Dark. Warm. Suitably loud. Crowded, but anonymous. It was perfect. It presented the opportunity to get as drunk as possible without unwelcome… input. That was all Cole needed right now; solitary oblivion. All he wanted to do was drown in alcohol and forget all his problems.

The bar buzzed with activity; the room was filled with music, chatter, and laughter; however, Cole did not hear it. Cole was left in his own miserable world. Phoebe deserved better than a demon—even if he never planned to unleash Belthazor again, he could not guarantee her long-term safety. Not from himself, anyway. So, he was here, attempting to drown the evil within him. Cole was thankful he was not a demon who couldn't get drunk.

A strange man sat on the barstool next to him. Cole gave him his best "You do not want to sit that close to me" look, but the stranger had the audacity to smile back. Cole glared harder, and resisted the urge to give him a ball of energy in the face. Forcing himself to relent, he peered into his glass, admiring the brown liquid. Apparently, he wasn't drunk enough yet.

Phoebe would be worried sick by now, scouring San Francisco. Hopefully the sisters wouldn't think the Source got him. He probably should get back. Or he should have told her he needed space… but then she would have wanted to know why…. He just couldn't bear any of it right now: the endless fighting, the fear of the Source, of his future with Phoebe…. Thus, he was hiding. He hated to admit it, but he was hiding from the Charmed Ones in a bar, in Los Angeles.

"Hiding?" the stranger next to him echoed his thoughts.

Cole indulged another murderous look. "No. I'm having a drink."

"Isn't that the same thing?"

Cole grunted, "Don't pretend to know me, pal."

"I'm not. I've been you."

That shocked Cole enough to look at the forthcoming idiot a little closer. He was dark and brooding. He had tousled black hair—looked like he hadn't bothered looking in a mirror for weeks—and a black trench coat to match. But, he looked human enough. "I doubt you could even imagine my problems. I'm not your typical drunk. Beat it before I decide to prove it to you."

The stranger laughed, "You would probably have a hard time pinning my story down too. But, I've got a pretty good idea of you." Cole glared. "On second thought, I may just let you be. Fire and I don't exactly get along."

"Fire?"

"Fire. In your case, I predict fireballs."

All the blood drained from Cole's face.

"Relax, buddy. I can tell a soul-worn, and possible love-lorn, demon when I see one."

"What are you?"

"Ensouled vampire. One-of-a-kind. Call me Angel."

"Vampire…" Wait a minute, "You mean Angelus?"

Angel chuckled, "I left that life a long time ago. Started with a curse—long story. Souls are problematic for… Well, you know. Destruction. Who're you?"

"Cole."

Angel gave him a look, "No, really."

"That's my name. If you're not happy with it, that's your problem."

"I meant you're demon name; your work name."

Cole returned his attention to his glass.

"You know who I was. Fair's fair."

"Belthazor."

Silence. Cole swirled the rich liquid and took a sip, prepared to leave at a moment's notice.

Angel smiled, "I see. Brotherhood. Quite a reputation, Cole." Cole opened his mouth but Angel stopped him, "But let me guess: you were sent after, oh, a witch, and your human half won over. You fell in love."

The demon gave the vampire a side eye. "In a nutshell."

"Why're you hiding?"

"Don't have control of Bethazor."

"She hunting you?"

Cole snorted, "No. She's probably worried sick that the Source got me."

"Source?"

"Of all Evil."

"Ah." The two creatures of the night sat in silence, enjoying their drinks. Well, Cole enjoyed his. Said demon watched Angel from the corner of his eye. He was starting to like the guy against his own will.

The vampire finished his staring contest with the wall and turned towards Cole. "Look, you've got a big fight, and I get that it's not mine; I've got my own. But for some reason my psychic saw you in a vision—normally she only gets people in immediate danger, but maybe the Powers that Be needed us to meet. In that case, you'll soon need our help, or visa-versa. I'm heading to a joint that serves something more appealing to a vampire. Lorne runs a nice place. Also reads auras. Consider it. And you're life isn't that bad—love is nothing to sneeze at. Take it from someone who can't: don't hide. Enjoy it. Oh, and give me a call if you need anything." He handed Cole a card.

After a moment of hesitation he took it: Angel Investigations. Their eyes met. For the first time, Cole let a small smile onto his face. Angel returned it, accompanied by a menacing— no—mischievous grin. Then the dark man turned on his heels and disappeared into the masses.

Strange. Cole tucked the card away. Now this was a story to tell Phoebe and her sisters. She might even refrain from maiming him after leaving abruptly. And, most importantly:

An ensouled vampire… I can't wait to see the look on Leo's face.