Scenes 61 – 70
61: The Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale
“There’s more?” Angel asked sensing that Cordy was not talking about details he wanted to hear.
She gently pushed against his chest putting some distance between them. It was not easy to put into words what she saw in the vision Drusilla shared because she really didn’t understand it.
“For a while, I wasn’t sure what I saw, even the part about us,” Cordelia told him. “It was confusing because I didn’t think that we would ever— you know, get together, for a lot of reasons.”
More reasons than he wanted to admit to. Angel kept quiet not wanting to stop her from continuing to open up to him. He needed to hear this and figure out a way to deal with whatever it was.
“I don’t think we were in Sunnydale,” she frowned at the fuzzy memory. With a shrug, adding, “Which makes no sense at all because Bev would never leave this town and I— she needs me.”
A tender feeling centered deep in Angel’s chest whenever he thought about Cordy and her grandmother. Although her parents’ financial and legal situation changed her entire lifestyle, it had given her the opportunity to meet Beverly Quinn, someone whose influence and simpler existence was a positive one. Cordy might complain about the lack of a Jacuzzi at her grandmother’s house, but Angel knew she wouldn’t trade Bev for all the luxuries in the world.
So it did not surprise him that Cordelia would want to stay in Sunnydale for Bev’s sake. Then it occurred to him that maybe Cordy had planned to leave town. Graduation was coming up at some point in the months ahead. Maybe she had planned to go away to college.
The fact that he did not know her plans opened up a whole array of questions that needed answers. Where did that leave him and this new relationship? Right here for now.
“There was weirdness,” Cordy waved her hands around trying to express just how strange it was to her. “Stuff I can’t explain. I could smell blood and hear screams. So many people in pain, dying, scared.”
“What people?” Angel had expected her to reveal that she was the one in pain or dying and that it was his fault. Drusilla had said as much to him, that he was responsible for Cordelia’s fate being tied to a future of blood and death.
Cordelia rubbed her forehead as if it hurt to think about it. “Beats me, nobody I’ve met before, just people wanting help.”
She paused, glancing up at him with a dawning look of realization. “That’s what they wanted, your help.”
Before he could ask who or why said strangers wanted his help, Cordelia went on, “Or maybe they wanted help because they were trying to get away from you. It’s hard to say.”
“There’s a big difference between helping and hunting people, Cordy,” he urged her to get it right. “Was it really me in that vision or was it—” Angel could not even finish the question.
“Angelus?” Cordy went wide-eyed for a moment and then brushed off the idea by pointing out, “Hello, did I not mention the hot sex? I’d never let him touch me.”
Angel wished it were that simple. Her words hit like a compliment and a challenge all at the same time. Now that he knew the nature of Drusilla’s vision, he was none the wiser for it. Though it was interesting to discover that Cordelia believed they were still together in the future. It gave him hope to believe that he was doing the right thing by taking such a risk in the first place.
“Is that it?” he asked and was relieved when she nodded in the affirmative.
“Mostly, yes. What do you suppose it means?” Cordelia asked him.
He had to admit the truth. “I don’t know. Drusilla might know more if I can get her to talk about it.”
“Don’t,” she pleaded. “I admit it would be great to know the future if I was going to buy a lottery ticket, but Dru’s vision thing is creepy.”
Angel pulled Cordelia into his embrace, winding his strong arms around her and tucking her head beneath his chin. He wished that he could say his doubts were alleviated, but they remained. Even though she seemed certain that Angelus was not responsible for the people in the vision being in danger, he was still left with Drusilla’s dark prediction about Cordelia.
“Then forget it,” advised Angel as he released her to walk over to where two staff weapons leaned at an angle against a support column. He picked one up leaving the other behind as he returned to her side. “We have no idea how far ahead Dru was seeing. Anything that happens between us will be when the timing is right. I will not rush into this, Cordy. The danger is still there.”
The staff was planted at his side. Cordelia grasped it as she moved closer using it as support as she shifted onto her toes to kiss him softly. She smiled at him as they parted, brown eyes sparkling. “So what’s next, more training?”
Angel heard the creak of the basement door just before a familiar voice called out, “I found them. Cor is playing with Angel’s staff.”
Both Cordelia and Angel turned toward the sound of Xander’s voice, seeing him standing at the partially opened door, head and shoulders leaning in. He had missed the kiss, she knew, because he would have made some kind of disgusted comment about it.
Buffy’s instant reaction sounded somewhere behind him. “What?”
The basement door was flung open to reveal Buffy who took one look at the pair holding the staff and decided that her friend’s innuendo was far from funny. Even though it was obvious that the two of them had been training, she really did not like the way they were standing so close together.
Candlelight flickered across the walls making it much brighter down here in the basement than anywhere else in the mansion. Buffy noticed that everything was clean and organized. There was plenty of open space. It was ideal for training and would suit her purposes just fine.
She glanced over her shoulder at Willow and Xander. “C’mon, guys. We can have the picnic down here.”
“A picnic?” Cordelia dropped her hand from the staff as she turned around to face them. Maybe Buffy had brought food in that little basket, but spontaneous picnics were not exactly Buffy’s style. At least not when it included tag-along friends and a vampire, she amended her thoughts, a vein of suspicion creeping in. “How nice of you to barge in uninvited.”
“Giles gave us the night off,” Buffy pointed out as she walked over to their side. “That includes training. I thought you might like something to take your mind off being a target for a demon sacrifice.”
Cordelia glanced toward Angel wondering if he was buying this or not. With his poker face firmly in place, she could not tell if he was annoyed or amused by his ex-girlfriend’s sudden appearance. There was no way to get rid of Buffy & Co. without actually demanding that they leave so she could go back to kissing Angel.
That thought brought a big smile to her lips. Seeing it, Willow commented, “Looks like you’re keeping it together considering the Big Bad wants your— uh… purity. You’re like a brand new Cordelia. The old one would have asked her parents to fly her out of the country by now.”
Despite knowing of Bev’s existence, the Scoobies still remained clueless about the status of parents’ absence from Sunnydale. That was just fine. It was none of their business in the same way as her hooking up with Angel was not their concern.
At the mention of her parents, Cordelia felt Angel’s hand press against the small of her back, his way of providing silent support. “Well, I have everybody looking out for me,” she reminded Willow. “The best way to catch this demon is for me to stick around.”
Cordelia decided that the best way to deal with this was to just let it happen. She and Angel were not going to be able to avoid the Scoobies every time they were together, so they might as well deal with it here and now. Willow was carrying an ugly plaid blanket. “You can put that over there,” she told her.
When Xander set the picnic basket down, Cordelia opened it up to help them distribute the food. She laughed when she saw that the contents were not homemade goodies, but plastic sandwich containers from the Main Street Deli.
“Buffy left the drinks on the foyer table when we were searching around for you.” He snapped his fingers and moved that way.
“It couldn’t have been that hard to find us,” Cordelia grumbled. “Angel would’ve noticed you trouncing around upstairs if you’d been here very long.”
Xander shrugged, “Long enough for Buffy to get halfway upstairs.”
“We split up,” Xander explained that he thought nothing of it. “Buffy went up, Willow stayed on the main level and I headed down here.”
Cordelia tapped her fingers on her hips as she tried to decide if there was more to it. “Well, go get them,” she prompted Xander who was suddenly staring over her shoulder.
A glance in that direction showed Buffy standing up close and personal with Angel who had not budged from his spot since their arrival. Cordelia could not hear what the other girl was saying, but she could see her hand on his arm. Her first instinct was to walk over there to yank Buffy’s cute little blonde ponytail and drag her away from him.
That was quite possibly her second and third instincts, too, but Cordelia refused to make a move, partly because she wanted to see how Angel was going to deal with this little ploy of Buffy’s, whatever she was saying. Blah, blah, blah, I was an idiot to let you go, blah, blah, blah.
Halfway through Buffy’s speech, Angel lifted his gaze up and away from her, connecting with Cordelia from across the room. His expression changed only very subtly, his dark brown eyes warming. Cordelia smiled back, suddenly confident that Angel was thinking about her despite the fact that Buffy was in his space.
Turning back to Xander who was still scowling at them, Cordelia lightly whacked him in the chest with the back of her hand. “Why are you still here? Go get the drinks.”
After Xander returned, it became even more obvious to Cordelia that none of them had given a thought to including Angel in their little picnic even though he was technically their host. “You didn’t bring blood for Angel?”
At that, Buffy and Angel ended their conversation and walked over. Xander had made a face, “Eeeeew! I’d like to have an appetite when we eat.”
“It’s okay, Cordy,” Angel assured her as his hand brushed over her shoulder. “I don’t need it.”
Cordelia protested on his behalf, “I’m just saying that it’s rude to come to a guy’s house with food and not bring him anything.”
“He’s not a guy,” Xander reminded. “He’s a vampire.”
Taking a step forward, Cordelia was about to argue that one when Angel’s had stilled her again. He suggested they sit down and relax. Willow was already occupying one corner of the blanket. Sitting cross-legged, Xander took the spot next to her. Buffy sat down at the closest corner next to Willow leaving the last corner for Cordelia.
She looked up at Angel, “Coming?” Between her and Buffy there was plenty of room for him to squeeze in.
There was just enough of a challenge in her voice that Angel knew Cordy was somehow teasing him. He leaned the staff against the nearest wall and sat down beside her. It had been a long time since he had felt such awkwardness, but sitting down between his ex-girlfriend and his new one felt downright strange.
Buffy had told him she missed training together. When she had touched him, Angel got the impression she was saying that was not all she missed. There had not been enough time to respond. Maybe the interruption was for the best because he had no idea how to tell Buffy ‘no’ without explaining that he wanted to spend time with Cordelia.
Keeping their relationship a secret for a while was not going to prove easy. Angel sat silently as the four of them talked about music or homework and other things he knew little about. He enjoyed hearing them and watching as they ate their sandwiches.
Angel sat with one leg bent inward on the floor, the other bent up where his arm rested on his knee. His other hand was on the edge of the blanket behind Cordy as he leaned slightly in her direction. Their shoulders touched and Angel felt her warmth seep into his skin from that slight contact.
He was thinking about wanting to touch her when Cordelia’s hand came down on his knee. Then she turned those lush lips in his direction to ask, “Want some?”
Angel’s tongue snaked out to lick at his lips. What he wanted would probably be labeled as inappropriate viewing for their uninvited guests. Cordelia’s question was innocent enough as she held up her strawberry-kiwi fruit swirl offering him a taste. He took the straw in his mouth and sipped, coming away with a smile on his face at the taste.
“Good?” Cordelia grinned at his expression.
Definitely, “I like that one.”
“Take half of my sandwich, too,” Cordelia urged him. “I’ll never eat it all.”
He was a little more hesitant about the sandwich, but Cordelia rolled her eyes and told him to pick off the parts he did not like. Angel opened up the sandwich and stared at the various layers. After removing the lettuce, he closed the two halves and lifted it toward his mouth, stopping just short of it when he realized that the others were staring.
Xander was wide-eyed with shock, Willow seemed to be watching him as if he was an interesting scientific experiment, while Buffy’s scrunch-faced expression suggested she didn’t like what she was seeing.
“What’s the big deal?” Cordelia asked them. “He doesn’t like lettuce.”
Then changing subjects, Cordelia took control of the conversation again. Angel ate the sandwich just to make a point knowing that he was still receiving stares from all three of them. Maybe he could not blame them for staring. It was not that long ago that the idea of him eating human food would have seemed ridiculous to him, too.
Xander finally gave up staring at Angel when Cordelia brought up the subject of Bev’s little battle with the mayor over the Bingo parlor. “Cor, your grandma is the coolest thing since sliced bread. Why is it that my relatives aren’t like that?”
“It’s all in the genes,” she said smiling, “which in your case is kind of scary.”
Cordelia went on with some details of Bev’s plan to picket City Hall. When she mimicked the mayor’s initial response to the news, even Angel laughed along with the others.
His easy laughter drew Buffy’s attention again though it had not strayed far away from him and Cordelia this evening. Angel seemed so different when he was around Cordelia. Not in a bad way at all, just not quite as aloof and mysterious as he was normally.
It bothered her.
After the picnic cleanup was complete, Buffy decided that it was time to confront Angel and to put their relationship back on track where it was supposed to be. It had just taken her a while to make the decision to accept him back.
“You’ve been spending a lot of time with Cordelia, guarding her.” She pointed out that being so generous was not necessary. “Faith has nothing better to do. She can pick up more hours.”
Angel seemed surprised by the comment, but did not hesitate to tell her, “Cordy is my responsibility. I’ve told you that before.”
“Just because I teamed her up with you—”
“Yes, you did,” Angel cut in. “We’re patrol partners, but we’re more than that, too. We’re friends, Buffy, and I’m not going to let anything happen to her.”
Buffy only had herself to blame for that, she realized. It had been selfish of her to think that she could get rid of Cordelia by pairing her up with Angel assuming that they would not get along. “Yeah, you two seem close.”
She waited for Angel to confirm or deny it, but he remained silent letting her come to her own conclusions. Her heart sank a little as she pointed out, “You’ve been doing things together.”
For a moment, Angel looked alarmed, but quickly recovered. “Training,” he said quickly gesturing around the basement.
“I meant other things,” Buffy caught her lip between her teeth. Letting go, she told him what was bothering her, “You’ve been eating together and… talking.”
Angel rubbed a hand across his jaw. “I wasn’t aware that talking was off-limits. Besides, Cordy does most of it.”
“You know what I mean.”
Thick-headedness was such a male thing. Buffy grumbled, “What’s with the pet name, anyway?”
Angel glanced over toward Cordelia who was directing Xander and Willow during the clean-up duty. There was a mischievous smile on her face as she met his gaze. He relaxed just a fraction realizing that she was not upset at Buffy asking to talk to him.
He answered Buffy’s question without thinking about how it sounded, “Her friends call her Cordy.”
“Meaning you do,” Buffy stressed.
Angel had to smile because Cordy chose that moment to touch her fingertips to her lips and then wave them in his direction when none of the others could see; a naughty little gleam lit her eyes.
Then Buffy asked, “What’s with the smiling?” as if it made her nervous.
Angel’s smile dimmed as he turned his attention back to the conversation. All of the questions were suddenly adding up to the fact that Buffy was not unaware of the fact that something was going on between him and Cordelia. The truth was on the tip of his tongue, but he had promised Cordy that they would keep things between them for a while.
But it irritated him that Buffy chose now to be jealous. She had waited far too long to decide that she had made a mistake by letting him go. Part of him wanted her to be jealous enough to choke on it, but that was the demon in him. “I don’t choose your friends for you,” Angel pointed out, his jaw tight, voice edging on dark. “My relationship with Cordy is no longer your business.”
Buffy paled. “I-I suppose so, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You have other friends, too. Like me. You don’t need to spend all of your free time with her.”
“You’ve already got your friends, Buffy,” Angel spoke softly trying to ease the tone of his words. “What’s the harm in letting me have Cordy?”
He walked away leaving her standing in the corner of the room. Buffy watched as he moved over to join the others. Standing by Cordelia’s side, his fingers brushed along her inner arm before dropping back to his side. She turned to him, smiling, to lift her hand to his back, sliding up to curl her fingers around his shoulder and letting her hand linger there.
Feeling the sting of tears gathering in her eyes, Buffy decided that she didn’t want to be here for any more of this. Whether Angel and Cordelia were really just friends or if something else was going on, she did not want any part of it. Heading for the stairs, she paused long enough to announce, “I’m going out on patrol. I need to work off some of that food.”
“Wait up, Buff,” Xander called up even as she jogged up the staircase. “We can go with you.”
“Not tonight,” Buffy did not bother to look back. “There’s something I need to do.”
62: North Central Sunnydale
Buffy barely felt the rush of wind whipping through her hair as she ran from the mansion. After a quick jog down the drive, the pebbled cobblestones crunching beneath her shoes, she burst into a full run down Crawford Street. She crossed the north end of Revello Drive without a thought of heading home, darting past City Hall where a group of older women were loitering under umbrellas as they planned an event for the morning.
A look of recognition from one woman went unnoticed by Buffy as she ran past them completely oblivious to the faces in the small crowd. The sound of her name was lost on the breeze as she cut across the street. Hopping over the rope looped between the short posts dividing the sidewalk from the closely cropped grass of Restfield Cemetery, she paused long enough to feel the raindrops on her cheek.
They were not tears. She was not ready to cry. It was anger that made her eyes sting. Wiping the dampness away with her sleeve, Buffy raised her eyes and looked out at the gloom of the cemetery.
There was little moonlight to brighten the marble tombstones. She did not need it. Her acute night vision picked out a shape moving between the gravestones at the far side of the cemetery.
Reaching for her favorite stake, Buffy took off again. The figure in the distance moved slowly, loping along at a casual pace seemingly unaware of the impending danger. He turned at the last moment when Buffy hurtled over a granite marker, raising her stake to plunge it deep.
“What the—!” Spike caught her wrist midair and braced for impact. Still, they tumbled to the ground.
Eye to eye, Buffy’s jaw dropped in recognition, “You!”
“Get off me, you bint.”
Instinctively, Buffy pressed down hard bringing her stake at an angle closer to his heart. Then remembering Angel ordered her to leave both Spike and Dru alone pushed her body up so that she straddled his, her free hand pressing down on his chest. “Stay put.”
Spike quirked a brow sensing that she was not planning to stake him. “Gonna give me a lap dance, luv?”
“Shut up!” she snapped. “I wasn’t looking for you. I can’t dust you.”
She watched the surprise register in those blue, blue eyes. “Off limits, am I? But now that you’ve found me,” Spike pulled at her wrist and shifted his hip, using his strength to flip them over, “what say we get to know each other a little better.”
“Lucky me,” Buffy commented sourly as Spike pressed her into the soft grass. “I think that’s a great idea.”
A head butt sent Spike reeling. He let go, grunting at the painful contact. Buffy pressed her hand into his chest tossing him back. She flipped to her feet and stepped forward as Spike lazily watched her approach, a confident smirk spread across his face.
Before he could speak, Buffy cut him off. She might have promised Angel that she wouldn’t stake either Spike or Dru until this situation with Cordelia was fully resolved, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t say stuff that needed to be said.
“Your girlfriend doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” Buffy gave the sole of his boot a little kick of frustration inwardly hoping he’d attack just so she would have a legitimate excuse to stake him.
Spike did not take the bait. He propped himself up on his elbows to watch her for a few moments and giving Buffy the notion that he saw a little too much. “What are you on about?”
“Angel,” she stressed and then clarified with a huff, “Cordelia and Angel. Drusilla has the wrong idea.”
Still on the ground, Spike answered bluntly, “I doubt that. He told you what my Dru saw in her vision?”
Gritting her teeth, Buffy shook her head. “He wouldn’t tell me.”
A short laugh erupted from his throat as Spike rose to his feet, “Really? Does that tell you anything?”
It hurt too much to answer that question. Buffy flexed her grip on her stake. “Get out of town, Spike, both of you.”
He leaned in close, just inches away from her face, “No.”
Buffy punched him just because he got too close leaving her fist bruised and his lip bloody. She watched him slowly wipe the bloody gash off and then suck his finger into his mouth, grinning as if she had given him a treat. Seething with anger, she urged him to fight back. “Go ahead, Spike, hit me. C’mon.”
When he moved, it was only to circle around her, two deadly predators assessing the other. “Love to, sunshine, but not tonight. Let’s try it again some night when you’re not thinking about him.”
Buffy swiveled around turning her head to look over her right shoulder as Spike circled behind her. “Angel?”
“Who else?” Spike’s cheek dimpled. “Got you hot and bothered, does it?”
He clucked his tongue and grinned as Buffy took a step toward him. She stopped before getting any closer.
“Looks like Angelus took the blinkers off, Slayer,” he chuckled. “He’s no longer blind to anything but you and now he has found himself a sexy new pet. Wouldn’t mind petting that one myself.”
He was ready for the punch when it came, avoiding it, and chuckling when she whirled around to face him. Less amused, he grunted as her boot connected with his stomach. Buffy kept coming until Spike had no choice but to fight back. Her stake went flying as he knocked it out of her grip.
Buffy went through an array of acrobatic moves, jabs and punches. She was not really out to kill him, just rough him up because he was so damned irritating and he had said just the right things to make her mad.
Most of Spike’s moves were defensive. His offense was verbal. Everything he said wound her up even more and he was having a hell of a time doing it. “Maybe you miss it a little too much.” He tussled her up against the nearest oak tree, and then his voice deepened to honey, “Maybe you need to be petted, too. You look like you need it.”
Disgusted, Buffy pushed against his chest with both hands. He was expecting a struggle, but let her go. “Don’t ever touch me like that again.”
“We’ll try something new next time,” he grinned backing away. She let him go, watching until he disappeared into the darkness.
Overhead, the skies opened up and the scattered sprinkles turned into sheets of rain. It pelted down, soaking her hair and clothes, but Buffy did not care. She felt her anger draining away as she resolved to put an end to her suspicions once and for all. Spike could not be trusted and Drusilla was simply crazy. They had to be confusing Angel’s heroic concern for Cordelia’s safety with something more.
It might have been sweet, really, the way he watched her like a hawk, or laughed at her stupid jokes, and sipped at her slushy fruit swirl. Not to mention the fact that he let her touch him. Buffy had not missed the way Cor had her hand on his thigh or the fact that he did not seem the least uncomfortable about it.
Tomorrow was her day to play bodyguard to Cordelia. By morning, Buffy resolved to have a whole laundry list of questions that would get her the answer she wanted by the end of the school day. The direct approach would never work.
Subtlety was the name of the game. Buffy nodded in approval of her plan then turned toward home. Cordelia Chase was going to tell her the truth, one way or another.
63: The Next Night at the Mansion. . .
The setting sun had given Angel the freedom to leave the mansion. Though he had been tempted to travel through the maze of Sunnydale’s underground tunnel system in order to see Cordelia earlier in the day, there was no legitimate reason to do so.
Angel already knew that Buffy was suspicious about it. The look on her face, her actions and words had all spoken volumes to him. This was not going to be an easy secret to keep. Still, there was a part of him that enjoyed the thought of having Cordy to himself for a while.
Last night, the rain had kept Xander and Willow inside the mansion. Strangely enough, they had managed to get through several hours without talking about their case. Cordelia declared that she did not want to talk about the danger to her or ‘work’ on their night off. Angel was also pleasantly surprised that he only had to suppress the urge to rip Xander’s head off on one or two occasions.
By the time the rain stopped, it was also time for Cordelia to head home. Angel walked them all to their doorsteps, Xander and Willow living near each other and in the direction of Quincy Street. When Willow mentioned that they were going in the wrong direction for Cordelia’s parent’s house, both he and Cordy made quick excuses.
He had been thinking about her ever since he woke up and it was probably a good thing that the mansion’s old water heater tended to act up now and then. A cold shower was definitely on the agenda.
Cordelia’s day was ending while his night was just beginning. The few hours they got to spend together weren’t enough to satisfy him. She had been at school all day. He knew that there would be more questions. Buffy would have had a chance to talk to her, and perhaps Willow and Xander, too.
Then there was the dress shop. Faith had afternoon guard duty, and Angel was now on his way to relieve her for the rest of the night. Cordelia had invited him over to celebrate what she assured him would be Bev’s success at City Hall.
Angel’s anticipation of seeing Cordy again was acute. He wanted her in his arms, his lips on hers. Surely Bev would not mind it if he stole a kiss or two from her granddaughter.
As soon as Angel turned onto Quincy Street, the narrow street acted like a wind tunnel. Carried on the breeze was the unmistakable scent of fresh blood, a lot of blood.
Alarmed, Angel started to run. He was outside 21 Quincy Street in a matter of a few seconds. From the end of the drive, there was no immediate sign of trouble. The Plymouth was parked in its usual spot, and no sounds came from within the house.
He could see light coming from inside. The door was open. A bloody shoeprint marked the front stoop. Angel practically ripped the screen door off its hinges to get inside when he saw the two female forms lying on the floor.
One of them was still, but breathing. The other was very obviously not.
Fear and fury were written on his face as his eyes followed a trail of blood along the tiny grout crevasse between the hall tiles. It led to a larger pool that had spread thick and dark across the floor beneath her as she lay on her side, a large ornate dagger protruding from her chest.
64: The Summers’ House, 1630 Revello Drive, Central Sunnydale
“We’ll meet you there,” Buffy promised quietly. Stunned by Giles’ news, she held the phone to her ear even when the line went dead only half aware of its irascible buzzing.
Willow and Xander sat on the living room couch staring expectantly, with a large ceramic bowl of popcorn balanced between them. Their movie was paused in freeze frame, the blonde heroine captured in an eternal silent scream as they waited to hear the outcome of Buffy’s conversation with her Watcher.
When Buffy had pointed at the phone and mimed Giles’ name, they’d groaned at the interruption taking bets on whether it was more research or the unearthing of a new clue about the prophecy.
“Giles translated the rest of the rubbings from the obelisk,” Willow made a wild guess preferring that to the alternative.
They had only caught a brief portion of the one-sided conversation. Buffy turned, now clutching the phone to her chest. Her expression drew immediate concern from her two friends.
“No,” she swallowed down the bile rising in her throat. Her eyes were large circles of remorse in a ghostly pale face. “Something happened.”
“Told ya it was too good to be true,” Xander nudged her with his elbow before reaching in for another fistful of popcorn. “Just tell me we don’t need to bring a bazooka to the mall again.”
Buffy slammed down the phone causing them to jerk in surprise. “It’s bad. Let’s go.”
“You okay, Buffster?”
Hesitating only for a moment, she told them, “Angel called Giles who called me.”
“Dead Boy called Giles?” Xander picked up the popcorn bowl dropping it on the couch cushion beside him as he bounded off the couch. There was only one reason he could think of for Angel to pick up a phone.
Willow was slower to move, but her brain caught his line of thinking lickety-split. “Angel wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important. This has to be about—”
Xander blurted the name first, “Cordelia.”
“C’mon,” Buffy urged as she opened the front door. “I’ll tell you everything on the way.”
65: Speeding Eastward on Oak Park Street, Central Sunnydale
After securing his passenger side seatbelt a notch tighter, Wesley braced himself on the dashboard. Giles appeared to be trying out for the British Grand Prix. The tires actually screeched at the last turn; it was a wonder they did not fall off in the process.
“Perhaps arriving in one piece would be more productive,” he yelped as the angry driver of the blue car they passed repeatedly sounded the klaxon. “Is it quite necessary to drive this fast?”
Giles barely spared him a glance, which was probably for the best considering their current speed. “Yes,” the clipped answer preceded a tense reminder, “we need to sort things out before the local authorities get involved.”
Wesley had not been privy to either telephone call having been engrossed in a particular passage of the prophecy scroll at the time. There was only a cursory explanation given when the elder Watcher hauled him out of his seat telling him, “There’s been a murder.”
“A murder!” His raised voice had reverberated around the empty library. Then he asked with a whisper, “A murder?”
“I just received a call from Angel,” Giles had said. “He’s at the scene. Your girl is there.”
“My g— oh, my Slayer,” Wesley finally clued in. “Faith actually witnessed this atrocity?”
Giles’ jaw tightened, “Apparently, she tried to put up a fight.”
He had seen Faith last night at the Bronze dancing with a passion and energy that matched the music. From a carefully chosen vantage point, he spent an hour in silent observation. He watched her dance, flirt and skillfully fend off would-be suitors.
Everything he had read in her profile suggested this would be a worthy challenge. One he hoped would gain him some respect in the eyes of his father. Wesley had thought himself prepared for meeting Faith face to face, but felt that the Bronze was an inappropriate setting. Now it appeared his prepared words for such an auspicious moment would have to be revised.
“Did Angelus provide any specifics?”
Giles corrected him, “Angel.”
“Yes, of course,” Wes’ eyes narrowed behind the rims of his dark-rimmed glasses. He had read everything available in the Council texts about the Scourge of Europe before making the journey to Sunnydale.
The thought of meeting the infamous ensouled vampire was quite overwhelming. He felt a bit giddy, though that might be due to being flung forward and jerked to a halt by his seatbelt as the car stopped in front of their destination.
Wes clutched his chest, an ache where the seatbelt held him in place, and turned his neck from side to side expecting to hear a crack. Over his right shoulder, he noticed the small house, quite modest by Sunnydale standards. Perhaps by anyone’s standards, Wes revised his opinion, as he looked closer at the aged appearance of the one-story building.
Reaching out, he grabbed Giles’ arm preventing him from leaving the car. Waiting to speak until the other man’s troubled gaze turned to meet his, Wes asked, “You never mentioned the name of the victim.”
66: Revello Drive near the Crossroads, Central Sunnydale
“It’s Cordelia, isn’t it?” Xander panted the question as he tried to keep up with the Slayer who was setting a mean pace up Revello Drive.
Buffy nodded and then blurted, “She’s…gone. I can’t believe the last thing I said to her today.”
“What did you say?” Willow asked. It was easier to focus on that than what Buffy said about Cordelia.
The pallor was gone from Buffy’s face. “Nothing,” she denied quickly. At the responding look of doubt, she added solemnly, “It’s not worth repeating.”
“When you say gone,” Xander cut in to steer the conversation where it needed to be, “do you mean Cordelia is on a shopping spree and forgot to leave a note? Because I can totally see her doing that.”
Stopping, Buffy placed her hands on Xander’s shoulders. She knew that he still cared about Cordelia. No matter how much of a bitch she could be and despite her suspicions about her status with Angel, Buffy would never really want any harm to come to her.
“Giles didn’t know all of the details,” Buffy hoped to soften the news because it was going to take them another fifteen minutes to get to Quincy Street. Causing Xander to fear the worst about his ex-girlfriend was not going to make getting there any easier, but he deserved the truth. “Angel told him that Cordelia is gone and Faith is down.”
Willow remembered, “It was Faith’s turn to guard her.”
“There was a fight,” Buffy explained. “S-someone is dead.”
“Not Cor.” Shaking his head, Xander denied the possibility. “Gone doesn’t mean— dead,” he whispered the word. “Could Faith be…” his voice dropped off as if he could not even say the word again. It was not exactly a more welcome option.
“I don’t know.” She hugged him tight and then let go. “Angel didn’t give Giles a chance to ask too many questions. We’ve got to get going.”
They followed along as fast as they could until Buffy rounded the corner at the end of the drive. “Buffy, wait. Wait!” Xander called out as he realized they were moving away from Cordelia’s normal hangouts. “Cor’s house is the other way.”
Buffy paused, glancing over her shoulder again. “That’s not where we’re headed. This happened at her grandmother’s house. According to what Angel told Giles, she’s living there now.”
After they caught up, Buffy started moving at a slow jog allowing them to pace her. Willow was panting for air as she shared her confusion. “I didn’t know there were any mansions on the Upper East Side.”
“There aren’t,” Xander answered instead. It was the poorest section of town. Now that he thought of it, Bev Quinn was not exactly dripping in diamonds when she came to the hospital. “When did Cor start living with her grandmother?”
“Beats me,” Buffy answered.
Willow was just as clueless, “I dunno. I didn’t even know she had a grandmother until she showed up at the hospital with Angel.”
Cor had seemed like an open book to Willow ever since the days of the We Hate Cordelia Club, a superficial, spoilt princess who got everything she ever wanted, the tactless bitchy girl who once ruled the school. Every run-in she had with Cordelia flashed through her head as they entered what was quaintly known as the eastside slums.
They cut through the motel parking lot toward an area containing the Sunnydale Trailer Park and a street of dilapidated old houses. Willow paused at the corner, catching her hands on her knees and panting for air. She saw that her friends were already off the sidewalk crossing the front lawn.
Giles’ car was parked out front. He had beaten them there, of course. She gulped as she reached the edge of the lawn seeing the screen door hanging on its hinges and a crowd gathered in the front hall. Not quite certain that she wanted to find out if it was Cordelia or Faith who was lying there, she prompted herself to move on, “Time to find out.”
67: The Quinn Residence, 21 Quincy Street, Eastside, Sunnydale
“They’re here,” Angel’s words caught Giles’ attention as he neared the end of his report to the 911 Operator.
Giles glanced toward the front door where it hung open to the night air, the outer screen door dangling from broken hinges. He presumed that the vampire’s acute hearing detected the approach of Buffy and her friends. With their arrival, he saw Angel move for the first time in the last few minutes.
He had been standing watch over Faith when they arrived; her bruised and bloodied body unmoving, unconscious. From the looks of the place, she had put up a hell of a fight— and lost. Angel had not said much, letting the evidence before them speak for itself.
From the dark determination on his face, it was certain Angel was not going to let those responsible go unpunished. Considering what the vampire was capable of doing to his enemies, Giles counted himself lucky not to be among them. There was a visible tension in his shoulders, he observed, no doubt caused by waiting around here when he needed to be out there searching for—
“Where’s Cordelia?” demanded Xander as he pushed past Buffy who had stopped short upon catching sight of the pooling blood on the hall floor.
Buffy reached for Angel, wrapping her arms around his waist. He did not react for the first few moments, then put an arm around her shoulder as they stared down at the pale corpse that was once Cordelia’s grandmother, Beverly Quinn, her pale skin mottled blue, the hilt of an ornate dagger deeply lodged in her chest.
“It’s Grandma Bev,” Willow squeaked in horror as she stumbled into the hall, wide-eyed with shock. “But she was so nice.”
Giles cleared his throat, stepping forward. “I’m afraid that bad things happen to nice people, Willow. Mrs. Quinn evidently got involved with whatever happened here tonight.”
“Is Faith gonna be okay?” asked Buffy as she moved out of Angel’s loose embrace and approached the unconscious Slayer. Then, glancing at the stranger in the room, “Who’s that guy?”
Squeezing away the tension building up behind his eyes, Giles touched his fingers to the bridge of his nose, his glasses lifting and then falling back into place. “This is Faith’s new Watcher.”
Crouched next to Faith, the young man looked quite starched in his suit and bow tie. Giles could see that Buffy was sizing him up. From the moment they stepped into the house, Giles could tell that Wesley had never seen anything like this up close. Perhaps in pictures or slides, studied, but not experienced.
Standing up straight, he introduced himself with a noticeable stutter, “W-Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. I arrived just yesterday. We have not had the opportunity to meet. I wish the circumstances had been more,” he glanced down at his battered and bloodied new charge, “pleasant.”
“Why don’t you go outside and direct the ambulance when it arrives,” Giles said when Wesley started to look a bit green about the gills. It would not do to have the man lose his supper in front of the others.
Wesley looked startled by the suggestion, but nodded. Carefully, he stepped over Faith’s sprawled form in order to find a clear path out the front door. He paused at the threshold, looking puzzled for a moment and then, realizing why, met Giles’ gaze with a concerned frown before heading out of the house.
“What happened?” Buffy asked him as she knelt next to Faith. Coming up with her own conclusions, said, “The demon did this. He came after Cordelia, killed her grandma, and Faith couldn’t stop him.”
A hoarse sound came from the girl lying on the floor, “No.”
With a hand on her shoulder, Buffy called out, “Faith!”
“Dear God, you’re awake,” Giles instantly focused on her.
“Where’s Cordelia?” Xander moved down to join Buffy at her side and Giles joined them while also noting that Willow stood statue-like near Bev Quinn’s body, apparently too caught up in staring at the congealing blood to move.
Exposing these children to such a ghastly scene was something he would have to think about later. Right now, his priority was discovering what Faith could tell them. It might provide the means to Cordelia’s rescue, assuming that the demon had not already made her a sacrifice.
Faith groaned in pain, barely conscious, but coming around fast. It was almost too much to try to speak. When her eyes opened, through the gaps between the huddled forms around her, she saw Bev. Her own horrified scream echoed in her ears, but she did not recognize its sound as her hand stretched outward.
Someone caught it, held Faith’s hand while muttering words that did nothing to soothe or calm her. “No, no!” Denial rang out, but the sight of Cordelia’s beloved grandmother stretched out on the floor did not change.
“Faith,” she heard Giles’ voice as if from a distance, “you must try not to move. Save your energy. We must know what happened here.”
With a grunt, she turned over, shaking off the hands trying to provide comfort she did not deserve. Faith scooted past them to reach Bev, ignoring the blood. She grasped onto the hilt of the dagger ignoring the, “Perhaps you shouldn’t…,” advice coming from Giles’ direction and with her remaining strength pulled it from Bev’s body.
She dropped it and the dagger clanked making a circle on the tile floor next to Willow’s feet. Faith’s head lay on Bev’s stomach as she collapsed against her. In the distance, the sound of sirens began to wail.
“What now?” asked Buffy as she helped to move Faith over to the couch. “Faith isn’t going to be much help finding Cordelia.”
Faith’s eyelids fluttered as she struggled to open them. She swallowed thickly, bruised lips crusted with blood. When she opened her mouth to speak, it was only a whisper, “Angel?”
“Hey, Dead Boy,” Xander turned around after hearing Faith ask for the vampire. “She wants to say someth— hey, where’d he go?”
Buffy whirled around. “Angel?” He was gone. She darted over to the door thinking he might be waiting with whatsisname, but there was no sight of him.
Clearing his throat, Giles spoke up, “Angel only agreed to stay until you got here. He’s got a lead to follow.”
Irked that he left without her, Buffy asked, “What lead?”
It was Faith who answered them, her voice a little stronger, “Drusilla.”
“But—,” doubt clouded Buffy’s feature. She glanced at the evidence around the room. This was not the work of a vampire. “Drusilla was here?”
“Yes,” Giles confirmed. “Angel told us that he could still scent her here. Though it is unknown whether she arrived before or after Cordelia was taken. For that, we must turn to Faith.”
Everyone literally turned staring expectantly as Faith struggled to sit up, her hair and clothes matted with blood, most of it not her own. Wiping a hand across an oozing cut on her chin, she only managed to smear the blood further. She did not notice, nor seem to feel the weight of their stares as she continued to look toward Bev Quinn.
“C-Cordelia?” asked Xander his voice going up an octave.
Faith’s dark brown eyes lifted slowly bypassing Xander for Giles. “This is all my fault.”
“I think she’s in shock,” Giles muttered to the others. Then more loudly as if Faith had not been able to hear him before, “The demon is responsible. You tried to stop him, a valiant attempt against such a strong adversary.”
Faith pressed her swollen lips closed, her gaze sliding over to Buffy who watched her with a growing sense of suspicion. The look on her face proved that much and Faith knew it was well deserved. She had kept things from Buffy and now Bev Quinn had paid the price.
“You don’t understand,” Faith unsteadily found her way to her feet. Pointing at it, told them, “That’s my dagger. She’s dead because of me.”
68: Following a Trail . . .
Precious time had already been lost. Waiting for the others to arrive kept Angel at the house far too long. Picking up a trail already gone cold was not easy even for a vampire. Traces of Cordelia’s intoxicating scent were already diminishing. Drusilla wore no perfume and her lightly floral earthiness was just as faint. They were not alone. The crosathnam demon’s pungent scent was far easier to track.
Angel could not be certain if it was Drusilla who had taken Cordy from the house or the demon. Who was chasing whom? He bet on Dru. The trail he followed was a wayward path, an escape route leading southwest across lawns, back alleys and into the wildwood skirting Sunnydale Park.
They had had a head start on the demon from what he could tell, a distance that had closed quickly. In the places where their passing was obvious, where the ground was soft, he found only two sets of footprints. The impression of Drusilla’s shoes was deeper than her usual light tread.
The reason seemed obvious: she was carrying Cordelia. The distance they had gone suggested no struggle had occurred along the way. He scented blood, its coppery tang hitting the back of his tongue as he breathed it in deep.
Human blood, but whose?
Drusilla’s premonition echoed in his head and the fear he had bottled up as he went inside the house threatened to break lose. His anger overwhelmed it, pushing the fear back, but it was hard to stay calm and rational when he knew that Cordelia’s blood would spill as the events within Dru’s vision unfolded.
Vamping out further enhanced his ability to scent the trail, but brought his violent side closer to the surface. Angel did not see it as a problem. Violence was all part of the plan, assuming there even was a plan beyond finding Cordelia. What he was going to do when he got there did not take a lot of thinking.
The demon’s scent was marked with human blood. Angel figured that it belonged to Faith or Cordelia’s grandmother. At least, he hoped that was the case. If it was Cordy’s, there’d be hell to pay.
Crossing through a thickly overgrown garden, Angel recognized his location. He was close to home, but the trail of broken branches led away from Crawford Street. Dru was not bringing Cordy back to the mansion. If that had been her intention, she had changed her mind, perhaps because of the closing pursuit behind her.
Dru’s entire purpose here in Sunnydale remained clouded. The revelation of some details from her vision did little to assuage Angel’s fears. If his eldest childe had a purpose for her actions beyond the desire to please him, he could not fathom it.
When the trail ended suddenly, Angel was left standing on the edge of a cement gully, a storm drain. One end opened up from the sewers, a foul smell masking all others nearby. The other disappeared into the distance as a thin stream of dirty water carried bits of trash toward the ocean.
Between the night-blooming plants in the garden, the stench of the sewers and the night breeze blowing it down the gully, the final traces of the trail he had been following vanished. Angel dropped down from the edge landing gracefully. He searched for signs that Drusilla or the demon had gone one way versus the other.
Standing hands on his hips, Angel dipped his head low, eyes closed as he thought of all of the possible tortures Cordelia might endure because he had failed to find her. Perhaps the crosathnam had caught up with them and taken Cordy. If that were the case, she would be sacrificed to its god fulfilling her part in the prophecy.
He growled at the thought of the other demon laying a hand on her feeling the irate rumble deep in his chest. Before he let that happen, he would rip the bastard apart piece by piece and hang him with his own entrails.
Assuming Angel could find him first.
The location of the demon’s lair remained unknown. It might be within the maze of the sewer system or somewhere above ground. Angel knew that he could not chance a blind search of the sewers. He was running out of time. If Cordelia was not with Dru, then he needed to find someone who could tell him exactly where to find the Crosathnam.
Angel’s vampire features faded back to softer human form, his face a mask of pure determination. He was not about to give up.
If Dru was not taking Cordelia to the mansion, Angel figured she was heading back to her place. Presuming the demon lost their trail just as he had done Drusilla might have taken her back to her crypt at Kingman’s Bluff. It was on the far side of town, but they were already halfway there.
Angel ran at a pace no longer suitable for the subtleties of tracking. Now that he knew his destination, he took the shortest route to get there. Crossing suburban streets, leaping fences and bushes and making his way over rooftops, he kept going until the crowded township opened up to a view of the bluffs and the ocean beyond.
All seemed quiet. Too quiet, he noted as he slowed his forward progress deciding on a stealthier approach than just kicking down the crypt door. Only the sounds of the waves beating against the rocky base of the bluffs filled his ears as Angel strained to hear anything that would tell him Cordelia was alive and well.
There was nothing.
With the crypt door before him, Angel forgot all about stealth and subtlety. He gathered his strength and kicked in the door. It hit the wall with a bang and a creak of rusty hinges. “Cordelia!” he called out her name only to hear it echo back at him.
The place was empty.
69: Somewhere in the Dark . . .
Even before she was fully conscious, Cordelia’s hand slid up to cover the healed scar on her abdomen, a protective move that she remained unaware. Scattered images flashed, her senses reeling, warning of danger even as the phantom ache she tried to rub away sparked an instant of deja vu.
Cradled by darkness, a pulse of fear jarred her awake, a gasp on her lips. There was no light in the room when her eyes opened, pure blackness all around her as encompassing as when she had been unconscious.
Her head throbbed. It took a moment to remember why. “Bev!” It was a choked whisper as emotions welled up so fast they swallowed her scream.
Cordy never discovered how the demon had gotten inside. She had been back in the bedroom changing her clothes when it happened. When Bev’s scream of terror was followed immediately by the sounds of a fight, Cordelia knew they were in trouble.
The living room was hardly large enough for a bulky bad guy and a nimble Slayer to tussle. Bev was on the sidelines of the fight. She had obviously gotten over the eye-opening realization that there were such things as demons and moved right along to being seriously pissed that said demon was wrecking her house.
“I can handle this,” Faith had promised Bev simultaneously dodging a blow while arching her leg up behind her. Her booted heel connected sharply, knocking him off balance.
The lampshade went flying as the demon landed hard on the end table breaking the ceramic lamp into shards. While it was down, the demon turned its attention to her. Cordelia remembered the beady-eyed red stare; standing frozen under its intense gaze as she realized it would do anything to get to her.
“Why you—,” Bev was incensed at it all, aware only that the ugly thug had broken into her home. Picking up the hall phone, “I’m calling 911.”
“Cor, get out now. Both of you,” Faith had warned just as the demon gathered itself up launching back to its feet.
With a start, Cordelia took a jerky step toward her grandmother as Faith stepped in between them and the demon. Mister Beady Eyes let out a roar of irritation and took a swipe at them despite the superhuman punches pounding him in the gut. With a shriek, Cordy grabbed Bev’s wrist and tugged her toward the front door.
Despite Faith’s efforts, the demon slipped past. After that, only flashes of memory came back to with any clarity. The rest was a blur. Cordy remembered that Faith had pulled out a knife.
The demon lunged, knocking Bev aside and making a grab at Cordelia who was incensed at seeing her grandmother tossed down the hall like a rag doll. Her own efforts to fight back were merely an annoyance to the creature, but distraction enough that Faith got in a few arcing slices, a stab or two and another hard kick.
“It’s after Cor,” Faith’s hasty explanation spurred Bev into action. “Just go. I’ll try to hold him off.”
Now it was her grandmother’s turn to try to get her out of the house. Cordy knew Faith would have had an easier fight without them getting in the way. Getting Bev to safety was her top priority even before her own.
Only the demon was not about to let them go.
The demon lunged for her, unwavering determination on its gruesome face. What happened next took place within seconds. Bev pushed her out of the way sending Cordelia stumbling out the door. The ground came up hard and fast.
Dazed, Cordelia had turned to see Bev blocking the demon’s path. Faith then ran up to stop him, dagger in hand, ready to plunge it into the demon’s back.
Cordelia’s hand slipped up to her own throat noting its soreness as she swallowed down the memory. The screams were hers.
There had been a flash of movement, bodies shifting faster than her hazy brain was able to follow. Then Bev toppled over with Faith’s dagger imbedded in her chest. The fighting continued, but Cordelia saw none of it as she crawled back toward the steps.
Someone hauled her to her feet, restrained her and then whispered in her ear. It barely registered as Cordelia struggled to break free. A rush of adrenalin gave her the strength to pull one arm out of the binding grip of her captor. She reached out for Bev whose dying gaze was focused on her.
The distance was too great for her outstretched fingers. As the light faded from her grandmother’s eyes, Cordelia’s world suddenly went black.
Sitting up, surrounded by darkness, Cordelia tried to push aside her grief to focus on the here and now. She swiped at her tears with the back of her hand, sniffing the rest away. The still air was cool against her skin and she noticed for the first time that her clothing was gone, all of it.
Cordelia gasped wondering who had stripped her bare, a flash of anger sweeping over her. She instinctively reached out to pull up the soft cotton sheets and only afterward realized that she was on a bed. Hardly the expected accommodations for a future sacrifice, she considered, unless the bed and the nakedness were all part of the ritual.
Shuddering at the thought, she tugged the top sheet loose and wrapped it around her body in sarong fashion. Edging off the mattress, Cordelia tested the flooring with her toe, hoping she wouldn’t find anything gross or alive down there. It was roughly textured cement.
She wobbled to her feet, groaning at the whoosh and sudden dizziness as her blood rushed downward. “Whoa! Headrush.”
Her head was still reeling when a creaking door sounded behind her. Cordelia turned as fast as her tightly wrapped sheet would allow. “Back off, you bastard! Unless you’re here to return my clothes, just get out. There will be no sacrificing tonight whatsoever,” she snapped.
A crack of light appeared around the door as it opened, the air stirring up a familiar metallic scent. She knew this place, dreaded the memory of it as it haunted her dreams. Cordelia’s hand moved to her abdomen again, subconsciously covering the site of her old rebar injury.
The fear she had felt at the moment of awakening returned full force along with the shadowy memory of sharp and then dull, persistent pain. Cordelia felt the sting of salty tears again as the door opened fully to reveal the dark silhouette of her captor.
70: The New Lair, Somewhere in Sunnydale
Angel’s pretty princess was awake. The steady thump of her heartbeat quickened as Drusilla pushed the door open to meet Cordelia’s widening tear-laced gaze. A fearful gasp sparked a little thrill that wrapped around Dru’s heart as she stepped into the room shutting the door behind her.
The room plunged into darkness for a moment until she lit some candles lined up on an old copper pipe near the entry wall. One by one until their glow spread out to chase the shadows away.
“You!” Surprise and recognition came next. Cordelia raised up one hand as if to stave off her approach. Clutching the sheet wrapped around her with the other, Cordelia took in another stuttered breath before demanding answers. “Why am I here? I was— oh, God, my grandmother is…”
“Dead,” Drusilla supplied the rest when her voice cracked with anguish. A sob of denial that followed resonated. Cocking her head, Dru raised a finger to her mouth, silently observing the play of emotions crossing Cordelia’s expressive face. “So tragic,” her eyes turned smoky as the coldness left her voice. “So much rich, warm blood wasted.”
Fury instantly dried the tears she could taste on the air. “Don’t talk about Bev like she was a missed meal.” Cordelia hurled the nearest object she could reach, a pillow that Dru easily caught and let drop to the floor. “Just tell me what the hell you want from me, you crazy bitch.”
“Language!” Dru clucked like a disapproving governess as her pretty new pupil gathered up the loose sheet and dared to step closer. Emotions ran wild in this one, rage flushing to the surface, mottling her smooth golden skin with a tinge of pink.
Placing one foot in front of the other, Drusilla walked an imaginary tightrope that led straight toward Angel’s little pet. That is what Spike liked to call the girl: a pet. Cordy did not like hearing that. Neither did Dru, who knew she was meant for more important things, and not to be treated as property. This one had so much to learn.
Scolding her sharply, “Naughty words shouldn’t come from such a pretty mouth.”
Drusilla watched idly as Cordelia began to pace despite the confined space like a caged tigress, eyes flashing defiance, refusing to cower in the face of her fears. Though distraught over her own vulnerable state and her grandmother’s death, she did not fold despite the devastation of her loss.
Others would not withstand such circumstance. They crumbled, surrendered in the face of darkness. Let it take them. Just as Drusilla knew that long ago, she had given in to Angelus’ torment. This girl was different. She could sense it.
“Daddy doesn’t like naughty words,” Dru told her with a smirk spreading across her red lips, “except when he wants to hear them.”
Cordelia’s jaw dropped open, snapping shut just as quickly. “Eew! Thanks for that mental image— not. Pfft! I really don’t need another one of Angel’s ex-girlfriends to tell me what he likes. I have Buffy for that.”
A throaty chuckle emerged from Dru’s throat full of dark delight. “Tell me, kitten, do you whisper sweet nothings into Angel’s ear and tell him of the naughty things you want him to do to you?”
Momentarily distracted from her rant when curiosity took over, Cordelia delighted Dru by pausing to ask, “So he, um, likes that?”
“My Angel likes a lot of things, precious,” Drusilla reached out to twirl a finger around a curling strand of Cordelia’s hair.
An embarrassed little mewl rattled around Cordelia’s throat before emerging as a short huff. “Well he won’t like the fact that you’re keeping me here. You’d better let me go.” Her bare foot stomped the concrete floor. “Like now!”
Not wanting to hear it, Drusilla easily distracted herself by gazing down at the red velvet overskirt of her gown. Velvet and silk, velvet and silk, pretty layers of red upon red the color of blood. As she spun around in a lazy circle, watching the way her skirt billowed, Dru felt Cordelia brush past her in a rush toward the door.
Reaching out, she snagged her by the wrist, yanking Cordelia back and leaning in to whisper, “You’ll spoil my surprise.”
Slowly, Drusilla released her waiting to see if she would run again, but Cordelia stood her ground. Her loose hair streamed wildly around her bare shoulders and she tucked an errant strand behind her ear before licking nervously at her lips. “I don’t know what game you’re playing, but I don’t want to be here.”
A sullen pout formed on Dru’s lips, “But I promised.”
“Promi—? Oh!” Cordelia’s eyes rounded in remembrance. “Look, it’s nice that you want to tell me how to make Angel happy, but I think I’d rather figure that out on my own. Plus, there’s that part about him turning evil that I’d prefer to avoid.”
After a deep sigh that ended in a little growl, Drusilla wrapped a hand around her neck before Cordelia could react. She could practically taste the girl’s fear skyrocketing along with the heady sound of her pulse. Pressing her cheek against the warm column of her throat, Dru muttered, “So warm. My Angel must adore your heat.”
“Now we are going to have some fun,” Drusilla pulled back expecting the same delight on Cordelia’s face that she felt at the prospect.
Inching back, Cordy’s eyes popped open, her hand waving defensively in front of her. Dru could not understand why.
“Fun?” Cordelia gulped loudly, “Look, I’m not that kinda girl.” Wondering what kind, Dru watched her hop nervously out of the corner into the open space in the middle of the room. “Really not.” Rolling her eyes, Cordy added, “God save me from kinky vampires! Dru, I don’t wanna die, but I don’t want to have fun either.”
“You don’t like tea?” asked Drusilla curiously and saw Cordelia’s gaze narrow.
Giggling at the look on Cordelia’s face, Dru skipped toward the door and swung it open just enough to give her a peek of the adjoining room. There had been no time to decorate everything, but Drusilla had managed to fix up one area. A small table was draped with fine linen atop which was an exquisite little tea set with delicate china cups.
“That nice man in the china shop helped me find just what I wanted,” Drusilla revealed, only to let her little smile bottom up into a frown, “but he started to yell at me when I tried to leave. He wasn’t very nice after all.”
A hasty assumption followed, “So you bit him.”
“No,” Dru gasped at the thought of it. “He didn’t smell right. Spike had a word or two with him.”
Cordelia stepped away from the door, readjusting her sheet. “Spike’s here?”
Drusilla shook her head. “It’s just us girls: you, me, and Miss Edith.” The latter was now sitting primly in her place on the table. Noting that her position was quite near the plate of sugary biscuits she had laid out, Dru scolded the dolly, “Wait for us, dear.”
Closing the door again, Drusilla confided, “Miss Edith can be such a naughty little girl at times.” Whispering, “She never listens to Daddy.”
“Let me get this straight,” Cordelia cut in abruptly, gaze narrowing, “you brought me here for tea?”
Nodding, Dru pointed out, “That nasty demon wanted to take you away from us. Our Angel wouldn’t like that at all.”
“No,” she agreed. “Neither would I. So, um, thanks for the rescue, I guess. That is if this is really just about having a little Girl Talk, cos I can totally handle that.”
Sensing what Cordelia left unsaid, Dru admitted that it would not be long before Angel discovered their location. “He will come for you soon enough.”
“There’s just one little thing. No big if it is a problem for you, but— hello! Naked here,” Cordelia flapped the edge of her sheet. “Why am I naked? Please tell me that you did not let Spike undress me.”
Drusilla let her gaze follow Cordelia’s curves both revealed yet hidden by the sheet. A little flash of jealousy rose up at the thought of Spike’s lustful comments about Daddy’s new princess, flecks of yellow appearing in her eyes. “My Spike knows better than to ask. I sent him away tonight before I went to find you.”
“Yeah, well… good.” Cordelia visibly relaxed before reminding her, “Now about the naked part.”
Walking over to a set of metal shelves that had once been part of the factory’s storage spaces now draped with clothing, Drusilla sifted through to find what she was looking for. Finally, she held up a long gown of cream-colored silk with a scoop-necked bust line. A diaphanous layer of chiffon streamed from its empire waist down to the floor.
“Uh— that’s not exactly my style,” Cordelia started to glance around the room for her own clothes only to be told by Dru that she had thrown them into the furnace.
“This one is for me. I have a very special gown for you. Our Angel will love taking it off.” She tittered at Cordelia’s gaping stare. “You have wanted and dreamed and yearned for a dress, so I found one just for you.”
Drusilla draped the white gown over the end of the bed and returned to the shelves to retrieve a large cardboard box with an unfamiliar logo. Cordelia looked sad rather than grateful as she opened the lid to reveal a cloud of gold tissue paper. “I have been saving up for a prom dress,” she told Dru as if realizing that the vampire already knew the details. “Bev promised to pay half if I got a job.”
“Poor darling. Angel will kiss it all better for you.” The visions dancing in her head told Dru that Cordelia enjoyed Angel’s kisses, and caresses. “He makes you tingle all over. Take solace in him, sweet kitten. Heal the wounds in your heart.”
Annoyed at the soft words of advice, Cordelia turned her attention to the cardboard box on the bed. The dress was made of the softest chiffon. Sleeveless, with a tight bodice, it had a slew of tiny pearl buttons down the back. Silver accents rimmed the neckline and waist. It looked new, but the design hinted at some long ago era.
It was gorgeous, but nothing like the dress she had put on layaway at April Fools. That one was modern, chic, and made her sparkle like a movie star on the red carpet.
“Why this dress?”
Holding her secrets close, Drusilla’s mouth curved at the corners. Explaining, “Proper tea deserves proper clothes.”
The elegant dress whispered innocence with its pink blush hue, but Cordelia recognized that it might have the opposite effect. “Don’t bite me for pointing this out, Drusilla, but there won’t be anything proper about that dress when my boobs do an imitation of Dolly Parton wearing a Wonderbra.”
Dru blinked owlishly, but stayed silent on the matter.
Holding the bed sheet close, Cordelia reached for one of Spike’s red t-shirts. “How about this? Better yet, give me my own clothes.”
Drusilla copied Cordelia’s earlier foot-stomping routine. “No! Wear the dress,” Drusilla pouted holding it out of the box so that the skirt unfolded to its full length. Quite used to being indulged, she did not like being refused. Vamping out, she growled, “Put it on.”
When Cordelia snagged the dress from her hands, Drusilla smiled serenely and let her features shift back to human form. Giggling, she watched as Cordelia turned her back on her while struggling to maintain her hold on the sheet and pull the gown on over her head. Mumbles mutated into curses as Cordy got stuck with her head somewhere in the middle of the bunched gown, arms above her head and sheet clinging to her hips.
“I’ve got it!” Cordelia huffed, yanking the gown into place when Drusilla came over to help her out. She glanced down at the low neckline and brought a hand to her chest. Complaining loudly, “I know you’re like really old, but that’s no excuse for not keeping up to date with the latest fashions.”
That was just something Dru would have to think about later. Helping Cordelia fasten the long string of buttons at the back of the gown stirred memories. “My sisters used to dress for tea at Auntie Tessa’s. Pretty bonnets, lace collars, white gloves.”
“We loved to have tea. Auntie made the nicest crumpets.” Dru fastened the last button and turned Cordelia around to examine her work. A frown marred her pale features, as she sighed. “Angel ate Auntie Tessa.”
“Oh, er— sorry,” Cordelia commented, smoothing her hands down the snug waist of the gown. “Speaking of Angel…”
Drusilla interrupted, still caught up in thoughts of her family and seeing the way Cordy filled out the gown. “My little sister Anne loved pretty clothes. She wore a blue dress with an organdy fringe the day Angelus came for me.”
“Can we just get on with the tea thing?”
“He made me watch. I screamed and screamed, but nobody heard. Nobody came to stop him.” Drusilla confided randomly, “It’s impossible to get blood out of white lace gloves.”
Balking, Cordelia paled as Dru shared the details. “Please, I really don’t want to hear this. Angel is not like that anymore, at least not when he has a soul. I know that he’s sorry for what he did in the past.”
“Sorry doesn’t make up for taking my family away,” Drusilla grabbed her by the wrist again. “Bad, bad Daddy.” Tugging Cordelia toward the door, there was little resistance. Other than an attempt at pulling out of her grasp, Cordelia followed behind as Dru led her toward the table. “It’s been so long since I had a sister to share secrets.”
Cordelia’s mouth formed a circle, “Oh.” She sank down into the chair gripping the edge of the table. Her little pink tongue swept across her full lips before she said, “You’ve got secrets. What is it you want from me, Drusilla?”
Sitting down opposite Cordelia, Dru unfolded her napkin and placed it in her lap before answering. “It’s what our Angel wants that’s important. Listen carefully.”