The Paragon Of Animals

Author: Notmanos
E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Rating: R
Disclaimer:  The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy;  No copyright infringement intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron
of the arts, I won't object. ;-)  Oh, and Bob is *my* character - keep your hands off!   
Summary:  When an ancient evil turns Los Angeles into a murderous, mind controlled playground,
Angel is forced to team up with Maximum Bob, demon weapons dealer extraordinaire. But can Angel trust the self-professed "King of All Liars", especially when he seems to be hiding so many things from them ... and he brought the evil in in the first place? (First full length Bob story - takes place around
Angel Season Two timeline.)





"Don't look her in the eyes," Angel shouted to Gunn, before the demoness calling herself Marla grabbed the young man by the throat and lifted him off his feet.

Gunn kicked out, hitting her hard in the legs, and by all means she should have collapsed, but of course she did not. Angel had no idea what she had done to herself, but there was no way in hell a Liigon demon should be this strong, nonetheless be teamed up with a Fungus demon who had somehow become both toxic and contagious.

Angel picked himself off the ground, ignoring the short, sharp shock of pain from his broken ribs, and charged towards her, careful to avoid the rapidly deliquescing puddle of Fungus demon. He picked up the crowbar lying right beside it, though, as a weapon couldn't hurt.

But she saw it coming-and considering she was a telepathic demon, should he have been surprised?-and threw the struggling Gunn straight at him. He caught him, but Gunn hit him hard and he lost his balance, sending them both sprawling onto the tar papered roof of the Mutual Assurance Life Insurance building, where this ironic final battle was taking place. Angel had wanted to ask her what they were doing here-was she and the Fungus demon running some type of insurance scam?-but amazingly, she was not in a talking sort of mood.

Their heads bounced on the roof on impact, making Gunn curse hoarsely, but Angel rolled to his feet, ignoring the screaming hot pain in his chest as best he could. He thought he still had hold of the crowbar-he could feel the cold metal in his hand-but in a blink of an eye, Marla was in front of him, and holding the iron bar herself.

"You were better off as Angelus-better fashion sense," she said, her eyes almost glowing a sickly neon pink, like Pepto Bismal gone horribly wrong. Otherwise she looked perfectly Human, and could have been any young woman shopping at the long as you didn't look too closely at her hair (the stumps of the horns she had obviously sawn off were still visible when her long blonde hair shifted just so).She swung the crowbar at wall shattering force, but Angel was able to see that coming in spite of a lack of psychic abilities and ducked under it, although it whistled over his head with barely a half inch to spare. He punched her in the stomach, making her stagger back, and spun into a high side kick that connected with her face, which should have made her hit the roof if not knock her out - it was a good, solid kick. But she simply fell back a couple more steps and glared at him, smiling coldly with a split lip and bloody teeth.

"You'd hit a woman, Angel? Glad to know you're still a scumbag at heart."

"You're not a woman," he shot back, lurching back as she started to swing the crowbar. But it was a feint and he should have known better; she aborted the swing and lunged forward, as if with a fencing foil, and skewered him straight through the chest.

She'd missed the heart and got him in the lung, but that may have been intentional-the pain was still brutal, indescribable. He staggered backward, gasping for breath he knew he didn't need as a reflex, grabbing the metal bar sticking out of his torso and causing a fresh new pain that made spots appear before his eyes, white motes that danced in his vision as he dropped to his knees.

"Hurts, don't it?" She said, gloating, before kicking the crowbar in deeper.

Angel screamed in pain as it punched through his back, turning his vision bloody red as he fell over onto his side, but before she could capitalize further on her advantage he saw a dark blur that could only be Gunn rushing in for another attack.

It sounded like he had gotten a few good hits in as Angel's vision returned to normal-or as normal as it could, under the circumstances-and Angel grabbed the bar, mentally and physically braced himself as best he could, and yanked the thing out, only partially managing to choke back another scream.

His vision wavered, nearly falling to black, but it came back as he willed himself to get up and get rid of this psycho bitch. Was she on some demon equivalent of steroids or what? Liigons were supposed to be no stronger than humans-their strength was in the mental plane, not the physical. Maybe Marla had missed that memo.

"I thought you were supposed to be peaceful types," he heard Gunn say to her, as they continued to trade blows. But Gunn was using a prizefighter's strategy now-ducking and dodging, and only moving in close when he thought he could land a hit, and it seemed to be working, although Marla didn't look any worse for wear.

"Peace is for chumps, human," she spat, and, apparently bored with fighting him, she let him land a punch just so she could give him a high snap kick to the face.

Gunn's head shot back and he attempted to keep on his feet but couldn't, falling backward as she neared and glared down at him. "Want to see my version of war, darling?" She asked, raising a doubled fist high over her head.

Mustering all the strength he had left, Angel got to his feet, using the bloodied crowbar as a sort of cane. "Me first," he said, charging as fast and hard as he could.

Marla, distracted by Gunn, was unprepared, and he slammed shoulder first into her exposed midsection. He ran as hard as he could until she went off the edge of the roof and he fell down, landing hard on his wounded chest but not quite falling over the edge himself.

She screamed as she fell, but not for long. There was a loud metallic clang as Marla landed hard inside an open dumpster in the alley beside the building thirty feet below, and Angel watched as the jolt made the heavy lid of the dumpster slam itself shut after her. He had to admit he couldn't think of a better coffin for her.

"You okay, man?" Gunn asked behind him.

"I was impaled-what do you think?" He replied, somewhat crabbily. Well, hell-he hurt.

He pushed himself up, grimacing painfully, and Gunn grabbed his arm and helped him up to his feet.

"Well, I think she dislocated my jaw," Gunn carped bitterly. "She could fight Tyson in Atlantic City. And that was a hell of a tackle-ever think of trying out for the Raiders?"

"I'm more of a rugby guy," he replied, folding his arms across his midsection as his chest seemed to burn like fire.

"Rugby?" Gunn replied dubiously, his bloodied lips twisting in disdain, as Wesley groaned in the background.

They both turned and looked towards the fallen ex-Watcher, who was still splayed out on his back between the roof entrance and the large greenish gray puddle of Fredd (the Fungus demon's name, apparently).Wes had managed to take out Fredd with a spell and some powder of Gargoyle horn, but Marla had knocked him out shortly afterward. Wesley was probably lucky to still have his head attached to his neck, considering how unbelievably strong she was.

They went over to him, skirting the puddle (how he became a toxic Fungus demon was as unknown as Marla's unbelievable strength, and while he probably was no longer toxic, it was better safe than sorry), and Gunn went and retrieved his glasses as Angel helped a groggy Wesley back up to his feet. "Did we win?" He asked, still unable to focus his eyes properly.

"We won," Angel assured him, as Gunn gave Wes his glasses. Wesley gave him a grateful nod, nearly staggering until Angel grabbed his shoulder and kept him steady, and slipped his glasses back on. The right lens had a visible crack in it, and he frowned. "Oh blast."

"I keep telling you to get contacts," Gunn said.

"And I keep telling you I don't like contacts," Wesley replied, sounding a bit better now. In the distance, but growing closer, was the scream of police sirens, and Angel knew they were heading this way. They were trespassing at the very least.

"Come on, we'd better go," he said, putting one of Wesley's arms around his shoulders to help walk without falling. Gunn did the same on the opposite side, and Angel wondered if the three of them weren't actually holding each other up. It was certainly probable considering the massive ass whooping that had just taken place.

"What do you think happened to them?" Wesley asked him, as they made their way to the door. He didn't know how they were going to get down the stairs without falling, but he assumed they'd find a way. "How did she become so strong, and how did he become so lethal?"

Angel thought about it for a moment, but could only shake his head - carefully so he didn't lose his balance too. "I don't know," he admitted ruefully. He didn't know-he couldn't even begin to guess what could have done this. But he knew it wasn't good.

And he knew this might be just the beginning.





Santa Monica, California

Sajeet rolled his eyes and stomped away as Verne leaned over the railing of the cargo ship again and proceeded to vomit up whatever was left of last night's dinner.

Sajeet shook his head and retrieved their 'precious cargo'-which looked like a book bag made out of wood instead of fabric, held shut and locked by brass hasps and hinges-and exclaimed in disgusted, "What the fuck kind of vampire are you anyways? Getting seasick-shit!"

"I'm not seasick," Verne replied, but in a sort of nasal tone that made him sound like he had said 'Imb nob seabsib'. "It was that deckhand I ate last night-I knew he tasted funny. Like chicken."

Sajeet sighed, and wondered if he should break off a piece of deck and just stake the sorry bastard. Why anyone in their right mind would hire Verne (and what kind of name was that for a vampire anyways?) as a courier? The choice must have been between him and a dog with a chronic case of the mange. "You say everyone tastes like chicken. What the hell is wrong with you, you freak?"

"Freak?" He exclaimed ('Freab?'),finally turning away from the railing to face him. He still had a few stray strands of half digested blood and saliva running down his pointed chin, which he quickly wiped away with the back of his sleeve. "I am not a freak! The guy probably had salmonella or something...vampires can't get Ebola, right?"

Sajeet glared at the tall, thick wasted (and headed) vampire, and knew right then as soon as they delivered the package, he was going to kill him. He was paid to ensure safe delivery of the cargo, not put up with some asshole of a vampire, who was not only seasick and dumb, but also a hypochondriac. Unbelievable.

"Just to start with, Japan has never had any cases of Ebola virus." He told him, at the very end of his patience.

"There's a first time for everything." Verne claimed.

Sajeet closed his eyes, attempted to mentally count to ten, then increased it to a million. But he couldn't stand it any longer. He'd spent days on this ship-mostly in the hold-with this idiotic bastard, and he just couldn't take it anymore. "You're a fucking vampire!" He shouted angrily, with such vitriol that Verne stepped back until his spine pressed against the railing. "You don't get food poisoning, you don't get Ebola, and nothing tastes like fucking chicken, you moronic, inbred jackoff!"

Sajeet stopped shouting as soon as he heard his own voice echoed back to him, off the wooden crates and off the walls of the all but abandoned buildings ringing this part of the pier. Just because there was no one in this port didn't mean there weren't others at neighboring piers, and if there were any vampire hunters around he might as well have just shot up a flare. Not that he worried about vamp hunters-there was a breed that didn't live long. He was worried-a little, not much-about Angel, though: that fucking traitor had killed a lot of his friends, and he had no intention of joining them in the compost heap.

Sajeet almost had his temper under control when Verne said, in a small, wounded voice, "That was uncalled for."

That was it. Sajeet kicked out hard and smashed open a crate of small plastic toys, which spilled over the deck like blood as he tore a jagged wooden slat from the crate and stormed over to Verne, dropping the box he was carrying in the process.

Just to prove how pathetic he was, Verne didn't even try and fight back-he simply held his hands up in a vague warding off gesture, watery hazel eyes as big as silver dollars, and stammered, "W-wait, wait, what would Bob think of this?!"

That did make Sajeet pause, holding his impromptu stake up in the killing position. This moron was supposed to make some sort of report to Bob, and he was smart enough not to tell Sajeet what it was, because if he had he'd have no reason not to kill Verne. And Sajeet, as much as he abhorred Verne, did not want to end up on Bob's shit list.

Maximum Bob was really the kind of boss a mercenary dreamed about: he paid well, promptly, and always rewarded you for a job well done. Make Bob happy and you ate well for life; you never wanted for anything. Conversely, those that crossed him had a tendency to come to nasty ends. And unlike most Belials, he was good for his word (which was honestly weird-Belial had li(e) right in the middle of their name, and they generally did with a passion).Of course he had a few stupid, anal rules you were supposed to follow, the most annoying of which was 'no peripheral killings'-Bob did not believe in collateral damage. And if he found out that they had slaughtered the entire crew of the Sakai Maru, he'd probably be pissed off, but Sajeet intended to collect his payment and get the fuck out of town before Bob found out about the ship anyways. The days seemed too long in America sometimes, and he had never been to Canada before. It might be a unique experience.

And, just to split hairs, they had not slaughtered the entire crew exactly. The Captain-who knew he was transporting vampires, and didn't care as long as they didn't eat him, and 'staggered' their eating of the rest of the crew so he'd have hands for the most difficult part of the journey-was currently being eaten by a deckhand named Yoshi, whom Sajeet had turned last night just for that purpose.

Sajeet loved irony.

But not when it came back and bit him on the ass like this, in the form of a stupid git named Verne that he could not kill, because he was as important to Bob as the package. Well, at least until he delivered his message-then he'd be free to kill. But Sajeet didn't know if he could wait that long.

He'd have to. It was bad enough that he had broken the 'peripheral' rule, but he figured he could get away before Bob caught onto that: dusting Verne would be a different story.

It took every ounce of strength Sajeet had to pitch the ad hoc stake over the railing, where the distant splash of it hitting the water was so faint it couldn't be distinguished from the waves lapping against the hull of the ship. "I hope you remember to kiss Bob's ass, because he's the only thing standing between you and permanent death."

Verne opened his mouth to speak, but Sajeet seized him by the collar of his shirt, hard enough to tear the fabric, and snarled, "If you say one more word to me, I'll rip off your arm and beat you unconscious with it."

As the fear registered in Verne's eyes, there was a sudden peal of high pitched, almost hysterical laughter-but not from Verne.

Both their heads snapped violently towards the front of the deck, where someone had apparently joined them.

It was not, as Sajeet initially feared, Angel. It was a woman, a slender, ashen wraith in a tight crushed blue velvet shirt and equally tight black leather pants hidden beneath a long velvet duster, her long hair a dark veil framing her lovely, pale face. But even as Sajeet enjoyed the view of her, he knew two things: she was a vampire too, and there was something desperately wrong with her.

It was in her eyes. A delicate azure, like the sky on a cloudless (and sunny) day, they seemed strange because they were so hollow-the lights were on, but no one was home. He could even hear that in her laugh, and it almost sent a shiver up his spine.

"You sound like Spike, you do," she said, seemingly swaying across the deck towards them. She was making strange movements with her hands, like they were birds trying to fly away. "My Spike. The one without the bad thing in his head. It's made him all mixed up now, poor lost thing."

"Really?" Sajeet replied flatly, releasing Verne, who almost didn't notice. He too was staring at the vampire woman in a strange combination of lust and sheer bewilderment. "That's very interesting. Now who the fuck are you and what the fuck are you talking about?"

That made her laugh again, but this time it wasn't a laugh as much as it was a cackle, and she stroked one of her hands beneath her chin in a gesture Sajeet couldn't even begin to interpret. "I know Bob," she said, licking her crimson lips, about the only part of her-save for her eyes and sable hair-that had any color at all.

"Did Bob send you?" He wondered, but even as he said it he doubted it. Bob might send someone to meet them, to make sure Angel and his ilk didn't interfere, but she didn't look like a mercenary. You had to be sharp to survive in this business, and she looked as vacant as a hotel swimming pool in Buffalo in December.

"He has pretty eyes," She cooed, continuing to stroke her own face, looking past them. "Blue as a dead girl's skin."

"Uh huh," Sajeet agreed, as he realized she was headed straight for the fallen case.

"I wonder how they taste," she mused, smiling at nothing.

Sajeet stepped in front of the case, blocking her path, and she stopped and frowned, her lower lip sticking out like she was a five year old in the midst of a pouting snit. "That's far enough," he told her. "Prove Bob sent you."

She cocked her head like a bird, her gaze intense and odd; he could almost feel it trying to crawl under his skin like a burrowing worm. "Can't you hear it? It sings so evilly. She wants me to take her with me."

"She?" He repeated, wondering if the cheese fell off her cracker before or after she was turned. Because she wasn't empty in an airheaded (Verne) sort of way-she was empty like the ship's keel, with large rats scurrying in the shadows. He could almost see their shadows dancing in and out from behind her eyes, which shone in the light of the moon like pennies on a dead man's face.

The woman nodded, sidling close to him and leaning in, as if about to impart a secret. "She's afraid Bob will try to keep her caged. She doesn't like to be caged," she whispered, and at the last second, he noticed she had slipped something out from beneath her black velvet duster.

He moved to grab her hand, but found out he was too late as the holy water suddenly splashed in his face.

Sajeet screamed and pivoted away as the water ate through his corneas like acid, trying to claw the burning layer of flesh off his face as he crashed down to the deck on one knee.

He heard heavy thudding steps-Verne trying to run away (the coward)-but that ended in a sudden, chilling scream that died violently at the end, a sound that iced his already cold blood.

The crazy bitch had dusted him. The holy water wasn't the only weapon she had hidden under her coat.

Even though he couldn't see, and the pain was excruciating enough to make him insane, he attempted to lurch to his feet. He couldn't fight back if he couldn't see, so his only urge now was to escape-he could hunt down the nutty bitch and retrieve the case as soon as he had his eyesight back.

He staggered towards the railing, face burning, figuring he'd be safe as soon as he hit the water below, but he never made it.

He felt his legs kicked out beneath him, and he crashed face first to the saltwater slicked deck, the sharp weight of her knee in his back keeping him pinned down like a butterfly on a mounting board. "Poor baby," the crazy woman purred, running a hand through his hair in a comforting gesture. "Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home."

And the short, sharp pain of the stake punching through his heart was the last thing Sajeet ever felt.


For the fifth time in a minute, Lindsey McDonald checked his watch, and watched the second hand of the silver Rolex tick away a few more seconds of his pointless life before he crossed his arms-well, real one and stupid fake plastic one-over his chest and stared off towards the dark alley leading towards the docks. He couldn't see them from here, but he could hear the gentle sound of the waves lapping against pylons and boats, smell

the salt in the occasional cool breeze...and he never wanted to leave a place more in his life. Not even home, which was saying something.

It was a horrible neighborhood, full of burned out buildings and broken street lights, and an intact bar with windows so filmy and yellow with grime they were like blind eyes in a misshapen face. And here he was, in his goddamn charcoal Armani suit and blue silk tie, a thousand dollar watch on his wrist (although it was a 'gift' from Wolfram and Hart upon winning his first case for the firm, and never quite felt like his for some strange reason), standing in front of a limousine. Did anything say 'please kill me' stronger than that?

But he was with Wolfram and Hart, and for some reason (Oh come on Lindsey, you know damn well why, he thought bitterly) all the lowlifes and scumbags generally cut a wide swath around him. Except Angel, and frankly only his burning desire for vengeance against that cocky bastard could have driven him out to the asshole of the city like this at two o'clock in the morning.

Of course, the driver behind the black tinted windows was a vicious Regaat demon, and he was traveling with the craziest vampire in the known world. He had known her for months now, but Drusilla never failed to freak him out-she was just too creepy: a woman's body, and a mind equally child and seer, and as cracked as new asphalt in an Oklahoma heat wave. He still had no idea what Angel had done to her to make her this bad (killing her family didn't seem bad enough), but since Dru seemed to rarely dwell in this world-and when she did, she often talked in non-sequiturs

and hopeless circles you'd need a U.N. interpreter to figure out-he never bothered to ask her.

In a way, the firm working with her again was strange, since she helped killed so many of them, and the last time she took on Angel she was nearly burned to death. But, as it was explained to him, she was a 'cog in a greater wheel' (although she was not to know that) that even he did not completely understand, and therefore she was being used because she was 'handy' more than anything else. And they needed a powerful vamp to take on the mercs-the one called Sajeet had a reputation in three different countries-and while Dru was nuttier than a ten pound Christmas fruitcake, there was no denying she her lethality.

What he didn't understand was why it had to be a vampire-a Berserker could have stormed the boat, killed the vamps in two chomps and come back with the item in less than a minute and a half (and it wouldn't want a limo either).But, according to Reed, only the dead could safely handle the 'item', and he was, under no circumstances, to touch it or let another living being-human or demon-to touch it either. It was supposed to be in

Dru's possession only until they arrived at the hospital, where Reed and the 'client' were supposed to meet them. Although the client was never named, he suspected it was Caliban, who'd been working the 'chaos' angle with them for two weeks now. Maybe this was 'payment'.

H had decided to get back in the limo and wait when he spied movement in the shadows, and saw Dru dancing out of the alley. Literally.

She came out twirling like Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music', except her arms were held in, clutching a wooden box - slightly smaller than his briefcase - to her breast, and at first he thought she was humming, her coat swirling out behind her like a skirt. But she spun closer, nearly colliding with a wall and knocking over a garbage can and never noticing (but her eyes were closed in what appeared to be ecstatic bliss),and he realized she was actually singing under her breath. She was barely six feet away when he realized she was singing, over and over again: "Kill them all, kill them all, blood will run, kill them all."

Lindsey barely suppressed a shudder as he rapped his knuckle on the driver's side window, signaling him to start the car, and opened the passenger side door for Drusilla, who only deigned to open her eyes before she collided with him.

"Oh, it's so pretty," she burbled happily, her eyes as bright as diamonds. She rose up and down on her heels like an excited four year old on a sugar high, holding the aged wooden case out to him like a stack of books. "Do you want to touch?"

He shied back, bumping into the door frame, scowling at her sudden forgetfulness. "Damn it Dru, you remember what you were told about the box."

Her lips curved down in an exaggerated pout, but she didn't pull the case back. "But she wants you to touch her."

"She?" He repeated, and glanced at the case. There was no way something could be living in there, in a box the size of a briefcase and the thickness of a dictionary, imprisoned by a few thin metal clasps...could there?

What the hell was he thinking? If life had taught him anything so far, it was never say never.

He took a deep breath as the limo's engine purred to life, and gestured violently towards the buttercream colored interior of the car. "Just get the hell in Dru, and keep that thing away from me." It was sometimes like chaperoning the world's biggest, deadliest, insane mess of a child, and it was times like these he wondered why Reed didn't give the assignment to Lilah.

"She is not a thing," she insisted, stamping her foot on the broken pavement for emphasis. But she got in smiling like a newlywed, sliding across the leather seats until she reached the opposite side, and only then did Lindsey get in, feeling cold straight down to his marrow.

It was complete bullshit that people-other than certain types of demons-could 'sense' evil in any capacity, so Lindsey knew it was psychosomatic, but as soon as he shut the car door he could swear he felt...something. It was like a bad taste in his mouth, a tendril of electricity shuddering down his spine and raising the hair on the back of his neck. Dru started whisper singing again in an almost toneless singsong, clutching the case like a beloved


"Blood will flow, all will die," she murmured, glancing out the darkened windows as the limo took them out of this shitty area and towards known civilization again.

Lindsey hastily grabbed a mini-bottle of vodka from the limo's interior bar and drank most of it down in one gulp, hoping for a boost from liquid courage. He didn't want to know what was in that box. He didn't want to know...

('She called it 'she'-she thinks its a person.') didn't matter, none of this mattered. He had a job to do and he was doing it...

(She thinks she hears it. She thinks it's talking to her.)

...and Drusilla was fucked in the head. There could be a snowglobe paperweight of Minnesota in there and she might carry on a long, involved conversation with it…

(You don't believe that for a second, Lindsey.)

Dru suddenly laughed, a strange cackle almost like a crow, and her turquoise settled on him like target sights. "She likes you," she said, smiling slyly. "She can taste your life. She wants it."

He stared back at her, not completely sure if that was a death threat or not. "Tell her she can't have it." Not that he wanted his life as it was, but hell, it was better than the alternative.

Dru's smile seemed to creep up her face until it was a nearly hysterical rictus grin, a look he had never seen before and never wanted to see again. It was a look of pure, unadulterated madness. "When she walks, she'll take whatever she wants." Dru looked out the window again, watching the headlights of passing cars go by, singing under her breath.

Lindsey reached for the mini-bar again, trying not to give any credence to what Dru had just said...

(It's teaching her the words, Lindsey. She's singing its song.)

...and wondered if he was aiding and abetting the end of the world.




Cordelia opened the box of doughnuts sitting on the front desk, and knew she hit the jackpot when she instantly spotted a chocolate glazed. It had been a great day so far: second day in a row without a brain splitting vision, Wesley remembered to bring doughnuts (and promptly left, because he left a book he needed at home, leaving her alone with them), and she had a call back audition in three hours for a role on a cheesy soap opera. Life was good.

Well okay, maybe not.

Angel had come up from the basement twenty minutes ago, as grumpy as a bear woken up a month early from hibernation, dripping with sewage and some kind of greenish black stuff that she assumed was demon blood of some kind (although it smelled like an aquarium that hadn't been cleaned out for about a month).He went straight upstairs to shower and change clothes, but had grumbled something about a 'Hydra in the sewer' and something she couldn't quite make out as he tromped up the stairs, but in retrospect the only arrangement of words that made any sort of sense was 'Brachen friend with a machete.' Normally she'd dismiss that-Brachen demons were peaceful and sort of isolationist (Doyle was not the best representation of the species in that he socialized and would get in an occasional fight, but he was half human), but a lot of peaceful demons seemed to be switching sides lately. It was really weird. And weirder still that, while she had visions concerning the wacko demons t! hemselves, she hadn't had a single one about what was making them go ninja loony, if indeed something was (Wesley and Angel thought so, but had been unable to prove it so far).

But what could she do about it now? She couldn't force a vision, and Wesley and Angel-although they refused to admit it outright-were out of ideas. Gunn's theory about 'tainted demon crack' was starting to make more and more sense.

She bit into the chocolate doughnut, delighted to find it was still slightly warm, light and fluffy-Wes bought the premium doughnuts-and was licking a bit of chocolate frosting off her upper lip when the most gorgeous man she had ever seen walked through the front door of the Hyperion Hotel.

She swallowed hard, almost choking on her doughnut, as he paused and glanced around before asking, "Is this the right place? Oh, you can't possibly be Cordelia." He had an accented voice, not British like she was used to, but close; yet a lot less upper class and kind of loose. Australian?

He was maybe an inch or two taller than Angel and just as broad shouldered, leaner than the vampire but almost as muscular-and oh man, what muscles. He was wearing black leather biker boots and matching tight leather pants, and a jade green muscle shirt as tight as a second skin, showing the sculptured contours of what had to be a chest most men would kill to have, while the lack of sleeves showed tanned arms with impressive biceps neither too big or too scrawny.

Even as she felt an instantly tingling lust all the way down to her toes, a small part of her brain told her not to get her hopes up, and in fact she should be on guard this instant: the last two gorgeous guys she encountered-one at an audition, one at the gym-turned out to 'not like women in that way' and a preening egotist who seemed physically incapable of talking about anything but himself (respectively). But that was just an afterthought as she replied, "No, I'm Cordelia," while trying to discreetly cough and force the doughnut piece down the right pipe.

He whipped off his mirrored wraparound sunglasses, and revealed the most incredible eyes she had ever seen. A startlingly, electric type of rich blue, like a neon cobalt; eyes that would probably be a hell of a lot of fun to drown in. When his eyes met hers, she felt frozen to the spot, and when he smiled, a charming, roguish smile you could feel as much as see, she was relatively sure she was no longer breathing.