Scenes 101 – 110
101: The Foyer, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale
“The sun is up,” Buffy announced to the two slumbering lumps on the floor. They were both buried inside their sleeping bags blocking out the sunlight that shone through the stained glass above the front door.
Mumbles and groans sounded and one after the other, Willow and Xander emerged from their makeshift cocoons. “Is it morning already?” Willow yawned widely, her eyes still closed.
Xander glared squint-eyed toward the light. “Nope. It’s a really bright porch light. Go back to sleep.” He dived back under the covers.
“Get up,” Buffy nudged him with her foot. Sending Willow a look of frustration, she tried again, “Wakey, wakey.”
Willow rolled onto her side, not quite ready to leave the warmth of her sleeping bag. “Try the zipper.”
Following along with the suggestion, Buffy unzipped it and let the air rush in as she tossed the cover aside. Xander squirmed in half-sleep rolling into a fetal position. He hadn’t bothered changing into his pajamas last night. They’d all stayed up waiting for Angel and Cordelia to come back downstairs. When that didn’t happen, there was still the matter of guarding the front door.
Around three a.m. both Xander and Willow looked like they’d had enough for the night. Their eyes were closing and their vigil was more of a cat nap than guard duty. Buffy figured she could always wake them if trouble presented itself. They had removed their shoes and crawled into their respective sleeping bags without complaint.
Reaching down, Buffy tried shaking Xander’s shoulder, but he only mumbled at her. Tickling his ribs brought a sleepy leer to his face that had her backing off fast. Willow was now fully awake and grinning at her efforts. “Try his feet.”
Buffy’s eyes widened as she stared at Xander’s sock clad feet. One sock was half off, down to his ankle and hanging from his toes. Wrinkling her nose, “I don’t think so.”
“You kill vampires and deal with gore everyday,” Willow pointed out, “and you can’t deal with Xander feet?”
Standing, Buffy crossed her arms and held her head high. “A Slayer’s gotta draw the line somewhere. We can let him have another ten minutes while we get our stuff ready to go.”
“We’re leaving?” Willow shucked off the sleeping bag and reached for her shoes. “I thought we needed to be here in case—”
Buffy informed her about her decision to contact Giles. “It’s daylight now. Should be safe enough. If the demon hasn’t tracked Cordelia to the mansion by now, I don’t think it’ll happen.”
“Crosathnam demons are nocturnal,” Angel’s voice sounded from the top of the stairs startling them both, “but they’re not restricted from sunlight. Cordy is still in danger.”
Xander woke up instantly. “Where is she?”
“In the shower,” Angel told them.
Buffy saw that Angel’s hair was damp, too. He was fully dressed. Different clothes than last night: a dark blue shirt, black pants, clean boots. He looked gorgeous and a lot more relaxed than before. Swallowing down the lump in her throat, she said, “I need to talk to Giles.”
Reaching into his back pocket, Angel pulled out a familiar looking cell phone. Buffy realized it belonged to her Watcher. “Call him to come over. We need to strategize. And Cordelia needs him today.”
I need him today, thought Buffy glumly. “What for?”
“To take her to the police station to make a statement,” Angel’s jaw tightened up at her tone. “She also wants to see her grandmother and doesn’t want to do it alone.”
“Oh.” Buffy realized that she hadn’t even thought about that. Still, she didn’t want to face Cordelia yet. Looking at Angel was hard enough knowing he had spent the night with her. She wasn’t one hundred percent convinced that they’d had sex last night. The things she’d heard might have totally been her imagination. Being ninety-nine point nine percent certain left her a tiny bit of room for denial.
“She won’t be alone,” Xander was on his feet now. “I’ll be there.”
Angel stared at the boy for a tense moment before saying, “Thanks. Just keep her safe.”
“I will,” promised Xander feeling a little more manly than he had a minute ago. “It’s killing you not to go, isn’t it? I mean— if you could actually be any deader.”
There it was, Xander clamped his mouth shut, that glare that suggested he’d said too much again. Angel hadn’t budged an inch, but somehow seemed to loom even larger as they faced each other. “Don’t push it, Harris,” he gritted his teeth. “Cordy needs to do this. Otherwise I wouldn’t let her out of my sight.”
Buffy held her breath as the ache in her chest turned to stabbing pain. It wasn’t fair. Now that his soul was permanent and they could be together…he was with Cordelia. How was that possible? Her brain just couldn’t wrap itself around the concept.
“She’ll be fine,” Buffy snapped. Grabbing Willow by the arm, she glared at her other friend and nodded toward the door. “Xander…keys. Let’s go.”
“Hey! What about Cordelia?” Willow asked as she was shuffled forward.
Angel barked out her name stopping Buffy in her tracks. “I need you to deal with this.”
“I’ll deal,” Buffy’s head tilted up a notch. Her lips closed into a natural pout, eyes wide with determination. “Don’t expect me to pretend to like it.”
Angel found it hard to look at her. The pain showing in her eyes actually made him feel like howling triumphantly. She’d sent him to hell, dumped him, all but pushed him at Cordelia and now she acted as if she had a right to be upset that he’d fallen for someone else.
“I don’t expect you to like it, Buffy,” he lifted his gaze to hers. It wasn’t exactly the apology she was looking for.
“We’ll send Giles back to pick Cor up,” Buffy told him as she moved toward the door again. “I—I just need a little downtime first.”
Xander had left the keys to the Plymouth next to the ice chest in the middle of the foyer floor. “We’ll just borrow the car again.”
“Not so fast.” Angel put a hand on his shoulder before Xander could step out of the indirect light into the sunny open doorway. He took the Plymouth keys away. “I have a job for you.”
Gulping, Xander hated the idea already. “A job?” He looked down at the new set of keys Angel placed in his palm. His jaw dropped open at the news that he was to return the DeSoto parked out front to its owner.
“I know you’ll be careful with it,” Angel clapped Xander on the back. “Spike won’t take kindly to any new dents.
Angel gave him a little nudge toward the door. “Just take it to the Factory before nightfall. I think you’ll remember the place.”
They’d left the door wide open on the way out. Angel edged the shadows to the far side and closed it. He was about to head back up to check on Cordelia when the bedroom door opened and closed. Waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs, he felt a smug smile form as he saw her swathed in his robe.
It was huge on her, doubled over across her chest and knotted at her waist it still gaped invitingly. “My stuff is still downstairs,” Cordelia told him. “And that reminds me—”
“They’re already gone.”
“Damn,” Cordelia growled exaggeratedly. “Just like them. Escaping before I can lecture them on the perils of putting designer clothes into trash bags.”
Angel glanced at the stuffed green bags. Wondering if it would help mollify her, “I have an iron.”
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia padded down the stairs barefoot. “Of course you do. What vampire doesn’t these days,” she added, grinning.
Before she reached the bottom step, he swept his arm around her waist and pulled her to him for a lingering kiss. Finally, Angel set her on her feet letting her body skim down his before letting go. “Now the real question is…do you have food of the non-piggy blood variety?” Cordelia moved out of his arms and headed for the ice chest.
Flipping it open, she found snacks galore in a tray on top of the ice. Angel peered over her shoulder as she fished through the sodas, Ho-Ho packages and Twinkies. “There are no Fruit Roll-Ups,” Cordelia huffed. “How could they forget the Fruit Roll-Ups?”
“Is that a breakfast food?” Angel cluelessly inquired.
Straightening up, Cordelia told him, “Absolutely.”
“I don’t have any of those,” he looked almost downfallen. Angel had bought a few things since Cordelia and the others started coming over. He knew how to cook, but had not done so in years. It was not necessary to keep food in the place. After Cordelia made him eat fries at the Deli, he had been experimenting a little, but the experience was not the same without her there.
Taking the unopened Twinkie pack out of her hand, he tossed it back in the chest. “How about some scrambled eggs?”
“You’ve got eggs?” Cordelia didn’t bother to hide her surprise as she walked with him toward the kitchen. Seeking clarification, “Eggs from chickens. Not demony eggs, right?”
Angel just raised a brow.
“Just asking.” Cordelia shrugged and then looked suddenly sad. “Bev used to make great scrabbled eggs.”
After a heartbeat, Angel cupped the nape of her neck, glancing down into her grief stricken eyes. Wishing he knew what to say, he silently pulled her into his embrace. Cordelia wrapped her arms around his waist, rested her cheek against his chest, and sighed deeply.
102: Oak Park Street, Central Sunnydale
It seemed like a different world this morning. Buffy kept her eyes on the road as the car zipped by familiar sights. It all seemed like a dream somehow. A strangely wrong kind where Angel loved Cordelia and she was sitting in the passenger seat of Spike’s beermobile.
“God, it stinks of beer and smoke,” Buffy groused sinking lower in the seat. “I hate this car. And I hate Spike.”
Willow was the one in the back seat with the rest of the empty beer cans. She was the one who should be complaining. At least Xander got to drive. That goofy guy grin was back on his face as soon as he got behind the wheel. It was a lucky thing that the drive from Crawford Street to Giles’ place only took a few minutes in the early morning traffic.
She closed the door behind her and followed Buffy and Xander to the courtyard entry of Giles’ small condo. The iron cross design on the door had already existed before the Watcher moved in. Willow hadn’t really thought about Giles selecting the place because the door acted as a vampire deterrent. She wondered if the architect knew about the vamps when he designed it.
They did not have to wait long after ringing the doorbell. Faith answered the door in a matter of moments looking irritated that her sleep had been disturbed. Her tossled brown hair could not hide the shiner darkening the skin around her left eye. There were scrapes and bruises everywhere. And the thought that this was after several hours of super-fast healing only made it worse.
Faith stood there wearing a plaid pajama top. “Are you coming in?”
Gaping in surprise, Willow gasped, “You’re here—”
“As in not in the hoosegow,” Xander’s attention dropped to her bare legs.
Willow finished, “and you’re wearing Giles’ pajamas.”
“Normally I wouldn’t bother,” Faith shrugged, “but I wouldn’t want to keep Wes or the G-man up all night. I don’t like to tease.”
“What are you doing here?” blurted Buffy completely surprised to see her. Faith was supposed to be in jail.
“Nice to see you, too, Summers,” Faith mocked as Buffy and her cronies filed past. “I could ask you the same question.”
“No doubt Miss Summers is here to check in with her Watcher,” Wesley stepped up from behind Faith, his hands closed around the lapels of his robe, “an excellent notion albeit at the crack of dawn.”
As he prattled on about a Watcher’s duty and his endless vigil, Buffy called out at the top of her lungs, “Giles!”
“As a matter of fact, I have a number of lessons for you to master.”
Faith turned to stare at Wesley who looked far less starchy than he had last night. Now rumpled with bed hair and his early morning stubble shadowing his jaw, he almost looked kind of hot. If only he would keep his mouth shut. A smirk appeared on her mouth despite the twinge of pain it brought.
“Talk like that just makes me hot,” Faith leaned in close enjoying the instant look of panic in his eyes. “What kind of lessons did you have in mind?”
103: The Avalon, Regency Street Luxury Apartments
“Drusilla,” the name rolled off Nicolau’s tongue as if tasting a rare wine. Anticipation hit like a gathering storm. After all of this time she had to cross his path here and now.
He saw Isobel’s eyes go wide with recognition. Drusilla’s name was well known to them both. A look of fury took over her soft features, Isobel’s mouth tightening at the realization that they were not dealing with some nameless minion. “Drusilla here in Sunnydale? The timing is suspect, my love.”
“I remember well her raven hair, a black sheath of midnight against her pale skin,” Nicolau mused over the memory. “She favored black lace and red velvet.”
Curiosity prompted Anton to ask, “A former lover?”
Nicolau shares a look of amusement with his childe. “Hardly. Her sire was never one to share.”
“Angelus,” the name purred from Isobel’s lips. Even Anton recognized the name. The glory days of Angelus were way before his time. Just the mention of these vampires had aroused his master and mistress.
What he knew of Isobel, she was too young to have met the Scourge of Europe in his glory days. “We never met,” Isobel admitted woefully. A pout settled across her pretty lips.
The tales of the bloodshed and horror wrought by Angelus left her shuddering with lustful admiration. There were other more personal accounts revealed by Darla. “I met his sire once in the early 1900s,” Isobel’s revelation stirred up her temper. It showed in her cold blue eyes. “Bitch.”
Darla was always boastful of her favorite’s prowess, yet she spoke of him as if she hated him. Seemed angry with herself for desiring him despite his absence. Isobel had been intrigued, but Darla refused to tell her more.
Isobel’s curiosity had garnered nothing but rumor. It was as if Angelus had simply disappeared. She had been intrigued to discover that her own sire knew Angelus. While she had been entertaining Darla, trying to seduce her into telling her more about her vicious childe, Nicolau had been away. If only he had been there. He was far more Darla’s type.
As it was, Isobel had to settle for a little sport and sharing the innkeeper’s son. The whole experience had been rather unsatisfying. Nicolau had not been very interested in Darla when she told him of her interlude with Angelus’ sire. “The whore doesn’t move me,” he’d said. He had been much more eager to learn about any companions traveling with her.
That was the first time Isobel had heard Drusilla’s name on her sire’s lips. It stirred anger and jealousy within her now as it had then. Not so much because he’d hoped to seduce the other vampiress, but because Drusilla had been subject to Angelus’ will, forced to his bidding, fucked by him, the legendary Scourge of Europe.
Isobel licked her lips at the thought. It was not that Nicolau did not measure up to any vampire she’d ever met. He was her sire, after all, powerful, beautiful and deadly. He was her everything. There was only one thing that kept Angelus in her fantasies.
Nicolau was too refined. He was not vicious, or as ruthless as she knew herself to be. Angelus had those traits according to the many stories she’d heard over the years. If Drusilla’s presence here suggested any possibility that her sire was also present, then this trip America was not going to be half as boring as she imagined.
“Tell me again, Nicolau,” begged Isobel. “You met Angelus once in Venice, I believe, accompanied by his sire and childe.”
“Yes,” Nicolau was quite aware of Isobel’s desires. It amused him the way she put Angelus on a pedestal. He preferred to talk about Dru instead. “I planned to seduce Drusilla anyway. There was something so innocent about her despite her lineage, an oddity. As if there was a place deep inside that her sire had not touched. I wanted to claim that.”
What little Anton knew about Angelus suggested he would not take kindly to another vampire touching what was his. The Aurelius line was very possessive about what belonged to them. “You did this knowing how Angelus would react.”
With a shrug, Nicolau admitted, “That made her all the more tempting.”
Rapt with attention, Anton had to ask, “What happened, master?” having never known Nicolau’s seductions to be unsuccessful.
“Drusilla,” he murmured the name, thoughts turning inward trying to call upon the memory of that night long ago. “She said something. It disturbed me.”
Rather than sharing the details, Nicolau walked away to stand with his back to them, his face darkening into a scowl. He faced the thin veil of curtains now closed across the Venetian blinds. The curtains flashed open with a short pull of the string.
Reaching up, he took hold of the rod controlling the blinds and began to turn it. A beam of sunlight hit low across the windowpane shining directly through the open slat. Anton scampered back into the shadows on the other side of the bed as the light shone into the room.
The sunbeam hit the floor only inches away. Nicolau ran his hand through its warmth noting the way the light bounced off his signet ring.
“Close the blinds,” Isobel pressed herself against Nicolau’s back. She covered his hand, enjoying the momentary warmth against her skin. “It has been a long night. Drusilla must have a lair somewhere in town. All those who would possess the knowledge of its location have already taken to their beds.”
Nicolau lifted her hand to his lips kissing her fingertips. He flipped the blinds closed again and turned to take her fully into his arms. “Drusilla has something I want. It cannot be a coincidence that she is involved. When we find Drusilla and after I take back what is mine to possess, I will enjoy renewing our acquaintance.”
104: Giles’ Place, 523 Oak Park Street, Central Sunnydale
“Going Goth?” Faith stared at the dark smears under Buffy’s eyes, frowning. Being tear-stained and huddled under a cloud of gloom was a bad sign. “Great look, B. I love the way that mascara brings out the bags under your eyes.”
Horror dawning, Buffy realized that clear evidence of her tears was showing. For a second she froze halfway across the threshold staring back like she’d been caught doing something unforgivable. Spine stiff, shoulders straight, chin tilted stubbornly, she snapped, “I didn’t realize Raccoon-in-Plaid was the rage now,” reminding Faith of the blue-black ring of bruised flesh around her own eye. “Otherwise…”
Conceding the point, “Touché,” Faith shut the door behind them. She did not miss the fact that her casual comment hit a few nerves.
After a pause, Buffy’s tightly wound expression softened, asking, “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Faith shifted uncomfortably at the sudden concern. “I was gonna ask you the same question.”
Only it seemed that Buffy had already moved on. Catching up to Willow, hissing, “Why didn’t you tell me?” she hastily wiped her fingertips beneath her eyes, and then, still whispering, asked if Angel had seen her that way.
The fact that they had seen Angel caught Faith’s attention as she listened to Willow’s response. “I don’t know,” said Willow muttering an apology for not noticing. “Guess I was kinda preoccupied.”
She was not the only one with other things on their mind. Xander trailed after them casting lingering glances at her bare legs gaping at her over his shoulder. Faith pushed aside her curiosity over Buffy’s words for a moment, turning her attention to him, waiting for his sorry excuse for being caught staring. His gaze lifted toward her face. Only he did not make it that far, rapt attention zeroing in on a flash of cleavage as she absently plucked at a button.
Someone shouted a warning, too late, just as Xander rammed into the end of the banister. Biting back a laugh, Faith idly wondered what Cordelia Chase had ever seen in such a putz. He had to have something going for him.
Watching Xander clownishly clasp the sore spot on his chest and fumble for excuses for not looking where he was going, Faith could not see it. Whatever it was, it had to be hidden. It might be fun to find out. “Want me to rub that for you?” she leaned close to his ear taking up a spot next to him.
The audible gulp was too much. Faith chuckled, dimpling in amusement at Xander’s immediate panic. Catching the stern stare from her stuffy new Watcher reminded her that this wasn’t exactly the time for flirtation; especially with Cordelia’s ex. Thinking of Cor only made her think of Bev and that made the already hard knot sitting in her stomach tighten up.
It made her sick to think about it. All that blood. Someone who did not deserve to die. Her fault.
Faith pressed her mouth closed tightly, ignoring the discomfort of her swollen split lip. The anger she had let overwhelm her last night was brewing again. Just thinking of Bev was enough to awaken a need to pummel something to death. Preferably the ugly evil bastard demon that’d killed her.
She barely noticed that Giles had arrived downstairs sporting a robe over another set of plaid pajamas. Did Watchers own anything but plaid and tweed? It wasn’t until after he’d greeted the Scoobies that she snapped out of her thoughts. Despite the bed head, Giles looked fully alert and ready to be debriefed on anything they might have to report.
It was doubtful that they’d fought the demon again. This was not a triumphant group returning from a night of slayage. Buffy still wore the same clothes from yesterday and looked like she had been up all night— crying, too, if the runny mascara was any clue.
Realization hit, “You’ve seen Angel.” Buffy must’ve gotten wind of the fact that her ex was off the market… unless something bad had happened.
Ignoring the comment, Buffy made eye contact with Giles. “We need to talk,” she nodded toward the kitchen. Privacy was not exactly easy in the small condo.
Maybe this was not something she wanted to say with an audience hanging around, but Faith was not about to be cut out of the conversation. Butting in, “Anything that’s Slayer business is my business, too. If you got something to say, I want to hear it.”
Especially if that business had to do with Cordy & Angel.
Faith followed along despite the subtle clearing of Giles’ throat. Shouldn’t he know by now that she did not do subtle?
Blocking the way into the kitchen, Buffy told her, “This is personal.”
So it was about Angel.
“Can the personal chit-chat. We have a demon to find.”
Emphasizing her name, “Faith,” Giles interrupted quickly, “perhaps it would be best if I have a moment alone with Buffy.”
Feigning disinterest with a shrug Faith turned her back on the two of them. Her gaze fell on Willow and Xander who looked like they were going to burst a blood vessel or two trying to stay silent. “I suppose you two know all about it.” No doubt they meant to keep her in the dark being such loyal little sidekicks.
Deciding that she might as well check how Cordelia was doing, Faith inquired, “Did Angel say—?” never realizing that it would open the floodgates.
Her mention of Angel spurred Xander and Willow to inundate her with comments about being at the mansion last night. They were talking so fast it was hard to keep up. Not so fast that she didn’t catch the key words ‘Angel’ and ‘soul’. That got everyone’s attention.
“Back up!” Holding out her hands, Faith prompted them to slow down. “Say what?”
“It’s about Angel’s soul,” blurted Willow no longer able to withhold the information a moment longer.
“Bastard,” Xander grumbled loudly. “Stupid curse. If he was gonna lose anything, it shoulda been his—”
Gasping indignantly, “Xander!” Willow whacked him on the arm. “Shut up. This is important.”
Cautious curiosity prompted Wesley to join the conversation. “Something happened to the vampire’s soul?” he queried before Faith could ask the same thing.
Giles’ head snapped back to Buffy, icy horror chilling him. “Not again.” Picturing Angelus on the loose, a clipped accusation fell from his lips, “Buffy, how could you?”
A snort sounded as Faith realized what direction his conclusions had taken. Though she was worried about the fact that Angel might have lost his soul, and what that meant for Cordelia, it was obvious to her how that scenario would have gone down.
Faith didn’t know much about love. Being horny, wanting someone to fill you up, to make you forget about anything else felt familiar— she knew all about that. Sex was an escape from pain and loneliness, or something fun with a stranger that gave you a high. Instinctively, she knew that it would be different for Cordelia and Angel where feelings were involved. That had to make it even harder for them to resist considering the curse, prophecy, kidnapping and death.
Life was too short and full of shit to ignore something that felt so damn good. And if your honey was a hottie, that did not make it any easier. After all that had happened tonight, Faith figured things had just taken a natural course. She pictured Cordelia and Angel tangled up in bed going at it. Hell, there was only one thing to conclude.
She had every confidence that Angel could deliver. The only question was whether or not Angel would feel it too. Bliss. Would that rocket-ride to an orgasm really cause him to lose his soul? It had happened before, and was something that could easily happen again, so she’d been told.
Suddenly things were not so funny. Cor had hinted that things were heating up. Both of them had managed to resist going too far. Faith had asked lots of questions partly because it was fun to see her friend so worked up over Soul Boy. But mostly it was because the Mayor had something else on his agenda that involved Angel.
Faith had nearly told him to stuff it when he mentioned seducing Angel, causing him to lose his soul and inviting Angelus to join forces. Mentioning that Angel already had a girlfriend didn’t seem to faze him. Wilkins just asked if she’d lost her touch. He’d given her a couple of nights to think about it, but got distracted with civic matters over the Bingo Parlor debacle.
Seducing Angel might have been fun if not for Cordelia. Now that she was in the picture there was no way Angel would see Faith that way. Yes, he was a guy, but he was a guy in love. This was not the same broody vampire that Buffy had dumped when he got back from hell. Under different circumstances, Faith would not have minded giving Angel the ride of his undead life.
Cordelia made all the difference. She was a friend. That was a rarity for Faith. One she wasn’t about to let the Mayor screw over that way.
No, she had practically betrayed Cordelia another way, Faith realized, thinking of Bev again. It wasn’t fucking fair. Then again, when had anything ever been fair?
Intently, she turned back to face Buffy, her hands grabbing the counter edge. Deep down in her gut she knew what had happened, but she wanted to hear it for herself. Giles’ assumption about Buffy doing Angel was way off.
“What?” Buffy glanced around uncomfortably at the staring faces. They had all moved in that much closer. “No! I didn’t. We didn’t. We know better. He’s supposed to know better.”
Faith could not believe that she had to point out the truth. “Giles, B didn’t sleep with Angel.”
Instant relief relaxed his expression until Willow rephrased his words and changed the emphasis. Squirming uncomfortably, “She didn’t.”
“Cordelia, Giles, it was Cordelia,” Faith emphasized, snapping her fingers in the air. Giles’ head twitched, eyebrows coming together, and then arcing up as the light bulb went off. “Buffy wouldn’t be so upset if she was the one doing the wild thing with Angel.”
“W-W-Wild thing?” Wesley stuttered behind them.
He got her meaning clearly enough, Faith gathered, glancing over her shoulder at the man. On the surface he seemed so different from Giles, yet they had the same training. Giles had some interesting layers she was still discovering. She wondered if Wesley was going to prove to be half as much fun in breaching that stuffy exterior.
“Cordelia?” Giles looked bug-eyed for an instant before he paled.
Faith gave him an I-told-you-so look before asking Buffy, “Everything’s cool, right? You didn’t stake Angel, did you?”
“No,” Buffy huffed as if she wished she’d done it.
A high-pitched screech startled Faith who swung around to face Wesley. He looked thunderstruck with a mix of awe and terror. “Angelus is back! Dear God, no.” Flying into action, Wesley flung his suitcase onto the coffee table, pushing aside neatly folded clothing to grab the manila folder containing his research on the vampire. “We must organize a plan at once. The most important thing is that no one panic.”
The only panicking seemed to be coming from his direction.
Wesley held up his hands, one of them containing the folder, gesturing for the group to stay in place so they could think this through. None of them had actually moved. “Good,” he nodded at their calm response.
Inwardly, Faith wasn’t so certain anymore. One scenario kept playing out in her head as she thought of Angel and Cordelia in bed together. It had everything to do with the mayor’s proposed scenario: causing Angel to lose his soul. Shit, no wonder Buffy had been crying. Angelus was back.
“Where’s Cordelia?” demanded Faith.
“At the mansion,” Xander answered jaw tightening, “with him.”
Faith felt dizzy at the thought. Oh, fuck. “You left Cor with Angelus?”
A croak sounded from Wes’ throat as he lifted his chin a notch. “Then your friend must be dead,” he concluded swiftly. Standing there in his robe and plaid pajama bottoms, he rushed to assure them that his training would get them through this latest ordeal.
“But Angel didn’t lose his soul,” Willow calmly interjected before Giles could say anything.
A chorus of, “He didn’t?” sounded from Faith, Giles and Wes.
Feeling stunned by the news, Faith could not understand it. The prospect that Angel had not experienced that fateful moment of bliss with Cordelia just seemed wrong. She looked over at Giles for answers, but he seemed lost in thought, eyes closed in an expression of utter relief. Only Wesley remained objective enough to consider the possible reasons.
Referring to some notations in the Watchers Council records, “There is little to no information about the curse available other than your own report, Mr. Giles, on the happenings between Miss Summers and Angelus.”
Buffy’s jaw dropped at the notion that this stuffy stranger knew all about it. “I don’t know why I bother asking for privacy. My love life is already International News. Why keep anyone out of the loop now?”
“We’re talking about Cordy and Angel,” reminded Faith, her fears alleviated, calm again now that she knew Cordelia was safe and no one needed staking. “I knew they’d end up in the sack.”
She did not miss the scowl on Buffy’s face, but continued on anyway. “How the hell did Angel not lose his soul? Virgin or not, no way would Cor not know how to give him a moment of bliss,” she gestured lewdly.
“Would she…?” Xander suddenly decided to drop the question when Giles cleared his throat rather loudly.
Giles and Wesley exchange looks mutually deciding that it was up to them to get a handle on the conversation before it went further out of hand. Neither one of them was exactly comfortable with the subject, but it had to be discussed.
“Perhaps you should review what happened,” Giles suggested. “I presume you went to the mansion as was discussed.”
Buffy sighed heavily answering, “Yes,” while Willow and Xander nodded and followed suit with, “Uh huh” and “Yup.”
Silence followed and the uncomfortable sensation building in Giles’ stomach churned as he pressed on with the inquisition. They were making him pry the information out of them. “So you saw something that led you to believe…”
“Oh, we saw alright,” Xander groused, his face darkening.
Willow’s pale face flushed as she admitted, “Through the keyhole.”
“You were spying on them?” Faith was not amused. She gave the three of them a look of disgust and walked into the adjacent living room to sink onto the couch. Propping her chin on her hand as she leaned against the arm of the couch, she mused, “Bet that’d be hot.”
Resoundingly shocked by the comment, Wesley sputtered, “Please, Faith, do try not to be so— so…,” only to let his voice trail off. He gathered his thoughts again before saying, “It is not your place to be concerned with the— the sexual proclivities of vampires.”
Snorting softly, Faith merely stared back.
“No one said they were having sex,” squeaked Xander complaining. “There was no sex having. Nope, none that we saw, therefore, it wasn’t had.”
“Uh—,” Willow looked back and forth between Buffy and Xander.
Giles pinched the bridge of his nose. “Buffy,” he began before opening his eyes, “I do hope you can shed some light on the subject. This must be painful for you, but it is important that you tell me what we’re facing.”
Shoulders slumped, Buffy’s look was desolate, her hazel eyes full of anguish. “I think Angel… I think Cordelia has him all twisted up inside.” She pushed past him to head into the living room where she took a seat in Giles’ favorite easy chair pulling her legs up and hugging her knees close to her chest. “He’s just sorry for her, that’s all.”
Even Faith knew better than to interrupt. She held her tongue as Buffy explained her version of the night’s events.
“We got there with Cordelia’s stuff,” she recounted bitterly. “That’s when Angel came downstairs to meet us and told us that Drusilla had actually saved Cordelia. It wasn’t until later that…” Buffy’s blonde hair shadowed her features as her head dipped low.
Willow picked up when her best friend suddenly trailed off leaping in to fill in the blanks. “Later, we heard noises. Fighting. It wasn’t spying. Not really.”
“No,” Buffy agreed looking up again. “It sounded like an argument. We were concerned.”
As usual, Giles seemed more patient about waiting for the story to come out. Faith felt antsy, waiting anxiously for the details. Still, it was easy to guess where both Buffy and Xander were coming from. A little too easy. She only hoped they would get over the hurt-jealous-angry stage quickly for Cor’s sake. In the meantime, it would be fun to rub their noses in it. Giles, too. She would have to remind him that her predictions about the direction of Cordelia and Angel’s relationship were smack on target.
Cursing quietly, Giles reprimanded himself for not interfering. “Having observed their growing attachment, I feared the worst. My instincts told me it would only lead to trouble, but I chose to put off my concerns for future contemplation.”
He was looking at her, conceding the point, before Faith could rag him on it. She saw that Buffy looked wounded that Giles had not warned her about it. “You knew?” Shimmery tears appeared which Buffy blinked away rapidly. Straightening up her slumped form, she snapped, “Don’t you know what could’ve happened? You’re supposed to say something, do… something.”
Faith pointed out that it was not exactly Giles’ fault if Angel and Cordelia fell in love. Gasping, Buffy closed her arms across her chest and held on. “They’re not. Angel was just—”
“Horny?” asked Faith curious to hear Buffy’s take on the whole thing.
With a deep sigh, Wesley piped in, “That is hardly helpful, Faith. There is really no need to—,” only to be cut off.
“No,” Buffy dragged out the word with gritted teeth. Considering that might be better than actually feeling something else, added, “Okay, yes, but that’s all it was.”
Faith could only shake her head in pity.
“Angel understands the danger of such folly,” Giles shook his head. “He would not likely risk the loss of his soul. However, tonight has been a trial for everyone. With Cordelia in such danger, it might provoke Angel into behaving less rationally.”
Wesley concurred with a nod. “Vampire instincts are rather strong when it comes to those close to them, although that is generally reserved for members of their own bloodline.”
The two Watchers seemed caught up in dissecting the rationale behind Cordelia and Angel ending up in bed together. It seemed a lot simpler to Faith.
“Cordelia is at times rash,” Giles noted causing Buffy to grunt in agreement. Though it surprised him that she would overlook the potential consequences of the curse, it might be explained simply enough. “Teenagers are often swept up by their hormonal urges.”
“Someone should keep her hormones to herself,” muttered Buffy.
Xander took exception to that. “Cordelia was upset. It wasn’t her fault.”
“If Angel’s soul remains intact,” Wesley suggested, “perhaps things did not go as far as you suggest.”
Faith considered the fact that Buffy was just blowing things out of proportion. “What exactly did you see through that keyhole?”
There was a long pause until Willow finally answered when the other two refused to volunteer the information. “They were fighting. And kissing. That’s when Cordelia told him about his soul. Then door opened,” she shuddered at the memory, “and we got caught.”
Curiously, Giles asked, “What about Angel’s soul, specifically?”
“It’s permanent,” Buffy answered with a hint of awe sounding in her voice. After all that had been said she still couldn’t get over the idea.
Everyone was too stunned to respond and the room fell into silence again for several seconds until the only sound was the repetitive ticking of the clock. Giles and Wesley shared an amazed look as they each considered the import of this news.
“My God,” Giles could only whisper the words when he finally found his voice, “Angelus.”
Wesley quickly picked up the idea enthusiastically. “The threat would be gone. With Angel’s soul secure, he would… still be a vampire even if guided by a conscience,” he sobered slightly. “That is hardly a suitable relationship for Miss Chase to pursue.”
“Suitable or not,” Faith grinned at the prospect, “I’d like to see you try to stop her. I wasn’t so keen about it at first, but now that I know him, Angel’s cool.”
“He took advantage of Cor last night,” Xander spat furiously. “He deserves the pointy end of a stake. Her grandma’s dead, she got kidnapped and then Dead Boy swooped in for the rescue all Don Juan-like.”
Giles grimaced. “Yes, I can see where you are coming from. However, despite the fact that neither of us approve of Cordelia being intimate with Angel, it sounds as if you are fairly certain it has happened.”
Another snort sounded from Faith as Xander went into denial mode again. “Nope. We saw nothing. So we can’t be certain about being certain.”
“Ah,” Giles knew better than to go there, she noted, watching him struggle with his response. Finally, he settled on steering away from sex and back to the important issue of the curse itself. “You say that Cordelia told Angel his soul was permanent?”
Wondering aloud, “How’d she know?” Faith figured it had been more than wishful thinking. Cordelia might have been as distraught and hormonal as Xander and Giles suggested, but not stupid.
“I was going to ask that,” Wesley held up a finger showing his interest.
A clipped answer followed from Buffy, “Drusilla.”
Some missing puzzle pieces fell into place. Cordelia had been hush-hush about her first experience with Drusilla. The vampiress had said something to her, but Cor was not willing to tell Faith what that was. She had gone all red and then pale and changed the subject so cunningly that Faith forgot about it.
Both Giles and Wesley had that contemplative far away look, their mouths set into grim lines. It was the younger Watcher who pressed on with their original line of questioning. “So you are certain that they…”
“Pretty certain,” Buffy answered glumly. Then her mouth tightened up as she added, “Certain that Cordelia made him feel sorry for her, that’s all.”
“Yeah right,” Faith threw her a look of pity. “While you and Xander are in Denialsville be sure to take the full tour.”
Both of them glared back for a second before turning to Willow, as if expecting her to take their side. Faith was interested to see which side she was going to choose: the Angel’s-an-evil-bastard side or the Cordelia’s-a-seductress side. The look of panic on Willow’s face was priceless. She pressed her lips together as if determined not to say a thing. That lasted 2.5 seconds.
“I-I’m certain that we didn’t wake up dead this morning,” Willow chirped clasping her hands behind her back. “Either Angel’s curse is cured or they didn’t do it.”
For a second, Faith thought that Willow was going to weasel out of giving them a real opinion. She shrank back out of the circle they had formed around the room clearly uncomfortable being the center of attention, yet surprised them all by adding, “But I kinda think they did.”
“Oh, dear,” Wesley shook his head. Repeating what he had said before, “Angel may have a conscience, but he is still a powerful vampire retaining some measure of demonic influence. That is definitely not something any girl should be involved with.”
Buffy turned beet red and was working her way up to a comeback when Faith butted in with, “Hey, you ever think that Soul Boy might’ve done you a favor? You’re all worked up about Angel getting laid, but you should be grateful for it. Since Cordy’s no longer cherry, that means she’s no longer sacrifice material, right?”
After the two Watchers got over their immediate embarrassment, they stumbled for a response. “There is no guarantee the demon referred to purity as a virgin state,” Wes covered his discomfort by focusing objectively. “For example, the demons of the Harthankoora tribe consider their females pure until they have killed their first mate. Or the—”
“So you’re saying that Cordelia is still in danger?” Alarmed, Faith thought she had found a bit of good news for her friend. Not that they were friends anymore after yesterday. “I guess that means the best thing to do is have Cor stick it out with Angel until this is over.”
No one seemed fond of the idea. Giles suggested that they simply had to be vigilant. “The demon that attacked you may not come alone next time. It would be best if you or Buffy remained with Cordelia at all times. The rest of us will continue to follow the signs of the prophecy.”
“Angel won’t like that,” warned Buffy knowing it to be true, a mask of resignation slipping across her face, “but the fact is that he can’t be there all of the time.”
Willow looked like she’d betrayed her best friend— both of them. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I-I know it’s painful. If it was Oz falling for someone else, I’d be upset, too.”
“That’s right. You’ve been on the other side of that coin with Xander.” Faith watched as Willow gaped at the reminder. “But that was different, wasn’t it, Will? You two were cheating.”
“Uh— I suppose so,” she admitted, blushing.
Xander turned red, too. “That was different… and so not a subject I want to talk about right now.”
Neither did Willow by the sound of it. She rushed to change the subject. “Giles, Cordelia wants to come over today. She needs some help to arrange things for her grandmother.”
“Me?” The question slipped out before Giles realized that Cordelia had no one to rely upon for funeral matters. Faith knew that he would shoulder the responsibility just as he always did. Giles was cool that way. “Yes, of course I will help her.”
Still, he pointed out that it would be necessary for one of the Slayers to accompany them. Just because it was daytime did not mean that they could relax their guard. Buffy glanced at Faith and said, “I’ll do it.”
“No way,” Faith stood up from the couch and cocked her head to the side. “I got it covered.”
Unfolding her legs, Buffy rose from her sitting position, and stubbornly crossed her arms. “You honestly think Cordelia wants you around?” Her meaning was all too clear. Cordelia would hate her for her part in Bev’s death.
“Better to have her pissed off than dead,” Faith countered adamantly. “You’ve been up all night.”
“You’re not exactly in top shape.”
Faith shrugged carelessly. “It’s nothing. It only hurts when I smile.”
Staring wide-eyed as the Slayers argued over who was going to take morning guard duty, Willow suggested diplomatically, “Maybe you should flip a coin.”
“I’m going,” Faith snapped, brown eyes intense. “I owe it to Cordy to protect her. Bev died because I fucked up.”
Willow cringed “F-fouled up?”
Glancing toward Giles, she caught his somber expression. “Yeah.” Faith knew that she was not likely to keep Cordelia’s friendship after this.
105: The Foyer, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale
They squared off in the foyer, Angel and Cordelia standing silently across from Faith and Giles. Awkward was not the word for it. It was downright painful. No one seemed to want to be the first one to speak.
Normally, Cordelia would just break the ice. She tried now, but the words caught in her throat. There was censure, sorrow and concern in Giles’ eyes, his lips pressed tightly closed as he looked at the two of them. Faith looked ready for a fight, but she always did.
It was Angel who finally broke the silence. “I appreciate you coming here,” he looked Giles in the eye, “for Cordy’s sake,” phrasing it as if he thought it was a burden.
Cordelia was puzzled for a second until she realized that the last time Giles had been to the mansion, Angelus and Drusilla had tortured him for information. There was a twinge of guilt in Angel’ voice knowing that the simple act of being here was enough to bring back the memories of that time.
“Naturally, I want to help,” Giles took the hand Angel offered after only the briefest pause. The irony of it struck hard knowing that Giles was willing to help and protect her despite the fact that Angelus had killed Jenny Calendar.
She thought she’d been holding it together pretty well until Giles’ attention turned to her. “How are you holding up?” Thank God for Angel standing there next to her. The last thing she wanted was to look like a blubbering idiot in front of Buffy’s Watcher.
Assuring him, “I’m fine,” as she slipped her fingers through Angel’s to clasp his hand tight. When he squeezed back Cordelia felt herself relaxing and everything she had wanted or needed to say came pouring out: Drusilla hiding her from the demon, Bev having a will that would need tending to, the need to file a report with the police, wanting to see Bev at the morgue, and make funeral arrangements.
Giles promised to help with everything that needed to be done. “I hesitate to say this now,” he added, “considering the circumstances, but we must discuss what is to be done about seeing to your protection.”
As Angel had suggested, Giles seemed to think it was possible that she was still in some kind of danger. Hello, not a virgin anymore. Cordelia did not think that needed pointing out after Buffy hightailed it straight to Giles’ place this morning.
“The final signs of the prophecy will make their appearance in the days and weeks ahead.” He reminded her that it might be some time before they could let down their guard. “I presume any fulfillment of this prophecy will ultimately require Cordelia’s participation as a sacrifice.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Angel practically growled his response. She could feel the tension building up just by the subtle change in his grip.
With her free hand, she stroked her fingers down his arm. “No, it won’t happen. You won’t let it.”
For a moment, she got lost in Angel’s eyes.
Cordelia had confidence that Angel could protect her from this. And just in case, she was still planning on more training sessions. She only hoped that Bev’s funeral would go smoothly and that nothing else would distract them from putting her grandmother to rest.
“We’ll get through this,” Angel promised her softly.
A harrumph sounded from Giles catching their attention. Faith nudged him with her elbow and shook her head, but he didn’t notice. Cordelia was too curious to ignore it. “What’s the secret?” She suspected it had something to do with her and Angel.
“No secret,” Giles hurriedly explained. “There is something I need to discuss with Angel.”
Cordelia raised an eyebrow. “Oh, really?” her voice dropped dangerously. There were some subjects she considered closed.
“With the ongoing danger, I believe it is best to consolidate our efforts,” Giles missed the glare in her eyes turning to surprise. “The mansion is the best place for everyone to hold up for a few days.”
“Here?” Cordelia glanced over at Angel wondering how he was going to react. Having Buffy and the rest of the Scoobs here was not a pleasant thought.
A heavy silence thickened the air until finally Angel commented, “Fine.”
“What?” Gaping openly, Cordelia pictured Buffy catching her making out with Angel. Demons were the least of her problems. “Now?”
Defending Angel’s decision, Giles listed his own reasoning for suggesting it in the first place. Knowing that the Crosathnam demon had already tracked Cordelia down once, it was likely that it could do so again. There would be no need to house her with one of the others, keeping the Scoobies’ families safe. Since the mansion was not in a heavily populated area, they might have a chance to keep a low profile.
“We cannot sit idly while the demons gather strength,” Giles warned them. “We need a stronghold against attack and I believe this mansion will provide it.”
Angel was already thinking of weaknesses in the perimeter defenses and how they might go about fixing them. When Giles stepped up and suggested they sit down to work out some details, Cordelia gladly left them to their man-to-manpire chat. She was anxious to talk to Faith.
There were some things Cordelia needed to get off her chest. “I didn’t expect you to be here.”
Still staring over at Giles as he and Angel walked toward the study, Faith jerked her attention back to Cordelia giving her a gruff response. “It was me or B.”
“This bodyguard thing is more of a pain than I imagined.”
Cordelia expected Faith to joke about her needing to get used to it if she planned to be rich and famous some day. The joke never came. Just an uneasy silence as Faith crossed her arms over her chest and looked back down the hall.
She seemed closed-off and uncomfortable. Guessing that it had to do with being witness to whatever Buffy said about her when she got to Giles’ place, Cordelia let out an indignant huff. “Buffy Big Mouth blabbered that I was with Angel last night. Guess Giles loved hearing all about it— not.”
It was a statement rather than a question. Faith barked a laugh. “Yeah, he knows. Everybody knows.”
“I suppose I’m now the bitch from hell… again.”
Faith let out another laugh, but this one was tainted with remorse. “That’s my title.”
Not getting it, Cordelia asked, “Why?”
“It’s obvious.” This time Faith looked straight at her, standing stiff as a board.
There was not anything as obvious as a neon sign that Cordelia could see. “You say something to piss Buffy off?”
“No. Don’t you get it?” She looked stunned and uncomfortable about saying anything else. “Bev. Bev died because of me.”
“Enough with the— hey!” she stalled as Faith’s words sank in. Taking a step forward, Cordelia told her, “I saw everything.”
Wracked with guilt, Faith stumbled over the words, “It was an accident.” She stared back, jaw tightening as she waited for Cordelia to chew her up and spit her out.
“I know that.” Cordelia realized the reason for Faith’s evasiveness. “Bev would be the first to kick your ass for blaming yourself for this. As it is, looks like I get first dibs.”
Faith flashed a grin, but it faded again just as quickly. “Bev was cool. I never meant for her to get hurt.”
Deciding to let Faith get this out in the open, Cordelia found herself swallowing back another bout of tears. She let her hair fall forward shadowing her face as she took in a deep breath before looking up again. “Fighting demons, even if you’re a Slayer, must be tough when you’re trying to protect other people, too.”
“It doesn’t change anything,” Faith scowled, angry at herself and the situation. She let out a noxious curse pushing away Cordelia’s outstretched hand. “Some Slayer. I’m such a screw up.”
She gave her a little room, but did not back down. “You’re my friend.”
The seconds passed without any comment, but that dimpled smile appeared again. Cordelia nabbed the opportunity to change the subject. “Buffy’s just lucky it was you who showed up. She’s overdue for some ass-kickage of her own. My clothes were in trash bags.”
Cordelia shuddered again at the atrocity. “Trash bags.”
“Maybe we should check on the guys,” Faith leaned over to peer down the hall again, “just in case.”
Either she was not the only one good at changing subjects or Faith was actually concerned about the discussion going on in the study. “Why do I get the feeling they’re not just talking about defense strategies? Giles wouldn’t have the nerve—”
“Ooh, he’d better not,” Cordelia started down the hall with Faith trailing after her.
Angel was the first to look up at their arrival. He was standing by the fireplace, the wood cold and ashen much like his stony expression. His dark eyes flicked back to Giles who turned toward them. “Ah, girls, there you are. We were just finishing up here. Perhaps we should get started. Is… is everything alright?”
Ignoring him, Cordelia walked up to Angel, silently searching his face for signs that he’d been subject to some kind of inquisition. Angel said nothing. His hand swept up to cup her face, eyes softening as they lingered over her mouth. She relaxed at his touch, instinctively knowing that whatever they’d been discussing, it hadn’t affected his feelings for her.
Behind her, Faith’s voice contained a little bite when she asked Giles, “Did you ditch the lecture like I said?”
Lecture? Cordelia glanced over her shoulder before turning around completely. “What are you talking about?” It had better not be what she was thinking. And if it was, a certain Watcher had better produce the right answer. Otherwise, he would end up having to dislodge the family jewels from his nostrils.
Though Giles was not psychic, he could definitely read her body language. Right now, it was shouting at him. He looked back at Faith who seemed to realize she unwittingly unleashed Cordelia’s fury. “Sorry, Rup,” she chuckled.
“We were discussing perimeter defenses,” Giles responded truthfully.
Moving a step closer, Cordelia propped her hands on her hips. “Good answer. What lecture, Giles?”
“Take a wild guess,” Faith looked like she was the only one having fun with this.
Who needed to guess? It was obvious that Giles had prepared some speech about Cordelia being too young or Angel being too dangerous for them to be together. “It’s none of your business.”
Giles didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “Perhaps not, but when things settle down, it would be prudent to conduct some tests. I understand that you believe your soul is now secure,” he said to Angel.
“Yes.” There was a thread of anger weighting the single syllable down.
That did not stop Giles from continuing on now that the subject had been forced upon him. “If the risk of Angelus—”
“Angel’s not going to lose his soul,” Cordelia snapped. This was all out of some sense of concern for her, she realized, but that did not make it his decision. “Giles, you’re not my father. I’m old enough to have sex if I want…with anyone I want.”
Pursing his lips closed, Giles agreed with a curt nod. “I cannot judge you for whom you love, Cordelia, but allow me the courtesy of concern— for both of you.”
Her anger faded when she saw only genuine feeling in his eyes. Promising him, “It’s safe. I know it is.” The knowledge that Angel’s soul was secure made Drusilla’s shared vision seem plausible. She was not ready to divulge that to anyone without understanding it fully.
“I hope so.” Giles sighed deeply. “For now, the immediate issue is converting this mansion into our command center.”
Cordelia could not hide her feelings on that matter. “Ugh. That idea is right up there with corduroy making a comeback.”
“Until the danger is over, it’s for the best.” Angel had already agreed to it. He tried to assure her that it would be okay, but he did not sound very thrilled about it, either.
“Guess we’ll be moving in,” Faith sent her an apologetic smile.
Making a sour face, “Fantastic,” Cordelia’s lip curled. “It’ll be like Summer Camp with the Scoobies. I can’t wait.”
106: Angel’s Mansion, Crawford Street, Central Sunnydale
Long years had passed since the mansion sheltered so many humans under its roof. Even before the fire it had been a lonely place abandoned by the owners for a faster pace in the big city. Furniture in most of the second and third floor rooms remained shrouded by white sheets, but time had still taken its toll. Dust thickly layered the covers. Old cobwebs hung in tattered shreds next to new.
Ghostly legends of the haunted mansion on the hill kept most of the locals away. A perfect locale for vampires, Angelus had claimed it when his growing clan required suitable accommodations. Having a real roof over his head was always preferable to the way some of his kind existed. Boards over the broken windows kept out the light making it easy to move around within the interior.
Upon returning to Sunnydale Angel had seen no reason to abandon the mansion. Like his Southside apartment, it held memories better left undisturbed, but not so easily forgotten. Situated on the second floor, the master suite opened up onto the central hall where the landing overlooked the main foyer. Bedrooms lined opposite sides of the hall with a single guest bathroom at the far end.
Running water was not a problem though the pipes sometimes groaned with age. A few rooms previously occupied by Angelus’ minions would still be habitable enough. Downstairs, the old conservatory remained intact much like it was when Buffy had closed the gateway to Acathla’s realm sealing his doom. Spike & Drusilla had used the old Housekeeper’s room near the kitchen and laundry when they were here. Being on the ground floor had made wheelchair access easier.
All of the rooms down there were clean and uncluttered. Angel spent most of his time in the study or in the basement training room. To his sensitive nose a hint of old smoke lingered throughout the mansion. Still, it was suitable enough for his houseguests.
Two by two they invaded: Watchers, Slayers and their trusty sidekicks. Armed with an array of weaponry, books, equipment and supplies they scurried back and forth unloading the cars parked outside. Chattering enough to wake the dead they shouted out to each other in passing. This time of day, he normally slept, but today that was impossible with Cordelia out of the house and potentially at risk. The desire for sleep was there, but he had pushed it aside, ignoring it.
Angel watched from the shadows above leaning against the balustrade. One of them had propped open the front doors to make it easier to move things inside. Daylight poured into foyer across the tiled ceramic flooring. Even from the sheltered darkness he could smell the sun, felt its heat. Until they shut the doors he could do nothing but watch them work.
Hours had passed while Cordelia was out taking care of police reports and funeral arrangements. Though she’d been guarded by Faith and Giles, he worried for her safety and hated the helpless feeling that sat in his gut when she walked out of his sight. Planning their return might have been the best thing to do, but there were too many distractions.
Mainly, he kept thinking about having Cordy back in his bed listening to her husky demands for more, her tight heat surrounding him. Or imagining taking her on the rug in front of the fireplace as the fire’s glow flickering over the smooth silk of her skin. The fantasies just kept coming and for once Angel didn’t have to push them back to the dark recesses of his mind as being something forever denied to him. Instead, he let his mind settle on his favorite chair and smirked wickedly at the thoughts of what they might do there.
When Cordy arrived home again, safe despite her excursion, all he’d wanted to do was back her up against the nearest wall to show her he belonged inside her. A quick smack on the lips and a cheeky grin was all he’d gotten because the entire gang had barged in just behind her. Buffy’s pinched expression showed as she tried to hide the anger and hurt she so obviously felt. Hiding nothing, a scowl crossed Xander’s face the second they laid eyes on each other.
Sooner or later Angel knew he’d have to put that boy in his place.
Catching him glaring at Xander, Faith passed by carrying a large duffle bag, dimpling in amusement. “We’re the good guys. No need to rip any heads off yet.” She winked at them knowingly when Cordy leaned up to whisper, “Missed you.”
Angel crossed his arms over his chest in order to keep his hands off her. “So how’d it go?”
“Everything’s settled,” she said slowly, her lashes dipping down to fan her cheeks. Angel could see her love for her grandmother in her eyes when she looked up again. “We had to make special arrangements to have her buried next to my grandfather. After the earthquake with the church being in shambles, they weren’t going to allow it.”
That didn’t surprise Angel considering the devastation left behind. His questions on the matter had to wait long enough to acknowledge Willow’s tentative entry into the mansion. She paused just inside the doorway, her curious gaze falling upon Cordelia standing so close to him before it trailed up the stairs. He heard a little ‘eep’ out of her before she scurried after the others who’d headed toward the kitchen with bags of groceries.
Rupert Giles followed, his arms laden with books. His fellow Watcher was similarly burdened, but was too busy gaping at the interior of the mansion to notice Giles had stopped. Bumping into him, Wesley apologized, “Sorry, old chap.”
A flash of annoyance appeared on Giles’ face before he hefted the books higher in his arms. Asking where he should put them, “Research?”
“Down the hall,” Angel suppressed the growl he felt building up at the thought that these men were intruding in his personal space. The study was his quiet domain, a place where he could focus and reflect, or relax. There was no doubt it was the best room for conducting their research, so he didn’t hesitate to offer it despite feeling territorial about it.
Turning their attention back to the conversation, Cordelia explained that she’d had to kick a little ass to get someone to listen. Even then, it had taken a special request from the mayor to approve the burial. Angel was surprised that someone like the mayor would get involved.
“Faith seemed to think he would jump at the chance to help,” she admitted to some surprise of her own. “Maybe he felt guilty about shutting down the Bingo Hall. Mayor Wilkins wasn’t exactly Bev’s favorite politician.”
Buffy emerged from the back hall again, stalking determinedly toward the front door they had opened just enough to get inside leaving a wedge of bright light across the floor. She paused, glancing over at them with daggers in her eyes, hand gripping the brass door handle. “We’ve got stuff to bring in.”
The words were Angel’s only warning as Buffy fully opened up the doors. Sunlight burst into the foyer sending him scrambling up the staircase at a fast pace, his skin steaming from the heat. “Gah! I can’t believe she did that,” Cordelia started after her only to be stopped by Faith.
“Let me handle it,” Faith turned her back in the direction of the stairs. “You check on Mr. Crispy up there.”
Angel wasn’t physically hurt. His skin still felt warm, and was reddened with a light burn, but he hadn’t been exposed to the sunrays long enough to scorch the flesh. It stung more that Buffy would use one of his natural weaknesses to inflict a little pain. The warning was enough to tell him that’s all it amounted to. She wasn’t out to kill him, just make him hurt like she did.
“Buffy did that on purpose,” Cordelia griped as she hurried up the stairs to join him on the landing. She held out her hand. “Let me see.”
“I’m fine, Cordy,” his assurances weren’t enough. Apparently, she had to see it for herself running her fingers across every bit of exposed skin looking for burn marks.
Gentle fingers smoothed over his wrists, forearms, up to his neck. Though it wasn’t what she intended those tender touches were turning him on. Angel watched the contrasting concern and relief flit over her face each time she checked out a new area only to find that he was telling her the truth. He held onto her waist keeping her close, but let her explore until she was assured to her satisfaction.
Mesmerized by the way her teeth tugged at her lip with worry, the soft escape of her breath against his skin as she leaned close, Angel swooped down to press his lips to the corner of her mouth. A sound, half gasping surprise, half moan dragged from her throat.
Sounding almost perturbed about it, “You’re okay,” her eyes sparkling with pent up fear. Thinking the worst of what might have happened only made her angry. “Don’t scare me like that.”
A hard push knocked him into the wall, Cordelia following, her body pressing tightly against his. The aggressive move stirred an equal response. Quickly aroused, Angel tangled his fingers in her hair to tilt her face up for another kiss. This time lips parted for more than just a teasing peck.
Their mouths meshed together in clashing hungry need. One after the other. Tasting. Licking. Pressing urgently for more as husky moans sounded between them. Cordy’s hands clutched at his shirt. As if his kiss was the only thing that could prove he wasn’t hurt more than he said, her passion sparked by anger.
Just seconds more and Angel planned to stop. There were things. Important. But he couldn’t get past the fact that Cordelia’s soft lips were warm against his. That her mouth tasted so damned sweet and hot. Or that he wanted to bury himself inside her.
Angel caught hold of her hips aligning their quickly aroused bodies. Even splayed across him, she still wasn’t close enough. Reaching down he grabbed her ass. She gave a soft grunt of surprise against his mouth as he yanked her up onto her toes. The thrust of his hips hit her just right letting her feel the hard ridge of his arousal.
Panting his name, “Ang—,” she was cut off by another kiss.
Cordelia moaned into their kiss chasing his tongue back into his mouth. A nudge of his knee parted her legs. Angel wedged one hard thigh between hers. Denim and dense flesh rubbing against thin damp silk. She wound her arms around his neck now desperate for more than friction.
Breaking the kiss, Angel nudged her back to her feet, hot gaze burning into hers. Saying what he wanted without saying a word. The hot flash of want in her eyes told him all he needed to know. Curling his fingers around her wrist, he took one fleeting glance down at the empty lobby then led her through the open door of the master suite. Cordy didn’t bother looking back. She followed him inside and kicked the door closed behind her.
107: The Factory, Westside, Sunnydale
Paint over the factory windows blocked out the light. Built back in the 30’s, the old brick building had closed down in 1970. Originally designed to manufacture its new invention, the Flexible Straw Corporation had moved to California after the Great Depression. A variety of other inventions by its founder were also created there, but the dangers of Sunnydale and business opportunities in larger cities forced the shutdown of the plant.
Newer facilities had been built nearby closer to the railroad and the shipyards. The old factory remained abandoned for the most part. Over the years it served as a sleeping place for vagrants and a den for some of Sunnydale’s unsavory types. It was sizable compared to the crypt at Kingman’s Bluff, but not as easy to defend against invasion.
Nicolau Cibran strode into the central chamber with unhurried grace. He paused just inside the door to remove his hat and gloves, tossing them and his car keys onto the surface of a pile of packing boxes. The stylish cashmere/wool blend overcoat he wore was handed to Anton who greeted his master with a respectful nod.
There was no need for them to speak of what Nicolau would find there. A telephone call to the apartment had informed him that Isobel had a present for him. He had sent her out on a hunt last night. Business had taken him back to see Kalesh, the demon priestess of Amolon. Her displeasure at the loss of the Pure One was evident, but Nicolau’s natural charm convinced her to give him the time he desired to capture Cordelia Chase.
“Leave her to me,” Nicolau’s soft words and platitudes had easily won the priestess over. She agreed to his wishes. There was time to let him have his way. As long as the Pure One was captured alive, no harm would be done to their plans.
Kalesh was using the human gang leader, Mike ‘The Undertaker’ Mooney, and his rowdy band of bikers to gather the items needed for the next stage of the prophecy. He was not privy to the details of her meeting with the representative of Wolfram & Hart. The priestess seemed equally taken with lawyer Jake Devries. Somehow that just left a bad taste in his mouth.
It would please him to put that human in his place, but Nicolau was no fool. The man was merely a representative to his superiors. Where there was one there were many. When his cell phone rang and the news came that Isobel requested his presence at a factory on the west end of town, Nicolau knew they were one step closer to attaining what he wanted.
Anton sported two black eyes and a broken nose. Smudges of blood not his own had marked his cheeks. Yet his minion wore a smug smile as he led his master toward the back wall. From across the room, Nicolau heard the rattling of chains, saw Isobel deliver a roundhouse kick that delivered too hard a blow knocking her captive out, momentarily grinning upon hearing, “Wake up, I am not yet finished.” Isobel always did enjoy interrogation games.
Two minions held the ends of a thickly linked chain. They too were marred with dark bruises and an array of wounds from their battle. The chain was attached to the iron manacles around their captive’s wrists. White skin was streaked red with blood. Deep marks from fangs and fingernails crisscrossed the vampire’s bare flesh.
It was impossible to tell if this was Spike just by looking. Unconscious, his body had slumped down to his knees, upper body held up by the pressure of the chains. His head hung down at an angle that prevented Nicolau from seeing his face. If this was Drusilla’s childe and lover, this was indeed worthy of his attention.
“Isobel,” the soft sound of her name on her master’s lips was enough to pull her attention to him. She turned to him, golden eyes bright in her true face, lips stained red with blood. Crimson drops were scattered across her clothes, her skin flushed from recent feeding and the excitement of making her captive scream in pain.
She was in his arms in an instant of seeing him. Their mouths met passionately tasting each other and sharing traces of blood from her victim. The blood of a vampire was different than that of the humans from which it fed. It tasted of death, eternity and power, and this one was no minion.
Ending the kiss, Nicolau pulled back noting that Isobel had also sustained minor injuries during the earlier fight. Most were already healing, but a long scrape dug a deep path across her left cheek marring her beauty even if only temporarily.
Throat thickening with rage, he bared his fangs in a sneer. Demanding truth, “Who did this?” His fingers trailed along the edge of the wound.
Glancing toward her captive, Isobel took a moment to answer. “Drusilla.”
He sensed no other vampires here. “She escaped.” It was not a question. The fact angered him, for it was Drusilla he hoped to find here. There were questions he had for the dark-haired vampiress that had nothing to do with Cordelia Chase. The Pure One was for Kalesh. Though it did not appear that she had been captured either.
“Yes,” Isobel’s face morphed into her softer human features making her appear to be a wounded innocent. Though he knew well what the transformation was intended to do, Nicolau was not fooled by it. Still, he let her get away with her pretty pout.
“And what of Cordelia Chase?”
There was only one trace of her left behind, Isobel explained. Some blood-stained clothes were found in an adjacent room. “She was not here when we arrived. The others searched, but found nothing.”
Nicolau presumed that was the reason for her little inquisition. Considering the now unconscious state of the vampire hanging limply from the chains, he wondered what news Isobel had discovered.
It was Anton who spoke up for Isobel. “All is not lost, master.”
“That bastard hasn’t told me anything,” Isobel pushed herself out of Nicolau’s arms to storm over to her tortured captive. “Spike’s loyalty to Drusilla is difficult to break.”
Nicolau knew that much without having him tortured. “Do whatever it takes to find her—and the Pure One.”
“Anything?” Isobel raised a brow, her lips twitching in sudden amusement. Turning back to Spike who was starting to stir, she was already planning her next move.
When Nicolau asked Anton to clarify his comment, he told him that Drusilla revealed that a Miss Edith had taken tea with the Pure One. Perhaps the next step to finding Cordelia Chase would be to locate the elusive Miss Edith and force her to talk.
After listening to Anton’s theory, Nicolau threw back his head and laughed. He turned and walked over to the overturned table he had noted upon his arrival. Crouching down, he picked a small object off the floor. “This is Miss Edith,” Nicolau introduced his minion to the porcelain-faced doll.
“I—I did not realize,” Anton looked completely humiliated for suggesting that a doll held the answers to his master’s current problems.
“This prim and proper miss has been through a lot today,” Nicolau propped the doll on his palm and primped her brown curls into place. “She should not be left in such a place as this, Anton. Take her to the apartment. We will watch over Miss Edith until her mistress comes for her.”
Confused, Anton took the doll from Nicolau’s outstretched hand. Staring down at the goggle-eyed doll he wondered what power a child’s toy could hold over someone who could make his powerful master feel such fear.
108: The Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale
Leaning up against the banister Angel felt Cordelia’s arms around his waist. Palms scraped up the front of his shirt and then settled down as she pressed into his back, her lush breasts soft and warm snuggling closer. A husky sigh emerged from her throat, a half joking complaint. “Tell me again whose lame idea it was to invite the Scoobies.”
There was no need to go into that. Cordelia simply expressed his own frustration with this temporary invasion of his home. It amazed him how quickly he could get caught up in the need for sex. Making love to Cordy was a revelation. Something he hoped she found half as meaningful.
People in love had sex—as long as there were no gypsy curses involved. There was no need to feel guilty about it. Angel hoped that dragging her off to the bedroom had not been a mistake. It was spontaneous in a way he rarely allowed himself to be, too used to needing to stay in control.
It was Cordy that blew his vaunted self-control. Being with her, inside her, giving her everything he had made him want it and her even more. Their current circumstances interfered with that. He had discovered that he loved her and that made wanting her all the more irresistible. Fear and a need to show her that he cared came out physically instead of with the reassuring words he wanted to say.
Angel caught her hand lifting it up to kiss the center of her palm. Despite liberal use of gently fragranced shower products he could still detect the subtle aroma of their lovemaking. Intoxicating. The more they touched, kissed or made love his scent became imprinted on her skin.
Just her nearness was enough to spark strong emotions of lust and tenderness. With the memory of taking her so fresh in his mind, the open way she urged him on, told him what she liked, and yet lost the ability to form a coherent word near the end of it, Angel found it hard to focus on the activity in the foyer below. Closing her fingers over the kiss he held it against his chest now staring blindly at the tiled pattern on the floor below.
“We’ll survive this Scooby drama somehow,” Cordelia tried to sound encouraging.
Pulling her around to face him, Angel saw that she’d changed into casual clothes, the kind he once would’ve been surprised to know she possessed: jeans softly hugging her curves and simple sweater. A high knot held her hair off her face. Only a few strands escaped to tease her cheeks.
Angel’s mouth twisted wryly as he fought off the urge to kiss her again. “Survival might be an issue if we get caught.” A hand guided her hips as he effectively trapped her between him and the banister.
Getting caught was the last thing on their minds when they’d been kissing earlier. It wasn’t even a glimmer once the bedroom door had closed them off from the rest of the mansion. As soon as they were inside Angel voraciously swiped his lips across hers again wanting to consume her completely.
Claiming their succulent heat one last time, he trailed his fingers down to fondle her breast before rasping thickly, “Take off your panties.”
Flushed with excitement, Cordy paused for a heartbeat before slipping her fingers underneath the hem of her skirt. The little scrap of scarlet material had slid down her thighs in seconds, damp with desire, to encircle shapely ankles. Stepping out of them with one sandaled foot, she’d used the other to kick them away.
No time existed for sweet, passionate lovemaking, but the lusty glint dancing in her brown eyes told him it didn’t matter. They’d both needed it, wanted it. Cordelia had fumbled with his belt, got distracted by the bulge formed by his erection and rubbed her hand down his length. Brilliant instincts or not, it caused him to buck up against her cupped palm. If she’d touched him much longer that would’ve been it.
Dragging her hand away, he’d brought it to his mouth, bit the fleshy part of her hand just enough to turn it red. It just spurred her on. Faintly, he recalled the frantic way they’d tugged on each other’s clothes. Her blouse unbuttoned. His shirttail hanging out of his pants. It just wasn’t happening fast enough.
Angel whirled her around fast so that her back and buttocks were flush against him. Her hair settled in messy disarray over their shoulders. He nudged it out of the way to scrape his blunt teeth against her throat, and a wet kiss at the juncture of her jaw.
“Bend over,” he’d instructed giving her a little push in that direction. “Put your hands against the corner of the bed.”
Cordelia flashed an eager grin, bent down so her ass was in the air and peeked at him over her shoulder. The skirt of her dress angled up, but still covered everything revealing only the toned muscles of her spread thighs and calves. “Like that? C’mon, Angel, hurry. Now.”
Gravel voiced, “Just like that,” Angel unzipped without taking his eyes off her. Loving the fact that she submitted, but demanded attention almost in the same breath.
With a little flip, he tossed the back of her skirt out of the way. Took a moment to soak in the sight of Cordelia’s golden skin, ran his hands across the warm flesh of her buttocks. Shiny damp with arousal, he didn’t need to touch her to know she was ready, but he did so anyway rubbing two fingers over her wet center giving her clit a couple of gentle whirls.
Trembling, Cordelia let out an unintelligible sound that urged him on. Angel shoved down his pants just to get them out of the way. He fisted his cock stroking moisture across the broad tip before thrusting forward. Tightly surrounded, the tight wet heat was nearly his undoing. Angel stilled, hips thrust forward, buttocks clenched when he was fully sheathed, panting instinctively to gain some semblance of control.
“Oh—ah!” She trembled below him as if the quick entry was almost too much to take. Body taut, need burning in her gaze as she glanced back, Cordelia pleaded, “Don’t stop.”
Hands on her ass, Angel pulled back slowly watching as each inch of his cock came into view, shiny with her wetness. The snug grasp of her body fought to hold him there. She bucked against his hands, but he pulled back until only the tip remained inside her.
A drawn out, “Yes,” hissed through her gritted teeth as he thrust back hard. “Do that again. You feel so good.”
The words broke what little control he had. Angel pounded into her from behind, his hips working back and forth. Nothing better in this moment, tight and hot, the quick-slow drag of cock and cunt made silence impossible. The wet slap of skin on skin accompanied their orchestral grunts and Cordy’s noisy orgasm. He would have laughed at her efforts to muffle the sound if he had not been so close to coming.
Making her lose her ability to mouth off at him might be a useful skill. One not likely to be available when he needed it. He’d definitely settle for this. Watching Cordy go up in sparks with him inside her was worth any trade off.
Angel reached around her hip, pressed his fingers down through the downy curls to stroke her at the same fast pace. She came again, less intensely, but it was enough to set him off. He lost his perfect rhythm. Letting go her clit he grasped her hips with both hands and rode her until he exploded, jerking hard inside her.
They collapsed onto the bed in a heap of sweaty skin and tangled limbs. Panting for breath, his body echoed hers. Their clothes were caught in wrinkled gathers between them except where they were joined together, reluctant to move. Conscious of his weight bearing down on her, Angel had withdrawn his sex, not bothering to hide the groan of pleasure at the sensation.
Twisting around side by side they kissed softly, slowly in contrast to the fast pace they had set. If they had been alone in the house without anything else to distract them Angel knew this would have been just a prelude to the rest of the evening. If he had his wish they’d still be curled up in bed. Instead, he had tasted the soft moan she made against his tongue while they kissed and then reluctantly left her to rest while he went to clean up.
Cordelia had let him go, a sultry smile on her face. Not wanting to make anyone suspicious, Angel decided he should step out of the room while Cordelia changed clothes. That assumed their visitors had not heard anything or guessed what they had been doing.
From the looks of things, they had not. Everyone downstairs seemed to be occupied by their task of unloading the cars. They seemed to have brought enough supplies and food to last for weeks. Angel hoped this was not going to take that long, but from Giles’ descriptions of the prophecy and the timeline it revealed, he knew that it might be some time before this was over.
“Whose lame idea was it to invite the Scoobies, again?” Cordelia emerged from the bedroom having changed into casual clothes, her hair now tied up in a high knot. His senses were already awake and keyed in to her slightest touch. The casual way she wound her arms around his waist and leaned into his back left him feeling strangely happy.
Angel covered one hand clasping their fingers. “It’s necessary.”
There was no need to remind Cordelia of the reasons. Whether they liked it or not the mansion was going to become their base of operations until they’d settled this business about the prophecy. It was not a perfect plan, but better than nothing.
The decimated wing of the mansion, charred from the fire, was partially open to the outside. Rubble blocked most of it, but anyone searching the perimeter could find their way in. It smelled of mold and other growing things that had cropped up inside it. Only the thick doors and a grand corridor separating out the two wings had saved this part of the house from going up in flames.
“I know,” she conceded with a sigh. “That doesn’t mean it sucks any less.”
Putting up with houseguests was unpalatable enough for Angel without adding on the complication of ex-lovers into the mix. He knew Buffy well enough to believe that she would focus on the job and do what needed to be done to keep Cordelia safe and find the demon responsible for killing Bev. But he was not naive enough to think she would let it go so easily especially when it came time to talk about sleeping arrangements.
Buffy was not the only one he was expecting protestations from, but Angel was at the stage where he did not give a damn about their opinions. He did not want Cordy to be embarrassed about being with him, but he was not about to let anyone interfere with it either. There was only one place in the mansion he wanted her to stay, partly to ease his mind about her safety when they slept, but mainly for the admittedly selfish reason of wanting the woman he loved in his bed.
Still, he put that aside to offer her the option of a place of her own. “We should talk about room assignments,” Angel cautiously brought up the subject to which he got a soft groan in return. “There’s no need for anyone to use sleeping bags again.”
After a lengthy pause Cordelia shook with laughter forcing him to shift around to see her ear to ear grin. “Let’s put Giles in with Xander.”
“And you say that I’m evil,” Angel raised a brow and tried to decide if she was being serious. “The mansion has plenty of room for everyone to have their own place.”
The light dancing in her eyes drew him in like a beacon. He clasped her waist pulling her closer with a hard little tug. Bending his head, Angel captured her lips, kissed the hell out of her mouth until she pulled away panting for air. “Where will you sleep?”
Cordelia stared at him as if he had asked a trick question. She glanced back toward the master bedroom before sending him an angled look. Propping her hands on her hips, “I could bunk with Buffy,” she shrugged casually. “We could always compare notes.”
Good thing he knew hell was not going to freeze over anytime soon. He let Cordelia’s suggestion pass with a brief smirk. Not wanting her to misunderstand his offer, Angel clarified, “I want you with me—if you won’t be uncomfortable about the others being around.”
“Let’s review what just happened,” she snorted softly obviously amused by his effort to be chivalrous about her reputation. “As much as I think I’m going to like quickies, the idea of groping in dark corners just seems so Junior Year. I don’t care what they think, Angel. If we’re together, we’re together.”
109: The Kitchen, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale
The smug bastard had actually offered to cook for them. So what if it was his house. Xander had been quick to remind Angel, “You’re a vampire, not a fry cook. What do you know about it?”
“A good deal more than you,” Angel’s growl gave him shudders, but Xander had not given up his space in front of the stove. He had been assigned to put away the food and make dinner, so that was exactly what he was doing.
Efforts to make grilled cheese sandwiches had not gotten very far. First, there was the fun of finding the frying pan. Then there was the trick of turning on the stove. It was not the kind where you turned the knob and the heat just came on. He got the idea that it was not even electric. When he turned it there was a strange odor coming from it.
“It’s a gas stove,” explained Angel who pulled a box of matches out of drawer. “You have to light the pilot light first.”
“I knew that,” Xander snapped, but stepped back to let the vampire do it. Watching carefully to make sure that he could do it again, he saw the way the flaming match nearly licked the tip of Angel’s finger as he held it against the burner. A blue flame flickered to life burning too high. Angel blew out the match and rubbed his fingers as if he had enjoyed the heat against his skin.
Angel turned the knob down a couple of notches to a low flame, telling Xander how to moderate the heat. Then he had left the kitchen to go check on the others. Whose lame idea was it to put him in charge of the food? Oh, yeah. Xander had to blame himself for that one.
The Watchers were busy organizing their library of research materials while the two Slayers were doing the heavy lifting. Cordelia and Willow stuck to organizing bedding and the sleeping quarters. Dead Boy had his nose into everything.
When they all stopped working long enough to eat their sandwiches and chips, he had not bothered to drink the blood Xander saw in the refrigerator. Nor did Angel bother to try the bite of grilled cheese goodness that Cordy offered him. Sourly, Xander recalled that he had not been so reluctant that time with the fruit smoothie, slurping at her straw like he did not have blood cooties.
That was before Xander knew there was something going on between Dead Boy and Cordy. Well, before his suspicions were confirmed. If there was any lingering doubt about what happened up in that bedroom last night, the discussion about their room assignments nailed it.
Willow looked fidgety when Angel started to talk about his plan for their sleeping arrangements. She had been helping Cordy with dusting and the doling out of the sheets. It was hard enough to imagine Cordelia Chase with a duster—unless that image came with a French Maid’s uniform, and then it was surprisingly easy, but watching her play hostess was downright disturbing.
“This is a large house,” Angel had started out. “There are too many ways for enemies to get in. We should split up the strong fighters between the three floors.”
By strong fighters, he meant the Slayers and himself. Xander was not going to try to argue that one. He knew his capabilities and that was good enough for him. He did his part in a fight even if that did not involve super strength, vampire speed or any fancy karate-judo-kickboxing moves.
“I’m on the second floor, so I suggest Buffy and Faith take the first and third.” Angel explained about the housekeeper’s suite down the hall not too far from the kitchen. The third floor room might seem remote, but they needed a presence up there for anyone who might try to climb in from the roof.
Faith volunteered to take the third floor. “What can I say? I like to be on top.” She had been looking at him when she said that and Xander really hoped his instant reaction to the images in his head was not obvious to anyone else.
“That leaves me on the bottom,” quipped Buffy as she okayed the decision unaware that her words also set off naughty sparklers in his thoughts involving a Slayer sandwich.
It was not really a surprise that Angel would put Buffy as far away from him as they could get. Having the ex love of your life sleeping nearby was not exactly a comforting thought, Xander realized.
“There are a couple of good rooms on the second level,” Angel had gone on to tell them. He did not look too pleased about it, but told Giles and Wesley that they could choose between them.
Apparently, they were located on either side of the master suite. Giles thought that to be, “A fine idea.”
Buffy casually inquired, “What about the rest of the guys?”
She even managed to ask it without looking at Cordelia, but even Xander knew that was the hot topic of the day. No one actually asked the question, but everyone wanted to know the answer. Where was Cordelia going to sleep? Xander quickly came up with some ideas he could live with. Maybe she would share with Faith. That might be fun. He could approve of bed sharing between those two any day. Hell, he would even approve of them having a hot lesbian affair if it meant Angel would be keeping his hands off Cordy.
Unfortunately, his ex was not likely to go for fulfilling that particular male fantasy. Cordelia did not keep them in suspense. She knew exactly what Buffy had meant and gave her the answer she expected. “I’m staying with Angel.”
Buffy’s mouth tightened, but she said nothing. Neither did he, although Xander called himself ten kinds of coward for keeping his mouth shut. He gritted his teeth as Cordy stepped closer to the vampire, their shoulders brushing close together, but otherwise not touching.
“That’s rather inappropriate,” the new Watcher spoke up when no one else did. He had gone up a notch in Xander’s book. “You might be eighteen, but Angel is a vampire.”
Silently cheering him on, Xander waited for Cordelia to chew him up and spit him out again. Which she did. Ouch. He doubted Wesley would try that again. Giles looked a little pained for his colleague as if he had already tried that and forgotten to warn him off.
They would all have to live with the fact that Cordy had made her choice. It sucked, but there was nothing that Xander could do about it. He could only hope that having Giles and Wesley on either side of the bedroom would act as a deterrent to activities that did not involve sleep.
“I thought Xander & I could stay near you, Buffy,” Willow piped in trying to divert the uncomfortable vibes from the couple in the center of the room. “We’ve still got our sleeping bags. And it’ll be fun, don’t you think?”
A smile wavered as Buffy chirped, “Fun. Sure. Loads to be had.”
Since the girls volunteered for kitchen cleanup duties, Xander decided to take Spike’s car back before it got too dark. Willow offered to go with him, but he suggested that she stick around for Buffy’s sake. She agreed, but gave him a look that told him she got the hint that he just wanted to be alone for a while.
When Dead Boy found out that he had not returned the car this morning as ordered, he was not exactly pleased. Xander figured Spike would not need it during the daytime. To a teenage boy, any car was better than no car at all, even when an evil bloodsucking maniac vampire owned it. One errand had led to another and suddenly it was late.
Angel had suggested he just keep it until morning, but he had promised to bring it back. He did not want Cordy to owe Spike anything. It might have been Angel who borrowed it in the first place, but it was done to get Cor to safety.
Now the light of day had faded from the sky. Orange turned to grey turned to black. He drove toward the west end of town with his mind on his ex-girlfriend. Having had the big hate for Angel from early on, watching Buffy give her heart to a guy who was definitely not worth it, and everything they’d gone through with Angelus, it was hell seeing Cordelia in love with him now.
What the heck was it with Sunnydale girls? Okay, so it was true he had mucked it up with Cordy. That was his fault. He could not blame her for breaking up with him. And he was lucky that she was sort of a friend—the word had never strictly applied to them. Honestly, he did want Cordelia to be happy, but did it have to be Dead Boy?
Nearing the edge of town, Xander got his thoughts into gear reviewing his plan. It was simple, really. Park the car. Leave the keys in the ignition. Run like hell.
Just because Spike had been talked into loaning his DeSoto to Bossy Vamp did not mean he would overlook the fact that a human was returning it later than expected. Spike might just decide to think of this as Sunnydale’s version of Meals on Wheels. That was something Xander did not want to consider.
The factory was now dead ahead. Xander gulped. He could see light streaming from inside the old brick building. Paint covered the windows making it impossible to see inside. Not that he was going to get that close. Heading for the parking area, he saw a sleek black car parked out front. Slowing down to get a closer look, the tires made an unmistakable crunch against the pebble covered parking area.
Spike had a visitor, someone who was obviously not into leaving his car in a gross state where it stunk of old beer and cigarettes. The BMW gleamed in the moonlight reflecting the sky above and the outline of the factory.
Concluding that Dead Boy had probably been right about waiting until morning to drop the car off, Xander kept driving. He did not like the look of that car. Not here in the old warehouse area by the docks. It was more out of place here than he was. He turned the car around slowly hoping that the noise was not going to attract attention.
Just as he was picking up speed, a figure darted across his path. All he saw was the flash of a lithe figure and a flowing gown come to a stop directly in front of the car. Xander slammed on the brakes and the DeSoto slid to a halt. Breathing heavily from the shock, he watched the woman walk forward, her eyes meeting his through the windshield.
His gaze followed hers as she walked around, opened up the passenger door and slid inside. Still staring, Xander could not seem to break away from her dark piercing eyes. “I know you,” her dulcet tones sounded soothing to his ears. He could listen forever.
Drusilla patted him on the cheek. “Of course you are, my pet. Now be a good boy and take me to my Angel. We must arrange a rescue.”
“Spike?” Somewhere in the back of his mind, Xander wondered why he was having a conversation with a vampire, especially this one. But he could not seem to make the effort to try to get away.
Settling her skirts tidily around her, Dru told him, “No, not my Spike. That nasty little blonde has her claws where they don’t belong. She wants what she can’t have, so he will have to play with her for a while.”
“Play?” Xander turned to look at her briefly as he took his foot off the brake. If Spike was playing what was that screaming he heard coming from inside the warehouse? It seemed imperative that he do as Dru asked and take her to Angel. “It’s not safe to stay. We should go.”
Drusilla nodded, “To my Angel.”
“Yes, to Angel,” he repeated dutifully and stepped on the gas pedal peeling out of the parking lot as fast as he could go. Halfway down the street, Xander asked, “Who is it that needs rescuing?” He did not give a flip about Spike, but he worried that someone else had gotten caught up in this. Maybe Drusilla had been rescuing other potential sacrifices like Cordelia.
“Miss Edith,” Drusilla told him deadly serious. “She’s in grave danger and I want her back. My Angel will rescue her. Or you will, won’t you, my pet?”
110: The Kitchen, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale
Their system was down pat: Buffy washed, Willow dried, and Cordelia put the dishes away. She was the most familiar with where everything belonged. Only the fact that Willow’s constant presence kept her from having a necessary talk with Buffy made it frustrating. They both needed to get this out of the way. The longer it was delayed, the more frustrating it got.
Blurting out what she really wanted to say was on a five second countdown. Angel had asked her not to push it when she said that Buffy was going to hear about it. Being pissed off that her ex was dating someone else was understandable, but trying to injure him out of pure spite was another. Five seconds—that was about as tactful as Cordelia could be.
Buffy, decked out in rubber gloves, was scrubbing hard at the bottom of the frying pan where Xander’s cooking efforts had created a dark crusty mantle. She tackled it like it was any other demon. It was the last thing left to clean. “There won’t be any supposedly non-stick surface left after this.”
“It’s not like Xander knows how to cook,” Willow defended him by reminding that he had volunteered for the job. “And we did say that we’d help with clean up.”
“Yeah,” Cordelia let out a little snort. “He ran out of here fast enough.”
The vigorous pan scrubbing stopped long enough for Buffy to glare in her direction. “And why do you think that is?”
“Xander has a severe allergy to cleaning up? One look at his bedroom will tell you that. Not that I blame him.” Cordelia propped a hand on her hip and leaned against the counter. “Next time, the guys take their turn.”
Willow added, “And Faith,” not forgetting that the other Slayer had gotten out of this job because it was her turn to patrol the grounds.
Angel had taken both Watchers to another part of the mansion to discuss a potential vulnerability in their overall defensive strategy. He had definite ideas and was not the least hesitant in conveying them. In fact, Cordelia thought his take-charge attitude was kind of a turn on. But then, lately, anything about Angel was sexy.
Normally, he would have let the others take the lead in the decision-making and just go along with the plan. He would be there to help them, but not do anything that would steal Buffy’s thunder, heaven forbid. That had all changed since they started teaming up as if Angel suddenly realized he was free of that leash that tied him down, held him back.
She had always known Angel was hot. Pure aesthetic value alone was sky high. He was definitely more than just eye candy, though. Cordelia sensed she was just scratching that broody surface and wondered what it would be like to bring Angel out of that shell a little more. God, if today’s totally hot quickie was any indication it was going to be hard—really hard, she smirked inwardly—to keep their hands off each other in public.
But then, it was not so much their hands that Cordelia worried about. Even now, she felt excited, her body tingling and warm. Pushing aside any guilt that lingered over thinking about sex with Angel instead of mourning Bev, she told herself it was what her grandmother would want anyway. She would be the first to tell her to live her life, to take as much as she could from it, and be with the man she loved.
It would have been interesting to see Bev’s reaction if she had discovered that Angel was a vampire. Cordelia had been determined to protect her from the truth, but the truth just had a way of coming out here in Sunnydale. Knowing Bev, she would have treated Angel like anyone else she cared about. The thought of her grandmother’s capacity for love—not to mention taking in stray relatives—still surprised her especially since Bev had pointed out that they had so much in common.
Thinking about it distracted her from Angel’s entry into the kitchen. Normally, Cordy would have noticed the moment he walked into the room. Buffy noticed first. Either her Slayer or ex-boyfriend senses alerted her to Angel’s presence. She met his gaze, nudged Willow with an elbow, who got the hint by putting on a too-bright smile.
“Hi, Angel,” she waved her damp dishrag by way of greeting. Cordelia noticed that he was looking past Willow to her. “We’re almost done here. Everything’s clean and shiny—except for the frying pan.”
Angel might have heard Willow muttering about Xander’s valiant efforts to cook for them, but Cordelia knew his thoughts were all on her. She could see it in the subtle tension in his shoulders and the stark look that spoke volumes. Keeping his distance, Angel still managed to renew that tingling desire she felt deep down. One sweep of his eyes across her mouth caused her lips to part. The intent stare left her trembling at the thought of bedtime and the fact that it was still hours away. She wondered what Buffy and Willow would do if she jumped him right here and now.
Cordelia grinned at the thought and for a second, Angel was equally distracted by whatever signals her body was giving him. He shifted around nervously as he stood in the doorway, rubbed a hand over the back of his neck and looked like he found it hard to remember why he was there.
Finally, it came to him. “Done? Willow, yes, good, we need your help with a spell.”
“A spell?” Willow tossed the dishrag aside practically bouncing her way toward the door. “What kind of spell? I have ideas. Lots of ideas.”
Before turning to leave, Angel looked back at Cordelia one more time the barest hint of a smile on his face. Willow’s incessant questions about what they had planned could be heard all the way down the hall. Cordelia had to laugh at her enthusiasm. “Eager much?”
Buffy let the frying pan sink back into the now-grey depths of the dishwater. “Willow just wants to help. We’re all here to help.”
The tone made it clear Buffy would not be here if she felt she had a choice. Propping her gloved hands on the edge of the metal sink, she stared down into the cloudy water as if looking for something else to say. Cordelia snagged the opportunity to get back on track. She was five seconds away from letting Buffy have it before getting distracted.
Without Willow or Angel around, it did not even take that long. “Maybe if you’d just do your job and track down the demon that killed Bev you wouldn’t have to be here.”
“Don’t go there,” Buffy’s jaw clenched. She turned to face her, one hand still on the sink, the other now dripping water on the floor, unnoticed by either of them. “I’ll do what it takes. I’m sorry about your grandmother, but you know this is the last place I want to be right now.”
“That doesn’t give you the excuse to take it out on Angel,” she snapped back coolly. “That stunt you pulled earlier nearly left him a crispy critter.”
Buffy looked guilty about it for a fraction of a second. “I warned him to get out of the way.”
“Not fast enough.”
It was clear that Buffy thought Cordelia had stolen Angel away from her despite the fact that the Slayer had been the one to call it off between them. Not to mention that she was also the one to throw them together on patrol night after night. Now Buffy had the gall to be snippy about it.
So maybe she would mention it. “We’re together because of you. It was your idea to have us do the Team Chase thing. Two hotties stuck together on patrol—you get it.”
By the pinched, red look on her face she certainly did. “Angel thought you were just a spoiled bitch.”
“He was supposed to make you see sense and make you quit,” Buffy admitted the fact as she pointed a drippy gloved finger toward her. “But you’re too stubborn for that. Or you just decided it was a good time to get your hooks into Angel.”
Cordelia knew it was dangerous to rile up someone who could break her in half if she put her strength into it, but at this point she didn’t care. Ignoring the rudeness of the pointy finger, she stepped forward, using her height to give her the tiniest advantage over Buffy’s natural intimidation factor. Well she could be damn intimidating, too, when necessary.
“Why would I want to spend time with a Slayer-whipped vampire? Angel wasn’t even on my radar back then. It just took a while to see that he wasn’t quite the lapdog I thought he’d become.” Cordelia watched Buffy go a shade paler.
“Am I supposed to like the fact that you’re with Angel now,” Buffy’s hazel eyes were pinpoints of anger glaring through narrowed lids. Sarcasm dripped thickly, “Fine. I really love it that you can be with him when I can’t. You’ve got what you always wanted.”
“Yeah, guess I do.” Cordelia quickly agreed. It might not have been intentional to fall in love with Angel, but it felt good to say it. “Angel finally took the blinders off, Buffy. He loves me now, so I suggest that you just back off. Now that we’ve discovered the truth about the curse there’s nothing to hold us back.”
Buffy squirmed visibly, her grip on the sink making squeaky rubber noises as it tightened. Any final doubts she had about Angel and Cordelia having had sex were about to be cleared up. It hurt like hell to ask, but Buffy needed to know. “Are you really sure about the curse thing?”
With her usual no-holds-barred policy, Cordelia gave her a smug smile. “We’ve field tested the permanent soul a few times if that’s what you’re getting at. Total bliss was had, so don’t even try to suggest otherwise.”
The pain on Buffy’s face was obvious making Cordy the tiniest bit aware that it might not have been necessary to wipe her nose in it quite so hard. There was no response so she reminded her, “Even you should be happy that Angelus is no longer an issue.”
Not that it really made up for Cordelia getting Angel, but it was better than nothing. Buffy did concede that point. “It’s a relief.”
That was something, she supposed, but this little chat was not exactly going to make the hurt feelings go away. Cordelia figured she could deal with it, but wanted Buffy to be clear that she was not going to put up with her getting nostalgic about the Buffy and Angel Show. “That’s over now.”
Buffy snapped, “You can’t control what Angel feels.”
“Hello! My point exactly.”
“I’ll deal,” Buffy let out a grunt of discontent, “but I’ve been served enough helpings of bitch today. I’ve heard enough.”
Cordelia raised a brow. Was that actually a white flag of truce or just a brief pause to gather up steam for another confrontation? “Fine with me. Topic closed. Now are you ever going to finish with that frying pan? There are so many other things I’d rather be doing.”
The sudden sound of Xander’s voice echoed back to the kitchen, “Yo! Dead Boy. Get out here. Drusilla wants to see you.”
Dru was here? Cordelia watched wide-eyed as Buffy instantly went into Slayer mode. She whipped out Mr. Pointy from its belted spot behind her back and darted out the door.
Arm outstretched, Cordelia called out to warn her. “Buffy, wait!” Too late. There was no stopping her now.