Scenes 41 – 50

Season of Solace

41: Kingman’s Bluff Cemetery, Westside, Sunnydale


“I brought you a little something to eat.” Drusilla gently stroked Spike’s hair as he lay upon the makeshift pallet, her red-tipped fingers gliding through the soft blond strands.

Lifting his arm that was draped over his eyes, Spike glanced toward the source of the noise he had been hearing.

Over in the corner, a young girl was tied to an exposed pipe by a long black scarf. Her tawny blond hair hung straight to her shoulders. Big brown eyes welled up with tears, red cheeks already stained with them. Her bottom lip poked into a permanent pout, quivering woefully.

“Looks like a tasty li’l bit,” Spike admitted. He was feeling hungry, but Dru’s touch was too good. It had been much too long since he had her attention.

Drusilla traced the fading edge of a bruise now greenish against his pale skin. “My Angel beat you badly. Naughty Daddy.”

His mouth tightened up. Spike shifted against the mattress as he made an effort to point out, “He didn’t get away unscathed. Gave as good as I got.”

What had started out as a little fight for old time’s sake had turned into a bloody battle. Fists flying. Power. Bloody punches. Feral growls. Unleashed rage. Pain. Sharp, dull, throbbing pain. The taste of fear in the air. He’d enjoyed every second of it even if he did come out worse for wear. It had been too long since he had seen Angelus fight that way for something he wanted, soul or none.

Keeping the curvy brunette safe was obviously important to him. They had looked to be a right lovey-dovey pair, the two of them cozied up together in the moonlight. The fear he had sensed during the fight had been for her. He wondered what that meant to the Slayer.

It might be interesting to find out if Buffy knew about their little tête-à-tête in the graveyard. Spike figured he would think about that later. Right now, he did not want to move away from Drusilla’s touch.

“Shall I rub away the pain?” Dru asked while massaging his temples.

Spike moaned a little, trying not to smile. “Go ahead, luv. It hurts everywhere.”

42: Shady Hill Cemetery, North Central Sunnydale

Meteor Shower_500x500

Having borrowed Bev’s car, Angel parked the Plymouth at the small parking area at the bottom of the hill. It was a short walk up a curved path to the top where they picked out a grassy spot slightly away from the cemetery itself. The trees were behind them, the lights of Sunnydale below with the sky stretching almost endlessly toward the horizon.

“Here is fine,” Cordy told him. It was far enough away from the cemetery not to interfere with her enjoyment of her dinner plans.

She opened up the large navy blanket her grandmother stored in the hall closet to use as a ground cover. These might only be her exercise clothes, but she had no intention of ending up with grass stains.

Angel set the picnic basket down in the middle after Cordy settled down on one side of the blanket. He backed off looking awkward about joining her there. “Get down here, doofus.”

Bev had gone out of her way to prepare for Cordelia’s little surprise. Now that she thought about it, Cordy figured that her grandmother’s enthusiasm for picnics by moonlight might have led to the fact that she thought Angel was her boyfriend.

It was just food, after all. What was so sexy about that? This was not the beach. It was a cemetery for crying out loud. Not exactly a romantic spot despite the skyline view. Cordelia simply thought Angel might like to try out a few new tastes. After all, he had liked the fries.

“You know I don’t like to eat by myself,” Cordelia patted the spot beside her. He knelt down next to her, silent as always, just watching as she opened the basket. “Besides, tonight you get to taste everything.”

“Everything?” he asked with a dark glint in his eyes. “I’m sure I remember that you declared yourself a no-snacking zone.”

Cordelia busted out laughing just over the sheer fact that Angel had tried to crack a joke. “Not me, you dork!” Reacting, she pushed at his chest with both hands until Angel let her have her way and tumbled down to the blanket. “Keep your fangs to yourself.”

For the next half hour, they nibbled their way through the contents of the picnic basket. The little sandwiches were all different. Cordelia would tear off a bite of one and then hand it to Angel for a taste. She adored watching the expressions on his face when he found something he liked or hated.

The chocolate pudding was a mutual favorite, though Cordy had been too busy watching the ecstatic way Angel licked and “mmm’d” his way through his to care much about her own.

He drank down a cup of blood while she sipped on a Capri Sun. When he was done, she handed him the remainder of her drink. “Take this. You’ve got blood breath and I’m not going to—”

“What?” asked Angel with the straw still in his mouth. Removing it, he licked at a stray drop of juice clinging to his lip.

Cordelia straightened up from her side-lying position so close to his. “We’re going to train next, right? I don’t want you breathing on me with blood breath.”

“I don’t breathe, Cordy,” he pointed out, brow furrowing.

“Oh, yeah, well,” Cordelia shrugged while nervous butterflies swarmed inside her. She knew why, too. Exactly why. “Whatever.”

Picking up the trash that had accumulated, Cordelia shoved it back into the picnic basket and closed the lid. Angel was on his feet by the time she finished and was staring down at her. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Training? Honestly, that had been her plan, but it was not exactly on her mind at the moment.

Watching him take pleasure in something as simple as food made her wonder about other things. Like the way her skin had flushed hot at the soft rumble of delight purring from his throat, or the velvet softness of his tongue scraping across the seam of his lips. Her own lips tingled, feeling swollen. She pressed them tightly together and lifted her fingers to them as if to stave off the sensation.

Good thing Angel was already standing because Cordy felt like grabbing him, running her fingers through that spiky hair of his and finding out what his lips felt like under hers.

“Get a grip,” she counseled herself. This was Angel. He might be Buffy’s ex, but the Slayer was hardly out of the picture. Throwing herself at him was out of the question.

“Cordy?” Angel was looking at her strangely, a mixture of confusion and amusement wavering across his face. “Am I supposed to be gripping something?”

Answering hastily, “No,” Cordelia stared back somewhat indignantly.

There was no question that he was teasing this time. “Then it’s something you’re suppo—”

“That’s right,” she snapped back. Cutting him off, Cordelia could not believe where her imagination was taking her. If she did not know any better, she would think that he was flirting with her in a dirty old man kind of way. “I’ve gotta get a grip on this training thing. So let’s get started.”

Angel held out a hand to help her up. “We’ll start with something simple and go over some basic moves together.”

Suddenly, she was nervous about it. “Maybe you should just show me first.” It was not a lack of trust. Cordy knew he would feel her trembling if he touched her.

The thought that she was no longer completely in control of her feelings or the situation thrilled and scared her. Certain that he could hear the way her heart was racing made it beat even faster. She felt nervous in his presence for the first time since they started patrolling together, and not because he was a vampire.

A puzzled look settled on his face for an instant, but Cordelia caught it just before it vanished behind the emotionless mask he usually reserved for the Scooby Gang.

His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed something intangible down. Agreeing with her request for a demonstration, Angel simply said, “Okay.”

Removing his coat, he folded it neatly and placed it next to her on the blanket. As Angel leaned down for a moment Cordelia could not prevent the slow sniff of tantalizing scent wafting close, some kind of combination of vampire, manly goodness and cologne. He noticed, of course, but Cordelia said nothing. A girl had to breathe, after all. It was not her fault that he smelled good. The crazy idea about wanting him to rub that scent all over her, well that might have been her issue.

Their eyes met again as Angel began to unbutton his shirt revealing a white undershirt stretched over the tightly compacted muscle below. She tried to look away, to focus on the grass, the fringe of the picnic blanket, or the shiny lacquer of her clear nail polish, but it was impossible not to watch as his fingers nimbly pressed each button through the holes.

“I didn’t know there would be a strip show,” Cordelia joked, feeling the tension drain away a little. “Too bad. I would’ve brought some cash for your g-string.”

“Too bad I’m not wearing one.”

Muttering, “That was evil,” she watched as Angel pulled the material of his shirt out of his waistband and shrugged it off his broad shoulders.

“Here,” he held it out to her.

Cordelia tossed it onto the pile created by his coat as if it scorched her fingers. He stepped back onto the grass silence settling between them until the only sound was that of the birds in the trees. She leaned back on her hands to watch him closely as Angel gracefully stepped through a series of motions.

Watching Angel as his body stretched and condensed with such harmony of movement caused her to relax. There was strength in every simple move, in the line of his pale body against the darkness beyond, each motion fluid and even.

Knees bending, he crouched slightly causing his pants to stretch tightly across his powerful thighs. Cordelia stopped studying the grace behind the exercise and was suddenly caught up by her sensual response to it. Watching the play of muscles beneath his taut skin, the hands that stretched open-palmed toward her, Cordelia shifted her legs together pressing the ache between them.

Capturing her bottom lip between her teeth, Cordelia let them sink in to the point that she could no longer stand it. The distraction was not enough to put a stop to her wandering imagination. She knew the strength he could wield, the gentility of his touch, and wanted both.

An uncontrollable need to feel him against her brought her to her knees, and then to her feet. Cordy took a step forward stopping when Angel straightened up, facing her. His eyes dropped to her mouth and then to her breasts before sliding up to her throat where his gaze lingered before meeting hers again.

“God, what am I doing?” Cordelia cursed her own stupid hormones. Half-turned away so that she stared out into the darkness of the trees lining the cemetery.

She sensed Angel step up behind, felt his presence closing in. “Tell me,” Angel’s voice cracked with need.

Looking back toward him, she saw his hand hovering at her shoulder before he dropped it to his side. “Obvious, much? You’re a hottie. Momentary insanity, I guess.”

The purely male smirk on his face widened into a grin. “You think I’m a hottie?” Angel pointed out further evidence, “Your grandmother called me edible.”

“Don’t let it go to your head,” Cordelia warned playfully. “Bev doesn’t know you’re a eunuch.”

His grin faded fast. Seconds passed by during which he looked like he was going to explode. Cordelia held her ground, meeting his furious gaze over her shoulder. It might be mean, but at least Angel was no longer looking at her as if he was going to help her to fulfill her every fantasy.

Starting loudly, “I am NOT a—,” Angel could not even repeat the last word.

“Pfft! Like it makes a difference?” she asked with a sad twist.

Angel assured her otherwise. “Oh, it does.” Though her eyes shifted away from the intensity of his, she felt his hunger spiraling again threatening to consume her. “It makes a hell of a lot of difference, especially for you.”

So close.

He was as close as he could be without actually laying a hand on her. Cordelia’s heart thumped heavily in her chest as she shifted around to face him. “Why for me?”

“Do you really have to ask?” His mouth was just a whisper away, tempting her without deliberately leaning in. He wanted her, too, in the same insanely hungry way.

The word was hardly a sound on her lips, “No.”

Part of her knew it long before now, but she had been avoiding the truth. The fact was that Drusilla’s crazy predictions scared her. She might want Angel, but she couldn’t risk Angelus when the vampiress had seemed so certain that Cordy could make him happy, perfectly so.

“I’m not going to lose control, Cordy,” he promised solemnly while his fingertips followed the curve of her cheek, thumb moving to press against her mouth. “You can trust me.”

Wrapping her hand around his wrist, she dragged it down to thread her fingers through his. “Angel, I do trust you, but I—”

The subtle roaring in her ears grew louder and Cordelia suddenly realized that it was not internal. She turned with Angel to look skyward. Lights arced across the night sky, some trailing streaks of fire as they hurtled to the ground.

“Oh, a meteor shower,” Cordelia realized having never seen one except on television. It was breathtaking, and despite what it meant this night, still seemed romantic. She was standing under a starry sky, holding hands with Angel, and watching the shooting stars fly by. “Maybe we should make a wish.”

Cordelia could not see his expression as his gaze was focused to the sky, but she caught the way his jaw tightened. He was all business when he directed his gaze back to her to say, “This is it. Watch for the crash sites. The prophecy indicated the sign would reveal another sacrifice.”

Cordy found it difficult to switch gears with her fingers still entwined with his. “I suppose so. Let’s hope no one goes up in flames this time.”

“They’re falling into the ocean.” Angel noted that most of the meteors were beyond the distant line of the beach and the lights of the harbor.

Not so sure about that, Cordelia watched as a distant point of light got larger and larger in the sky above them. “Why doesn’t that one have a tail like the others?”

Glancing up, Angel simply yelled out a warning, “Run!” The bright ball of flame was headed straight for them.

Their path took them through the middle of the cemetery. In her running shoes, Cordy managed to avoid the perils of the sticklers growing around the edges of the stones, but the ground was uneven. Angel had a tight grip on her hand and pulled her along a little faster than she could manage. It was not until she looked over her shoulder that she stumbled.

The source of the heat and roaring sound was almost on top of them. She lost Angel’s grip as she fell toward the ground, but he caught her. Lifting her into his arms without a hitch, he kept running toward the gully at the other side of the hill.

They reached it a moment too late.

The meteor slammed earthward with devastating force obliterating the east side of the cemetery, throwing up rock, dirt and dust as it punched a small crater into the ground. When the dust settled the only noise was that of the squalling birds settling back into their nests.

Moonlight dappled bright light across Shady Hill casting its spooky mysteries as long shadows. On the edge of the gully, covered in dust and hidden by the deep shadow of the trees were Angel and Cordelia. She lay sheltered in his arms, but unmoving, a trickle of blood dripping from her forehead onto the rocky ground below.

43: Shady Hill Cemetery, North Central Sunnydale


Struggling into consciousness, Cordelia’s eyes fluttered open, then blinked closed again. The effort forced her back into the darkness as time slipped by without notice offering momentary freedom from the shock of being slammed into the ground. Foggy-headed, she awakened to a heavy weight pinning her down.

Hard to think, hard to breathe.

Pain forced her to move, her hand instinctively slipping across rough rock and bladed grass toward her throbbing injury. Sticky moisture clung to the left side of her face, congealed blood clotting the wound closed. Cordelia stared at her bloodied fingers piecing together what happened.

It came in rapid replay. Kissing Angel. The meteor. Falling. Being pulled up into his arms. Explosive debris and the force knocking them down. The ground coming up fast.

No, something wasn’t quite right with that, Cordelia slowly concluded. Her hand slipped down contacting another, Angel’s. Though her thoughts were muddled, it finally clicked. She had never actually gotten around to kissing him. Damn. No, no, that was probably a good thing. Angel was off limits in the Tall, Dark & Hottie, but no-bone category of guys. Buffy’s territory.

Oh, and hello, note to self: he is a vampire. Her hormones needed a reminder of that little factoid.

Cordelia’s fingers curled around his hand, an unsteady sigh escaping her throat at the contact. She tried to clear the last remaining cobwebs. At least she had the satisfaction of knowing that he thought she was hot, too. Not that Angel actually said the words, cos that would require actual conversation. No, he had to be cryptic about it.

Not that they could do anything about it. “Angel.” Turning her head to look his way, she ignored the pain it took to move, his name coming out more as a little cry.

His body half-covered hers. Cordelia instinctively knew that he had taken the brunt of the impact from the debris before they both slammed into the ground. They were on the edge of the gully. Not so close that they were in danger of falling, but in a position that made it difficult to squeeze out from under him.

More alert, seeing that Angel was not moving, she lifted her hand to his shoulder and tried to shake him awake. “Wakey, wakey! C’mon, Angel, don’t do this to me. You don’t breathe, so how am I supposed to know that you’re okay?”

All she managed to do was leave a trail of bloody fingerprints on his skin. Angel’s muscles were densely packed, his shoulder a rock that would not budge. Cordelia’s attempt to awaken him had no impact.

Inching forward, she pressed her mouth to his ear and yelled his name again. Up in the trees, the birds flapped their wings, squawking in reaction, but Angel showed no sign of consciousness.

The only thing that kept her from panicking was the fact that he was not a large dust pile. She wrapped her arm around him, pulling close, letting her rhythmic breathing settle her down. Pressing her cheek against him, she lay quietly gathering the strength to move.

As soon as she got out from under him, Cordelia figured she would call for help. Not that the Scoobies even had phones of their own. They had pagers and a series of emergency codes. Too bad there wasn’t one for this. Then remembering that her cell phone had been cancelled along with all of her father’s other credit accounts, she realized that making a call was not an option anyway.

“Time to move, big guy,” Cordelia muttered as she attempted to scoot her way out from under Angel. The lower half of her body was completely pinned beneath him. “Urgh! Maybe I shouldn’t have given you that chocolate pudding.”

Panting from exertion, and no closer to freedom, she puffed up her cheeks and let out a whoosh of air. “Okay then, I suppose I’ll just stay here for a while.”

A deep male voice sounded from the tree line just out of Cordelia’s line of sight. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll take care of this.”

Rescued! And it wasn’t even Buffy & Co.

Cordelia craned her neck up over Angel’s body. Garbed in dark blue from head to toe, the stranger wore an unmistakable shiny silver badge. He was a bald, muscular tough guy. Just right for lifting large objects. Perfect timing. Maybe a little too perfect, a scary vibe raced along her nerves.

“How’d you know we were up here? Maybe you were just checking things out.”

“I saw the car at the bottom of the hill. Classic.” The police officer reached up to remove his dark sunglasses revealing dark black eyes.

Mr. I-Wear-Raybans-At-Night probably thought that made him look mysterious or intimidating. Um, he was probably right. Cordelia noticed the subtle leer behind the otherwise friendly expression. Jerk. “A little help, Officer. Kinda stuck here.”

“Maybe you deserve what’s coming.” He chuckled now, a gravely sound that crept along her spine. “Your boyfriend’s a vampire. Did you know that, girl?”

Sensing real danger now, Cordelia curled her fingernails deeper into Angel’s shoulder. It still got no reaction. This cop was giving her bad, bad vibes. She watched helplessly as he reached down and pulled up a broken branch from the ground, one end angled into a sharp point.

There was only one thing she could imagine he was planning. Fear gave her the strength to pull her body free. Cordelia scrambled to her feet, standing unsteadily at the edge of the gully between him and Angel. “He’s none of your business.”

“But you are.” Dropping the branch to the ground, he stepped forward grabbing her shoulders.

Pulled close, Cordelia noticed instantly the glittering of inhuman eyes as the mask of human features began melting away. His touch became almost painfully hot as heat emanated from his body. Eyes wide with fright, she watched as the demon’s true face was revealed.

“Tonight you have been marked for my master.” The demon’s hand slipped down to capture her flailing wrists. Cordelia kicked at his shin, lifted her knee toward his groin only to cry out as it contacted a rocky exoskeleton. “Be calm. You will only do yourself harm.”

“Maybe your master won’t want me.” Cordelia tugged hard when he moved to hold her other wrist into a single-handed grip. She broke free, but only momentarily.

That evil chuckle sounded again. What was it with bad guys who always thought they were gonna get the last laugh?

“I think you’re making a big mistake, buddy.” When he started moving toward the lower section of the cemetery where the remnants of the path led back to the parking area, Cordelia planted her feet and forced him to drag her. “Do you know who you’re dealing with? Cordelia Chase is nobody’s sacrifice.”

Now focused on getting her down the hill, the demon slung her over his shoulder and trudged on. Yelling out to Angel again, Cordelia hoped that he would finally wake up. “Get your ass over here! Kidnapping in progress. Sheesh! There’s never a Slayer around when you need one.”

The demon slapped her bottom just hard enough to sting. Outraged, Cordelia let out a curse, but it only seemed to amuse him. “Let me go, you bastard.”

“I am surprised the vampire let you live this long,” a guttural growl emerged. “Or that one such as you remains pure.”

Cordelia stopped struggling, propped her elbow on his shoulder and looked over her shoulder. “Hey! What’s that supposed to mean? My purity is none of your— anyway, it’s not an issue. My vampire boyfriend back there took care of that earlier. Starlit picnic. A little Tai Chi. Some serious boinking.”

“You lie, Noisy One, I would smell it on you.”


Looking back, Cordelia watched as Angel’s prone form got smaller and smaller as they moved away from him. Her gut clenched tight in fear, not only for herself, but also for him. He had been unconscious so long. Any serious injuries he had sustained were not immediately visible, just scrapes and bruises. She had not had time to check him out for anything worse.

Please be okay.

Without more than a moment’s pause, Cordelia made another attempt at escape, again a futile one. This demon was almost Slayer-strong, as strong as Angel now that he had regained his full strength. “My friends will find you, kick your ass and rip your head off for this.”

Walking down the line of tall scrub bushes separating the parking area from the main part of the cemetery, he made the final turn. “I am not interested in your friends.”

The demon stopped short of the police car parked next to the black Plymouth. A third car was parked next to the other two.

“Maybe we’re interested in you, tough guy,” Faith clocked him in the jaw with a quick jab of her fist. A grunt of pain sounded and he wavered on his feet, but held on to Cordelia.

Giles stood on the other side of the opening in the bushes, holding a crossbow. “I suggest you carefully set Miss Chase down.”

Rubbing her fist in the palm of her hand, Faith walked forward as the demon took a few steps back. “Yeah, put her down. Come play with me.”

The demon growled a warning in its native tongue. “Mok ari cha shuna sey. Ra vinor Slayer eosun.”

Faith merely cocked her head. “I don’t know about you, Rup, but I’m taking that as a threat.”

Disliking her sarcastic tone, the creature added something more extensive. “De sua Varstrae gataru ona duaranta. Jo nahn. Preot mayla rek Tavrok mystarus.”

Abbreviating the translation to the key point, Giles said, “It is a warning not to interfere with the Rites of Tavrok.”

Faith took another step forward. Pointing out to the contrary, “I’m all for interfering.”

Cordelia let out a short scream as the demon spun her around to stand in front of him as a shield. His clawed hand with thickened skin rough against her own, he held her by the neck. Both Faith and Giles held off their approach. With the demon’s grip tightening, Cordelia thought he was about to crush her throat, but he stopped just shy of it.

“He needs me alive,” Cordelia got out over the rumble of his growling discontent. She was being dragged back up the hill.

They were in the narrow space between the gully and the forward edge of the meteor crater. Faith suddenly looked behind the demon, gave a nod and called out, “Angel, take him out.”

The demon whirled, releasing Cordelia out of necessity, and crouched into a defensive posture. It sent Cordelia toppling toward the edge of the crater. She fell with a piercing scream silenced as the air was knocked out of her when she hit the ground. Scrambling for purchase, she managed to find a tentative handhold.

Above, her captor realized he had been fooled into thinking the vampire was conscious and ready to fight. His mistake cost him Cordelia. There was nothing to do except to run. Faith started to pursue him, determined to knock him down. He was their only lead. Besides, he had obviously been planning to make Cordelia the next sacrifice mentioned by the prophecy.

The hell if she was going to let that happen.

Giles had not thought of that when he suggested they check out the crash site. It was visible from their position at Trinity Church Cemetery and seemed like it had come down near Cordelia and Angel’s location here at Shady Hill. Neither one of them had suspected trouble until they spotted the police car. Remembering that a cop had picked up Karla Brewer the night she disappeared suggested he might have a similar plan.

She did not figure on him falling for the old distraction ploy, but was not going to knock the fact that he did.

“Faith!” On the ground, Giles was leaning over the crater’s edge holding on to one wrist as Cordelia reached up with her other hand.

He had barely caught her before she fell, but his grip was failing.

Hearing him, Faith stopped and spun around. A huff of frustration sounded as she realized the demon was going to get away. She leapt across the gully they had crossed during the chase. She could not see Giles’ face, but the sound of his voice urging Cor to hold on told her she needed to haul ass to get there before he dropped her.

She had gone too far to make it. Another twenty yards separated her from Giles’ prone form when Angel barreled out of nowhere to pull Cordelia to safety. Faith had never seen anyone, even a vampire move so fast. “Way to go Angel!” she shouted out.

The strength and speed used to bring her back to her feet had Cordelia wavering in shock. First, it was Giles, but then— omigod! Angel, it was Angel standing there and she had never been so happy to see anyone in her entire life.

Tears of relief glistened in Cordelia’s eyes as she hugged him, her cheek pressed against his chest, arms winding tightly around his waist. A subtle rumble sounded beneath her ear. Instantly, Angel’s arms enveloped her. Reeled in tight as he held her close and nuzzled his cheek against her hair Cordelia wanted to be… needed to be closer still.

Angel’s hold loosened and a tiny moan of complaint escaped her throat at the loss as he pulled away just enough to look at her face. Too many emotions choked her up. She managed his name. It came out as a whisper, a needy sound swallowed up by the dark depths of his eyes.

Taut with tension, Angel’s gaze slid from hers to look at the dried blood caked to her temple and the trail it left along her cheek. He followed that trail with his fingertips, smoothing her hair and tucking it behind her ear, noting the darkening areas on her throat where the demon held a little too tight.

For a moment, he had murder in his eyes, and then it drained away. All that was left was need as he stared down at her plush lips parted invitingly so close to his. Cordy shifted in his arms, her warmth melting into him.

Irresistibly drawn together, their mouths met in a soft velvet kiss steeped by tender concern, expressing relief. Over in a moment, the soothing press of his lips left her gasping. They pulled back an inch, both staring in shock at what they had just done.

Parting lasted only a moment. Cordelia trembled at how good it felt to kiss him, a jolt of tingling warmth centering deep inside. Her palms slipped up the cotton shirt over the hard contours of his chest, her fingers slipping up to his shoulders toward the nape of his neck.

The slide of his hand down to the small of her back brought Cordelia closer still. A soft moan sounded against her lips containing a hint of the hunger he had found so hard to control. Now he just needed to taste her, to assure himself that she was alive and in his arms. That one brief kiss was not nearly enough.

Ravenously, he kissed her with the silky slide of his soft lips over hers. Again and again. Feeling her warmth soaking into him as her body angled closer, thin lycra and cotton poor barriers between them. Her mouth was eager against his, just as needy. He gently sucked at her bottom lip, heard her anxious mewl as her fingers threaded through his hair.

Letting her take what she wanted before delving into the warm recesses of her mouth, Angel shuddered with need at the slide of his tongue against hers. When he moaned into her mouth, Cordelia echoed back, their arousal climbing despite their bruises. Her body writhed catlike against him, unconsciously rubbing her breasts against his chest, hips shifting closer to his body’s hardening response. Angel’s hand splayed open across her back, moving with long, sure strokes against her spine.

“Damn, I’ve gotta get me some of that,” Faith dimpled at the sight. Walking up next to Giles who had half-turned away from the kissing couple, she tugged at his now wrinkled tie. “Told ya so. Those two are hot.”

Noting that Faith went right back to staring at them, Giles deliberately cleared his throat. The second time, Angel and Cordy turned toward the sound, both looking dazed and slightly irritated by the interruption.

Until now, it seemed like they were the only two people on that hilltop. They stood within each other’s embrace, frozen in realization of what had happened. Then it sank in, the enormity of those kisses. Slowly, they slipped apart, eyes focused on the ground and then daring to meet.

“Cordy, I shouldn’t have—,” Angel let her go, backing off a few inches. A subtle growl built up at the loss of her touch, trapped there by the guilt welling up at a fast pace.

Cordelia did not want excuses. He obviously thought kissing her was a mistake, but she did not want him to think that they were so important to her, either. “Geez, Angel, just ‘cause I’m happy you saved me doesn’t mean I’m that grateful.”

She turned away from him to walk past Faith and Giles who stood slack-jawed at their sudden change of behavior. Angel pushed past them to follow her ignoring the fact that it was probably better to let the subject drop.

“I was concerned about you, Cordy,” Angel caught up with her. “Things got out of hand. I wanted to make sure you were okay and then—”

“Then you got carried away with a little tonsil hockey.”

Catching her elbow in his grasp, Angel whirled her around to face him, a hint of anger glinting as he stared downward. “Is that really how you want to play this? I won’t apologize again.”

“For what?” The fast move had left her head spinning. Everything that happened seemed to come crashing down on her at once. Cordelia managed a casual shrug. “On the scale of bleh to earth-shattering, I’d rate it as no big deal. So drop it.”

It was a helluva big deal, Angel wanted to argue but kept his mouth shut. He was too busy trying to control the urge to yank her back into his arms and shatter every memory she ever had of being kissed by anyone else. Frustrated with his own weakness, angry at her reaction, he let her go.

Angel seethed with the need to tell her that her body betrayed her, that he knew the throbbing pulse at her throat, the beat of her heart, the scent of her arousal. Instead, he decided to let her have it her way for now. He would do as she asked, “Consider it dropped,” but not before he took his turn at biting back, the demon in him unable to let it go completely.

The words tumbled in freefall from his mouth, a venomous hiss against her ear. “After all, it didn’t mean anything. You’re not Buffy.”

Cordelia staggered back, wavering on her feet, eyes no longer focused. Her hand went up to her head, her injured temple throbbing. Now everything was spinning, not just her head. She blinked in slow motion, watching in a fog as the stony expression on Angel’s face blurred. He said something, reaching out for her. Then the world fell away.

Her legs crumpled beneath her as she blacked out.

44: Mercy Hospital, Westside, Sunnydale

Cordelia Hospital

For the second time in the space of a day, Cordelia escaped from the clutches of darkness holding her in its ethereal grasp. Consciousness returned, this time to the sound of muddled voices and distant beeping. Even before she opened her eyes, she knew where she was: Sunnydale’s Mercy Hospital.

“She’s awake,” Faith’s voice sounded even before she could get out a decent groan of discontent. This was the last place she wanted to be and she did not care who knew it.

Buffy let out a dramatic sigh. “It’s about time.” Oh, great, just who she wanted to see right now. Not.

“Thank heavens,” Giles’ relief was clear, which made her feel a teensy bit better. Until he added, in typical no nonsense fashion, “I should probably pop back to the cemetery soon. I wasn’t quite finished gathering rubbings off of the obelisk.”

Gee, thanks. Abandon me for an old rock why dontcha. The incentive to actually open her eyes was not overwhelming at the moment.

Willow yelped, “Ouch, you stepped on my foot.”

“Sorry,” Xander muttered from close by. “Are you sure she’s awake?”

Maybe if she kept her eyes closed, they would all go away. Cordelia tried it for several seconds, but could feel the weight of their concern looming over her. Lifting one eyelid, she peeked out. Nope, it wasn’t just the angsty vibes. It was them leaning over her bed staring at her.

“Geez, give a girl a little breathing room.” Cordelia smiled until she had them all smiling back at her. “Not that I don’t deserve the attention, but why am I here?”

Xander gasped instantly jumping to worst case scenarios. “Oh no! Cor has amnesia.”

She raised an eyebrow, glancing around at the faces in the room noting that there was one face conspicuously absent.

“The doctors said it was probably just a concussion.” Willow hit him on the arm. Asking Cordelia just in case Xander was right, “Do you remember your name? Your address? Us?”

Cordelia flicked a look toward Faith who stood cross-armed, staring at Willow as if she was the one who had been hit in the head by a meteor fragment. “I think…,” she lifted a hand toward the small bandage covering her wounded head. “Yes, I’m almost sure my name is…Buffy Summers. Who are you people?”

“What!” Buffy, Xander and Willow parroted their shocked reactions.

“Perhaps you should try that again, Cordelia,” Giles pursed his lips in response. “Without the drama, this time.”

Glancing up from the IV tubing that had caught her attention, Cordelia grinned at him. “You’re no fun.” Then to the rest of them, “I don’t have amnesia, you dorks. I just don’t remember how I got here.”

Faith supplied her with an answer. “Angel carried you to the car. We brought you here.”

“We got Giles’ Code 6 page,” Buffy shifted so that she was sitting on the edge of the bed. It sucked that they had a code for meeting at the hospital. “They told us what happened.”

Cordelia eyed Giles and Faith. “Um, they did?”

“It’s cool, Cor,” Faith immediately alleviated her fears in that direction. “We just went over the details about the meteor and the creep who attacked you.”

“Oh, good.”

Buffy gave her an odd look. “What’s so good about it? You’ve been marked as the next sacrifice in some demon ritual.”

“I have other plans. Demon rituals are out this year.” Cordelia squashed the fear that threatened to bubble up.

“Angel & I won’t let anything happen to you.” Faith’s confidence bolstered her up a bit, but she was quick to see the way Buffy reacted.

The two Slayers stared silently at each other until Buffy finally broke down to say, “The rest of us aren’t exactly cheering for the demon. We’ll be around.”

Cordelia’s eyes shifted around the room again as if half expecting to see Angel stepping out of the shadows. He was not there. She had not missed him the first time. “Pfft. Like I want you guys hovering over me all the time.”

Although, a little hovering would not be so bad if it was the right person. Even if he was kind of a jerk at the moment.

She half-listened as Willow reminded her that it was not just this kidnapping demon she had to watch out for. Drusilla and Spike were still out there somewhere, too.

“So where’d the big guy run off to?” Cordelia tried to sound casual about asking. “Did he decide to go to the Blood Bank for a snack?”

The room fell silent for a moment until Buffy admitted to being a little confused about Angel’s whereabouts. “Angel’s not here. Left about an hour ago. Said he had something to do.”

“So much for being concerned about my safety,” Cordelia huffed. Part of her stubbornly determined to stay angry with him. He’d had the nerve to compare her kisses to Buffy’s. “Wacky and Blondie could come in at any second, no invitation required.”

Faith let out a short laugh. “C’mon, Cor, give the vamp a break. You started it.”

“Did not.”

Then Buffy asked, “Am I missing something?”

They both responded, “No.”

Giles scrubbed a hand over his mouth and jaw, cleared his throat and walked over to stare out the window. Frowning at him, Cordelia wondered how long it would be before Buffy whined her way into making him tell her everything that happened at Shady Hill.

“Angel asked me to stay until he got back,” Faith explained that he planned to return all along. “That was right before these guys showed up.”

“We ran into him in the hall.” Xander shrugged it off uncertain why it seemed to be a big deal to any of them. “Dead Boy’s always been the mysterious type. He didn’t say what he was up to.”

Willow gripped the side rails as she leaned in, “He looked kinda upset. I tried to ask how you were doing, but all I got was a grumpy growl. He just told us where to find you, said he had something to do, and then stalked off without another word, even to Buffy. That was rude, dontcha think?”

“Typical,” Cordy plucked at the neckline of her hospital gown, trying not to think about the way she could not get enough of him. Just the thought of those kisses and the way his big hands molded her body against his made her warm all over.

“You’re looking kinda dazed,” Willow pointed out, concerned.

Xander agreed, “And flushed.” He put a hand to her forehead. “Maybe I should get the nurse.”

“Sheesh! I’m fine, Xander. My head hurts a little, but I promise not to pass out on you.” Cordelia pushed his hand away. “Where was all the concern the last time I was in this joint?”

Ducking his head, Xander looked hurt. “Hey, I tried.”

Cordelia sighed and squeezed his hand. “Yeah, you did.”

They were still holding hands when Angel walked in the door. He met Cordelia’s gaze, looked for an instant as if he was going to rip their hands apart, and then simply stepped out of the way.

“Bev!” Cordelia smiled instantly upon seeing her grandmother standing there.

Xander was standing in her path as Beverly Quinn made her way to Cordelia’s bedside. “Out of my way, young man. It’s rude to stare.”

They all backed off and stared at the older woman sitting beside Cordelia, almost alike except for the passage of years between them. “Who is she?” Buffy had to ask as she moved over to stand beside Angel.

“Cordy’s grandmother.”

The two of them were talking, caught up in Cordelia’s explanation of interrupted picnics and a meteor shower. Buffy wasn’t sure what unsettled her the most: the idea that Cordelia actually had a grandmother or the fact that Cor had explained away patrol as some kind of a picnic with Angel.

“Did you know?” Buffy asked Xander and Willow. After all, they had known Cordelia most of their lives even if it was as their childhood nemesis.

No, they answered with the shake of their heads. Xander leaned in even closer. “I always assumed aliens dropped her off at her parent’s house,” he said loudly just to gain their attention.

“You must be Xander Harris,” Beverly surprised him. He grinned until she seemed to be inspecting him from head to toe. Apparently, Grandmother Bev had the same ability to make you feel like a squashed bug just by looking at you.

“Uh… yes, Xander, that’s me.”

“I understand that you used to date my granddaughter.”

Suddenly nervous under her scrutinizing stare, Xander shoved his hands in his pockets and shuffled his feet. “Yes ma’am.”

“Call me Bev,” she told him. “When young men call me ma’am, it always makes me feel like a naughty school mistress.”

“Grandmother!” Cordelia gasped through the noise of Xander’s squeaky response.

What was it with guys? Bev technically qualified as a senior citizen even though she still looked about twenty years younger than her actual age. They got flustered and gawky around her.

One by one the introductions were made. Though Giles was pleasantly polite in his very proper English way, Bev found him a little starchy. That made him an easy target for a little teasing. “I think I’d prefer it if you called me ma’am, after all.”

Giles fiddled uncomfortably with the tie that seemed too tight around his neck, let his gaze wander from face to face— all of them amused— and finally pointed at the clock. “Oh dear, is that the time? I really must be going. And you three,” he ushered Buffy, Xander and Willow toward the door, “need to finish that project… for school.”

“Project?” Xander asked then let out a choked cry as Buffy elbowed his stomach and Willow stepped on his foot. “Ow— of course! The school project.”

They exited with hasty goodbyes and well wishes. Cordelia was relieved to see them go. Who knows what they would have said. Or what Bev would have said considering those oh-so-wrong conclusions about dating Angel. Although, it might have been worth it to see Giles pass out on the floor if Bev kept up with her flirtation. Bev might be nearly twenty or thirty years older than the Watcher, but she obviously still had it.

Cordelia was still smiling at the thought when Faith caught her attention. “Cor, I think I’m gonna grab a coffee, give you guys some time.”

Faith closed the door behind her leaving Cordelia alone with her grandmother and Angel. Her grandmother sat beside her, still holding her hand, looking back and forth between them. “I could cut the tension with a knife. What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing,” Angel answered. After all, Cordelia had been the one to say they forget all about it.

Cordelia huffed, “Nothing! Ugh, that is just… oookay, it’s nothing.”

It wasn’t ‘nothing’ she felt when she looked at him. Anger, frustration and a whole slew of things, but it definitely was not ‘nothing’. Cordelia saw that he had stopped to change before picking up Bev. “You changed clothes.”

Though Angel was surprised by the subject change, he was grateful for it. “Yes, I didn’t want to show up at Bev’s home looking—”

“Like you’d just been hit by a meteor?”

“Well… yeah.”

Bev admitted, “Though I was surprised to see Angel standing on my doorstep without you, I’m glad the news came from him in person and not by a phone call.”

She held out her hand to Angel, who stared at it for a few seconds before taking it. Bev pulled him down so that he sat on the opposite side of the bed and then casually moved his hand so that it covered Cordelia’s. “Whatever happened to upset you two, I’m sure it’s nothing that can’t be forgiven considering tonight’s events. There are far more important things than lovers’ squabbles. One of you might have been seriously injured.”

Cordelia remembered how she felt seeing Angel lying unconscious as the demon picked up that pointed branch. Still angry, a nasty thought flashed by. Too bad she saved him. If she had not interfered, he would be a big cloud of dust.

“I know you wouldn’t want that,” Bev went on, forcing Cordelia to face the truth.

“Not really.” Her gaze slid up to meet Angel’s inquisitive one. Since he seemed so eager to hear her answer, she tagged on, “Well, I wouldn’t want you permanently hurt. Not seriously, anyway. Maybe just tortured a little. By me, of course.”

That only brought a smirk to that handsome mouth of his. “Cordy, there are some games we shouldn’t talk about in front of your grandmother.”

Snorting, Bev simply said, “Don’t mind me,” while Cordelia slapped her free hand over Angel’s mouth.

“Omigod! I cannot believe you just said that.”

It wasn’t anger that caused her to hold breath, pressing her lips closed tight as she leaned closer. She was barely containing her laughter. What was it about Mister Usually Monosyllable Guy and his ability to turn their relationship— in her grandmother’s eyes anyway— into a kinky romance?

“Bev knows I’m kidding.” Angel reached up to drag her hand down.

Cordelia snatched it out of his grasp. “Pfft!”

He was not kidding. There were probably many ‘games’ vampires liked and it did not surprise her that pain was one of them. While the spark of her own curiosity made her tremble, it left her wondering what else Angel liked.

When Bev lifted her hand away from theirs, Cordelia expected Angel to extract his own. He curled his fingers around Cordelia’s hand, turning it, his thumb circling her palm. Then his other hand reached up, fingers threading through her hair and edging the tape holding her bandage in place before he dropped it down to his thigh. “If I could take back what happened, I would.”

Did he mean the meteor, the fact that some creepy demon cop planned to kidnap and sacrifice her to his demon god? Or was he taking back the fact that he kissed her and had the gall to compare it to being with Buffy?

“It’s that easy, Angel.” Considering that he’d saved her life twice tonight, Cordy figured she should cut him a little slack. She offered him a way out, “Go ahead. Take it back.”

Angel stared back, sorely tempted to respond to her little dare in a way that did not involve words. “It’ll have to wait.”

“No, it won’t.”

“Trust me, it should wait.”

They glared at one another until Bev finally broke the silence. “Sheesh! Young people nowadays have to complicate everything. What is so blasted difficult about kissing and making up?” She threw her hand up in surrender and then changed her mind about it, stubbornly crossing her arms. “Go on. Say you’re sorry. I don’t care about what, just do it and mean it.”

The amusement in Angel’s eyes was apparent. Cordelia could not really blame him for succumbing to her grandmother’s wishes. After all, Bev certainly had a way of getting under your skin.

When the bright glint faded, Angel’s expression turned serious again. He pressed a brief kiss into the palm of Cordelia’s hand before closing her fingers around it. “I’ve never known the kind of fear I felt tonight. Seeing that meteor coming down at us, knowing what might happen, what it meant, I suppose I just reacted.”

“You suppose?” Cordelia’s huff was followed by her grandmother’s soft, “Ahem.”

“Cordy, you know I want you safe. I’m sorry that you’re here, that I couldn’t stop any of this from happening.” Angel got off the bed, standing at her side and Cordelia knew that his apology was not going any further tonight. Not with Bev at their side. Even though it wasn’t exactly going to give away any Vampire or Slayer secrets just to admit he was a jerk for kissing her and comparing her to his ex.

He was so going to pay for that later. She was already making a list when Bev reminded her that it was her turn. Prompting her grandmother to say something, “If you take much longer, I’ll be happy to show you how it’s done.”

Cordelia was about to say, “Go ahead,” when she realized that Bev might actually take her up on it. Instead, she irreverently stuck her tongue out. “You wish,” to which Bev merely laughed in response. Then she could not resist adding, “Better grab the chance while I’m bruised and tied up to an IV pole. Just tell me I’m not gonna be in here for a week and I’ll let you have your wicked way with him.”

Rolling her eyes, Bev promised, “Darling, I may be in great shape, but even I don’t have that much stamina.”

Snorting softly, Cordelia turned to speak to Angel only to notice that he was no longer at her side, but had taken up a position by the door. “Hey, where are you going?”

“Faith’s coming,” he nodded toward the door. “I should go.”

“I’m not done with you yet. Come here for a sec.” Cordelia pushed the bed covers aside and climbed out of bed. “Whoa!” She grabbed her IV pole with one hand and the flap of her hospital gown with the other. “Kinda breezy back there.”

Bev coughed, “There wasn’t much to see anyway. In my day, that was called dental floss, not underwear.”

Angel mused that if he asked what color, Bev would be happy to supply him with the information. She made Cordelia seem tactful in comparison. Standing beside Cordelia again, he told her, “Take it easy for a day or two. I’ll see you around.”

“You’re leaving me?” Cordelia could not hide the surprise in her voice. Okay, okay. So what if she’d wanted to stake him a while ago? That was then, this was now.

She wanted him here with her.

“I’ve asked Faith to keep an eye on you tonight.”

Cordelia glanced toward the door where she knew Faith was going to show up at any second. Angel had already said he had heard her outside in the hall. It was not that she did not trust Faith when it came to taking care of unwelcome visitors. She just preferred Angel to be there.

“Okay. Faith. Great.”

Though she tried to sound enthusiastic about it, Angel looked a little suspicious, or at least confused. “Was there something else?”

“Not really,” Cordelia answered evasively, adding a casual shrug. “I just wanted to thank you for bringing Bev to see me.”

“That reminds me,” Angel pulled out the keys to the Plymouth, tossing them onto the bed where Bev could reach them. “You’ll need the car to get home tonight.”

Cordelia did not need to ask what Angel was up to, though he confirmed it when Bev suggested that he stick around long enough to get a ride home. “Thanks, but I’m just going to look in on… some relatives.”

“Can’t you wait for that?” Cordelia grabbed hold of his arm when he started to move away again. “Geez, Angel, you’ve just missed being hit by a meteor. You’re not invulnerable. I know you’ve got to be banged up and bruised, so don’t tell me this is the right time for a family reunion.”

A little lost with the whole conversation, Bev chimed in, “It is almost two a.m., a little late for social calls.”

“They’re night owls,” Cordelia explained without turning away from Angel. “Please don’t go tonight. Wait for Faith and Buffy.”

She knew he was going to refuse. Dark intent filled his eyes. There was no use in trying to change him mind about it. Cordelia closed her eyes as Angel curled his hand around the nape of her neck, his thumb rubbing at the spot behind her ear. He leaned forward, his forehead touching hers. Then she felt the cool press of his lips against her cheek.

“Maybe I should’ve had a second cup,” Faith nearly closed the door again when Angel called out to stop her.

“I was just leaving.”

Faith stepped back in. “Does she know the plan, GQ?”

“If you mean that you’re staying and he’s going,” Cordelia climbed back into bed and yanked the blankets up, “then I know.”

“Cool. So it’ll just be us girls for a while.” Faith moved past Angel and took a seat in one of the two bedside chairs.

After a brief look back at the three of them, Angel gently closed the door behind him. A second later, one of Cordelia’s pillows crashed against the doorframe and plopped onto the floor.

Bev patted Cordelia’s hand. “It’s not likely that the hospital would let Angel stay the night instead. Give him a break, dear. He’s obviously concerned about those relatives of his. With all of the meteors that came down, maybe he just wants to check in on them.”

Cordelia crushed her only remaining pillow between her hands and looked like she was going to fling it at the next person who mentioned the name Angel.

When Bev’s words sank in, Faith dropped her feet to the floor from their resting position at the bottom of the bed. “Damn.” She held up her hands and vowed, “I swear I didn’t know about that, Cor. Angel didn’t say anything about it.”

“Now ask me again what I think of the plan.”

45: Willy’s Place, Midtown, Sunnydale

Angel Gameface

“Angelus, I don’t want trouble.” Nervously, Willy wrung his bar towel in his hands as he approached the two vampires locked in a struggle at the far end of the bar.

As far as Willy could tell, the sudden attack had come without provocation. Not that Angelus had ever needed a reason. With a lightning swift move, he had the other guy pinned against the bar and looked ready to rip off an arm or two.

“You two got issues, take it outside.”

Golden eyes flicked up drilling into his, issuing a reminder, “The name’s Angel.”

Maybe a dark, avenging fallen-from-grace kinda angel, Willy figured, a tiny whimper escaping at the menacing growl in that voice. He knew trouble when he saw it no matter what name it went by. Angelus dealt out death and enjoyed doing it. He had done so several times right here in this bar, sadistic bastard.

Willy figured it might be a good idea to cut him a little slack. Though rumors said he’d taken up with the Slayer’s crowd again, there was no use taking any chances with his own neck.

Judging by the bad attitude, the odds of putting a stop to this didn’t look good anyway. Willy had noticed him talking to the new kid, one of those young athletic types from Sunnydale-U with more brawn than brain; the kind that made easy prey for a vamp on the prowl and ended up as one of them.

Maybe the dumb schmuck made a pass at that curvy brunette. Whatever Angelus was asking, he apparently didn’t like the answer he got because the fledgling’s nose was now smashed, swollen and bleeding against the bar. With any luck, he would just dust the poor bastard and leave without doing any damage.

Even though Angelus had started a bar fight the last time he was here, denying this guy access was just as impossible as trying to keep the Slayer outta the joint. That’s why Willy had hired himself a bouncer to keep the regular riff-raff in line whenever Miss Fancy Pants got it into her head to show up. It also worked for times like these when someone with a rep strolled in like he owned the place.

Sometimes, it was just easier to let things happen. This would probably be over in less than a minute. “Don’t get anything on the barstools that can’t be cleaned up,” Willy grumbled a warning when Angel turned back to the struggling vampire within his grasp.

Deciding to look busy, Willy started to wipe up the peanuts scattered across the bar top. The kid couldn’t have been more’n a month outta the grave, he figured. Dumb as a post. Clueless. Willy had no idea what he’d done to piss off Angelus— no, Angel, or whatever, but it was probably too much to hope he’d survive to pay his bar tab.

With his face smashed hard on its surface, the young vamp pushed against the bar top using his hands for leverage, but Angel was too strong for him. The kid couldn’t break free. Willy stood far enough away to avoid getting hurt, but close enough to hear what was being said.

“I told you not to move.” Angel pointed out that he had made a brief attempt at civil conversation. That had lasted a few seconds, Willy thought, until the kid started to make a break for it. “My business with Willy can wait.”

Willy paused in mid-swipe leaving the peanuts in a small pile as he dropped the pretense of work. He waited for Angel to say more. To most around these parts, ‘business’ meant money. Openly listening now, he heard Angel tell the kid, “But it looks like you’ve got the answers I need.”

“Forget it, dude.”

In addition to keeping him pressed against the bar, Angel twisted an arm behind him almost to the breaking point. A painful grunt caused Willy to squirm as he watched. “Where are Spike and Drusilla?”

“I-I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

Willy cringed. The fledge was not only an idiot, he was a bad liar. As usual, Willy had some intel, but he wasn’t planning to give it away. Best to wait and see if the kid coughed anything up or got dusted and then he’d consider negotiating a deal.

Angel grabbed a handful of hair, yanking the vampire up in his seat. He pulled at a medallion hanging around his throat until the thin roped chain snapped. He held it up for closer inspection. Willy leaned in, too, simply noting that it looked old.

“This is one of a kind and it belongs to Spike.” Willy nodded in agreement. He had seen Spike wearing that. Not that either of the vampires seemed to notice or care what he thought. “So if you want to walk away from here, I suggest you tell me how you got this and where I can find him.”

“Spike wh-who?” The stuttered question preceded a painful cry as Angel pressed down on his arm, twisting it nearly to the breaking point. The fledgling pleaded with the crowd, but they simply stared back, eager for bloodshed. “C’mon dudes. Kick his ass. You can take him.”

Angel glanced over his shoulder, staring down the demon patrons, full gameface in place. They didn’t budge much to Willy’s relief. The last thing he needed was another bill for renovation of the bar. Replacing a table or two was one thing. An all out fight would rip the place apart.

Satisfied that they were not going to make any stupid moves, Angel smashed the other guy back down on the bar. Blood spurted from his broken nose. That had to hurt. Better him than me, thought Willy, recalling he was the one Angel said he had come to talk to.

“No help there,” a sadistic twist formed on Angel’s lips. “Now start talking or I’ll show you the real meaning of pain.”

The fledgling shook his head, a panicked look in his eyes red-rimmed from too much drink. “I ain’t a snitch. Find ‘em yourself.”

A snort sounded from Krognfer, the demon sitting on the next bar stool. One of Willy’s regulars, he was calmly sipping at his beer and snacking on the specialty of the day: deep-dish beetles, while keeping his third eye on the action.

Angel obviously was not planning to take no for an answer. “Mind if I borrow this?”

Grabbing the demon’s fork, Angel flipped it and caught it again, bringing it down hard on the vampire’s hand, the tines lodged in the fleshy space between his bones. Then he pushed back on it so that the bones separated just enough to create excruciating pain.

When the vampire’s scream died down to a whimper, Angel calmly began again, “Now I’m asking you one last ti—”

A huge hand came down on Angel’s shoulder and spun him around. A deep bass voice sounded somewhere above his head. “Willy said he don’t want trouble.”

Willy gasped as the bouncer’s balled up fist hurtled toward Angel’s face. Waving his hands in the air, he tried to signal him to stop, but it was too late. He had not intended for the bouncer to get involved. Usually, the sheer size of the demon was enough to intimidate the most unruly customers, but when he got violent people usually ended up dead.

The ham-sized fist moved faster than expected, clipping the side of Angel’s head, and knocking him to the ground. Willy gripped the edge of the bar, leaning over, eyes wide with shock. He hoped the blow had knocked the vampire out because if it hadn’t…., “Oh that ain’t good.”

Angel lay sprawled across the floor. Fully conscious, he glared up at the demon that was almost seven feet tall and built like a steamroller. The customers here at Willy’s had given him a nickname. It emerged on a growl. “Back off, Tiny.” The mountainous demon was anything but.

Without answering, Tiny moved to stand between Angel and the vampire he had been questioning. But the sudden safety net he provided gave the younger vamp a false sense of security. With a grunt of pain, he pulled the fork from his flesh, dropped it and stepped out to taunt Angel. “Not so tough now, are ya?”

Ignoring the fledgling’s remarks and his still-healing injuries, Angel rose to his feet, standing far enough away that he did not have to crane his neck up to meet Tiny’s determined gaze. “Out of the way. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Laughter welled within the crowd. They obviously thought Tiny could take him. Angel had news for them. When the big bouncer failed to give way, he used his speed to move around him. A powerful kick sent the demon hurtling forward. He landed on a table, the legs giving way toppling table, its contents and the demon to the floor.

With a gasp, the vampire he had been interrogating decided to make a run for the door. Angel grabbed him as he went past, tossing him around so that he crashed against the front of the bar landing haphazardly across several empty bar stools. “Come up with an answer, yet?”

“Sp-Spike, yeah,” was all he got out before Tiny returned to make another grab at Angel. “It rings a bell. English guy, nutty girlfriend?”

Ducking under the beefy arms that swooped out to envelop him, Angel slid down to the ground and kicked the demon’s feet out from under him. The big brute wobbled until he fell flat on his ass sending a shockwave out to the surrounding tables.

With a smirk, Angel turned back to his main quarry, jerking the vampire up by his collar. He sat him up on the barstool, while keeping an eye on Tiny’s struggle to return to his feet from the periphery of his vision. It did not take him as long as expected.

“I’m…,” Angel executed a roll across Tiny’s broad back while he was still hunched over placing a tight choke hold around his neck, “listening.”

“Um, it was a few nights ago.”

With a roar, the demon turned his upper body one way and then the other trying to shake Angel loose. He held on, tightening his grasp until he felt the struggling slowly start to diminish. “Go on,” he ordered through clenched teeth.

“There was a poker game in the back room.” The young vamp’s eyes went wide as they watched Tiny’s lips and face slowly turning blue. “This Billy Idol wannabe strolls in, says his name is Spike like that’s supposed to mean something.”

Willy coughed, “The kid is new. Give him a break. And try not to kill my bouncer. I paid good money for him.”

Releasing his hold, Angel let Tiny go. The demon flopped to the floor unconscious causing groans to sound from the audience. “Then maybe you should help the kid out, Willy. Between the two of you, I think it’s a good bet that you have all of the information I’m looking for.”

46: Trinity Baptist Church Cemetery, Eastside, Sunnydale

Scoobies and Giles

At this time of night the ride from the hospital to the ruins of Trinity Church took only ten minutes. There was little traffic once they passed through the downtown area. Giles normally came to a full halt at every stop sign and traffic signal, but the constant stream of questions coming from his passengers had him on edge.

“No, I do not know what kind of demon attacked Cordelia,” but described it to Buffy in answer to her question. “However, I did get quite a good look.”

Xander leaned in from the back seat. “So why aren’t we back at the library? We should be hitting the books, doing the research, looking for clues.”

Glancing at him through the rearview mirror, he could see anger and concern apparent on Xander’s face. To some degree, they all felt the same way. “We will,” he promised. “First, it is necessary to complete our work on the obelisk.”

It was faster to finish their task at the cemetery than to let Willow and Xander go back to the library on foot. Giles added, “Once we’ve secured the rubbings of the stonework, I can begin a translation. The demon mentioned the Rites of Tavrok, a vital clue.”

“How long will that take?”

“A clue to what?”

“This Tavrok guy writes stuff?”

Sliding them a look over his shoulder, Giles’ jaw tightened and he returned his attention to the road without answering.

“You said the demon was wearing a police uniform,” Willow piped up. “Why would he do that? It’s not like people wouldn’t notice creepy demon eyes or no real nose or hollow cheekbones or—”

Giles broke in as the thought occurred to him, “Perhaps the creature is able to disguise itself.” The police officer that led Karla Brewer away after the incident on Main Street had appeared human enough. His disguise was good enough to fool everyone, assuming Officer Clark was indeed a demon.

The fact was that there were a number of likely possibilities. Faith had not sensed anything at the time and tonight neither of them had noticed the name on the demon’s badge. If only they had been able to stop him before he escaped.

Capturing that demon would have saved them a lot of time and effort. For now, they were stuck following what evidence they could dig up, literally in the case of the obelisk.

Giles could see increasing evidence of minor earthquake damage the closer they got to the epicenter. Fortunately, the news crews had focused on the decimated church rather than the cemetery itself. He knew that come first light, the chances of discovery would increase and their window of opportunity would then close.

“I should be searching for that demon,” Buffy sounded frustrated, antsy at being cooped up in the car instead of out on patrol. “Someone has to know about this and I have a pretty good idea where to start.”

Giles relaxed his grip on the steering wheel recommending that they settle down. “Our priority is the obelisk. If the local authorities follow protocol, it will be moved into custody of either the university’s archeological team or the museum curator. Access will be limited if not completely cut off.”

“We get it done and then I’m outta there,” Buffy’s determination was clear. It was not that Giles felt that Buffy should not follow any lead she could find. He simply doubted she would find one. “As long as Demon Cop is out there, Cordelia is still in danger. I can’t guarantee that he won’t try to grab her again. Obviously has no idea what he’s getting into with that.”

“Yeah, why Cordelia?” Meeting Willow’s questioning gaze in the mirror, Giles admitted that he had not really thought about it. She blurted, “Don’t virgin sacrifices have to be, ah, virginal?”

That notion alone caused Buffy and Willow to giggle. Xander was not laughing. He sank into the shadows of his corner of the back seat, pressed his mouth into a straight line and blinked in owlish response. After a glance at the rearview mirror, Giles found his behavior to be rather revealing.

Though the girls might not instantly make the direct connection, it seemed apparent that Xander and Cordelia might not have gone all the way, in the vernacular. The demon disguised as Officer Clark had spoken of the Rites of Tavrok as only one part of a great undertaking. No doubt it was all intertwined with the prophecy. Giles had no knowledge of it, but he had a good idea where to look.

There was one clue within the demon’s rhetoric that he had understood. At least, he had a rough idea of the translation. It had referred to Cordelia as one of the Varstrae, which meant untainted or untried, or as the demon referred to her in English, one of the Pure Ones.

Considering her reputation, Giles found it quite ironic.

He steered his car into a convenient spot at the empty Trinity Church Parking lot. Most of the area was already cordoned off as a disaster zone dangerous to the public.

Virgin or not, it was intriguing that Cordelia Chase would be among the intended victims of the prophecy. The odds seemed dismally small, but then again, this was hardly the first time she had been the target of some sort of trouble. Willow’s snippy words might have been in jest, but they made him realize that the potential sacrifices might not be random at all. Instead of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, fitting whatever scenario the Scroll of Septarius described, there might actually be a reason they were chosen.

What in the world would these demons and vampires want from Cordelia Chase? Other than the obvious, he thought with an angry flush heating his neck. He could not stop the errant thought of her wrapped up in Angel’s embrace. Giles did not like it in the least, but short of locking Cordelia into a chastity belt—equipment that in hindsight should be requisite for slayers, too—he knew that he had no influence over either of them.

A right to an opinion was quite a different matter of point. He had those aplenty.

47: Mercy Hospital, Westside, Sunnydale

Bev Hand

Holding the pillow speaker in hand, Cordelia jabbed the nurse-call button for the third time. The voice at the other end held an audible sigh though the words were polite enough. “I’m sorry, Miss Chase. I’ve already spoken to your doctor about an early release, but he thinks it’s necessary that you stay until he makes rounds again in the morning.”

Bev and Faith listened in as Cordelia assured her, “But I’m fine,” hoping to convince her that was the case.

The nurse gave her the option of signing out AMA, which she explained meant she would be leaving Against Medical Advice. Cordelia was about to jump at the chance when she felt Bev’s hand on her arm. She glanced up to find her grandmother looking worried, shaking her head.

“You’re staying right here.” Her no-nonsense tone suggested that Cordelia should not try to argue against it. “That’s what the doctor wants. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Stunned for a moment, Cordelia realized that it had been a very long time since anyone in her family actually told her that she could not do something she wanted to do. It was an odd feeling that gripped her, stirring confusion and the notion that she should comply simply because Bev’s concern was genuine.

There was a click on the speaker and then silence. Apparently, her nurse was going to let her grandmother talk her into this, but neither her RN nor Bev knew what Angel was getting into. Cordelia could admit to herself that Angel could kick ass with the best of them. The thought of watching him in action even sent a little thrill up her spine, but there was dread, too.

She did not want him going into this alone. What if Spike was fully recovered? Dru was still dangerous, even though Cordelia doubted she would try to kill Angel. She had other interests. Boffing Angel was probably one of them. Maybe that’s what bothered Cordy the most.

“You don’t understand,” Cordelia huffed, tossing the speaker away so that it hung from its cord alongside the bed. “It’s not safe out there. Angel—”

“Seems like the type who can handle himself just fine.” Bev’s answer elicited a soft snort from Faith who stood near the door, feet planted and arms akimbo as if expecting Cordelia to make a break for it. “The meteor shower is already over. Other than a little aftershock or two from that earthquake, things are back to normal.”

Cordelia struggled with the notion of telling her grandmother that she was concerned about things that went bump in the night. Blurting out that Angel was a vampire and that his so-called relatives were blood-sucking maniacs probably was not a good idea. Although Bev did not fluster easily, Cordy did not want to burst the bubble just yet.

Catching Faith’s gaze, she sent a silent plea for some help convincing Bev to get her out of here. “Forget it, Cor. I like my ass just where it is.”

“That’s right,” Bev caught on instantly. “Angel would want you to follow doctor’s orders and he did ask Faith to stay here to keep you company. He obviously cares a great deal about you.”

Her heart raced in response to Bev’s romantic notions. Telling her that Angel was just a friend was a waste of breath. Bev had drawn her own conclusions and now there was no convincing her otherwise. Cordelia knew she was right to an extent, at least about the caring part.

Angel might have a ton of Buffy issues, but she did not doubt that he thought of her as a friend. There was attraction, Cordelia knew. Being aware of the fact that Angel looked at her in a certain way just made him a guy, an undead guy, but still a guy.

It was just that she got lost in his kiss. The feelings he had stirred up were like none she had ever felt before, even with Xander. She had wanted so much more. Even now, when she was angry with him, just the memory of his touch left a craving for more contact.

“I’ll cut you a deal,” Faith stepped closer to the bed. “Doc & Bev want you to stay. Give it a rest and I’ll call B to play backup for Angel.”

Reluctantly, Cordelia agreed. Even though the idea of Buffy patrolling with Angel made her curl her nails into her palms, she would rather have a Slayer with him than have him go it alone. Only one problem with the plan. “You’ve got no way to call her. The phones here in the room don’t get calls after 9pm and you won’t get a return call at a pay phone.”

Bev suggested, “What about the phone at the nurses’ station?” She looked a little confused as to why it was necessary for anyone to accompany Angel if he was just checking up on his family.

Knowing that Faith was not likely to bring up details to Buffy in such a public area, Cordy hoped that she would give up the idea. “You could always go yourself.”

“I’m staying.”

Yeah, no surprise there, Cordelia sighed, trying not to sound disappointed that her plans for a jailbreak were stifled prematurely. Well, it was worth trying.

Faith reached into her back pocket and pulled out a small Motorola flip phone. Frowning, Cordelia knew that it was one of the most expensive models costing nearly a thousand bucks, and only recently on the market. No longer in the position to pay for a cell phone of her own, she wondered how Faith could afford it.

“New phone?”

“Nifty, huh?” Faith flipped it open and punched in a series of numbers. Explaining, “I paged her. It may take her a while to get to a phone.”

As she pocketed the phone again, Cordelia asked where she got it. Being all mysterious about it, Faith shrugged, her cheeks dimpling with her smile. “A friend.”


Faith shifted back from the bed, closer to the door again. Pointing to a sign prohibiting cell phone use, she said, “I’d better wait down the hall,” meaning that she knew better than to talk to Buffy about patrol in front of Bev.

As soon as the door closed behind Faith after her hasty exit, Cordelia turned back to her grandmother. That same worried expression emphasized the tiny wrinkles around her eyes and the soft crease furrowing her brow. “What’s going on? I’m old, not stupid.”

Now that they were alone, Bev had her cornered. “There’s stuff, but nothing you need to worry about.”

“It’s more than checking up on Angel’s family,” Bev guessed rightly. She moved her hand to cover Cordelia’s, which was still balled up tightly. “I can tell something is wrong.”

Bev had good instincts, and asked if Angel was mixed up in something dangerous. He seemed like the tall, dark mysterious type dressed in that leather coat of his, but it was more than just his sense of fashion. Her questions were born of concern, Cordy knew.

Opening up her hand, Cordelia threaded her fingers through her grandmother’s, subconsciously noting the fragile sensation of her fingers and the smooth texture of her skin. Their eyes mirrored each other’s being so alike, cloudy with concern.

“Did something else happen tonight that I should know about, a reason that you are so upset with Angel?”

“No,” Cordelia rushed to assure her that whatever scenario she was imagining did not take place. “Angel’s a good guy. Really. I…we…he kissed me tonight and had the nerve to compare me to his ex-girlfriend.”

Quirking an eyebrow, Bev reacted surprised, but said nothing. Cordelia struggled for a response. She did not like the idea of lying to her grandmother, but what could she say? Angel’s eccentric relatives were from out of town and they needed to be watchdogged closely. Tonight a demon had marked her as a sacrifice to its god. And, by the way, the hot guy you think is my boyfriend is a vampire who happens to have a soul.

Not gonna happen.

“We haven’t known each other very long.” Though, in some ways, Cordelia felt like it was forever. “I wish things had been different, y’know.”

Bev nodded, “Me too,” looking a little puzzled by the turn in the conversation.

“You’re the only normal thing in my life right now,” Cordelia explained with a soft hitch in her voice. “I don’t want that to change.”

Rebar and breakups, tax evasion and prison, losing everything, and now demony death threats made her want to sign up for another life. It was almost frightening that Bev meant so much to her so quickly.

Just like Angel, the thought whispered in her head.

48: Kingman’s Bluff Cemetery, Westside, Sunnydale


The door crashed against the stonework propelled there by a powerful kick. Dust and spider webbing flew up from crevasses filtering the moonlight that beamed into the candlelit space of the small mausoleum. An old family crypt, a rarity amongst the common gravestones at Kingman’s Bluff, held three carved stone coffins.

Angel stepped in, his body looming large against the doorframe. The dust slowly cleared. His eyes adjusted immediately to the change in the light, spotting Dru standing in front of a gaping hole in the floor. Earthquake damage had opened up some kind of cavern below.

Pale in the candlelight, her eyes glittered and a knowing smile played upon her blood-red lips. Gleefully, she clapped her hands and then twirled around at the edge of the precipice careless of the danger, arms opened wide. “Daddy’s here!”

Spike’s voice echoed up from the cavern, “Like I bloody well didn’t guess.”

“You’re late,” scolded Drusilla sliding a glance toward the stone coffin where her latest victim lay. Peeking up at Angel with a guileless expression, she explained the dead guy’s presence. “The naughty man shouldn’t roam around the bluffs at night.”

The scent of blood was thick in the air. Drusilla had obviously had her fill. The fact that she brought her victim back to the crypt suggested that Spike might not be back to par. His mouth watered at the tantalizing scent, but his stomach twisted at the disgust he felt because of it.

Grabbing Dru by the elbow, he hauled her away from the rocky opening. She let out a little growl and moved even closer despite the barely contained fury on his face. “I’m not here for dinner,” Angel pulled her hand away from his inseam. He released his tight grasp on her wrist, his hand moving up to her face forcing her to meet his gaze. “This is where you tell me what you’re after. I want to know exactly what you said to Cordelia.”

A naughty giggle sounded in her throat. “Just a little girl talk, is all.”

“You threatened her, Dru, frightened her.” Angel remembered the look on Cordy’s face. Hell, it had frightened him, too. Drusilla had plenty of time to kill Cordelia if that was her plan. There was something more going on here. “Tell me what the hell you said. Do it now. I’m already more than a little pissed off.”

“Oh, I can tell.” The wicked glint in those big doe eyes of hers only strengthened. She leaned into him again, her mouth up close to his ear as she whispered, “I promised to show her what pleases you.”

Angel jerked away from her, stepping back to stare at her expression. Dru wasn’t Darla. Lies did not simply spring from her lips. Her words were often shrouded by confusion, but she always spoke the truth. He was too stunned to ask why, but the question was all too apparent.

Standing in place, Dru lifted her head to look at the ceiling of the crypt. There was nothing but darkness overhead. She took hold of her long skirt, swishing it back and forth, turning slowly in a circle. Facing him again, Dru looked down, eyes dazed, but not from dizziness.

“I followed the stars home,” she said, “to you. They sing of dangers too terrible to name. When I see you, I see her. I see death, a future without happiness, but for me.”

Perhaps Drusilla had seen something involving the current crisis and their mission to put a stop to this demonic god’s arrival. He kept silent despite the need to demand what she knew about Cordelia’s connection to this prophecy.

“It surprises you, the pull she has on your heart. You want her,” there was a hint of accusation followed by a curl of her thin red lips. “The Slayer fades from your dreams. She is no longer the face you see.”

It did not matter that Dru was right, Angel admitted. He did want Cordelia. When he closed his eyes, hers was the face that fueled his fantasies. No amount of self-derision, lecturing, or meditation seemed to change that. Now he had the taste of her on his lips, knew the fire that stirred within him in response to hers. Denying it was not going to change a thing.

“You’re not to go near her,” he growled. If it was jealousy fueling Dru’s efforts, the danger to Cordelia was even greater, especially since it appeared there was not going to be a way to convince her she was mistaken.

He had staked Darla when Buffy’s life was on the line. The enormity of his actions still caused him pain. She had made him, damned him to this existence, but sending her into an eternity of hell brought no satisfaction. To save Cordelia, Angel knew that he would make any sacrifice necessary.

Drusilla closed the small gap between them, wrapped her arms around his waist, snuggling against his chest. He moved his hands to her thin shoulders, prepared to push her away. Angel knew he would stake her if he had to, no matter that he was the cause of her death and subsequent rise into darkness and insanity. Guilt gnawed at him.

He let his hand run down the length of her loose hair, soothing her when he was the one in need of it. Angel could deal with her jealousy. He could try to ignore his growing feelings for Cordelia. What he couldn’t dismiss was that Drusilla had seen all of this in a vision. “You saw death?”

Sounding like a frightened child she whispered, “The blood, it calls to me.”

“Who’s death, Dru?” He needed to hear it from her lips. Had she seen Cordelia’s death? The questions raced through his head too jumbled to make their way to his lips. Closing around a fistful of hair, Angel yanked her back, his eyes rimmed with gold. “Tell me what you—?”

Spike cut him off, suddenly standing at his side. “Get your hands off Dru. You can’t touch her. Don’t want you touching her.”

Realizing that he had been so caught up with what Drusilla was saying that he hadn’t noticed Spike climbing out of the cavern, Angel angrily let go pushing the vampiress into Spike in order to take up a better position. “I’ll do more than that if Dru doesn’t give me some answers.”

“Here about your little kitten?” Spike chortled as he moved Dru into a safer spot. She only moved in close behind him, her eagerness obvious. Praising Spike for coming to her defense, she winked at Angel as her lover continued to bait him. “Got claws, that one. Tasty bit by the scent of her. Must be nice curling up with that warm little pu—”

“Don’t say it,” warned Angel. “I didn’t come here for you, Spike. Those bruises will be nothing next to what you’ll get if you get anywhere near Cordy.”

Every murderous instinct inside him rose up straining for release. He had more than enough reason to kill Spike. Not that he should need one. Cordelia’s voice sounded in his head, ‘Hello, soulless vampire’. The justification was there if he went for it.

“I’m not planning on shagging your chit, Peaches. Don’t get so testy.” Spike took out a pack of cigarettes and a silver lighter from his back pocket. Lighting one, he took a long drag, clearly giving Angel a chance to bite back. Spike would just as soon fight as not, but Angel wasn’t taking the bait.

He ignored the smoke blown in his face as he stood nose to nose with Spike. “Get out of Sunnydale. Leave tonight.”

“Dru says we’re stayin’,” Spike shrugged as if he had no choice in the matter. He didn’t, really. “She’s got this thing about seeing to your happiness. Says we’ll all pay for it if that cuddly pet of yours dies. Considerin’ that you almost sucked the whole bleedin’ world into hell the last time you didn’t get your way, I think I’ll let the bint live.”

Scowling, Angel’s jaw clenched tight. Only a thin line of control kept him from crushing Spike’s nose with his fist. “Just stay the hell away from Cordelia. That goes for both of you.”

“Blood and death: that is all I see.” Drusilla nuzzled her cheek against Spike’s shoulder, a pout on her lips. “Blood will spill. Death will bind us.”

“Dammit, what does that mean? Give me some details.” Fear resounded in his voice. Angel saw the glint of satisfaction in Spike’s blue eyes, but he ignored it as he focused on Dru. She had to have the answers. Getting them out of her in some coherent form was the challenge.

Slowly, Drusilla detached herself from Spike’s weak embrace to saunter in his direction, a look of fear and awe masking her face. “Love her, my Angel. For if not, her path will set the darkness free.”

49: Kingman’s Bluff Cemetery, Westside, Sunnydale


Angel emerged from the dusty confines of the crypt serving as Spike & Dru’s lair. Though a dreary hole in the ground was just what he expected of Spike who had only commented that the crypt was a fixer-upper, it did not have enough velvet and lace to suit Drusilla’s taste. He doubted they would stay there long.

A soft rustle caught his attention, head cocking in the direction of the subtle shift of footsteps along the cropped grasses in the cemetery. Staring in to the fog that had rolled in over the bluffs encompassing the grounds in a knee-high mist, Angel saw movement ahead. A shadowy figure slipped closer and even superior night vision failed to breach the gloom.

For a split second, his senses warned of danger. A tingle spawned by an age-old instinct. Then recognition hit even before proximity and the moonlight revealed the intruder’s identity, Buffy. The tension remained. Her expression held purpose. This was no routine patrol. No coincidence that she had crossed his path tonight.

“So this is where Spike hangs out,” Buffy twirled her stake and tapped it against her leg. “A little low-rent compared to the factory, but harder to track down.”

“You were looking for Spike?”

Aghast, Buffy answered, “No, you actually. Willy wasn’t very talkative tonight. He seemed upset about his bouncer getting into a fight. So I had a little stake-to-heart chat with some vamp at the bar.”

Surprised that the vampire he had questioned stayed at Willy’s, Angel looked for confirmation, “Broken nose?” If so, the kid was having a rough night. A smidgeon of guilt settled in his gut.

She nodded. “That’s the one. I don’t think he likes you, by the way. He was more than willing to tell me where to find you.”

Yes, Angel figured he probably thought she was trying to track him down to slay him. The fledgling obviously was not up on Sunnydale gossip. “You found me. Now we’re leaving.”

“What about them?” Buffy jabbed her thumb in the direction of the crypt, sensing them inside. “I thought—”

Angel walked past her, forcing Buffy to follow. “Let them be.”


“Don’t ask questions,” Angel picked up his pace away from the crypt toward the outer edge of the cemetery. “Just stay out of their way.”

Stunned by his words, Buffy pointed out, “That sounds like a nice way of telling me to shut up and mind my own business.”

He was asking a lot without giving Buffy details. Angel knew she was going to push for more, but he could not tell her everything. Not when Dru’s vision involved his desire for Cordelia and seemingly the likelihood of Angelus’ return.

Still trailing after him, she followed up with, “Not that this version is much nicer. I ought to be in their face, not giving them free reign of Sunnydale. The last time those maniacs were in town, they weren’t exactly model citizens.”

Stopping, Angel let her catch up with him. She deserved something in the way of a response. “This is about Cordelia. It ties into the prophecy and has something to do with the reason she was chosen as a sacrifice.”

“Okay,” she looked alert and thoughtful, “I’m listening.”

“Drusilla came here to warn me, to share her vision of the trouble ahead. Buffy, if I don’t follow through with this, Cordelia is going to die.”

Buffy frowned, “That just sounds like Spike making threats. I should—,” she half-turned around to head back toward the crypt. Angel grabbed her arm, holding her in place.

For a moment, Buffy looked ready to fight. Then the resistance against his hold relaxed until she stood quietly beside him. Angel recognized that this was merely a standoff and not acquiescence to his demand. He knew that if Buffy caught either Spike or Drusilla taking one misstep, especially if it involved a human life, their existence would be forfeit as far as she was concerned.

One more reason not to let her enter that crypt was the recently drained corpse lying in plain sight on the floor. For now, he needed Drusilla in one piece. There might be more to discover about her vision and Cordelia’s role in the prophecy. Spike would have to be there to keep Dru in check. Whether he liked it or not, they were going to be in town for the duration.

As the mist swirled at their feet, a long silence stretched between them. Once, this kind of quiet enhanced their connection to each other, bonded them closer, but now the void was filled with suspicion and doubt, secrets.

“Sooooo, subject change?” Buffy searched for something to say, but all she could think about was the fact that Angel was so concerned about Cordelia that he was willing to let Spike & Drusilla get away scot-free. “Cordelia has a grandma. That’s a surprise.”

Angel started walking and Buffy fell into step beside him. When he said nothing, she prompted him again, “Not to you, though. You brought her to the hospital.”

Grunting an acknowledgement, Angel knew that she was fishing for information that Cordelia was not prepared to share. Buffy took a roundabout way of getting to the point and then finally asked, “How come you knew about Grandma Bev and we didn’t?”

“Cordy trusts me,” he answered noting the stung response. That implied Cordelia did not trust them. Perhaps that was true to a degree, at least with something so personal.

Until now, he had not considered that implicit trust. Considering the lack of it that first night back with the Scoobies when she had poked him in the gut with a stake, and then warned him against snacking on her neck, things had taken quite a turnaround.

“Oh,” the tiny sound emerged from her throat. Awkwardly, Buffy tried to shift the topic again. “I take it Bev doesn’t know. About you being…”

“A vampire?” The way her voice trailed off made Angel realize that she still had a hard time admitting it to herself. “No, she doesn’t.”

Buffy stopped at the edge of the blacktop leading away from the cemetery. She stared off into the distance as if checking for traffic. The mist was thin here, too light to cause a problem with seeing on-coming cars. The road was empty. Angel asked her what was on her mind.

“The picnic was a cover-story for Bev, right?” Buffy guessed wrong. Even as she said it, there was doubt in her eyes, “Just a way to explain why Cordelia was out on patrol.”

He could not help but smile at the memory of Cordelia feeding him little samples of tasty foods. Or the way her pupils dilated and her pulse quickened as she watched him move through the standard forms of Tai-Chi.

“That’s right.” The lie easily passed his lips without a shred of guilt. There would be no sharing of those memories. Angel wanted to keep them to himself. It was curious that Buffy was taking such an interest in what Cordy and he were doing while on patrol.

Silence won out again as they walked the yellow center line of the empty access road. It led back toward the Main Street crossroad. The subject changed again, but once more Cordelia was the topic of conversation as Buffy voiced concerns about Cordelia going out on patrol.

“I’m thinking it’s too dangerous.”

Buffy’s arguments were compelling. They were not far off his line of thinking. If it was just Drusilla’s mysterious threat, he could deal with it, but his childe had seen a future filled with blood and death. He could not easily protect Cordy unless she was with him. Buffy and Faith had duties of their own to perform. Though he trusted them to guard her, it was not the same as being there.

Unless, of course, he was the cause of the blood and death Drusilla predicted.

“One step at a time. We’ll deal with patrol when it comes up. Cordy isn’t ready for it.” Though he made it sound simple enough, Angel was not naive enough to think Cordelia would make it that easy. If it was up to her, she would have been here to give Drusilla a piece of her mind. Then it occurred to him, “Cordy sent you here, didn’t she?”

“No,” Buffy answered quickly. “It was Faith. She paged me.”

Angel was surprised. His words stumbled a bit, “Faith, right.”

Still frowning, Buffy suggested, “So, umm, I figure we should try to track down this Demon Cop guy. We should start back at Shady Hill.”

His first instinct was refusal, but Angel bit back the words. Going there with Buffy seemed wrong, especially after throwing her name in Cordy’s face after their kiss. Just the thought of it made him want to find a dark corner to sit and brood, but there was no time for such self-absorption.

The danger to Cordelia was real, albeit cloaked in prophecy. He was not going to let anyone sacrifice her to their cause. Determination alone was not enough. Angel needed help and Buffy was offering it. Unhesitatingly, he suggested, “Let’s cut across Maple Court. We’ll get there faster.”

50: Early the Next Morning, Mercy Hospital, Westside, Sunnydale

Cordelia Hospital Gown2

“There’s a conspiracy at this hospital.” Cordelia kicked her covers toward the end of the bed. “When I say I’m fine, the doctor is supposed to believe me. Helloooo! Faith, did you hear a word of what I’m saying?”

Looking a little distracted, Faith stopped rhythmically tapping her fingers on the wooden arm of the chair. “Doc is holding you captive.”

“That’s right!”

The room door opened and Buffy slipped through closing it behind her. “What? So they aren’t going to release you this morning?” She had obviously overheard Cordelia’s rant.

“No,” Cordelia huffed. “Dr. Frumpypants stopped by at the crack of dawn to tell me that 23-hour Observation meant I actually have to stay here that long.”

Faith interjected, “But since she came in after midnight, it’ll be tomorrow morning before she gets her release papers.”

“Anything wrong?”

“No,” snapped Cordy.

“Yes,” Faith countered just as quickly. “That debris clipped her in the head. She’s just a little…,” Faith sounded out a cuckoo whistle, “cranky this morning. The doc figured the world could use a break before letting her back out there.”

Brown eyes narrowed at the sight of Faith’s dimpled smile. As much as she hated to admit it, her head still ached. Sleep hadn’t come easy last night. In fact, she’d been awake most of the night talking to Faith about one thing or another. Mainly Angel and her hope that Buffy found him before he ended up in a dustbin.

Before Cordy could question Buffy about it, she told them, “I thought I’d relieve Faith for a couple of hours before I have to be at school.”

“Yeah,” Faith agreed, “I could use a shower and some clean clothes.”

Cordelia’s eyes widened at the prospect of a couple of hours alone with Buffy. Just great. Not. Buffy flopped down in the other chair, stretching out her legs. She was wearing a cheap knock-off that did nothing for her figure, or significant lack thereof. Cute shoes, though. Glancing down at her orange hospital gown, Cordy figured she would just keep her opinion to herself for now.

Besides, she had more important subjects to cover. “Did you find Angel before he got to Spike and Drusilla?”

“No.” Buffy’s answer caused Cordelia’s chest to tighten up as she held her breath. Faith paused by the door, turning back around to listen. “He was just leaving the crypt when I got there. Kingman’s Bluff.”

“He’s okay, right?” Cordelia’s fingers curled into the pillow she pulled onto her lap. “You don’t look gloomy or depressed enough for it to be bad though you do have dark bags under your eyes.”

Gaping, Buffy got up and walked over to the window where there was enough of a mix of light and shadow to produce a decent reflection. Whining a little, “We were up most of the night.”

“Oh,” and Cordelia’s heart sank at the flood of images that followed. She could still hear Angel’s words ‘After all, you’re not Buffy,’ echoing in her head. “Sounds cozy.”

“They were patrolling, Cor,” Faith pointed out what should be obvious. “I take it Angel dusted those two.”

A little pause followed before Buffy admitted, “No, actually. He warned me off.”

“What?” Cordelia heard Faith’s voice overlaying hers.

Buffy shrugged. “He said it had something to do with Cordelia. That Drusilla saw… well, whatever she saw, it was bad.”

Cordelia wondered if Drusilla told Angel everything she had said back at Trinity Church. ‘Heartache, pain and death will be your prize, sweet kitten.’ Drusilla had shared a vision of that future, one that frightened her. That was only a part of it. The rest was all about Angel.

Each time she saw him, Cordelia felt less and less petrified over the notion of possessing the ability to elicit a passionate response from him. No matter what Angel said after that kiss, he was lying his ass off. She knew when a guy enjoyed kissing her and he was so into it. Just the thought of it made her tingle, wanting more. Those cool lips demanded a response, insistent, urgent, needy, and with just the right amount of tongue. He kissed her with his whole being, mouth and hands, and needy soul. Holding her close with big, skillful hands, stroking her body closer.

Yeah, he was definitely into her. That’s what scared the hell out of her, thanks to Dru’s little chat about the future.

Angel might be into her, but he did not want to be. He practically barked Buffy’s name afterward, telling her that their kiss had meant nothing in comparison. Liar. He had to be lying. It should not matter. After all, Cordelia Chase was so not interested in Buffy’s cast-offs even if this one could make her melt.

So why did the idea that Angel had spent the rest of last night with Buffy cause her stomach to twist into knots?

“Angel wouldn’t tell me much,” Buffy rambled on. “So we ended up going after the Demon Cop that attacked you. Patrolling together was kinda like old times.”

“Seems like Angel was thinking about old times a lot yesterday,” Cordelia slowly folded her arms over each other, holding on. She glanced at Faith who frowned, but knew what she meant.

If anything, Cordy’s words brought a hopeful little smile to Buffy’s face. “Really? We didn’t talk about us, but sometimes you don’t need to say much, y’know. It was good, though.”

“So you got the demon?” Faith’s impatience was clear.

Buffy shook her head, “No. The goodness was just getting back into old habits.”

“Some habits need to be kicked.”

The two Slayers were glaring at each other. Cordelia sat back on the raised head of her hospital bed and watched their silent little power struggle. Buffy obviously did not like being told what to do, especially when it concerned Angel. A confused pout appeared, vanishing quickly as she told them, “We tracked the demon for a while, but lost the trail.”

“It looked like a man,” Cordelia pointed out, “until his face melted away.”

“Giles said he was in a police uniform. He thinks he’s the same creep that took Karla Brewer,” Buffy explained.

Faith reminded them that their trip to the Police Department had turned up zilch. “The cops don’t even have anyone named Clark on their payroll.”

“Whoever he is, he says I’m supposed to be sacrificed,” Cordelia reminded. “I’d appreciate a little slayage before it gets to that point. Feel free to rip his head off while you’re at it.”

“There’s still time.” Buffy sat down again. “The sacrificing usually happens at the end and Giles says that’s ages away.”

Cordelia really felt comforted… not. “Gee, thanks.”

“No problemo.” Missing or ignoring the sarcastic little huff following Cordelia’s words, Buffy advised her, “You’ve just gotta keep things in perspective.”

Scenes 31 – 40        HOME       Scenes 51 – 60

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