W3: It Burns Through the Cold
It burns through the cold
Leaving behind winter’s chill
Welling from the darkest depths
Unspoken but there
Called by many names
Soaring to heights unmeasured
Bolstered by dreams
Cordelia struggled to stay on her feet and focus on the intruders standing across the lobby. With her head pounding, she wanted nothing more than to close her eyes to block out the artificial light brightening the lobby. Though her vision hadn’t revealed the identity of their assailants, it only took a moment for Cordelia to recognize just who had darkened their door.
“Jonathan?” she blinked twice as she took in the sight of the young man who did not seem to have changed one bit since high school graduation.
A look of surprise came over his face, an out-of-place smile replacing previously unyielding features. “Cordelia Chase? Wow! What are you doing here in LA?”
“Oh, you know… stardom,” she let out a fake laugh while grabbing Angel’s shirt from behind and giving it a hard tug. Stage-whispering an order, “Move your ass. Now.”
Angel ignored the demand. “You know this guy?” Obviously, she did. He stared back at the unimposing figure before him letting his gaze move back to the one holding the weapon.
“Sunnydale,” Cordelia explained. “That’s Jonathan who used to be a nice guy in a geeky kinda way.”
A little pout came over Jonathan’s mouth as he remembered the day Cordelia Chase almost had coffee with him at the Bronze, a cinnamon, chocolate, half-caf, non-fat cappuccino with extra foam to be precise. Of course he hadn’t gotten it right, so she took the muffin he’d ordered and left him to drink the coffee alone.
“Mister He-Thinks-He’s-So-Studly with the shiny weapon there is Warren. He always was a creep,” Cordelia added with a glare. “The other guy…I don’t know.”
Jonathan snapped out of his little trip down memory lane to say, “Andrew is Tucker’s brother.”
“Ohhh! No wonder I don’t remember you,” a little bit of the old Queen C edging back into her tone. Cordelia settled her hands on her hips, now feeling the adrenalin rushing through her. This little conversation hadn’t changed a damn thing about the reason these guys showed up here nor was it going to alter what she’d seen in her vision.
Though the images that rattled in her head had to be wrong, she told herself. They had to be. Moving toward the bassinette, she quickly picked Connor up cradling him close. Angel knew exactly what she’d done even though he was already inching away from them trying to draw Warren’s attention.
“Could you hand over the baby now?” Andrew asked almost politely. “We need to get back to our lair before Warren’s mom calls to check on us.”
“Ixnay on the airlay.” Warren griped at him while tracking Angel’s progress across the room, pointing the laser gun directly at him. “I don’t care if the baby belongs to Queen C or Princess Leia. We’re still taking the kid with us. He’s way too valuable.”
Cordelia’s heart pounded a little faster as she realized Warren thought Connor was her baby too. He might as well be. She couldn’t help but love the little guy, even if she was just his Aunty Cordy. Damned if she was gonna let anything happen to him.
“That’s the last time you threaten my son,” Angel ground out the words through his teeth. He’d reached a spot where he was far enough away from Cordelia and Connor not to put them in danger when he made his move. He only hoped he was fast enough.
Seeing the vampire’s body tense a moment before his body became a blur of motion, Andrew called out, “Charge the ray gun.”
Warren was already on it, his eyes going wide as the distance between him and a very pissed off vampire closed quickly. “Charging.”
Simultaneously, Jonathan and Andrew started to run in opposite directions, both heading away from the main target zone as quickly as possible. Angel executed a flying leap, twisting around and landing directly behind Warren, grabbing him up in one hand and tossing him like a rag doll across the Hyperion lobby.
Letting out a screech, Warren slid from one side of the room to the other. “It’s not working.” He panicked as Angel stalked forward, this time taking one determined step after another. A ka-chink sounded from the laser followed by a low buzz.
Jonathan gasped as he realized the weapon was about to overload. “The blue button! Push the blue button.”
“Angel!” Cordelia cried out his name as the sound signaled a resonant note from her vision. Having made it to the weapon cabinet, she was in the process of pulling out a crossbow and loading the bolt one-handed. It barely made it into place before she turned, crossbow in one hand and the baby cradled with the other.
One last time, a warning sounded on her lips, “Get out of th—”
Too late, her words accompanied a blinding flash of light discharged from the ray gun. Hitting Angel mid-chest, it threw him into the air, his body still aglow as it hit the ground. The agonizing sound of his scream faded and when the light dimmed, Cordelia saw that there was nothing left behind. Nothing. Not even ashes.
Another wail sounded, but this came from Connor who awakened with a vengeance at the noise interrupting his sleep. Cordelia touched her cheek to his forehead, “Shh, sweetie.” Stinging tears glistened in her eyes as she wondered why the PTB would send her a vision of Angel’s death only minutes before it was to happen. There was not enough time to avert it, not with Angel being so damn stubborn.
Cordelia glanced to her left noting that Andrew stood between her and the hall where the basement door was a possible route of escape. To her right was Jonathan, who now blocked the way to the stairs. Warren remained in the middle of the foyer. He got to his feet, a smug grin spread across his face.
“That wasn’t so hard. Looks like we have a few bugs to work out with our… our…,” he hesitated again.
Andrew piped up, “Super laser ele—”
“Whatever!” snapped Cordelia. Raising her crossbow, she pointed it directly at Warren. Betting he couldn’t get the ray gun charged again before she pulled the trigger, Cordelia started moving forward. Right now Warren stood between her and a path out of the hotel. “Get out of my way.”
“Three of us and one of you, Cordelia,” he pointed out the odds. “Wanna bet your pom-poms we get outta here with the brat?”
She knew without looking that Jonathan and Andrew were closing in on her from behind, but didn’t take her eyes off of their over-confident cohort. “Let’s even out the numbers a little.”
A second later, Warren screeched in pain as the crossbow bolt hit him in the leg. “She shot me,” he sounded amazed. No matter that Cordelia Chase had hung out with Buffy Summers’ crowd during Senior Year, he never expected the former May Queen to pull that trigger.
Cordelia didn’t stop to enjoy what little revenge she had time to take; she dropped the crossbow, pulled the wailing baby into a more protected hold and made a run for the front door. Somehow, Andrew managed to get there first. “Ah-ah-ah! No escape. We can’t let you go.”
Taking a good look, Cordelia figured she could take out Andrew with a swift kick in the right location and was preparing to do just that when she felt something sharp poke her back. “Ow! Jonathan?”
“Sorry, Cordelia,” he told her honestly. Having taken a dagger from the weapons cabinet, he held its deadly tip against the thin material of her blouse pressing just hard enough for a red spot to form in a small patch across the gauzy white material. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I will.”
Slowly, Cordelia turned around to face him. With Warren still writhing in pain on the floor, she figured it might be possible to convince Jonathan to let them go. “Don’t do this.”
She bounced a little as she made the plea, trying to get Connor to go back to sleep. Her headache was all but forgotten with all that had happened in the past few minutes, but she didn’t want his crying to irritate these guys into forcing him to shut up. Who knew what they might do to a baby.
“Why are you doing this?” Cordelia asked trying to focus on Connor and not what they had done to Angel. “Look at his tiny face, Jonathan. He’s a little person with a heart and a soul.”
Jonathan forced his guilt-ridden gaze away from the baby’s face and back to Cordelia who kept trying to edge away from the dagger. “Money,” he told her the simple truth. “We need big bucks to fund our operation. Taking over Sunnydale doesn’t come cheap.”
“Doing what? You three plan t—” Cordelia huffed in disbelief at the crazy idea. Did they really think they could get away with it? “Buffy will stop you.”
Struggling to his feet, Warren hobbled in their direction, the bolt still imbedded in his leg. “Our ray gun gives us the advantage. The Slayer will be powerless against us. Just like your vampire boyfriend.”
Cordelia didn’t bother correcting their oh-so wrong assumptions. “If it’s money you want, let me call David Nabbit. He’ll pay off whatever ransom you ask.” Not to mention have the cops on your ass so fast you won’t have time to blink.
“Nabbit?” asked Andrew sounding eager. “The software guru David Nabbit? He’s like my Obi-Wan. You actually know David Nabbit? Guys, maybe we could we just ask for the prototype of GameStar’s ‘Dungeon of Dread’. It’s not supposed to come out for distribution for another six months.”
A weighty pause filled the air as the trio seriously considered the option. Then Warren broke the silence, “We can buy all of the games we want after the pay-off. Forget David Nabbit,” he turned to Cordelia, his face twisted into a scowl. “You think I’d let you off so easy after what you did to me, bitch?”
“You K-I-L-L-E-D Angel,” Cordelia whispered furiously, conscious of the fact that Connor was right there and too upset to even consider that it was a little over the top to think that hearing the news might scar the infant’s developing psyche. “And don’t use that tone with me, buddy. Not in front of the baby.”
“Just fork over the kid. Andrew, you take him,” Warren growled impatiently. “If Jonathan won’t use that dagger, I certainly will.”
Standing her ground, Cordelia clutched Connor close to her breast, arms covering as much of his tiny form as she could manage to shield. “Connor stays with me. I go where he goes.”
Maybe she couldn’t get out of this now, but Cordelia was determined not to let the baby out of her sight. She owed it to Angel to protect his son. Oh, God. Oh, God! Angel.
Jonathan tightened his grip on the dagger. He really had no intention of stabbing Cordelia. He wasn’t a murderer, at least, not when it came to killing his friends. And though he wasn’t exactly likely to be on her top ten list of favorite people, especially now, he’d always had a soft spot for her. “W-We could use her to look after the baby while we’re waiting for the bids to come in.”
“I second that,” Andrew quickly raised his hand to agree. Somehow he’d drawn the short straw in being assigned to babysitting duties. Being the youngest child in his own family had not exactly given him experience when it came to squalling infants.
“Agreed,” sighed Warren concurring with the rationale. Besides, it might be a bad idea to leave Cordelia behind. She knew too much about them. “It’s been quite a while since High School. Guess we’ll have time to catch up.”
Cordelia tried not to shudder as his gaze followed the curves of her body. Ignoring the innuendo in his voice, she pointed out, “You’ll need stuff for Connor.”
“Stuff?” Warren asked absently.
“Baby things, dumbass,” she told him, “formula, bottles, diapers.”
Andrew was suddenly glad Warren had agreed to bringing her along. “Are we really gonna have him that long?”
Then he answered his own question as he thought back to their plan. “It may take a couple of days to set up the secure online auction and make sure all of the interested parties are participating.”
Cordelia fought to hold her tongue knowing that anything she might say could make them change their mind about letting her go with them. Hearing Warren tell Andrew and Jonathan to keep an eye on her as she gathered the things she needed, Cordelia wondered if she could stall long enough for the others to get back from the carnival. She had no idea what time they were planning to come home, but if fortune was on her side, it would be soon.
Not bothering to hide his pain, Warren pulled out the crossbow bolt and wrapped up his leg with bandages she’d given him— only after he demanded them. She wasn’t about to help him with it.
Moving as slowly as possible as she gathered up Connor’s belongings, Cordelia tried to find the opportunity to jot down a note or leave some kind of message that would point the way to Sunnydale, but Andrew and Jonathan watched her too closely. The baby remained awake, but quiet. His tiny hand held a fistful of Cordelia’s blouse as if trying to hold on to her as snuggly as she held him.
“Come on guys,” she whispered, continuously glancing toward the hotel doors. “Need a little rescuing here.”