11: Home Sweet Home Invasion
Home Sweet Home Invasion
Six days alone with Cordelia and still Doyle had not managed to make his move. There was no telling just how long the current trouble in Sunnydale would keep Angel away. It was downright depressing. Maybe his chances were miniscule, but he was not going to count himself out just yet. There might be a bit of red tape and a secret or two to reveal, but he was fairly certain that not being a broody vampire with ex-girlfriend issues was a plus in his favor. Not to mention the whole lack of a curse.
He just had to wait for the right moment.
There were no visions this week. Doyle supposed the PTB knew their champion was dealing with the trouble at the Hellmouth. That did not mean the office was closed for business. Cordelia took one case that Angel would no doubt have frowned upon, but managed to keep them working for a few days. She promptly used the check to pay for some new office décor, a manicure, and a fancy television that now shared Dr Folger’s cable service. It was a safe bet that Angel would frown upon that, too.
Doyle did not mind at all. He quite liked hanging out at Cordelia’s place, getting comfy on the couch, letting her snuggle up all friendly-like as they watched TV. It was something he could get used to if given the opportunity. He knew that to be as likely as a snowball’s chance in hell, but he would take it.
Aiming the remote at the television, he clicked until he found something of interest. Beautiful beach babes in scanty red swimsuits. If he squinted just right that one in the blue bikini looked just like Cordelia.
“Leer much?” Cordelia snorted as she snatched the remote out of his hand, but lingered a moment to admit that, “Baywatch just makes me realize how much I miss the beach. I’m already starting to loose my tan.” Frowning, she looked down at her arms finding fault with the golden skin that Doyle found so intriguing.
Thinking that he could handle the beach if she loved it so much, Doyle suggested, “We should go. Tomorrow, maybe.”
“You’re just as pale as Angel,” she gave him a quick once-over. “Have you ever been to the beach?”
“There’s always a first time.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes at him. “Yergh! I think I just scarred my brain imagining you in a speedo.”
Offended, but half-joking about it, he huffed, “Just because I don’t run around in the altogether like a certain neighbor of yours doesn’t mean I wouldn’t measure up.”
“Ew! We’re definitely changing the channel.” Clicking the remote a couple of times, she stopped at the sound of a familiar scene. “Ooh! This is the one where Rachel—”
“No you don’t, princess. Let’s look for something else.” He reached for the remote again only to have Cordelia snatch it close to her chest as if she was protecting it.
“Who doesn’t like the awesomeness that is Friends?”
Sensing that he had made a critical error, Doyle tried to backtrack, but it was too late. He was getting an earful about the gloriousness of her favorite show. “I’m better with movies,” he defended himself against the waving remote by holding up his hands. “Café scenes aren’t really my thing.”
“Too bad it’s not Thursday. We could watch Cheers. You might get the whole friends at a bar concept.”
Right now Doyle wouldn’t mind being at a bar. He was about to suggest that they head down to his favorite pub when he thought he heard something. “What was that?”
Still in defensive mode, Cordelia did not notice the distraction. She was nattering on about who was friends or siblings with whom, and which characters were most likely to have secret crushes. Doyle tried to focus through the sound to pick up the clatter again. If he was in demon form it would be easier, but that was not going to happen, not with Cordelia standing right there giving him an earful.
The television blared louder as a commercial came on. Doyle made a move for the remote, which Cordelia took as a challenge for a spontaneous game of keep-away. She darted to the other side of the antique wood chest that served as a temporary coffee table holding the remote behind her back. “We’re watching Friends.”
Doyle needed silence. “Mute it,” he made a slashing motion with his hand.
Trust Cordelia to take it personally. “Hey! Was that some Irish way of telling me to shut up?”
“Only if it works,” he muttered. Wrestling the remote away, Doyle pressed the mute button while explaining in a hushed voice, “I heard something next door,”
The instant smile brightening her beautiful face revealed her assumption that Angel had returned. Doyle moved in front of the closed connecting door blocking her from opening it. He grabbed her by the shoulders. “Wait. Just listen.”
With the television now in silent mode, and Cordelia momentarily stunned into silence herself, the noise in the other apartment quickly became apparent. Clattering in the kitchen. Breaking glass. Serial curses. Not enough to identify anyone. Some random burglar had picked the wrong place to rob.
With their ears pressed up against the door, Cordelia whispered, “Maybe we should call 911.”
“Right,” Doyle let the sarcasm roll off his tongue thickening his brogue accent. “Let’s bring the police down to a vampire lair.”
Whispering again, “It’s not like Angel has a coffin in the bedroom or dead bodies in the closet.”
“There’s the weapons cabinet,” Doyle reminded, which was unfortunately over there and not on this side of the door where they could arm themselves against the intruder.
Cordelia pointed toward her bedroom motioning that he follow her in there. “There’s blood in the fridge, too. Try explaining that one to Detective Buttinski,” suggesting that Kate Lockley might jump at the chance to see the place. “I knew I should’ve cleaned that thing out yesterday.” She hit the flat of her hand against her head.
Doyle laughed louder than he should have. “You. Cleaning?” He couldn’t help but sound a little skeptical about the idea. Wondering what she was up to he watched with interest as she knelt on the floor next to her bed. For a moment, he thought she was planning to crawl under it, and imagined taking refuge there with her keeping her safe from the big bad burglar next door.
“I clean,” came the scornful remark from somewhere underneath the bed ruffle seconds before a mostly empty cereal bowl and spoon appeared only to be shoved aside.
Maybe it was a good indication that Angel had not spent any time in here, he thought with a smile, while also admiring the curves exaggerated by her current position. The vampire would have sniffed out that bowl faster that you could say moldy Cheerios.
Despite the tempting idea of cuddling close under the bed, he had to point out that they still had a ready means of escape. “We could just leave by the main door.”
Cordelia scooted out from beneath the bed holding an armed crossbow and a handful of bolts. “Pfft! Who said anything about leaving?”
“You keep that thing under your bed?”
“I’m not putting it under my pillow.”
Doyle slid the door connecting the apartments wide open, not sure he liked the idea of Cordelia leading the way in, but more worried at what they were going to find. He took a chance while her attention was focused on the noises now coming from Angel’s bedroom by shifting into his true form to sniff the air. Just as he thought! His sharper senses told him everything he needed to know.
The interloper was a vampire. Someone he did not recognize.
He tried to be as quiet as he could, telling Cordelia that this was a bad idea. “Let’s get back to your place.” Once across the threshold the vampire would not be able to get through. Keeping Cordelia safe was as much a priority as keeping his own neck intact. This was no ordinary burglar and though Doyle figured he could hold his own in a bar fight, any vampire who dared to rummage through the lair of a master vampire with Angel’s reputation was not likely to be put off by him.
An angry expletive sounded, “Bollocks!” accompanied by a crash of furniture against the floor. “If I was a ring, where would I be?”
Cordelia let out a gasp of recognition and moving forward even faster away from Doyle’s outreaching hand. He just lost any chance of getting her to safety. Fear punched him in the gut. It ran spidery-like down his nerves, a sense that he might lose her— on his watch. Bad enough that anything could happen, but for it to happen while Angel was away and unable to swoop in to save the day… Doyle knew he did not like those odds.
If that meant getting his game face on in front of Cordelia, he was just going to have to do it no matter the consequences.
Doyle crept up behind her as Cordelia took careful aim at the vampire rummaging through Angel’s sock drawer. Several other drawers from the chest were completely pulled out, lying broken on the floor along with scattered clothing and other tossed items.
Looking at him from behind, Doyle noted the slicked back blond hair and swath of leather figuring he thought he was quite the badass. Most of them did, after all. He quipped in a Cockney accent, “Well, this has been fun,” making it sound like the opposite as he tossed the last pair of socks over his shoulder, “but it’s getting old real fast.”
One last time, Doyle tried pulling Cordelia back to safety, but she elbowed him in the side to free herself. The soft “oof” was enough to cause the burglar’s head to twitch. He turned slowly, a grin on his angled face, “Time to make things more interesting.”
“Spike!” Cordelia said the name as a warning aiming the crossbow with a far steadier hand than Doyle would have done. Seeing that face, hearing that name, he now knew exactly how dangerous this had become.
The smirk on the bastard’s face as he said her name “Cordelia, you look smashing!” suggested that her presence had just turned his bad luck good. All irreverent charm with that glint in his blue eyes, he sounded like a casual visitor instead of a threat. “I had no idea you were playing house with Peaches. What a surprise.”
“We weren’t expecting visitors.” Cordelia was not a fool. She kept the crossbow trained on Spike, but Doyle noticed that she sounded more irritated than scared. Maybe it was all an act. If it was, he hoped he was not the only one tricked by it. “What are you doing messing with Angel’s stuff? I hope you have the cash to pay for all of this.”
Grinning, Spike stepped closer stopping only when she fingered the trigger. Doyle couldn’t move. He eyed the space around them looking for some sort of weapon. The closest was the broken stand of a floor lamp, but that did not seem like much good against a vampire, especially this one.
Spike had not so much as looked his way focusing his attention entirely on Cordelia. “Just looking for what’s mine, luv,” The tone was soft, but came with an underlying threat beneath the smooth words. “I want the ring. Tell me where he’s got it hidden and I’ll let you two live.”
Cordelia sounded just as confused as he was on this one. “Ring?”
Since it was important to talk a good game, Doyle told him that he was making empty threats. “You’re the one with the crossbow pointed at your heart.”
That icy blue gaze turned in his direction assessing and dismissing him in seconds. “What is it with you good guys running in packs?” Apparently unconcerned with any potential threat from his direction, Spike sneered a bit and asked Cordelia, “Who’s this one, then?”
Feeling rather ticked off at the dismissal, Doyle cut in before any introductions were made. “More than meets the eye, blondie.”
He went from laughing, “Ooooh…the Mick’s got spine!” to serious, “Maybe I’ll snap it in two,” in the blink of an eye.
Cordelia came to his defense, nudging the crossbow up another notch. “Do you want me to use this?”
Deadly serious, he answered coldly, “You’ll be dead before the arrow leaves the bow.”
Despite the threat, Cordelia didn’t budge. “Angel is already going to be pissed off about this mess, Spike. Touch either one of us and—”
“Nice try, cheerleader, but Angel isn’t here.” Spike sniffed the air, his vampire senses providing details that she would not comprehend. “Hasn’t been for at least a week. Missing him, luv? Your sweet scent is everywhere.”
Getting personal now, was he? Doyle gulped down a lump forming in his throat as he realized what Spike was implying. “She lives next door.” Naturally, Cordelia looked a little embarrassed by the implication.
Spike cut her off eager to rub Doyle’s nose in the truth by telling him he had better rethink the facts. “Don’t be so sure about that, Dolt. Look around. Somebody’s been sleeping in Angel’s bed. Quite recently.”
The bedspread was rumpled as if hastily made. Not what he would have expected from Angel who kept the rest of his place as tidy as a pin. Still, Spike could easily have messed it up when exploring the room.
Any second now Cordelia was going to rip into Spike with some scathing remark to set the record straight. He turned to find her staring back with wide-eyed guilt written on her flushed face. No, no, no! Where were the denials, rebuff, and acidic retorts? Doyle’s stomach churned as he realized there would not be any. She had not said a word to make Spike take it back because it would be a lie.
Doyle’s jaw fell slack as he gaped at her, his mind spinning at the notion that he was far to late. He had missed that minuscule chance after all. But when? Nobody told him the status quo had changed. A deep ache bloomed in his chest as he asked, “You two have. . .”
The quick “No!” stung even though it was what he wanted to hear.
Spiked tutted, “Pesky curse, remember? That’s a real shame.”
“Like you care! Not that it’s any of your business.”
“Pet, as much as I don’t like the big ponce all souled up, I really hate it when Angelus decides to drag the whole bloody world into hell right along with him. Maybe it’s best you stay out of Angel’s bed.”
Was he ever going to stop talking about it? Doyle did not want to think about Cordelia being in Angel’s bed for any reason, whether or not the vampire was there, too. Especially, if he was there, but that would be insane on their part. Angel couldn’t… should not… well, it was wrong, not to mention unfair.
Spike seemed to be making a pretty big leap. He had to know if there was something going on. Six days had passed since Angel left for Sunnydale and Cordelia had not breathed a word about getting intimate.
He began with her name, “Cor—,” only to be cut off faster than a racehorse reaches the finish line.
“Geez, okay! He kissed me. I liked it.”
For a second Doyle thought she might turn the crossbow on him. He held up his hands in surrender pushing the hurt of it aside to say, “Cordelia, I’m sorry. He’s been trying to do the right thing. Staying away. Ever since you moved in next door.”
“Convenient little set up,” commented Spike reminding them both that he hadn’t gone anywhere. “Slayer know he keeps you within snogging distance?”
“Buffy’s a little busy,” she snapped.
That statement only brought more laughter. “You don’t know how true that is.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Ringside seats might be fun.” Whatever the inside joke Spike finally let it go. “Speaking of rings, I am bloody tired of searching this place. You two should take over.”
Doyle was not sure what to do except play along and hope they could escape behind the safety of the protective barrier between apartments. Although he was not sure that was even an option now that he had literally pointed out the door. His frustration at his own stupid mistake made him bark the question, “What ring?”
Vamping out, Spike threateningly stepped closer. Doyle tensed for a fight, but Cordelia stepped in between them. “Hey! We need details. What does this ring look like? Angel gave Buffy a ring once,” she sounded a little sour over the memory. “She stopped wearing it. Or lost it. Maybe Angel took it back.”
Now she was just buying them time, Doyle suddenly realized, as she backed them both up in the direction of her apartment door. Genius girl! Only Spike caught on. He snatched the crossbow out of her grasp and tossing it on the couch before he shoved her up against the closest wall pinning her there with his hips and hands.
“Get off me!”
Cursing, Doyle launched himself at Spike only to crumple to the ground after a powerful backhand stopped his forward momentum. “Don’t move an inch,” Spike flashed his fangs in warning as he closed that strong hand around Cordelia’s delicate neck, tilting her forward.
Not one to sit back and take it, Cordelia writhed and pushed against the immovable vampire, until reaching her last resort. Her knee angled up sharply, but Spike was ready for that move. “Don’t piss me off.”
“Then listen carefully, both of you. Find my bloody ring!”
Still on the floor, Doyle stretched his arm out toward the broken lamp stand. Spike moved back to stomp on his hand, dragging Cordelia along with him, his fingers digging in to the sensitive skin at her throat. Both of them cried out in pain. With a sudden release of his hand, Spike sent Cordelia flying on top of Doyle just as he was trying to pull himself to his feet. They tumbled to the floor in a heap.
Spike crouched down next to them looking quite pleased with his work. Although Doyle wanted to wipe that smirk of his face, he knew the attempt would most likely get them killed. “At least tell us what to look for.”
The smirk faded a bit as if it was finally sinking in that they knew nothing about the ring he wanted. He took Cordelia by the hand, helping her back to her feet, gently brushing her tousled hair back into place. Doyle rose up behind her feeling his lips tighten up as he fought to hold back the urge to tell Spike to keep his hands to himself. He was surprised that she let him get that close, but decided she was just playing it safe.
“It’s not Buffy’s ring,” Cordelia ruled that out.
Even Doyle knew about that one. The Claddagh ring Angel had given Buffy Summers as a token of his love. A vision had skimmed over those events before their first meeting. The ring was gold, but could hold no special significance to anyone else. Whatever Spike was looking for had to be something worth the risk of coming here, and potentially facing Angel himself to get it.
“C’mon, pet,” Spike softened his words, his fingers slowly tracing circles along her shoulder. “Don’t play coy. Magic ring. Emerald stone wrapped in gold. Lets Angel walk around in the sunlight.”
Cordelia gasped, her fingers curling into the lapels of Spike’s leather duster. “There’s a ring that can do that?”
“Don’t you know?”
Thinking about it, Doyle realized that he knew what Spike was after. “The Gem of Amarra! I thought that was just a legend. It renders the wearer unkillable if he’s a vampire,” he told Cordelia.
Taking a step away from Cordelia, brushing out the wrinkles on his lapels, Spike gave him a nod. “Not as dumb as you look. That’s the one.”
Cordelia crossed her arms, saying, “Now we know why you want it. What makes you think Angel has the ring?”
“Makes sense. The slayer stole it,” he revealed with a sneer, telling them that he organized a dig for the ancient object after discovering its whereabouts in Sunnydale. Planning to get it back, he had spied on the Scooby Gang only to lose track of it. “That fool watcher wanted it destroyed, but she wouldn’t do it. Had to give it to your big strapping hero.”
Looking distracted over the news, Cordelia’s teeth tugged on her lower lip. “Angel could totally use that ring. I have patched him up so many times we ought to own stock in the bandage company.”
Doyle stressed the point, “But he doesn’t have it.”
Cordelia’s worried look transitioned into a smile. “Well, he might have it now. Angel’s in Sunnydale right now. With her,” she added for Spike’s benefit just to watch the reaction.
“Good time for a handoff,” agreed Doyle twisting the figurative knife a bit further.
Clearly upset by the realization that he had come to L.A. looking for a ring that had never left Sunnydale, Spike let out a frustrated shout, paced toward the nearest breakable object and hurled it at the wall. “Bloody hell!” He stalked back toward them, asking questions for which they had no answers. “What about the whole letting the werewolf bring it to L.A. plan?”
“Oh, probably just the latest apocalypse at the Hellmouth,” Cordelia explained with a shrug.
Spike grunted. “Another one?”
“Angel isn’t here. The ring isn’t here. You shouldn’t be here,” Doyle waved toward the back staircase leading to the underground parking area.
“Have I outstayed my welcome?” He clasped both hands over his dead heart. “That hurts.”
Cordelia took a step back as he moved closer, bumping into Doyle behind her, but Spike kept coming, crowding them together against the doorjamb. “Wh-what are you going to do?”
“Make sure Angel doesn’t have a choice about giving me that ring.”
“He’ll be invulnerable. You won’t be able to hurt him.”
“Sunlight, stakes, not even fire will kill him, but I will still win, still get what I want,” Spike revealed. “Only one thing opens him up to a world of hurt, a vulnerability no other vampire has to fear.”
Doyle’s voice cracked as he realized what Spike was getting at. “His soul.”
“Exactly, mate. He’s got namby-pamby feelings he can’t just switch off. Friends he cares about. A woman he wants.” Spike’s hands tightened as they closed over their shoulders. “Let’s just say it’s a bad day to be you.”