I'm not the world's best commiserator. Not that I don't try, but, I'm not what Cordelia needs. She needs reassurance that she'll eventually make it. I hope that she does, but I don't feel that she will as an actress. I didn't even attempt to make the tryouts for her personal cheering section. I'm hoping I'll be proved wrong and I wish her well as far as I can. Maybe I'll give her a call later on to see how things went.

Ago: Meredith gave me a full recounting of Avery Franklin's life--very legitimate by human standards--a business man, all around nice guy, they had been married almost 6 years, met at a sanguinedor outside of Cabo...

I should have excused myself from her case right there. They're actually called sanguinedors in Los Angeles, as well, so the term was not unforeign to me. There's a name for these kinds of places all over the world, a name that's been changed from one thing to another throughout the eons for demons that require  human 'supplies' to live. A vampire frequenting this type of place would find any number of humans ready to volunteer their blood for a chance encounter of any type. I guess the modern term would be a fetish club, although they can be as sedate as a coffeehouse or as raw as anything Caligula himself could have put

She gave me a list of his favorite haunts--a few of them relatively new since my arrival to L.A.

I guess I should mention at this point that she seemed really confused about my attitude regarding her story. Maybe she was expecting to walk into a Private Investigator's office, drop her bombshell and then move on.  She didn't know what I was; at least, not until I shook her hand to leave. As a general rule, I don't touch people right away. When the state of my being hit her, she got a really strange look on her face, making me feel extremely self-conscious. Her own hand had an almost glassy feel to it, not quite like human flesh, and I must have mirrored her expression.

I knew in a second why she seemed so different from Cordelia. Meredith was a Provider--had probably been one for most, if not all, of her adult life. You rarely ever meet one outside of a sanguinedor. We were both out of our elements but eventually the awkwardness passed, she left, and I began the job.

Cordelia took the cash, of course. She's a wizard with a bank account I have to admit. The 'business' is self-supporting for all intents and purposes. Wild.

Friday, 28 January 6AM

Today: I stayed home last night and caught up on some reading, did some catalogue shopping. There's a new occult bookstore in Duluth that had some interesting titles. I'll have Cordelia cut a check and send it off on Monday. One of the books I ordered sounded great to send to Willow. If it's as apprenticey as it seemed from the description, I'll forward it on to Giles for her.

Cordelia's audition went as poorly as I suspected so I gave her today off, too. She sounded really dejected--it's a good thing she doesn't drink. She's going out tonight with a couple of girlfriends, being really vague about it for some reason. I didn't press, just wished her a pleasant time and said I'd see her on Monday.

Ago: I had Cordelia drive me to Avery Franklin's place of business. It was in a really strange part of downtown where the sewers in that section deadend and leave me smelling like a cesspool. She was happy for the diversion, especially after we found out that Avery was running a small t-shirt manufacturing company. Don't mention the word 'wholesale' to Cordelia. She and Avery's one employee (pattern, much?) bonded from the get-go. Kimberly was grateful for the position and it didn't bother her that Franklin was vampire. He was a nice guy, as far as she was concerned.

I'll admit to listening in--Cordelia was actually pretty generous with comments about me as a boss. She should be, though. Sometimes I feel like the employee.

Kimberly related that Franklin was a quiet guy. He did most of his business over the internet. It wasn't a booming business, but the cash flow was positive. She admitted to knowing very little about Franklin's private life other than speaking to his wife on the phone a few times. He never asked to feed off of her which seemed to relieve her to no end. When she offered to let me 'have a taste', however, I found the comment very disconcerting since Cordelia nor myself told her what I was and there was no reason for her to assume I was anything other than human.

Cordelia mentioned Kimberly's comment in the car on the drive back to the office. She finds it amusing the way women hit on me. If it was anyone else, the comments would have come off as a little jealous. With Cordelia, though, it's the pure unabashed ick factor coupled with the way she feels about women throwing themselves at men.  In general-she's either against it if the guy's unworthy or she'll try to pick up techniques for herself. She was finding this case rather creepy anyway but that didn't stop her from agreeing to accompany me to one of Avery's haunts.

Saturnday, 29 January 322AM

Today: Wesley came over and we watched videos. How weird is that? You know, he's not bad looking and I know L.A. women love men with accents. It's like he was hiding out. When he's not jabbering and trying too hard to be Mr. Personality, he's actually really good company. I have to stop from getting too attached to yet another person. I guess it helps in his case that I can remember how many times he's wanted me dead.  That and the fact he's really awful at picking out movies.

Ago: Private Investigation is seldom about anything other than gathering facts. 90% of what I get paid for is just finding information. The other 10% falls into the weird category or maybe I have to be a 'bad guy'. The really dangerous stuff is what Cordelia has visions for. I just bring that up at this point, because from the moment when I started having the dream again, Cordelia's mind became silent. Wait, that reads wrong, doesn't it?

I took her with me to Pulse located in Culver City near the studio over there. Pulse is one of those in-between clubs that isn't too much of any one thing. There's a mix of mostly human-types and a cross section of age ranges for the patrons. Why did I bring Cordelia with me is probably the biggest question.
Maybe because I was just a little more than fearful to be in a sanguinedor by myself after not feeding live for so long.

She actually handled it much better than I did, in the end. I made her promise not to let us get separated and if she started feeling really uncomfortable, to let me know so that I would take her home. We spent the better part of three hours in the place as I tried to locate a demon that I had a visual description of, but nothing to visually show. We asked around; no one had seen him in over a month. His description got a little less vague and a few of the regulars gave me a better understanding of Avery's lifestyle. Pulse was just a 'snack bar' for him, his favorite place being in Laurel Canyon--a club that Meredith didn't mention.

Cordelia finally caught my attention. I don't know how long I had been ignoring her. In fact, it wasn't until after we got to her apartment that I realized she wasn't doing too well. There's a lot of sexual tension in these places. When I smoothed back her hair from her face the gesture felt so familiar... Then, it hit me with brutal reality that I had been pawing on her half the night without realizing it. When I kissed her, it felt like the right thing to do at the moment.

And, for a moment, I felt her fall into my lips until she pushed herself away with a hint of fright.  Wiping the corners of her mouth, she looked at me in her typically Cordelia way and asked what the hell was going on. Then, she let me know that we had officially achieved closure on the night--nothing was going to happen.  I couldn't have agreed more and actually wished that I'd vocalized that sentiment before she finished with, "We both know I deserve better."

I would swear Dennis shoved me before Cordelia slammed the door in my face.

Sunday, 30 January 732PM

Today: I saw Kate at the station yesterday when I picked up a couple of traffic accident reports. The accident reports are routine for that insurance company I've been doing work for. Keeping me out of trouble, I guess. I mentioned seeing Kate because she didn't see me. Looked straight through me as if I wasn't there.
Searing animosity must be etched on her DNA strand. I just wish I knew how to approach her, to apologize in a way that wouldn't come off as meaningless.  There's a harder edge to her that wasn't there before she got sucked into my horror. I've got to remedy the situation or I'll start obsessing to the nth degree. Like that'll make the situation any better.

Ago: Years of experience from being hunted eventually teaches you to have a sixth sense about these things. So, when I left Cordelia's apartment--feeling sufficiently ashamed of what I had done--there was a twinge up my spine telling me to be aware. That, of course, didn't stop me from going to Laurel Canyon.

This club didn't have an official name. It was, basically, an abandoned home in a secluded area of the canyon--a you-either-know-where-it-is-or-you-get-lost kind of place. I would never have found it in the daytime. But, as soon as Fairfax turned into the Canyon Road, I could feel it pull me like a magnet. Very
hardcore. Very smell of blood oozing out of doors. I think I managed to fight it for all of a minute and then I just gave in and let it wash over me.

I asked around for Avery. No one had seen him. No one cared. I ended up talking to a vamp about 305--in years and weight--who had a thirty-something hanging off of either arm. When the women began sharing their excitement over direct deposit for their social security checks I had to leave. They're still human but providing slows the aging process severely if you do it enough. The feeding becomes a drug for them, too, and eventually a human who does this long enough will lose all motivation to do anything except be fed on.  It's got to be a fabulous high in Los Angeles where youth is such a commodity.

I finally made it out to my car and home before dawn. Just barely. The phone rang almost the second I walked in. It was Meredith, apologizing for calling so early, wanting to know how the case was going. I tried to beg off, but she insisted. I couldn't refuse the sound of her voice. The receiver reminded me of her touch. The rest of the morning became a blur at that point. I even forgot to feed.

Tuesday, 1 February 946PM

Today: Cordelia came through with a Vision late last night. She's gotten pretty good at defining them. Sometimes, though, I wonder if Wesley isn't psychically linked to her. He showed up just as she finished, wanting to come along. What's weird is that he actually helps--he can be so fearless about certain things. I
wonder if it isn't just the oblivious way he looks at life because sometimes he has no sense of self-preservation, as if he's immortal, too. A novice coven had conjured up the standard issue hellbeast. I fought the thing while Wesley incanted to send it back. He's no Giles, but his sorcery isn't half bad. Maybe I'll get him a book like Willow's to encourage him to practice. My Latin may be better, but his Olde Pagan ROCKS.

Ago: I spent every night for a week crawling through Avery's favorite places. I spoke to anything that would speak to me. Not one had a clue about what had become of him, so I decided to dig a little deeper into who he used to be. Avery Franklin had been somebody at one time--a social worker that retired in 1993 with a hefty pension. As far as the real world was concerned he was a wealthy old guy who was living off of a nice little retirement nest egg. In reality, the old guy--dead--had been replaced by a different guy--much older, much deader.

We have this ability, vampires, to manipulate the world around us. It comes easily--probably honed by the fact that we are semi-invincible and mostly assholes and pathological killers. Other times, it's simpler to leave the real world to humanity and just feed off it, subsisting on a demonic level. If I was the type, I could stake out my prey, understand his routine, and assimilate his life to acquire his possessions. I, personally, have always kept some semblance of my given name and my wealth--or lack thereof--is my own. Let's just say that I've never been less than resourceful.

The fake Avery Franklin, up to this point, had almost been admirable as far as vampires go. I wouldn't have staked him. His social behaviour didn't bother me--he was being used as much as his 'victims'. What I was having a difficult time with was that the original Avery Franklin may have died an unnatural death. But, then, it could have been an honest transaction...

Another reason why I stay out of the sanguinedors: logic gets lost in semantics. I can actually sit here and rationalize the lifestyle. If it was at all remotely possible for me to do anything in moderation, I would probably do it, too. But, for me, an addiction is an addiction and there's too much at stake for me to attempt experimentation. I was already caught up in it just by visiting.

Cordelia noticed the change in me pretty much right away. I was trying to pretend I wasn't being affected, but I knew I was prowling. I was tracing Avery Franklin's sordid insatiable lifestyle, enjoying how it made me feel to seem like a fully functioning vampire. Besides, I wasn't sleeping at all--the dream that should have stopped the second that Meredith appeared, didn't. Then it hit me that I may have been wrong about Meredith and I was traveling down a potentially destructive path on a lark.

Wednesday, 2 February 927PM

Today: We got a postcard from Harry. She's in Kansas. ! Her grandparents are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. After Kansas, she's on her way back to Beliz. Business is quiet on both fronts. It's unseasonably warm, almost earthquake weather. Makes me wish that I hadn't destroyed the Gem of Amarra
so that I could have spent the day at the pier. When I suggested to Cordelia that we go tomorrow at sunset, she mentioned she had other plans. I'm happy she's getting over Doyle's death. But, now I'm beginning to feel like she's getting over me, too. She doesn't need me like she used to now that she's developing normal friends in the normal city. Ouch.

Ago: Wednesday is dinner night. I make dinner for Cordelia at least once a week. Wesley took over Doyle's place, although Doyle never used to make it half the time anyway, especially if there was night racing. I don't do anything elaborate, as a general rule. I like table talk--the conversations that spring up out of sitting around eating. Not that I sit around eating. Not that I talk. Dinner Night is actually for me, though--makes the apartment feel like a home. That sounds very strange, very human. Too mortal.

Meredith came by late to drop off another retainer--probably because I tried to drop her case again--so I invited her to dinner. The night just went south. Cordelia didn't talk; Wesley was flustered; Meredith was flirting with me. Everything ended earlier than usual, so I just tossed a record on and cleaned the kitchen in peace. I was caught up in the monotony of it all until a knock at the side door caught my attention. I knew who it was without looking.

So, this is my home. Home. I didn't invite her back in. It may seem to a stranger that I'm a gracious host, that I enjoy having guests. I do. But the truth of the matter is that it's not the guests I have a problem with, it's the memories they deposit here. I remember every conversation I ever had with Doyle, Cordelia's brief stay, and Buffy here, even if she wasn't. I guess what I'm trying to say is that any momento that Meredith could have left didn't belong here. At least, not at that point in time.

Her disappointment was obvious when I left her standing outside in the corridor to retrieve her 'forgotten' jacket. When I gave it to her, she held onto my hand and examined it, twisted my ring, stroked my wrist, slid her hand up inside my sleeve to run her nails down my forearm. When she left me standing there, I felt paralyzed. I can only describe the order of her actions, never fully describe her touch. I only know that I had been seduced.

Thursday, 3 February 950AM

Now: I met Cordelia's friends last night. Pretty girls, very fast. Cordelia was going out on a third date with a fashion photographer. Note to self: investigate Wilson Christopher. She said that she's ashamed of me. That hurt. Maybe the PTB sent the vision she had right then as payback. Wesley, who'd dropped by, helped me fight the hatching Tarval demon her vision was about. I think he might be willing to date. I'll mention it to Cordelia to see when she can set him up if she ever gets here. She's usually pretty good about calling if she can't get in by 930.

Ago: I lied in my dream. I never told Corrine that I loved her. And, I could have counted her rosary a hundred rounds and never been accurate about the number of times she expressed her love for me. The truth was that I expected everyone to embellish me with their affection, but I had none to sincerely return. I was reared that way-it hurt to emotionally connect to the people around me, to try to deal with intimacy on any level.  After my brother died, I shut down and my heart became a pump, nothing more.

Death only heightened my isolation. My kind can find affection, carry on relationships--I've had more than a few in my own afterlife. But, my attentions were always diverted to avoiding true attachment, preferring to channel my energies to brutal games, imaginative manipulations, wickedness in its purest form. My relationships didn't suffer, though. I was a trophy mate--physically attractive enough, physically talented enough.  Vampires are expected to be cruel; I never disappointed.

When my heart stopped beating it only exacerbated the existing problem. I had little conscious to begin with, without life I reinvented insensitivity. In much the same way that I look at the sanguinedors, I reflect on past relationships. I abused those who stayed with me; if they took the abuse then they deserved it. Nowadays I treat myself that way in a self-masochistic cycle that can't possibly ever end because I'm stuck with me.

I took my time getting dressed and went to Laurel Canyon after Meredith left. I waded deep into the center of the main room there, into the pulsing sea of demon- and humankind, looking to lose my self. The rhythm of the music seemed to seep out of the walls and I closed my eyes, imagining that I was swimming
far from a shoreline, distancing myself as far as the tether of my soul would strain to let me go.

It was painful to be there, tortuous. I allowed anonymous hands, anonymous mouths, a hundred anonymous bodies contact with me until I was able to abandon my identity and become just another body in the swell. I wanted to hurt, to ache. I wanted to forget the town Merchant's bonny son, the beastly vampire Angelus, the Slayer's ex-lover, my present status as simply 'demon with a soul' AKA emissary for The Powers That Be.

My soul is no longer like a leash that, when I stray too far in the wrong direction, I am painfully yanked back into my place.  It has become, since my return from hell, a source of comfort that helps me understand that not every decision I make is wrong or right, but merely part of my life's journey.  So, the intense agony I succumbed to was not generated by my soul, but from my separation from it--that I could deny my self-esteem and follow blindly into some carnal region for stimulation that would never make me happy.

I remained like that for hours, I imagine, until I felt the watching. I felt a presence on me, surrounding me intensely and I opened my eyes to follow where it was from.  Mine connected with those of Wesley's, full of confusion. I may have dragged him outside--I can't be sure. Sometimes I catch myself being physically superior, trying to teach him to learn his limitations. I accused him of following me, trying to be a Watcher when he had proven time and again how bad he was at it, trying to be my father.

If he was offended, I couldn't say but I could smell the fear on him. He covered it well with his determined sense of bravado until he spoke. His voice wavered as he told me, "sometimes, Angel, it's as if I don't know you."

I remember stepping into him with my lips close enough to his jaw to feel the bristle of his 5 o'clock shadow.  He backed away from me after I answered, "you KNOW me Wesley. Sometimes you just forget that you do."

The damp night air made me jumpy and more aware of high I had been. I was hungry in every way I could imagine, falling out of the intoxication, back to normalcy. I didn't feel finished for the night. If Wesley hadn't appeared, I can say with firm honesty that I would have danced until just before dawn, gone home and showered the night off of me. I wanted to forget myself but I didn't want to be lost. I wanted the morning-after experience to reconnect me to my purpose, to pull me away from Avery Franklin's life because I wanted nothing more to do with his case.

Instead, I was banging on Meredith's door. I had no inkling which direction my emotional pendulum was swinging in. When she had to invite me in, I took it as permission to be there. When she started undressing me on the way to her sofa I knew I had permission, period.

No fetish whore in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Calcutta had ever used techniques like Meredith used. She revived my circulatory system with such adeptness I could hear the blood throbbing between my ears. I was submissive lying beneath her, swallowed by her touch. I could almost see the tattoo on my back as she traced its outline with her mouth. Her mouth was so amazing.

It's just as well she paused to disrobe, I could barely concentrate on what was happening to me. She drew my hands over her flesh where the symmetrical marks of her addiction marred an otherwise perfect body, both repulsing and fascinating me. Her skin was barely warmer than my own to the touch, but I could feel the
blood coursing through her veins as if her heart was beating in my palms.

Meredith pressed against me, drawing me closer by the way that she moved over me, where she placed her fingertips, the way she pulled her hands through my hair and tore her nails over my chest. I lifted my arms to embrace her, but she took my wrists and restrained them above my head. Her knee wedged between my legs left me pinned, helpless to move and I was frenzied. She wasn't stronger. I just couldn't anticipate her movements so the immediacy of them continually caught me off guard.

We locked eyes, panting in sync and I remember starting to try to loosen her hold on me. I was, honestly, frightened and unable to fight against the advantage I'd allowed her to possess. What was happening to me wasn't what I had come to her apartment to find. She knew what I was and how to satisfy an animate
corpse. But, I wanted her to be with ME, not just another vampire. I was  battling out of her seduction, trying to regain some control, but she was so good at what she was doing. When she kissed me again, I lost what little strength I had managed to find. She ran her tongue across my teeth, and then bit through my lower lip.

Within an instant, the awareness of what she had done--and why she did it--gave me the ability to disentangle myself. I was anxious, my back at the door, watching as she picked herself from the floor where I had thrown her. She was angry, viciously accusing me with her expression how she was NOT pleased with the turn of events. The one thing she wanted from me was the one thing I couldn't be.

The problem was that I wanted to be with her as a man. Ultimately I realized that why I came wasn't for Meredith's exercise in mortality testing the boundaries of life, but for my own attempt to imitate the creation of it.  I already knew that I'll never be able to duplicate that experience with any other woman as long as I exist. Truth telling, I don't want to and the taste of Our blood in my mouth only made that point more excruciatingly obvious.

If I had come to Meredith's apartment expecting to leave in misery, I left with more than I could have hoped for. I was a wreck.

Wesley was waiting for me outside, leaning against his motorcycle. Without a word he glanced at his watch and took the keys from my hand. We didn't speak as the sun rose while we shuffled through the early morning commuter traffic. I wish that we were closer, enough for me to be able to mention one day how ironic it was that he was humming La Fleur Que Tu M'avais Jetée from 'Carmen'.

1049AM-I just called Wesley. I'm going to run over to Cordelia's. I may be overreacting, but she hasn't called yet. Something just doesn't feel right.

Tuesday, 8 February 1115AM

Today: The past few days have proven to be a harrowing experience in regards to Cordelia. She's safe and sound and back on the phone. I almost lost her.  That still makes me pause whenever I think about it.  I realized that she's my family, that we belong.  Together?  To one another?  I haven't figured that part out yet.  I'm still trying to decide when I started feeling that way about her.  Maybe Doyle started it.  I still miss him.  Everyday.  He was family, too...  I've got home and family.  Imagine that.

Ago: Cordelia was waiting for us when we got back to my place. Just like Wesley, she didn't say a word. Just pulled me by my wrist to the bathroom where she turned on the water and closed the door on me. Her gesture made me wonder if everyone spends some of their saddest moments in the shower. After I finished, there was a cup of takeout coffee waiting on the table. I was still pretty woeful the way it was; Cordelia being thoughtful can be heartwrenching.

I wasn't in the mood to talk, definitely not in the mood for company at all. I just wanted to sit in the dark and do the despair thing. But they wouldn't leave so they started explaining everything instead.

Wesley wasn't following me, he was following Kimberly. Kimberly had invited Cordelia to lunch the day after we all met and Cordelia, never one to lose out on a potential Going Out Of Business Sale, thought nothing of accepting the invitation. It surprised her, however, when Meredith showed up, too. The scenario worked out where Meredith and Kimberly thought that Cordelia was also a Provider and they wanted to compare notes on whatever game she was running on me. Instead of being offended, Cordelia went along with it all and had Wesley start checking out the two women--not the first time, I found out later, that he's been on the payroll.

Avery Franklin, the original, had been Kim's uncle and he was seriously banked-not just the pension, but real estate, stocks, some investments like the t-shirt company, etc. It was easy enough for her to find a vamp willing to go along with the assimilation, the problem was finding one who would share. It seems that
the imitation Franklin was some schmoe vamp that got into the whole sanguinedor scene because he got too lazy to hunt. When a vampire loses the drive to hunt he can actually fake being human quite well.  The lure might go away completely and any residual violent tendencies he may have can be taken care of during meals.

The problem was that he was getting greedy. That's where Meredith came in. Kim arranged for her to meet Avery while they were vacationing in Cabo San Lucas and one thing led to another, ending up with Meredith getting the idiot to marry her. He thought he had the best of all worlds-'hiring' Kim to work for him, the
open marriage (no Provider can be the only provider), wealth galore.

After that, it was just a matter of time before Meredith's and Kimberly's names were on everything. With their designation as beneficiaries in place, dusting Franklin was the easy part. The hard part was making it come across as a real
disappearance. So Meredith went through all the motions as if she was really trying to find her lost husband.  What I didn't understand is why she would tell me he was a vampire in the first place since the police reports were trying to find an almost 70 year old and it would have made sense to tell whatever private
investigator she hired exactly the same thing.

Wesley seems to think that Meredith may have had enough prior indirect contact with me that she could have just been curious. Cordelia thinks they were after my money. As lousy as I felt, I had to laugh at that one, but Cordelia got really serious, looked at me XRay-vision style and said, "you need to work harder at pulling off the poor guy routine, Angel." Maybe so, but if that's the case then we both need to take lessons on acting our bank balances.

I thanked them both for looking out for me and asked Wesley why he followed me to Meredith's house. He said, "it just looked like you were in the deep end and needed a hand out." When I said "that sounds like a comment from someone who's been in the deep end a few times, himself," he replied very matter-of-factly,
"or maybe someone who's refused a hand so many times it stopped being offered." Way to put self-absorption into perspective, Wes.

He left after that, but Cordelia stayed because she wanted to finally talk about the kiss. I just said I wanted to forget that it happened, but she said no; that we needed to remember how close we came to making a mistake so that we never get that close again. This is the part that finally got me, "you know, Angel, we all get lonely. We can have all the friends in the world, but there's nothing like that special someone that we're all on the lookout for. You KNOW that firsthand. If you've already been to The Magic Kingdom, why would you want to slum?"

I misunderstood her, thinking she was being hard on herself. As usual, I completely missed the point. But, very untypical of her, she was really sweet when she said, "I was wrong when I said that I deserve better before slamming the door in your face. WE deserve better," making me wonder when she grew up to
become so wise.

After she 'went to work' upstairs, I took to bed. I curled up under the sheets, pulled the comforter over my head and just laid there in the dark. I fell asleep at some point and dreamed of Corrine. It seems that I missed the point of what she had been trying to tell me, too. She wasn't rejecting me, per se, she was rejecting a life that she knew she didn't want. She wasn't just the town's prettiest young woman she was also smart--loved science, astronomy, mathematics. To her, it probably just seemed like the appropriate way--for the times--
to get out of marriage was to uncover her fiancé's infidelities. She wanted off the island and out into the real world.

The problem was she got engaged to the wrong person to begin with. As many times as I've dreamed that dream over the decades, I never visioned it any way other than how I remembered it happening. I just accepted that I killed Corrine once when I was human and then again when I wasn't anymore. For the first time in my lives, I saw Corrine as an actual person and it made me sorry that I never made the effort to get to know her.

As I woke up I just stayed there for the longest time trying not to think about anything, trying not to remember the previous 24 hours until I realized that everyone ends up in situations that they don't want to be in at some point in their lives. Sometimes there's no way to control how to escape, other times there's someone available to help you. Maybe the hardest part comes from figuring out just how much on your own you really are. I could have dwelled on the subject all night if I had the time, but upstairs I heard Cordelia fall and I knew there was a job to do.


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