Weak light filtered in through the narrow windows set high in the basement walls. Angel glanced up, gauging the time from how the sun and shadows played across the furniture. Coming to the edge of the bed, he stretched and ran his fingers through his hair. This getting up while the sun still shone was tough on a vampire's psyche, but working during the daylight hours lent him an air of humanity.
The offices above him were quiet so Cordelia hadn't yet arrived, but another quick check of the length of the shadows assured him her arrival was imminent. They had compromised, starting their day shortly before noon and ending sometime after the dinner hour. She had plenty of light in which to play, especially in the summer months, and he had plenty of night in which to prowl.
Even though Angel had a solid six hours of sleep, he felt that draining fatigue that substituted for hunger pangs. He padded barefoot into the kitchen and pulled open the refrigerator. The bright light made him squint and he reached into the appliance blindly, trusting his nose to guide him to the right container. Cordelia had taken to leaving juice and water mixed in among the quarts of pig blood, and he'd already been chastised for taking what wasn't his. The plastic jar was halfway to his lips when he remembered the sight of Cordelia, standing before the refrigerator with a blood moustache in an eerie parody of the Got Milk ads. That vision put things in a new perspective. Angel stopped and found a mug, filling it twice before his hunger was assuaged.
As he was rinsing his mug out in the sink, the phone rang. Angel waited a moment, watching the blood dregs chase themselves around the drain, before moving to pick up the receiver. Office sounds came through the earpiece, and the sounds of agitated breathing, but there was no answer to his repeated greeting. He heard his name a scant second before replacing the phone on its cradle.
"Kate?" Angel's query was met with silence. Initially he thought his guess was incorrect, but he recognized the background noise after a moment: a police precinct. "Kate, what's wrong?"
"Can we meet? Pershing Square in an hour?"
Angel didn't need to glance at the clock before answering. "A little too sunny."
Angel just managed to keep the discomfort out of his voice, but Kate had more of a problem. "Oh, um, right."
The silence grew and Angel tried to fill it. "I can meet you at the precinct," he offered, thinking she might want to meet him in a public place.
Her answer was immediate, with just a touch of panic. "No, that's not necessary. Can I -- I'll come to you."
Angel recognized that streak of bravery in her. He could imagine the upward tilt of her chin. He heard her draw a breath to speak, maybe to change her mind, but he spoke first. "Yeah, sure."
"I'll be there within the hour." Kate broke the connection without waiting for an answer, flinging those last words almost as a challenge.
Traffic being what it was in downtown L.A., and having to run the gauntlet before she could escape the precinct, Kate arrived at Angel Investigations nearly ninety minutes later. She was hot, she was irritable, and she had begun to doubt her sanity for walking into the lion's den of her own free will. She remained with her hand on the doorknob for several minutes, and was about to turn away when Cordelia caught sight of her and gestured for her to enter.
Kate nodded a civil greeting, but looked beyond Cordy's desk. Although Angel's office was gloomy, she could tell he wasn't in there.
"He hasn't come up yet," Cordy volunteered.
"He's expecting me. I'll just go down, OK?" Her actions belied her words, as Kate just stood and stared at the stairway.
"Sure. Um, Kate..." Cordy waited until she had most of Kate's attention. "He really is good now. He wouldn't hurt you. You can trust him."
Kate didn't believe that, not about Angel -- not about any man, but she had come with a purpose. Angel was a tool she could use, and use him she would. Cordelia was still talking, but the words barely registered. Moving towards the staircase, Kate acknowledged Cordelia's advice with another minimal nod.
The staircase looked darker, steeper than she remembered. Of course, the first time she was on these same steps, she had entered illegally, and the resident non-evil evil thing wasn't at home at the time. The last time, she was too angry to care. This time was completely different. When Kate was halfway down, she called his name. Her voice was breathless in her own ears. She tried his name again, more satisfied by the strength of the tone. She wouldn't be afraid. More honestly, she'd be damned afraid, but she wouldn't let that show.
"I'm here, Kate."
Kate halted at the foot of the steps. Angel stood ten feet away, near the chaise. Two playing pieces poised on the brink of movement, but without volition.
"So, how are you?" he asked.
Angel took a small step towards her, then stopped, unsure of her reaction. Kate seemed just as hesitant to come forward, uncertain of her reception.
So much for not showing her fear. Way to go, Lockley, she mentally chastised herself. Getting a grip on herself, she came down off that last riser like a cliff diver in Acapulco, and plunged into the darkness of the basement apartment. She walked right past Angel, and straddled a chair in the kitchen. It was the only room with some light but she managed to convince herself the light wasn't the deciding factor.
Angel joined her after a moment in which she felt herself being studied. "Tea?"
Kate looked from his face to the jadelite cups and Japanese teapot he had already set out. The cups and pot were black, the cups lined with lime green. He waited with the pot in his hand until she answered. "Thanks."
Sitting across from the detective, Angel nodded and poured. He wrapped his hands around his cup, savoring the warmth. His look was open and encouraging, but she maintained the silence until she had swallowed that first sip. The tea was hot, but the flavor was delicate, green tea infused with cherries. She didn't need the sugar he pushed her way, but she took it anyway. Stirring the sugar in gave her a moment's respite from the harsh realities she came to talk about.
"Cordy seems to be your cheering section," Kate said.
"Yeah? What did she say?"
"That you're really good now, you wouldn't hurt me and I can trust you -- even if you do dress like a mortician."
Kate watched Angel shrug off the insult, probably used to Cordelia's manner by now. "You still don't believe that?"
Kate raised the cup to her lips, inahaling the sweet fragrance, but she didn't drink. That wasn't a question she was prepared to answer. "I need your help."
"OK. Tell me."
Another sip of tea fortified her, but she didn't flinch away from the graphic profile of the newest serial killer to hit Los Angeles. "Five blond females slain in their beds, arranged in a position which suggests sexual intent. The victims were brutally savaged." Kate paused to stare into her cup. "In the coroner's medical opinion, the cause of death was exsanguination. Their blood was drained, and there are two gaping holes where their carotid ought to be. Sound familiar?"
She heard Angel's cup hit the table. Tea sloshed over the rim but he didn't seem to notice. She had his full attention. "Kate, you don't think I--"
"No, I didn't even think..." She stopped herself. She was here for Angel's help, and by her own rules, that required honesty. "OK, the thought passed through but I don't believe you'd do anything so blatant -- not now." Kate stood abruptly and came around the table. Spreading her jacket, she presented herself to Angel. "Look, I'm unarmed."
Her gun was on her hip but she knew Angel understood her meaning. Kate had no cross, no holy water, no stake. She watched a lopsided grin spread his lips. The smile riled her but that was another emotional response she didn't want to examine too closely.
"You're pleased, aren't you?"
"When you left that day I didn't think you'd come back. Even though I appreciate you walking 'unarmed into the lion's den'..." His use of her own private thoughts threw her off-balance and her eyes widened. Kate hid the reaction before he noticed but she had missed some part of his answer. "...anything you need to feel safe. Especially if the murderer is a vampire."
Kate resumed her seat and took another sip of tea before responding. Angel offered more tea from the pot but she covered the cup with her hand. "That's just it. I don't know anymore. I look at the world differently now." Her eyes accused him, You did this to me. "I never would've thought vampire before. Now I'm thinking one's the perp. There's a vampire under every rock, behind every crime. You've wrecked my perceptions and instincts."
"You can't have it both ways, Kate. You're the one who--"
Kate stopped his protest with haunted eyes filled with terrible knowledge; the eye contact was fleeting. "I don't know what to do, Angel. I can't let this go on, the department can't let this go on. But I know I can't fight one of yo--can't fight a vampire." Kate caught Angel's wry smile and the eloquent hand he placed on his abdomen. She shook her head. "Without your help, your cooperation, Penn would have killed again, gone on unchecked." Kate met Angel's eyes full on for the first time since she stepped out of the stairwell. "You could've moved aside in time." Angel nodded to her half-question. "You let me ram that two-by-four through you thinking I wanted to kill you both? I don't understand."
"I can't explain it, Kate."
"You mean, you won't."
Angel fidgeted with his cup, swirling the liquid inside. In the semi-light of the kitchen the tea looked dark as blood. "So, how can I help?"
Kate let the change of subject pass since it moved the conversation in the right direction. "OK, I see." Kate took a sip from her cup, but grimaced at how much of the flavor was gone with the heat. "I don't know. I'm not even sure why I came. I mean, last time we were together, I didn't exactly give you a rousing endorsement. I hurt you and here I am asking for help. Why aren't you angry?"
"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry," he dead-panned.
His joke pulled an unwitting laugh from Kate. She didn't think Angel was the type to quote a line of classic TV dialogue, but maybe he was trying to make her comfortable again. His ploy was working but she couldn't let herself lose sight of the fact that five women were dead.
Turning serious, Kate repeated, "I don't know what to do."
Angel stood and walked into the living room. He opened a small drawer in the desk against the near wall, but he didn't reach in. Instead, he asked her to come take a look. Kate knew his actions had some relevance, so she granted his request. Inside the drawer was a simple crucifix, intricately carved yet sturdy and serviceable. From its shiny patina and smoothed edges, the crucifix had seen much use.
"It's beautiful. Not anything I thought you'd have."
"It belonged to a friend." Such simple words but filled with ghosts, pain and sorrow. "Father Padraig O'Faolain."
"You're from Ireland, aren't you?"
His accent had given him away. The black and white prints of Ireland, the Aran throw, the claddagh ring she'd seen him wear, added up.
"Galway," he confirmed.
Kate didn't think he wanted to answer, but she waited in silence and he gave in. "1726." She knew he was older than he appeared, but the year still shocked her. "Pick it up."
"No, Angel, I--"
He tilted her chin up to meet his eyes, but she backed away and his hand fell to his side. "I trust you." A grunt of disbelief was her only reply, but her emotions churned again inside. She had to get control but that feat was so difficult when everything about him put her off-balance. "It's just a memory now, Kate." She realized he was talking about the staking, not the cross in the drawer. "In the company of all the others..." The shadows in his eyes finished the sentence; more words were unnecessary. "Paddy was a vicar at Saint John the Divine in New York. He told me he loved being there because it was as unfinished as the human race. We became close friends. He gave me his cross to remind me I have a soul, and what a precious thing that is."
"A soul? But I read...oh, that's what you were going to tell me, right? Why you're not like other vampires."
Angel nodded, then gestured to the drawer. "This cross belonged to a very good man, Kate, a holy man, a true believer."
"What happened to him, Angel?" Another long silence stretched between them. Kate could feel Angel's reluctance to open up. Maybe his own rules demanded honesty, too. She almost regretted bringing back so much pain, but she had to admit her curiosity. "I don't mean to pry. It's just -- you're just this enigma. And I hate unsolved puzzles."
Angel's voice as he related the story was unadorned. "Paddy had no family in America. We were close, like father and son, if you can believe that of me." Angel didn't look at Kate, and she understood: he couldn't bear the answer he might see there. "When he knew the doctors were out of options, he checked himself out of the hospital. I stayed with him, to take care of him, though to hear him tell the story it was so he could continue to save me." A smile born of the memory of his friend's stubborn determination tugged at the corner of his mouth, and his eyes lit with delight for one brief moment. Watching it fade was more painful than Kate would've believed possible. "One month. I watched his body waste away, betray his will, but his spirit was so strong."
Kate was loathe to break the intimacy of the moment, so her words were voiced softly. "You loved him."
"He accepted me for what I am, Kate. We'd have long talks. Sometimes he'd hear my confessions. Each time I thought 'this is it, he'll never want to see me again' but every confession, soul-sharing he called it, brought us closer. There were things I told Paddy that he took to his grave. I will never give them voice again. He told me only God could judge a man, and I shouldn't doubt I was a man -- just another one of God's creatures. But a man, unlike animals, has free will, and the ability to judge himself. I've tried to live in a way that would make him proud. Sometimes I've succeeded, sometimes I haven't." Angel bowed his head, studying the cross as it lay untouched in the drawer. Perhaps he thought he could see his friend's kind features again in its carvings.
"Yeah, I loved him. I was alone for a very long time after he died."
"When my mother died, I thought I'd always be alone. I thought I was being punished somehow." Kate could hear the sadness, the anguish in her own voice but she couldn't stop the words. She was just a breath away from hysterical laughter as she realized that a 200+ year old vampire could understand so well what she felt. "And my father never..." Kate broke off. Understanding aside, she had opened up to a virtual stranger, someone she wasn't sure she could trust. But he was so easy to talk to. He listened, as if he really cared what she felt. The last time she had opened up this way, she was under some mystical influence, but there was none of that here. Only Angel and his willingness to listen. Talk wouldn't solve her case, though. She stiffened her resolve, burying those long-suppressed feelings once again.
She shook her head, shaking herself free of the maudlin memories as well. "I understand." The words were a concession, but he'd earned them, hadn't he? Back to business. "So, cross?"
"Is this enough to protect you, Kate?"
"Well, it burns you, doesn't it?"
He didn't answer, and Kate thought she knew what motivated his reticence. She studied his features anyway, trying to see into his mind. That's what a profiler did. And even though Angel wasn't the killer, maybe she could glean some insight about the killer from another of his kind. Well, not exactly his kind. She doubted anyone who savaged five women with such brutal abandon had a soul.
"Unless you revert to that vampire of legend I read about, I'll never use any of this information against you, Angel."
Angel acknowledged her promise but discounted the need with a shake of his head. "That's not it." His hand hovered over the cross, his fingers brushing the surface lightly before drawing away and curling into a fist. "This is nearly all that remains of Paddy, and...I just wish holding it wasn't so painful."
That admission seemed to rip the spirit out of Angel, but Kate still had that thirst for knowledge. "You have nothing else of his?"
"His books. A letter he began writing only days before he died. I found it tucked away in one of his books. A thriller. He loved Ludlum." They both realized they had drifted from the topic yet again. "Pick up the cross, Kate. Wield it."
His eyes met hers, and she could see each and every year reflected there. He continued to stare, raising an eyebrow until she moved to comply. As she held it before her, Angel narrowed his eyes and aborted a backward step.
When Kate first learned what Angel was, that he'd introduced her to all the things that go bump, she was angry. Having one's world picture ripped away will do that. She hated the fear that crept into her daily life, tendrils of unrest tugging at her mind as she tossed at night. She hated him for introducing her to that fear. Those feelings dissolved in an instant, like the sugar she stirred into her tea, when she glimpsed the depths of Angel's pain.
"I can't do this, not with this cross." Kate put the cross into the drawer and closed it away. "Obviously you were trying to make a point. Have another one?"
"Yeah." A small wooden chest huddled under a set of shelves on the far wall. He crossed to it in several strides, then opened the lid. Wrapping his hand in the hem of his pullover, Angel picked up a cross. He offered it to Kate.
Kate hesitated only a moment before joining him. She was impressed by the steadiness of her own hand as she reached for the cross.
"No history behind this one?"
That one word held a world of meaning to Kate's ears. Every one of his possessions must have a history; she was damn sure she didn't want to hear most of the stories, and even more certain Angel didn't want to tell them. His tone communicated that fact with perfect clarity.
"Kate, do you trust me?"
This time he didn't flinch away from the weight of her appraisal. A lot had happened since Kate had last answered that question, but she wasn't sure the answer was any different now. She analyzed her feelings as if they were the facts in a case. They inexplicably added up to a grudging trust and respect, but that knowledge was a loaded weapon she wasn't prepared to hand over. Not yet. Maybe never again.
"You've saved my life three times now. I can't explain why I'm here other than instincts. Don't make me regret my decision."
"You're safe with me, Kate."
She acknowledged his promise with a nod. "So what do you want to do?"
"I want to keep you alive. This cross won't protect you."
Kate wielded the cross but he barely narrowed his eyes. Refuting his reaction, he told her, "It's a distraction at best, Kate."
Moving more quickly than a human, yet not approaching Penn's top speed so that Kate could anticipate his intentions, Angel reached for the detective's wrist, gripping it firmly to keep the cross at bay, then spun her around by the same arm, trapping her in a potentially fatal embrace. Her throat was in perfect alignment for the kill and her arms were pinned so she could neither draw her weapon nor wield the cross effectively. She struggled but Angel's strength was more than sufficient. He must have felt her rising panic at being helpless and trapped because he released her. He raised his hands, palms out, and stepped back. Labored breathing and wide eyes were testament to how much the fear gripped her.
"Kate, did I hurt you?"
She shook her head, still dazed. "No. Damn." Kate hated that loss of control, hated to give into the emotions that many male cops used as an excuse for keeping women out of the boys' club. "I didn't mean to panic." She closed the distance between them. "Can we try that again?"
At her nod, Angel attacked. Kate thought she was better prepared the second time around as she brought all of her training to bear against his superior strength and speed. She parried his first lunge but the outcome was the same. After a few moves, Kate was again trapped in his arms. Her panic rose and she began to struggle, but Angel didn't release her. His calm voice, with the cadence of any Academy instructor in hand-to-hand, broke through her panic.
"Kate, don't be afraid. Fear makes you foolish."
"No. Think through the situation. You have that luxury with me. What can you do?"
"Please..." The word was barely audible through a throat clenched by tears. She was a woman, and she could wield her feminine wiles better than any cross, though that admission came hard even in the privacy of her own thoughts.
Like many men, Angel seemed susceptible to a woman's tears. Kate waited for his uncertainty to mount, and when she felt his arms start to loosen and slip away, she took the opportunity to elbow him in the sternum. She wrapped her fingers around his forearm in a practiced grip and, shifting her body for the proper leverage, flipped him around her hip. She came to stand over him, a foot planted on his chest and a triumphant grin on her face.
"That wouldn't have worked with Penn," Angel pointed out from his place on the floor. "Do you want to play games or do you want to stay alive?"
The jubilation faded along with the smile. Angel was right: fear made her foolish. She removed her foot from his chest and offered her hand, but he flipped to his feet without her help. "You're right. That was a cheap shot. I guess I have this suicidal need to prove my bravery." The telltale snort from Angel brought back a touch of anger. "I know this isn't some cop contest to see whose stones are the hardest." She met his eyes. "People are dying."
"I'll take care of it. It's what I do now."
Kate vented more of the anger into her voice. "What's that V on your chest for now? Vigilante? That's not how it works, Angel."
"Then why are you here? Use a killer to catch a killer, right?" She knew her face betrayed the truth when he continued just as bluntly. "Kate, it won't help if you're more afraid of me than you are of the perp."
It's always a terrible thing to have your fears hauled into the light, to be shown how ineffectual you can be against the forces loose in the world, but the lessons stay with you for a very long time. Months later, Kate would look back on this lesson and realize Angel had done her a favor, but that moment was subjectively far in the future, and she wasn't enjoying any part of the present.
His morph into vamp face was all the more shocking by the speed of transformation. Her reaction to his lunge was all reflex. The cross was in her left hand, and she brought it to bear as he closed in. A sickening sizzle and white smoke were the graphic evidence that Kate had scored direct contact. Angel jerked away, letting Kate go so abruptly she stumbled. An angry red welt marred Angel's cheek, and he covered the injury with his palm. Kate regained her balance and backed away, gaining speed as she neared the steps. Turning, she hurtled headlong up the flight of stairs and burst through the outer offices. She didn't stop running until she had reached her car, slamming the door closed and clicking the door lock button several times. Trembling, her forehead against the steering wheel, Kate forced the memory of his yellow eyes, distended brow and fangs from her mind. She almost managed to convince herself she was fine, but every red light was a welt and every caution light was the eye of a killer.
Angel emerged from the elevator, the gate creaking as he slid it aside. He folded himself carefully into his desk chair. Cordy had no idea what had gone on between Angel and Kate, although she had some lurid ideas spurred by the detective's frenzied departure. Sunnydale had been an education in demons and ghoulies and vamps, oh my, and that combined with an active imagination painted a horror movie scene in Cordelia's mind.
Leaning forward from her desk, Cordy peered through the louvered office window. The sun had long since set, and Angel had neglected to turn on the small lamp at the corner of his desk. The view was unsatisfactory, so Cordelia rose and walked to the door to get a better look at her boss. He sat rigidly, head bowed, palms pressed against the surface of the desk as though he were anchoring it to the floor.
"Want to talk about it?" she prompted.
Cordy hesitated in the doorway for another minute, then shrugged and went in. Angel presented his back to her as she took a seat in one of the guest chairs.
"She didn't put another hole in you, did she?"
After a few minutes, Angel realized Cordy would not leave him until she had satisfied her curiosity. He sighed in resignation and swiveled around to face her. Her lack of reaction told him she couldn't see in the dark, and wrestled with whether to turn on the light. One panicked departure was enough for him in any given night. Friendship won out and he flicked on the lamp. Cordelia rewarded him with a stunned gasp as she spied the perfect shape of the cross etched into his cheek.
"Why are you trying so hard with her, Angel?"
Angel tried to keep the bitterness out of voice, but he didn't succeed. "I'm getting involved. That's what the Powers That Be want, right?"
"Did they also want you to be branded, 'cause it's not a look I'd recommend."
Angel fingered the wound gingerly. "It'll fade."
With an insight that Angel still found surprising, Cordelia asked, "What about the memory?"
"Not as soon." Angel glanced up, but his eyes didn't meet hers for long. "Would you --um-- leave me alone for a while?"
"Sure." Cordelia leaned over the desk to rest her hand on Angel's before twisting the switch on the lamp. She walked out, leaving him to brood in darkness.
Angel waited the couple of days for the cross burn to fade before going to Kate at the precinct. Victims number six and seven made splashy headlines the day before, and the guilt that Angel could have prevented the murders twisted his gut. The anxiety in Kate's eyes and the dark circles beneath them almost made Angel turn around and head for the door despite the guilt. He reminded himself that people were dying, and held his ground.
"Angel!" Kate flicked her eyes around the squad room, but everyone was occupied by his own tasks and no one took notice of Angel's presence. "Let's go in here." She led the way into an empty interrogation room, leaving Angel to close the door behind them. "You're all right?"
"I heal fast."
"You did what you had to do, Kate," Angel cut her off. "Still want my help?"
Kate hesitated before answering. "I still need your help. There've been two more murders while we were in our neutral corners."
"Show me the case files."
Angel could see Kate's hackles rise at the tone of command, but after a staring match that accomplished little, she nodded. "Wait here. I'll get them."
Kate was gone less than five minutes. Angel took the opportunity to move to the opposite side of the table. Perhaps trying to prove her bravery again, she walked around and joined Angel on his side of the table. Without a word she spread out the contents of the case files. Angel studied the graphic photos, glancing between the lot of them and Kate several times.
"They all have your coloring. Light hair, light eyes, fair skin."
"That's been noticed," she said.
"Maybe it's an old bust, someone carrying a torch."
"How do you explain the markings, the blood?"
"Kate, we're in LA where anything can be faked," Angel pointed out. "Do you want it to be another vampire? You had enough trouble explaining the last one."
"And I'm still having trouble explaining this one," she said, hooking a thumb in his direction.
"What do you want to know?" Angel asked after a beat.
"Everything. Nothing. I don't know if I can listen to the answers to some of my questions."
"That bad, huh?" Angel could hear the desperate attempt in his voice to lighten the mood.
Kate wasn't in a mood to be lightened. "There's only a soul between you and killing." More to herself than to him, she asked the question at the heart of her unease. "How can I really trust that?"
"You can say that about everyone, Kate," Angel protested.
"But not everyone has an imperative to kill."
"This person does."
"Angel, I--" Kate cut herself off, her frustration evident in her tone and body language, and in the accusation she voiced. "This isn't another friend of yours from the 'oul sod,' is it?"
Angel shook his head in denial but he hesitated before admitting, "I understand the killing mind, Kate. I can help you capture him."
"You seem sure the perp's male."
"Just a feeling."
"What else do these feelings tell you?"
"That whoever is doing this, he's not a vampire."
Kate's face was painted with doubt, and Angel could hear the unasked question, Are you trying to protect one of your own? The question she asked aloud was more constructive. "Could you identify another vampire face to face?"
Angel nodded. "Yeah."
"What -- do you give off a vibe or radiation -- or is there a secret handshake?" Kate bristled at Angel's suppressed chuckle. "What?" she bit off.
Sobering, Angel responded, "Nothing." A strange emotion went through him. Outwardly, Kate was wary at the best of times, but there was a security and confidence with him she tried to keep hidden. What other explanation could there be for teasing him? Like Kate, that was a question he intended to keep shelved. "We can sense each other. Actually, it's a lack of sensing."
Kate leaned a hip on the table and looked up at Angel, expecting an explanation for the inexplicable. "I don't understand."
"No scent, no heartbeat."
Slashing the air with her hand, Kate stopped him "Wait. You can hear my heartbeat?"
Angel didn't want to respond. Kate had probably thought she was doing a great job hiding her emotions from him, and he didn't want to disabuse her. But he didn't want to lie to Kate again; a 'yes' would only make her more wary. He swallowed his response, and let her reach her own conclusion.
"Great." Her adam's apple bobbed as she swallowed. "It's a predator thing, right? Penn said he could smell the fear in my blood. Made it sweeter." Kate didn't add that Penn named Angel his teacher.
Angel's nod was measured in millimeters. He remembered that scent well, but that was another thing he'd never admit to Kate.
"What else can you smell in my blood?"
The demon wanted human contact, needed it to feed. Angel kept it in check for decades, and that behavior was ingrained and honed to a fine degree. Even without a conscious decision, his actions, his words served to put a distance beween the demon and any perspective victims. His answer was harsher than he intended. "That's not exactly what you want me focused on now."
The detective took a step to the side, gathering up the crime photos to disguise the movement with a different purpose than the deliberate need to escape it was. "You're right."
Angel knew from her scent and heartbeat that whenever they were together, Kate fought the flight imperative. She had collapsed under the pressure two days earlier, and was fighting it even now. Recognizing her actions for what they were hurt, but Angel concentrated on the case to get him through the familiar heartache.
Angel obliged Kate by circling the table in the opposite direction. He stopped well away from her path to the door. One step forward, two steps back. That seemed to be the formula for their relationship.
"We'll never get anywhere like this, Kate. Contact me if you need help, otherwise I'll stay out of your face."
Kate got under his skin with amazing regularity, but it was his lack of control that angered him the most. Putting an end to their contact, Angel spun on his heel and breezed through the door, keeping a firm check on his anger. He wanted to be well out of range of Kate's temper, having witnessed the toll it could take on those around her. By the time Kate put the case files in order and stalked to the door, Angel was out of sight but lurking behind file cabinets at the far side of the squad room. Kate pounded the doorframe in frustration, drawing some curious eyes that turned away beneath her steely gaze. Reviewing the conversation left her in a fine snit, Angel surmised, and the grim expression on her face announced her conclusions to those who could read her: Angel was lying to her again, the perp was a vampire and Angel was trying to protect one of his own.
"So, straighten everything out with Kate?"
"Not a possibility, Cordelia." Angel studied Cordelia's face for a moment. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sounds serious." Angel gave a half shrug, non-committal. "Sure, go ahead, but if it's too personal, I may have to hit you."
"Would you really?"
"Would you really hit me?"
"I was just joking, Angel. You remember what a joke is, right?"
"Cordelia, focus here, OK?"
"I am," she protested. "You're the one changing the subject." She gave him the once over and came to a conclusion after thinking a minute. "OK, I get it. Detective Kate is afraid of you. Thinks you're a big bad vampire. She's got two out of three, I'll give her that. But she's wrong about the bad part. I thought I went over that already, Angel. I so don't like repeating myself." Cordelia tossed her hair over her shoulder to emphasize her point. "It's not like you to be insecure. Broody, yes. You're usually so all-take-charge. I'm not sure I like this new you."
As if Cordelia hadn't just given him one of her best 'you're good now' speeches, Angel asked, "Why do you trust me? You've seen the things I'm capable of." Unaware of her growing pique, Angel rambled on, mumbling most of the words sotto voce. "I know you need this job. I used strong-arm tactics to get my first invitation to your place. You could revoke it -- I have the spell, if you want it..."
"Whoa, Angel, take the next exit." Cordelia waited until she had his undivided attention, moving a bit to help him center his gaze on her face. Still, he wouldn't meet her eyes. "I trust you because you saved my life and you're always kind to me, even when I push you. And yes, I know what you can do --though not as personally as Giles or Buffy, thank God-- but that's not you anymore."
"I don't know, Cordelia."
Cordy rolled her eyes at his morose and broody tone. "Oh, hello, I know. I do not go around working for homicidal monsters, and I am only working here until the world recognizes my untapped potential." Cordelia favored Angel with her trademark 100 watt smile. "As for the invitation thing --I'll keep it in mind-- but I've never not felt safe knowing you could come in."
Angel worked through the negatives and he answered her dazzling smile with its much dimmer cousin. "Thanks."
"Listen, Angel, police lady is just a regular woman. She has no special Sunnydale background that makes her immune to the weird crap I had to deal with. It's going to take her longer to adjust. But I'd sleep with one eye open for awhile." Done dispensing her own brand of wisdom, Cordelia sealed her words with a confident nod and a gentle pat on his chest. She walked out and left him to his favorite activity: brooding in the dark.
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