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He kicked in my door again. Predictable, since he couldn't actually enter the new apartment. Maybe it made him feel better. I do wonder if the firm has some sort of special property insurance on these corporate apartments. It can't be cheap to replace all those doors and windows that keep getting busted.

He just stood there. No threats this time. No promises to wait outside until I came within his reach. He didn't speak at all, as a matter of fact. Like he'd run out of words trying to convince Darla that her life was worth keeping. Or saving.

I didn't really know why he was at my door, and I'm not sure he did, either. But he sure as hell wasn't about to start the conversation, and I was getting tired of just staring at him. I had a nice buzz going, in celebration of my promotion. Or maybe I was celebrating the fact that the firm hadn't had my body dumped into the Pacific.

"Come to kill me?" I asked. "I'm not going to invite you in this time. Despite what you think, I'm not stupid, and I definitely don't have a death wish."

"Really?" he replied. "I bet that's not what Darla would say." Ouch. Of course, he's not any stupider than I am, and he knows I have a thing for Darla. I don't know what kind of thing it is, but it's there, all wrapped up with my thing for Angel. Don't know what that is either. There's a lot of ignorance going around these days.

"And I wonder what Darla would say about you, Angel. Or is it Angelus now?"

That got a reaction, even though my question hadn't been serious. He didn't flinch -- no, he just froze up, like he was afraid to give away any hint of what he felt. But I could tell. Hell, I'm a lawyer. My life depends, literally, on reading body language and hidden cues. And exploiting them.

"What's wrong, buddy? You lost?" I went on the attack, not usually a luxury I enjoyed in my conversations with Angel.

"I can't imagine why Darla didn't kill you when she had the chance," he snapped back. "I might just have to correct that oversight."

"Yeah," I scoffed. "You go ahead and try. I bet you were real disappointed when you found out I was alive. Slammed and locked the damn door on me, and I still came back to haunt you." I took a big slug of the drink I held in my functioning hand. The bourbon burned on the way down, lodging in my stomach to keep company with the knot of bitterness.

"You self-righteous son of a bitch," I charged on. The bourbon and the invisible barrier across my door made me brave. "That one act pretty much shattered your whole image, didn't it, Angel? Protector of the weak? Defender of the helpless? Well, those people in that cellar couldn't have been any more helpless, and you left them to die!" Left me to die. It shouldn't have hurt. I didn't want it to hurt.

"Please," he snapped. "There wasn't a person in that room who deserved to be saved. Certainly not you, Lindsey."

"Really? Did you know every single person in that room? Did you see the bloody body of the waiter who was just there to pass out wine glasses?" I laughed mirthlessly, the sound of it tearing at my gut. "Guess not. You didn't even bother to stick around and help out with the carnage. You just wanted me dead. You've never thought I deserved anything but a kick in the face and a swift death."

"No," he replied, leaning lazily against the air that filled the door. "I thought you deserved a kick in the face and a slow, agonizing death. Am I wrong?"

Bastard. "No. Probably not. But you're no better, and since you let your girls eat a roomful of my colleagues, you can't even pretend any more. Who's gonna believe you?"

He stiffened again. "You're just as responsible as I am. You brought Darla back. You brought Drusilla here to turn her. And you set them loose on an unsuspecting city."

Jesus Christ. Everything he'd done, everything he hadn't done, and he still had to pin all his problems on me. Even though I knew I couldn't hurt him, I wanted to. I stood up and hurled the half-empty glass straight at him. With his inhuman reflexes, he managed to catch it before it slammed into him.

"You wanna play the blame game, Angelus? Because I think you'd lose. I may be a lawyer, but at least I didn't terrorize Europe for a hundred and fifty years. And you stopped along the way to drive Drusilla insane. So you tell me who's to blame for what she and Darla do."

"I tried to save her!" he shouted, infuriated. I saw the defiance seep out of him as he sagged. "I tried, but first I had to fight her. Then I had to fight her disease. Then I had to fight the powers that be. And finally, when she had finally found some kind of peace, I couldn't fight you. Just when she needed me most, and I failed her..."

His words trailed off, his voice hoarse. His head hung down, though his arms still held him braced against the barrier that separated us. For a second, I wondered if he'd collapse. Rumor had it he'd been pushing himself hard since we'd vamped Darla. Then he raised his head, and the look in his eyes promised death. Death for what I'd done. Fair or not, he blamed me for it all. And for the first time since he'd pushed his way into a conference room and shoved my client out of a window, I wondered if he actually could kill me.

I didn't know who I was dealing with. Darla had pounded it home in her labored call after he'd torched them -- he wasn't Angelus, but he sure as hell wasn't Angel. The old Angel -- the Angel I knew -- wouldn't have set Darla and Dru on fire. He'd have staked them, but he wouldn't have wanted to see them suffer.

And the firm would rip out my tongue if they heard me say this, but I wanted the old Angel back.

I'd wanted to beat him. I'd wanted him to admit that I wasn't trash underneath his feet. Hell, I'd just plain wanted him. But I'd never wanted him hopeless.

I rose to my feet, a little unsteady. Some of it was from the liquor. Most of it was from the unpleasant realization that I valued Angel's sanity more than I valued my victory. As I walked over to him, his gaze never faltered, not even when I came within a half-inch of crossing the threshold. Looking at him, I took a deep breath and spoke.

"I'm sorry."

His response was immediate. He lunged at me, bouncing off of the barrier so hard that he rebounded into the hallway wall across from my door. In that split second, he'd gone vamp, and the demon stared at me as he stalked back towards me.

His lips parted, exposing his fangs. Unconsciously, I leaned closer, drawn to him, and wondered where the hell my judgment had gone. I was so distracted that I almost didn't hear him speak.

"Fuck you," he whispered gently. "One of these days, Lindsey, I'm going to catch you, and I'm going to rip your pretty little throat out."

He smiled at me, slipped back into his human face, and walked away.

The silence held for a few seconds after he left, and then I heard it. I realized that I was laughing again.

I turned around, headed back to the sterile kitchen, and poured myself another bourbon. I might as well get drunk. Better than spending the rest of the night wondering who would kill me first.