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!   

"I can't believe it. You'd think Angel would have mentioned how gorgeous you were," he said, moving slowly towards the desk. He had a walk sort of like a panther, like he was stalking her with an inhuman grace...but not in a bad sort of way. "I'd have come here sooner if I had known."

She was finding it increasingly harder to speak. It took her what seemed like an eternity to spit out, "You know Angel?" That, in all honesty, could not be good. But it was a beautiful, sunny day outside-he couldn't be a vampire. Hell, he even had a tan. But those eyes, like the world's most beautiful sapphires...wait, wasn't there a type of demon with really blue eyes? She was sure there was, but for right now she couldn't think of it-it was like a gauzy fog was slowly moving across her mind, and those intensely cobalt eyes seemed to bore right through her like surgical lasers.

Suddenly he was right in front of her, only the desk separating them, and he cocked his head and frowned in concentration, his eyes seemingly burning into hers. "You're being blocked," he whispered in awe.

She wanted to ask him what he was talking about, but she couldn't even open her mouth to speak anymore. He's done something to me, she thought, alarmed, but it was a distant thought, a voice from another room.

He held his hand over the desk, and said, "Give me your hand, Cordelia." Although he said it gently, it was neither a request or a question; iit was an order.

And even though in her mind she was thinking, No, back up, get away, scream for Angel, she set her doughnut down on the desktop and reached out towards him as she felt something strange, like fingertips brushing across the surface of her mind-

Angel suddenly grabbed the man and threw him back first into the desk, farther away from her, and she suddenly came back to reality with a virtually electrical snap she could feel in her mind, and she gasped in shock, not sure what the hell had happened. But by grabbing him and pulling him away, Angel had broken the circuit.

"Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you now, Bob," Angel snarled in his face, nearly vamping out.

And for some reason, that made the man (demon) Angel called 'Bob' laugh right in his face.

"Well, I guess this proves the old cliché about no good deed goin' unpunished," Bob said, continuing to grin like an idiot.

"Good deed?" Angel repeated, spitting out every syllable like a bullet. "Since when is mesmerizing a person a good deed?"

She still had no idea what he had done-or what he had ultimately intended to do to her, but Cordelia's shock and fear had quickly turned to rage. She picked up a book Wesley had left on the front desk, and smashed it into Bob's head as hard as she could, getting a satisfying dull thunk on impact.

"Ow!" He shouted, sounding-and looking-more ego bruised than physically wounded. "What was that for?"

"You know goddamn well what that was for, asshole," she sneered, still keeping a hold of the heavy, musty smelling book just in case. "And if you ever try something like that again, I will hit you with an increasingly heavy series of objects until I find the one that will crush your skull like a pumpkin. Got it?"

He looked at her, all but ignoring Angel, who still had him by the collar. Bob gave her a fierce, theoretically charming grin. "Feisty-I like that in a woman."

Angel shook him hard, like Bob was no more than a rag doll, and then turned towards the door, dragging Bob with him. "Get the hell out of here, and if you ever get within a one mile radius of this place again-"

Bob somehow squirmed out of Angel's grasp, and stood his ground. "Hey, mate, need I remind you that you owe me one?"

Angel glared at him, hands balling into fists at his sides. "All I owe you is a very painful death. Get out of here before I give it to you."

Cordy almost asked what that was about, but then she remembered overhearing something Wesley had said to Angel a couple of months back, concerning a 'Bob' ("You can't be indebted to a thing like Maximum Bob...").Hell, was this guy the infamous Maximum Bob? She had pictured someone older, and more demony, with scales and slime.

Whatever pretense of amiability Bob was going for suddenly dropped away like the mask it probably was. He glared right back at Angel, giving as good as he got. "I saved your ass, mate, you and your friends. You gave me your word, and now I'm calling you on it. Are you going to weasel out, Angel? Are you no better than a Belial demon?"

Oh yeah, those were the demons with unbelievably blue eyes-liar demons. Did that mean Bob had just insulted himself?

Angel's dark eyes narrowed to deadly slits, and for a moment the brown haired Belial and the black haired vampire just glowered at each other like gunslingers about to draw in the Old West. She could feel the tension, thick and palpable, like a static charge in the room, and she had a feeling she was missing a lot of back story here: there was history in that contempt, and a hell of a lot more going on than she knew about. But she was loathe to speak, afraid a single unintentional noise might cause them both to set upon each other and tear themselves to pieces.

But wait-a Belial was no match for a vampire under any circumstances. They looked like Humans, and were as strong as Humans, more or less, although Bob appeared to be the buffest Belial she had ever seen. But she got the feeling Bob could hold his own with Angel if he really let loose-not physically, though. She wondered if he could do what he had just done to her to Angel. That electric snap was psychic energy, wasn't it? Just realizing what it was made her weak in the knees-how strong was this guy? Belials weren't telepathic...were they?

("You're being blocked.")

What did that mean?

No, she couldn't think about this: Belials lied, it was their raison d'etre. He'd said that to...what? He'd already...mesmerized, Angel said?...mesmerized her, so what was the point of saying anything at all?

Belials-as unfathomable as men, but to the nth degree.

Finally Angel looked away with a disgusted snort, and she wondered if Bob had just tried some of his mental mojo on Angel. She didn't know how to ask, and wasn't sure what to do if he did. But there was an axe in the weapons closet, right?

Angel looked back up at Bob, still giving him the death glare. "I'm not working for you, Bob.I don't care what I said."

"I don't want you to work for me," Bob replied, sounding disgusted at the thought. "I want your help. You 'help the hopeless', yeah? Well, I'm feeling pretty hopeless right now. And believe me, I'm not going to be the only one. If I'm right, we're all going to be feelin' pretty hopeless soon enough. Even you."

Angel continued to stare at him, not believing him in the least. But Cordy was partially convinced there was some honesty in there somewhere. "Is Wes here?" Angel asked her, although he never looked away from Bob.

"No, he had to run home to get-"

But Angel didn't let her finish. "Get in the office, Bob. You have five minutes before I sling you out on your ass." He pointed towards the main office-once Angel's, now Wesley's-and Bob relented with an open handed shrug.

"Fine by me. If you're going to insist on being a prick I'm out of here anyways."

Aware that Angel had no intention of letting him out of his sight, Bob led the way towards the office, which meant they had to come around the front desk. Which meant that much closer to her.

She kept a watchful eye on Bob as he passed by, in case he tried something, although she stared at his chest rather than at his face, in case it was looking in his eyes that got you.

It was such a shame-what a body. But that just figured, didn't it? The cutest guys were always either gay, married, narcissists, or demons (worst case scenario, all of the above). She hoped that was only true in Los Angeles.

"I didn't mean to scare you, darlin'," Bob said, probably to her, but she didn't glance up for confirmation. "I was just trying to help. You're-"

"Shut the hell up and get in there," Angel snarled, giving him a violent shove from behind.

Bob stumbled, his leg glancing off the corner of her desk against the far wall, and when he looked back at Angel, he was rubbing his thigh where the desk caught him. "Some Irishman you are. You're as bad as the bloody fascist Brits, you know."

Angel didn't respond, at least not verbally, but the death glance commenced anew.

As soon as the door to the office closed, she let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding, and put the book back down on the counter. She really didn't know why she was so freaked-Angel had taken care of him. Bob wasn't going to do that again, not with him around.

But what had he been about to say? She was what?

Liar demon-he was making it up. He wanted her to be even more unnerved and wigged out than she already was. Bastard. She was okay, and she was going to remain okay.

But she decided to go and get the axe, just in case.




As soon as Angel shut the door behind him, he growled in a low and deadly voice, "If you ever screw with Cordy-or any of my friends-again, I will rip your fucking head off with my bare hands. Is that understood?" He was so angry right now it was a struggle not to morph into vamp face: he wanted to put him through the wall head first.

Maximum Bob glanced back at him, looking wounded. "Oi, I was not screwing-"

"Understood?" He repeated angrily, not ready to continue this conversation until Bob at least agreed to that simple ground rule. Not that he'd ever trust him to keep his word, of course-you had to be a special kind of stupid (or desperate) to trust a Belial-but he just needed to hear him say it before he lost control and cracked his skull like an egg.

Bob rolled his inhuman eyes, and replied, with the put upon tone of a martyr, "Fine, whatever, but I wasn't fucking with her head. Okay, yes, I did start to read her, but can you blame me? When I heard a sheila named Cordelia worked for you, I just assumed she was a Watcher or something, and you know the kind: no matter how hot, always too British to stand, you know? Imagine my surprise when I saw she wasn't, and a hottie." He then frowned at the evil look on Angel's face. "Not that you'd notice that. But, mate, someone's blocking her."

Angel stormed behind his-no, Wesley's-desk, fighting to swallow his rage as he sat down and calmed himself as much as possible before deigning to answer him. If he didn't know better, it would be hard to believe this irritating pretty boy was the biggest (known) demon black marketer in the entire state of California. It was quite possible he was the biggest on the entire West Coast, and maybe even in America; it was hard to know for sure. "Do you really think for one second I'd believe that?"

Bob made a noise of frustration, but tucked his sunglasses in the front pocket of his leather pants before throwing himself violently down in the padded blue chair in front of Wesley's desk. "What would I have to gain by making up a story like that?" He wondered, putting on an annoyed voice, as he ran a hand nervously through his (expensively) tousled chestnut brown hair.

"You're a Belial-you don't have to gain anything more than personal amusement."

Bob's eyes narrowed dangerously as a muscle in his jaw briefly twitched, and he said, in a low growl, "She is being blocked. You don't even want to help your own friend, Angel?"

He sat forward, folding his hands on the desk in an attempt to short circuit the desire to smash his smug, lying face into a bloody pulp. "She's a messenger for The Powers That Be-there's no one strong enough to block her."

Bob snorted derisively and slumped back in the chair, throwing his hands up as if in defeat. "Shit-are you still that naive, Angel? At your age? You should know better by now: Never say never. You got the money, honey, you can get anything you want."

"What the hell do you want, Bob? You now have three and a half minutes."

The Belial shook his head. "No fucking way am I playing this game. No matter what I say you won't believe me."

"Why should I believe you? You're a Belial," Angel pointed out, anger melting into a low grade annoyance. He brushed his hair back off his forehead, as water was dripping into his eyes. He hadn't had time to dry it, because as soon as he got out of the shower he thought he heard an unfamiliar man's voice downstairs in the lobby-and Cordy falling suddenly very quiet. It gave him a suspicious feeling he almost ignored, but he pulled on a sweater and went to check it out. He had never expected to find such a horrifying scene as Bob entrancing Cordy like a cobra entrancing its hapless prey; he shuddered to think what might have happened if she had actually taken his hand.

And when he first dealt with Bob, he thought Lia-fellow Belial and co-owner of the demon bar The Way Station (Bob was apparently a 'silent' partner)-was the older and more powerful of the two. Research had revealed otherwise, and Angel was enraged at himself for having been led so easily astray by a powerful Belial. But that's what they did best, wasnn't they?

"And you're a bigot," Bob spat angrily. "I come to you in good faith and you treat me like the criminal."

"Good faith?" Angel scoffed, chuckling under his breath. Oh, that was hilarious. "You don't know the meaning of the term. And you are a criminal, Bob, and you know it. In fact, you have a criminal record."

That made him frown in consternation. "I do not. I've never been arrested."

"Oh really?" Angel sat back in his chair, folding his arms over his chest. He was really going to enjoy this. "You use the name Robert Oberon, don't you?"

"Sometimes." Bob settled back in his chair, defiance burning in his eyes.

"Well, a little investigation I did on you a couple months back turned up something very interesting. Did you know the name Robert Oberon can be traced all the way back to 1787? He was an 'incorrigible and unrepentant' thief, pickpocket, and con artist, so hated by the English authorities he was one of the group of seven hundred and thirty two convicts sent to the brand new prison colony of Botany Bay, Australia in 1788. He was hard to directly trace after that, but by all accounts he was handsome, supernaturally charming, and one of the few to truly thrive in the harsh conditions. And, strangely enough, a man named Robert Oberon, in the present day, owns roughly thirty five percent of Australia itself."

Angel stared at him quizzically, and Bob met his gaze guilelessly-a sure sign he had him nailed dead to rights. "Poetic justice, that," Bob replied. "From convict to magnate in a few generations of a family. Although I guess that's not really a leap, is it?"

"A few generations? Cut the bullshit, Bob-you are Robert Oberon: petty British thief turned king of the con artists. What I don't get is why you're slumming."

The Belial cocked his head, giving him a curious, vaguely amused look. "Slumming? Is that an American term?"

"You're what-a millionaire? A multi-millionaire? So why not expand your dubious 'empire' in a less hands on, dangerous way? Why come to America incognito, set up shop in the sleaziest part of town, and leave yourself open to getting killed by a pissed off client? Is this a thrill for you? A lark? Do you enjoy screwing with people too much to let that go?"

Bob smiled, but it was as hard and sharp as a knife blade, and he sat forward, blue eyes burning like the sun. "You couldn't possibly understand, Angel. You locked yourself away from people for what, ninety years after you got your soul back? You have no idea what its like to watch people around you age, suffer, and die. And not just one person-entire families, entire colonies, entire tribes, entire cities. Everything around you dies, and you're left standing there, and the worst part of all is you know you will be standing for a very long time-decades, centuries, eternity. And you know what all the precious, beautiful money does to stop death, to alter time? Bugger all. And maybe you think you can stop the hurt by shunning people, by locking yourself away, and maybe it works for a while-but then the pain of loneliness is almost as bad as the pain of loss. But you wouldn't know that, would you Angel?"

"Nice touch of bathos. But that doesn't explain why you're selling weapons in the grimiest part of Los Angeles-which I believe you own part of, correct?" He couldn't help but smile: it was always a good day when you got one on a Belial demon as accomplished as Bob.

But Bob's gaze and expression never wavered; in fact, it became so stony Angel could almost feel it ."I don't just sell weapons, Angel. I am a businessman at heart, yes, I won't deny that. But I go where I am needed-which is here-and I haven't felt needed for a very long time. I'm not apologizing for that."

Angel smiled back at him. "Time's up. Are you going to leave feet first?"

"You arrogant whelp," Bob growled, in a voice suddenly gravelly, and deeply inhuman. "Do you know what you are to me? A child; a pup. And do you think I survived all these centuries, between Botany Bay and now, unable to defend myself? To be so weak as to be easily beaten by a vampire so deluded with ideas of his own self-righteousness because he was fortunate enough to be cursed with a soul?"

Angel planted his hands flat on the desk and levered himself out of his chair. "Fine-feet first it is."

But when Angel blinked, Bob was no longer in the chair before him.

Startled, he glanced around the room, and suddenly an arm grabbed his neck from behind, and something sharp jabbed into his back, right where his heart was. It took Angel a second to realize it was the point of a pen when Bob whispered in his ear, "If I was really a bad guy, Liam, you'd need a Dustbuster to clean you off the carpet right now. So, are you going to listen, or do I take on Wolfram and Hart all by myself?"






Lindsey made sure his office door was locked and the window blinds closed against the blindingly harsh rays of the sun before he sat down at his desk and started tearing through his illegal copies of classified files.

He kept them as a 'safety cushion', in case Wolfram and Hart ever decided that he was expendable, but usually in a safe deposit box under an assumed name-never where they could be found with him, and potentially used against him (and destroyed with his body). But after what happened last night, he needed some answers, because he had the sinking feeling that everything he had ever done was quickly becoming irrelevant.

He didn't take them all-just dropped by the bank this morning on his way to work and took the ones that might pertain, in one fashion or another, to whatever the hell was going on. He hid them in the false bottom of his briefcase, which wasn't a precaution more than it was a mandated necessity working for Wolfram and Hart.

Nathan Reed himself told him he was doing a great job, and this would be the firm's biggest triumph, as well as an end to any Angel problems once and for all. And that should have been reassuring-Lindsey kept telling himself that should have been the answers to his prayers. But it wasn't. He was afraid a hell of a lot more people would be going down, not just Angel. And he couldn't completely rule himself out as a possible victim.

Last night, he was in such a hurry to get rid of Dru and the goddamn package he actually didn't pay much attention to what was going on around him. Also, he may have hit the mini-bar in the limo a bit too hard, but that was Dru's fault: she wouldn't stop the singing, the childish, whispered singsong that made him sorry his fake hand wasn't made of wood, because if it had been, he'd have gladly ripped it off and staked the bitch just so she'd shut the hell up. It was like the song lodged in his head and was eating outward, tearing up his frontal lobes until touching the box almost seemed like a good idea.

But he didn't. He was neither that drunk or that stupid.

Finally, the limo glided into the secret hospital entrance, hidden away in a distant part of the 'regular' hospital's underground parking garage. Wolfram and Hart had their own wing, but it was not known to the public, nor was it known to all of them. It was for the firm and its 'special' clients alone.

Otherwise, it was a normal hospital wing, all white with colored lines along the floor to lead the lost to various destinations; but the regular hospital didn't have a special unit demarcated for Slime demons, did they?

He expected Caliban, the warlock, to be there-but he had not expected Nathan Reed himself to be there. If he had, he may have stopped at one vodka in the limo.

And what a pair they were: the stocky yet solidly built warlock, who looked like a man in his sixties, with thinning silver hair and a neatly trimmed snow white beard, and eyes so clear and pale they were almost colorless, like egg whites. But he was actually in his hundreds-how far in he wasn't sure; they left it off the bio, but only in the ones-and the intelligence in his eyes and the power exuding off him in nearly palpable waves let you know this was no anile grandpa let loose from the nursing home on a day pass. And he had a vague yet still uncanny resemblance to Sean Connery that bothered Lindsey for no reason he could pinpoint.

And standing shoulder to shoulder with him was the tall, knife blade thin figure of Nathan Reed, the florescent lights of the hall gleaming off his bald dome of a scalp, his eyes so very human and yet so eerily dead it could make a man unprepared for it piss his pants. The Elvis Costello-ish glasses he wore should have been a true comic touch, and in a way it was, but mostly it just made him seem that much more inhuman.

They led the way to a room in the i.c.u. area, where a demon he never expected to see again laid unconscious in a deep and irreversible coma, in a hospital bed surrounded by various high tech, beeping machines that were doing nothing but keeping an unwilling body going.

Marla Blanchard.

She and her friend, a truly ugly Fungus demon with the unfortunate name of Fredd-Gis, had been part of the 'chaos' team, set with the mission of introducing spores of a turned toxic Fredd-Gis to the L.A. water supply, but Angel cut them off apparently, as the 'seer' hadn't been 'neutralized' yet (what that meant he had no idea-when he asked Reed, he told him it was a 'shut case'. But he knew Cordelia wasn't dead, and for some reason, he felt relieved. Maybe it was because he wanted Angel dead for good, not her: she'd never hurt him personally. Although she was the reason he got his hand cut off, wasn't she?). Somehow it all ended in a rooftop fight; Fredd-Gis was reduced to a puddle of goo (and non-toxic goo at that), and Marla, a Liigon hybrid (she had some Belial in her family tree) was found in a dumpster beside the building, presumably thrown off the roof.

But she had been very lucky-if she had hit the pavement, her skull would have busted open like a watermelon. The garbage, while slightly smelly, was cushioning, and saved her life. Well, in a manner of speaking. She had suffered enough internal and head injuries to be rendered little better than a vegetable: she'd never be getting out of her hospital bed, not on her own two feet.

It made Lindsey wonder why W&H were even footing the bill to keep her on life support: she was never a client, and had in fact been a stranger to them all until the day before her ill-fated battle with Angel. Why save her? They let itinerant and mercenary demons die by the truckload.

But his question was tacitly answered when Reed gently instructed Dru to take the case to the woman's bed, and open it. Dru, who seemed to have a certain fascination for Nathan ("Ooh, your head is so shiny," she cooed, and Lindsey had to bite the inside of his cheek until it bled to keep from laughing), did as she was told, twirling to the demon woman's bedside like a ballet dancer practicing pirouettes, the case held as gently to her as an infant.

The case was locked, but Dru, having more strength than your average human, was able to force it open, the lock snapping so violently the metal hasp flew across the room, and ricocheted off the far wall before clattering across the floor.

Lindsey blamed his slightly inebriated state, but part of him cringed when she threw the case open, expecting something to come out-maybe a flesh melting spirits, ala 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark'. And he was disappointed-and feeling foolish-when the interior of the case appeared to hold nothing more than dust and a...rock?

The dust made it look like a rock roughly the size of a grapefruit, but flat on the bottom, so it curved upwards like a hideous growth. Because of all that dust, he thought it was black, but he wasn't sure.

Dru started dancing again, to music only she could hear, pausing only to say, "She's hungry," and laugh in that crow like cackle again, deeply pleased with herself.

Reed told her to put it in Marla's hands ,but he had to tell her twice as she was so wrapped up in the music of the stone, and when she picked it up, throwing the case to the floor (where it shattered like it was made of crystal),she blew a layer of dust off of it, and Lindsey could see it was such a deep green it was almost black...and did he see something inside it? It was furtive and quick, but they were like tiny electrical sparks deep inside of it, crackling like neurons inside a brain.

Dru folded Marla's limp hands over it, and said, presumably to the stone, "Time to come out and play."

For some reason, Lindsey felt suddenly cold, as if his spine had been doused with ice water. He didn't want to see who was 'coming out to play'.

But he stood near the door, dumbstruck, as Caliban said something in Latin, a spell, and a red spark seemed to shoot from his upraised hand and hit the stone in Marla's hand.

And for a moment, nothing happened. But nothing didn't happen nearly long enough.

The stone cracked with a sound like shattering glass, and something seemed to flow out of it: for a second, Lindsey thought they were a billion electric blue mites moving in unison, until they coalesced and formed a misty wave that seemed to envelope Marla's insensate body before disappearing into every facial orifice-eyes, mouth, nose, ears-as if the mist was trying to hide.

And then all the machines exploded.

They erupted into orange flames with an almost deafening roar and blew shrapnel all over the room, although Lindsey was the only one who ducked and covered his head as it whizzed by at the speed of bullets, the self-destructing life support machines vomiting a cascade of yellow and blue sparks over the white tiled floor.

Dru never stopped dancing, and Reed and Caliban were calm and motionless off to the right side of the room, as if they expected nothing less, and were safe above it all.

The harsh white lights of the room flickered briefly, the darkness making the destruction look like a fireworks display, until they came up full and strong again.

Lindsey almost wished they hadn't.

Marla sat up, and when she opened her eyes, they were not Liigon pink, but a violent electric blue, just like the wave that had covered her. And for a second he thought he could see all the veins of her body lit up beneath her ashen flesh in that same neon blue, making her look like some grotesque anatomical model in a doctor's office display.

But then those tracings of blue fire were gone, although it remained in her eyes, flaring like an unquenchable hate, and as those eyes passed over him, Lindsey swore he felt himself pulled like metal towards a magnet. He kept his ground, but only because she looked away, towards Reed and Caliban, who remained unmoved by this spectacle.

"You brought me back-why?" Marla asked, but her voice sounded as rusty as a neglected hinge...or like the thing using her vocal cords wasn't used to them yet.

It was then that Reed turned to him and told him to take Drusilla back to the 'safe' house. Lindsey couldn't quite believe it-after all this they wanted him to just leave?-but in all honesty he was grateful to do so. The power coming from that thing was incredible; it was like a malevolent black hole in the form of a human, and he knew if he got too close he would be lost forever.

Dru didn't want to leave, she pouted and stamped her foot like a thwarted child, but Reed assured her she'd get to 'play' later. Somewhat placated, Lindsey was able to grab her arm and hustle her out of the hospital room, where the air seemed so charged and ionized he was surprised the entire room didn't explode into flame as soon as he opened the door. It was cowardly he knew, but he never wanted to see that thing-whatever it was-again.

But he would, wouldn't he? That had to be the 'secret weapon' there had been rumors about, and not Caliban's 'payment' for all the random chaos he was inflicting on pockets of the city. But what kind of 'weapon' was she? What was she?

He spread all the documents he had on Caliban and several ongoing projects over the surface of his desk, and as he scoured them hastily, waiting to glimpse key words that would make the pages worth reading, he wondered if this had anything to do with the curious memo he'd found on his desk this morning. It was from Nathan himself, in his handwriting, although he believed it was a copy of the original.

It had only a single, unexplained sentence: Under no circumstances should you watch the noon or six o'clock news on channel seven today.

The firm had never given dictates on what they should or shouldn't watch before, so the timing was truly odd-and since he didn't believe in coincidences anymore, he was sure it was connected.

As he glanced up at his Rolex, and saw it was one second to noon.

He wondered what was going to happen, and if he'd be around later to care.




Angel threw back an elbow, aiming for Bob's face, but he hit nothing but air and almost tripped over his chair as his own momentum turned him around, and he saw Bob now off to the right side of the room, in front of the overstuffed bookshelves. And he was laughing like the smug bastard he was.

"Yeah, I'm a wimpy little Belial you can bully all you want, Vlad. Gotta be quicker than that." He tossed the ballpoint pen he must have stolen back on the desk...right next to a pencil he could have taken instead. Killed by a pencil-now that would have been embarrassing.

"When I said no screwing around with anyone's mind, I meant mine too," he growled, angry but mostly annoyed with himself. He should never have let a Belial get the drop on him, no matter how old he was. But that brought up a good point: how old was he?

Belials could do nothing but lie really persuasively, at least for the first forty years of their life or so; they had some psychic powers, but they were mostly limited to a sort of low grade 'empathy' that allowed them to 'read' what other people (victims) really wanted to hear, so they could tailor their lies accordingly. But, unlike most beings, the older they got, the stronger they got, (at least psychically) with the corollary that the increasing strength of their powers usually made them completely mental. Belials could live for a very long time, but the consumptive energy of their psychic powers usually put them in the grave before two hundred years passed. And Bob was well past that mark, wasn't he?

But he wasn't crazy, or at least he didn't seem that way: being a complete asshole just made you a bastard, not insane. Yet. But to have used his power so easily on him-and Angel never even felt it; he should have felt the power, he should have felt reality slip around him-Bob had to be near three hundred years old, older than him. And maybe even older than that. Because most Belials died by the time they developed any powers of note, the upper limit of their powers was unknown.

He had always known Maximum Bob was a dangerous man, but never precisely how dangerous until now.

"I'd think you'd work for Wolfram and Hart," he muttered, sitting back down and attempting to regain some semblance of dignity. He might as well hear him out, at least for a little while. Lulled into a false sense of security, he'd be easier to get the drop on.

Bob scoffed, plopping back down in his chair. "I hate lawyers-even ones who don't serve demon overlords."