It was nightfall before Spike and Drusilla saw Angelus again. There was a look of dark anger in his eyes and of other feelings like grief not usually known to vampires. The skin of his hand was scorched and barely healed as if he had spent every last possible second searching for his mate as the sun came up.
“Cordelia’s gone,” Angelus’ voice sounded heavy and full of barely controlled rage. “I tracked her through town, but the sun came up too fast. I had to hole up in an abandoned shop during the day.”
Drusilla sat on the couch clutching and rocking Miss Edith. Her puppy yipped at her feet, wanting attention. It made the mistake of bounding over to Angelus who let out a roar that had the small pup running for cover.
“The sun blinds me,” Drusilla moaned. “I can’t see the stars. Can’t see sister. Her voice is silent in my head.”
“Spike,” Angelus nodded for the blond vampire to follow as he headed out of the living room and into the section of the mansion where he had stored his not-so-little insurance plan.
Rolling into the room, Spike saw the rectangular object for the first time. “It’s a big rock. Gotta go tell my friends. Bet they don’t have a rock this big.”
“Spike, you never did learn your history,” Angelus whacked the back of his head.
“Let’s have a lesson then.”
Drusilla swept into the room behind them in her red gown having left Miss Edith and Puppy behind in the safety of the living room. There was something whispering in her head and it was not Cordelia. Another voice was overshadowing everything else.
Two minions stood by with crowbars in their hands as Angelus told Spike and Drusilla of the ancient relic and precisely why it was going to suit his plans.
“Acathla the demon came forth to swallow the world. He was killed by a virtuous knight who pierced the demon’s heart before he could draw a breath to perform the act. Acathla turned to stone, as demons sometimes do, and was buried where neither man nor demon would want to look.”
Angelus issued the order for the encasement to be opened. His minions complied and the front of the rectangular block opened to reveal a stone demon with a sword piercing its chest.
Whining in reaction, Dru lifted her hands to either side of her head. “He fills my head. I can’t hear anything else.”
Spike wasn’t overly impressed, but knew that Angelus had saved this for a reason. “Mm. Let me guess. Someone pulls out the sword and wackiness ensues.”
Gasping in realization of what she was seeing in her head, Drusilla was awestruck by the power of the demon contained in this inanimate state. “He will swallow the world.”
Bloody hell! Spike recalled what Angelus had said when he left before sunrise in search of Cordelia. Of what would happen if he could not find her. If the Slayer killed her— then everyone was going to pay.
“He will swallow the world,” Angelus repeated as he gazed up in evil satisfaction at the thought, “and every creature living on this planet will go to hell. My friends— we’re about to make history— end.”
“Nobody listens to Spike,” the blond vamp was grumbling to himself as he rolled out of the mansion in search of Buffy Summers.
The cheerleader certainly hadn’t listened. Now she had gone and gotten herself killed by the Slayer. Stupid chit! Couldn’t take a little advice. Now she was dust.
Drusilla was driving him nuts with her yapping about Acathla. She’d run off trying to put some distance between herself and the demon’s whispering. Spike had tried to stop her. Someone around here needed to start packing pronto. If there was ever a time to get the hell out of town, this was it. Though it sounded like it didn’t matter where they went if the whole world was gonna get sucked into hell.
When it came to not listening, Angelus himself certainly took the cake. Between his obsession over the Slayer and the loss of his mate, the vampire might well be certifiably insane. Crazy bastard! Why the hell would anyone in his right mind— even an evil vampire who was the Scourge of Europe himself— want to end the world?
Take out a few towns and villages? Yeah!
Start a few massacres and rebellions? And why not?
Lord over the underbelly of a city while the humans live their pitiful lives in ignorance? Obviously!
But to end all that because a tight-assed blond bitch once made you feel human?
Rolling down the sidewalk, Spike continued his silent ranting. First it was killing off the Scoobies. So— okay! He had wanted to do that himself before he knew the score. Slayer was probably just as much of a mental case as Angelus by now. He hoped that she would see reason, because he knew that after killing Cordelia she would be coming after the rest of them next.
Only he had a little knowledge to sell for the right price and that included letting him and Dru get out of Sunnydale.
Willow carefully looked over the components for the Soul Restoration Spell. Detailed research had shown that Jenny Calendar had not come up with the original curse that her gypsy forbearers cast upon Angelus. This was a close approximation based upon her own limited knowledge, mystic contacts and a certain measure of hope. In their usual timely manner, the Watcher’s Council had come through with the required Orbs of Thesulah. Only one was set out tonight.
From what Buffy told her, that would be the only one required.
Home alone, with her parents out of town visiting relatives, Willow had the run of the place without having to worry about interruption. Giles was supposed to come over, but there had been no contact. Attempted phone calls had resulted only in the beeping of the answering machine at his house. Willow feared the worst.
Buffy was out on patrol. She figured Angelus would show tonight. If he didn’t, Willow had been told that Buffy was taking the fight to him.
“Let me be in time,” Willow prayed. “Let me do this right.”
Angelus was too involved in his own plans to see that Spike and Drusilla were out of the mansion. He had attempted various translations and incantations to activate Acathla, but so far was unsuccessful. The curator of the museum where they had stolen the relic was dead since that night, so was unavailable to assist with further translations.
Fortunately, Angelus knew somebody else who was an expert with mystic relics and ancient text. Rupert Giles. The Watcher was now bound, gagged and lying on the floor of the mansion. His captor paced impatiently in front of the unconscious man waiting for him to awaken. The minions who were sent to capture the human had enthusiastically bashed him over the head.
Drusilla leaned up against a tree having run as far as she could to escape the constant noise of Acathla whispering its desire to escape. To bring the world into hell itself. Dru didn’t like the nasty demon. It made Daddy think bad thoughts. Made it so she couldn’t hear sister’s cries.
Carrying the small form of Puppy in her arms, Drusilla knew that her Valentine’s Day gift from Spike didn’t like the nasty demon any more than she did. Its tiny howls after the case was opened continued until they were outside the mansion.
“We’re safe here, my little pup,” she cooed. There were times when Puppy’s racing heart beat excited Drusilla to the point where she wanted to drain the animal. It was so cute and trusting, Dru just didn’t have the heart to kill it. Not when Puppy could be such a good friend for Miss Edith.
Puppy yipped loudly staring into the woods.
“What is it?” Drusilla’s vampiric eyes swept the territory in front of them seeing nothing. The overcrowding noise in her head prevented visions or outside thought. Puppy wasn’t picking up sounds or seeing movement in the trees, she realized.
Scenting the air, the vampiress caught something familiar. Her mouth curled into a slow smile as she turned directly into the woods following a day-old trail.
“You have ten seconds to tell me why I shouldn’t stake you, Spike,” Buffy held her weapon poised to do just that.
Seeing him in the wheelchair was not a new sight. She had seen him at the warehouse when Dru and Spike were plotting to turn humanity into cinders with the Judge. It was the result of Spike’s nearly successful attempt to kill Angel in order to save his sire. Only the timely arrival of herself and the Scoobies saved Angel. They had thought both evil vampires dead after the church organ fell on them.
Bad luck, thought Buffy. Now she would have to finish the job.
“I’m waving a flag of truce, Slayer!”
“What do I care about some corpse’s used handkerchief?”
“Bloody hell, you blonde bint,” Spike rolled after her as she started walking away. “You just said you were going to stake me. Where are you going?”
“You’re too pitiful to stake,” Buffy told him as she tucked her weapon back into the loop of her belt.
Vamping out, Spike growled at her gaining her attention again. He purposefully stuck to the wheelchair not wanting to make himself into too good of a target. At least not until she heard the deal.
“Listen to me, Slayer,” Spike warned her. “If you don’t shut that trap for two seconds, it may just give Angelus enough time to go through with his plans to suck this world into hell itself.”
Drusilla stared into Puppy’s big brown eyes before setting him down on the ground. “Go home. Stay with my Spike until I return. Go home now.”
With a yip, Puppy darted back through the woodlands along the nearly imperceptible trail they had followed to the clearing. Cordelia’s scent remained strong as was the scent of blood. The Slayer’s scent was now old and fading, but they were here. Drusilla was now so close that she could sense the other vampire’s presence.
Spotting the gaping whole in the ground, Dru knew that was where she would find Cordelia. Gazing down into the darkness of the old mine shaft, her enhanced night vision showed only the bottom of a pair of boots and leather-garbed legs curled under and overturned wheelbarrow.
“Cordelia?” The vampiress called out hearing her voice echo below.
A minute passed, endless seconds without any response. Until finally Drusilla let out a tiny whine of despair to break the silence. She was about to pull back from the edge of the shaft, about to head back to the mansion when Acathla’s demands softened into a whisper long enough for a single thought to pierce the constant noise in her head.
“I will save you, sister,” Drusilla promised though she recognized that there was no immediate way to do so. There were human settlements nearby which could easily take care of that. “Wait until our Angel sees the stars in your eyes again. Maybe then he won’t let that nasty demon out to play.”
Angelus was too busy torturing Rupert Giles to notice that Spike had returned without his wheelchair. The blond vampire was followed closely by Puppy who stuck to his heels.
“Come on you poor excuse for a dog,” Spike picked it up noting that it was struggling with the steps. “We have packing to do. I want to be out of here before the Slayer arrives with whatever is left of her little Scooby Gang.”
Angelus initiated the ritual. Finally, he had gotten Rupert Giles to talk. It may have been an insignificant piece of information to the Watcher, but it was the final clue he needed to make this happen.
Speaking in Latin, he translated his own words, “Acathla, I am cleansed here before you. My blood flowing before you makes me worthy.”
Stepping up to the stone demon with a knife in his hand, “—as I demonstrate.”
The vampire sliced the palm of one hand, wincing in pain, but ignoring it to continue the ritual. “You will be free. And so will we all.”
Effortlessly carrying Cordelia in her arms as she walked down the deserted road toward the mansion, Drusilla knew that she had found her in time. The younger childe was weak from the loss of blood. Though her injuries were not immediately fatal, they would have been had rescue not arrived. With her arm around Drusilla’s neck, Cordelia suckled slowly on the cut the other vampire had opened on her own flesh, sharing her blood with her sister. Cordelia was too weak to take much, but it strengthened her enough to sense that something was wrong.
Spike’s DeSoto screeched to a halt next to them. Leaning out the window, he couldn’t believe his eyes. “The chit is still alive! Get the hell in the car, Dru. Maybe there’s still time to stop Angelus.”
“No,” Drusilla told her childe. “Acathla is awakening.”
“Bloody hell! The Slayer was too late.”
Placing Cordelia in the back seat of the car, Drusilla climbed in beside her. “What’s that, my Spike?”
Puppy scrambled out of the front seat onto Drusilla’s lap. She quickly picked him up so that he would not trample Cordelia. Hugging him to her chest, she was about to praise the small pup for finding Spike as he had been ordered.
“Yes, my princess?” He was driving at a reckless pace along the dark and empty streets of Sunnydale.
“Why does Puppy smell like the Slayer?”
There were piles of dust along the trail Buffy followed in the mansion. Spike’s word had been good. Before leaving, he had taken out most of Angelus’ minions without alerting his grandsire. Now the only obstacles she would have would be Angelus himself and whatever vamps were in the room with him.
Just two, she noted with satisfaction. Buffy was about to call out to Angelus when she caught sight of Giles tied up to a chair looking beaten, bloody and barely alive. Oh, God! Not Giles. She needed him out of this room now. There was no way she could defend him and fight the vamps at the same time. Angelus would go straight for her Watcher as soon as she was occupied with his minions.
Fortunately, the two dimbulbs were focused on their master as he stood staring at what she assumed was the demon Acathla still in its stone form, but now emitting deep rumbles of sound. Buffy carefully snuck over behind Giles, slicing away his bonds with the sword Spike had told her to bring. Bodily, she dragged her friend and mentor out of the room and onto the living room couch.
“Buffy,” Giles managed to acknowledge her presence. “You must stop him.”
“I know,” there was complete resolve in her voice. “I know what I have to do.”
Willow sat cross-legged on her bedroom floor, her hands motioning over the dark orb within the circle created by the herbal components of the spell. She began to chant in the language of the gypsies as laid out by Jenny Calendar. The scent of burning herbs and incense filled the room clearing her head of all other thoughts but the success of her spell.
Turning at the sound of Buffy’s voice, Angelus actually sent her a smile. “Thought you might miss my little party, Buff.”
“Not a chance in hell.”
”Funny that you say that,” Angelus silently signaled his minions to circle the room to get behind her. “My boy Acathla here is about to send you there— permanently.”
“Then save me a seat.”
The two minions performed a simultaneous attack while Angelus turned to show Buffy his houseguest. Only Rupert Giles was no longer tied up. Growling in displeasure, he realized that the Slayer had set the Watcher free before allowing him to finish him off in front of her.
Buffy quickly decapitated the two vamps causing them to burst into a cloud of dust. “I think we were about to get busy.”
Noting that the Slayer had a sword, which reminded Angelus he had one last ritualistic task to perform on Acathla. Turning, he pulled the sword from the stone demon’s chest and whirled around to meet the thrust of the Slayer’s sword with a timely parry. He thrust forward with his weapon, she parried back. Their blades clashed metal on metal as they danced around the room in battle.
Angelus grinned enjoying this as he made a high swing at his swift opponent. Ducking under, she rolled out of the way and back up to her feet before he could swipe at her again. Taking another swing, Angelus’ grin was fading a bid as the Slayer’s speed let her sidestep his attack. More serious, the vampire went after Buffy with a series of fast attacks that ended with the tip of his sword scraping across the skin of her upper arm.
There was no time for talking. No time for quips. This was all too serious and Buffy knew that this battle could only end one of two ways. One of them would be dead. If it was her the world would follow.
Jumping up on a low table, Buffy swung her sword only to hear the clash of his weapon against hers. Using his strength, Angelus pushed her back then took a swipe at her legs. She jumped over the slicing blade and dropped to the floor. A bowl smashed against a wall as Angelus’ sword crashed into it.
Angelus landed a backhanded punch to her face sending the Slayer stumbling backward. Stunned, Buffy was slow to react as he knocked her sword out of her hand. She hit the wall behind her only to see the vampire playing with his sword, idly pointing it in her direction with a dark look on his face.
There was fear in the Slayer’s eyes.
That more than anything prompted Angelus to speak. He should have finished her then and there, but there were things to be said.
“You gave me something I never wanted, Buffy,” he told her. “A reminder of my own humanity.”
“Is that so bad?”
“For the demon in me. That’s why I want you dead.”
“Then why didn’t you kill me the night that we made love?” Buffy felt the tears gathering in her eyes. “Why this whole serial killer act with my friends?”
“Payback,” Angelus looked down at her with scowling hatred.
“Well, payback’s a bitch!”
“Yes. I got your roses— and the note. Nice touch adding the necklace and your ring. Lets me know you still care. Though killing Cordelia was a mistake.”
“My mistake was letting you live,” Angelus growled at her. “Cordelia was mine in ways that you will never understand. My childe. My lover. My mate.”
Buffy let out a strangled gasp that Angelus easily noticed.
He told her, “A world without her might as well be sucked into hell because I’ll be there for eternity without her. So I decided to bring the rest of the world— and that includes you, Buff— along for the ride.”
A fat tear dropped onto Buffy’s cheek traveling along until it dripped off the edge of her jaw. This soulless demon had just spoken with more passion about Cordelia Chase than Angel had ever said anything about her. Even the night that he gave her the ring. Even the night that innocence had turned to bliss and a moment of joy activated the curse that brought them to this moment.
“Now that’s everything, huh? No weapons. No friends. No hope.”
Buffy closed her eyes steeling herself against his words and reminding herself of the only reason she was here. To follow her mission. To save the world. No matter the cost.
“Take all that away— and what’s left?”
Angelus drew back the sword and thrust it directly at the Slayer’s face. Instinctively, she reacted with lightning speed catching blade of the sword between her palms. Opening her eyes, Buffy told him, “Me.”
Shoving the blade away from her, the surprised vampire found the hilt hitting him in the face. Staggering back, Angelus gave Buffy room to maneuver as she hopped to her feet and kicked him in the chest. Now stumbling back, the vampire was entirely on the defensive as Buffy retrieved her sword.
Thrusting at Angelus, she noticed that he barely had time to parry. His skills with a sword were too great to keep up with a pure sword fight, so Buffy used a combination of her other fighting skills to keep the vampire off balance.
In Willow’s bedroom, she completed the last words of the spell. The Orb of Thesulah, now glowing brightly, flashed in the candlelit darkness of her room and then went dark.
Raising her sword, Buffy stalled in the final second before driving it through Angelus as a red light suddenly flashed in his eyes. He let out a loud gasp and groaned as though in pain. The vampire met her gaze and then collapsed on the ground at her feet— crying.
Staring down in confusion, Buffy wondered if this was some kind of trick. Angelus was sobbing? Crying? No way. Something else was at work here, but Buffy was not quite prepared to lower her sword.
“Buffy? What’s going on? I-I don’t remember.”
“Omigod!” Buffy lowered her sword and helped the vampire to his feet. “Angel? Tell me it’s you.”
He looked confused too. Embracing her tightly, Angel hugged her close. “Oh, Buffy! I feel like I haven’t seen you in months.”
Accepting his arms around her, Buffy finally gave into the understanding that Willow’s spell had actually worked.
“Everything is so muddled,” Angel pulled her closer still. Letting out a deep sigh, he kissed her shoulder.
Tears were now flowing freely down her face as Buffy hugged him back. For a minute she forgot all that had passed between herself and Angelus. This was her Angel and there was nothing that she felt for him except love.
Only Willow’s spell had come too late. Angelus had already activated Acathla. Behind them, Buffy saw a swirling vortex opening up from the stone demon’s gaping maw. She let Angel go as she realized what needed to be done. Spike’s deal included telling her how to stop Acathla and there was only one way to do it.
Touching his face, Buffy whispered words of reassurance. Kissing him softly, she told him not to worry. Feeling like he had not kissed her in so long, Angel deepened the kiss returning it with passion. Then Buffy broke away to tell him, “I love you.”
Angel repeated the words, “I love you.”
“Close your eyes,” she told him echoing words spoken at their first kiss.
As he complied, Buffy pressed another kiss against his mouth. She moved back, drawing her sword and thrust it with a sturdy blow into his chest. Angel’s eyes opened in surprise and pain as a bright light emanated from the sword. He could only stare at Buffy in total shock, but the pain cleared his mind, returning and sharpening his recent memories and his thoughts. In them, he heard screaming.
Buffy stared in horror at the sword protruding from Angel’s chest. The light from the sword began to mix and swirl into the vortex as the two powers merged. Stepping away, she watched as the vortex drew closer and closer to Angel. He opened his mouth to let out a cry in response to the voice in his head. It was a desperate sound emitted from Angel’s throat.
The event horizon met the vampire without a spark, closing over him and the sword as it instantly narrowed into a vanishing point at Acathla’s mouth. In the darkened stillness of the room there was only the sound of sobbing.
On the road, Spike was experiencing a louder wailing version as the two female vamps in the back seat reacted to the sudden loss of their sire. He sensed it too, but to a much lesser degree. Even the damn pup was howling in protest at the noise.
Cordelia forced herself to sit up in the seat trying to peek out through the black-coated back window. She didn’t know where Spike was taking them. She didn’t really care for the moment. It would take time to heal and time to plan.
One day soon, she would be ready. Then Buffy Summers would pay for what she had done to her sire— to her mate. “Watch your back, Slayer.”
NEXT CHAPTER: Chapter 6