Foolproof Plan. 1-3   Leave a comment

Title: Foolproof Plan
Author: Anna
Posted: 29/1/06
Email
Rating: R for now
Category: Angst
Content: C/A
Summary: a Darkness Within fic. Ever wondered what it would be like to have Beige Angel in Pylea…
Spoilers: Season 2
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: DW/GTCA. Anywhere else, please ask first.
Notes: Written especially for DW
Thanks/Dedication:
Feedback:Would love some


Chapter 1

His footing anxious and unsteady Wesley stepped into the dark hotel. Surfaces once polished to a brilliant shine now lay hidden under thick layers of dust. Any evidence of life and vitality gone, the lobby stretched before him like an empty shell. Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves, he gagged as stale air was pulled into his lungs.

“Why are you here?” The low, menacing growl floated across the room, it’s owner cloaked in darkness.

Worry for Cordelia outweighing his instinctive urge to flee the vampire’s personal space, Wesley steeled his nerves and concentrated on the purpose of his visit. “This isn’t a social call.”

“I don’t work for the Powers anymore. Get out.”

The gruff reply may have been unsettling, but it was hardly unexpected. Angel had made it clear that human ties would not interfere with new priorities, his apparently unfeeling answer only served to confirm that nothing had changed.

Squinting into the dim light, Wesley could make out the broad form of the vampire casually leaning against the reception desk. He pulled himself up to his full height, making sure his voice was calm and steady. “This has nothing to do with the Powers. It’s about Cordelia.”

Cordelia … Raw nerves jarred as her name cut through dulled senses. “We don’t need you. I don’t need you. You walked away. Do us a favour and stay away.” Angel couldn’t afford the stirring of old memories, or Wesley attempting to draw him back into the fold. He wanted the Englishman to leave, needed to return to his self-made solitude.

“Cordelia made it clear she doesn’t want me in her life. Now leave or I will throw you out.” Angel pitched his voice low and threatening, ignoring the pain that twisted his gut as he said those words.

“A sentiment I’m sure we all share.” Wesley replied as the vampire pushed away from the counter.

Slowly stretching his muscles in a conscious display of strength, Angel made his way towards the stairs, his narrowed gaze fixed on the upper level, he passed Wesley without a glance.

It was now or never, Wesley reasoned. Cordelia was running out of time and every second persuading Angel was a second wasted. “I’m prepared to make it worth your while.”

“What could a has-been watcher have that would interest me?” Angel growled as he continued to climb the stairs. Cordelia had been right. He had chosen to walk away, and the best thing now was for him to stay away. He couldn’t afford to care, it made him weak. “Last chance to leave under your own steam.”

Wesley recalled his discussion with Gunn earlier that day, both had agreed they needed Angel, but figuring out how to gain his co-operation was another matter.

“You don’t think the vamp is just going to roll over and play nice ‘cos we ask him to, do you? Gunn paced the room, tension evident in every line of his body. He was a man of action, and all this sitting around and researching made him impatient. It was the only thing he and the vampire had in common since Angel decided that protecting his family was no longer important.

“It’s unlikely, I agree.” Wesley slammed the book shut, letting out a loud sigh.

“So we need a plan.” Gunn paused pulling his ideas together. “We could shoot him with a tranquilliser and drag his unconscious ass through the portal.” A rare note of cheer crept into his voice at the thought of shooting and hogtying the ornery vamp.

A wan smile crossed Wesley’s face as he glanced at his friend. “Appealing as that may be we need to secure his help voluntarily. If what the Host has told us about his home dimension is true then we need Angel willing to help and fight.”

“Fine, shooting Angel can be plan B, but we need to figure this out fast, English. Cordy’s been gone way too long now.” Gunn slumped into one of the worn out office chairs, thoughts returning to finding a way to save his friend.

Silence reigned in the small office as the two men struggled to come up with a workable plan to convince the renegade vampire to help then. They would only get one shot, which narrowed any room for error. For Cordelia’s sake the plan had to be foolproof.

Suddenly into the peace came Wesley’s excited voice, “What’s the one thing Angel wants?”

“A new black sweater?”

“No, Gunn focus, we’re running out of time.” Wesley admonished with a stiff glare. “ Angel’s crusade is based on revenge. He blames Wolfram and Hart for Darla. We simply have to present him with an offer he can’t refuse”

“Huh? And how exactly are we gonna do that? What do we have that the midnight avenger can’t live without?” But Gunn was leaning forward in his seat, spying a ‘Eureka’ moment on Wesley’s face.

“Nothing actually, but Angel doesn’t need to know that. We only need to convince him we have something he wants and in exchange he must accompany us to Pylea and help rescue Cordelia.”

“I like the way you think, man. Although I still say a shot in the ass would work.”

“Wolfram and Hart.”

The vampire paused at the name, his foot hovering over the next stair.

“I know how to get them…from the inside.”

Angel turned, relaxing against the railing in a conscious display of disinterest. Wesley had come to bargain, he could respect that.

“I’m listening.”

“First Cordelia.” Wesley refused to be swayed from his purpose, regardless of the vampire’s imposing demeanour.

“What’s her situation? Pick the wrong date again?” Beneath feigned boredom the soul cried out, both needing and fearing the truth.

“She’s been sucked through a portal into another dimension. We aren’t even sure if she’s still alive.” Wesley did nothing to soften the truth, although he winced internally at the harsh reality. If he had any chance of reaching Angel he had to drive the brutal truth home.

Cordelia alone in a strange world. The sound of splintering wood echoing through the vast space as white-knuckled fists closed around the banister. No one to help her, no one to protect her. Closing his eyes tight against the images parading through his mind, Angel forced his fearful thoughts into silence. So Cordelia did need him. He would save her. Not because it would heal the rift between them, but because the alternative was unbearable.

His face outwardly calm, Angel addressed the man he still begrudgingly considered a friend. Wesley hadn’t moved a muscle, his face wore a resolute look and he would get his man come Hell or high water. Angel could understand that kind of focus, as Wolfram and Hart could bear testament to.

“I save Cordelia, you give me Wolfram and Hart. Then our business is finished…for good.”

The finality of his words spoke volumes; Angel’s assistance could be secured, but it had a costly price tag attached.

“That’s the deal.” Wesley matched Angel’s hard tone, determined not to betray that internally he was shaking with relief. He hadn’t failed.

“Fine. I’ll meet you at sunset.”

Angel resumed his unhurried ascent of the stairs; shoulders relaxed, hands in pockets, he appeared to have all the time in the world.

Wesley stared at the retreating vampire, slowly releasing the air he held hostage in his lungs. He had once trusted the man with his life, but that time was long past. Now, was not the time to mourn the loss of a friend.

Angel’s help secured, all that remained was for the Host to find a hotspot.

Marvelling at how the cold and threatening place had once felt warm and inviting, Wesley turned and left the hotel.


Chapter 2

Angel continued his lonely trek up the stairs, the welcome sound of a slamming door reaching his ears. Pent up tension slowly began to leave his body. It seemed Wesley couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Angel didn’t blame him for that; the hotel wasn’t a comfortable place to be. He didn’t want comfort, comfort had made him weak.

Silence had returned. Alone again, Angel had forgotten the noise of his human companions. Before his past had returned to cloak Angel Investigations in darkness it had been a hive of human activity. Each day he would descend into an orgy of sounds and scents. Wesley’s aftershave, Gunn’s favourite metal polish, and the alluring scent of Cordelia’s apple and cinnamon shampoo would overwhelm his keen senses.

Hearts beating and pumping blood. Lungs expanding and contracting, pulling vital air into fragile bodies. Even their smallest movements would reach him in his upstairs hideaway, teasing him until he had no choice but to follow their trail. Noise. There was always noise, papers crisp with age being carefully turned, computer keys clacking, and the low hum of conversation. Humans lacked the true stillness of a vampire, a contrast that had led to many bell threats from Cordelia.

Cordelia… A faint smile quickly faded as dark reality reared its head. Angel would save Cordelia and gain the means to destroy Wolfram and Hart. Then he would walk away, again.

Angel entered his room, firmly closing the door. No one was there anymore to invade his privacy, but force of habit made him continue to use the flimsy wooden barriers.

Angel sank into the chair, stretching out long legs and tilting his head back. His body slowly began to relax, but his mind refused to follow. The pull of old ties was inescapable.

Cordelia…Always his thoughts drifted to her. Gold flashed in chocolate depths as fear swiftly dissolved into anger. Anger at Cordelia for getting into trouble…again, anger at Wesley and Gunn for allowing it to happen. He would save her, and then he would leave her. He had battles to fight that were too vicious for her tender soul to endure.

***

The welcoming light of Angel Investigations beckoned Wesley forward. He felt a small weight lift as he approached; he had successfully secured Angel’s help. They could now proceed with the next stage of their plan to rescue Cordelia. Drained, Wesley strove to push through the barriers of mental and physical exhaustion, bracing himself for the inevitable questions.

He pushed open the door, prepared to deliver the news that could not be considered bad, but would not be considered good. He was greeted by the sight of Gunn hunched over his favourite axe, once again polishing it to within an inch of its life. Honestly, if they didn’t rescue Cordelia there would be very little left of the weapon bar its handle.

In the far corner sat The Host…Lorne…reclining in one of the rickety office chairs. The soft chink of ice on glass drew Wesley’s attention to the pink drink in the demon’s hand; apparently the situation was dire enough to call for portable cocktails.

“So did the vamp take the bait, or do we have to switch to plan B?”

Gunn’s voice was loud in the quiet office, pulling Wesley from his contemplation of the garish cocktail. He glanced over at his friend. Axe in hand, Gunn looked almost hopeful that the backup plan would be needed.

“Angel has agreed to help. We’re meeting at sunset.” Their eyes held for a moment, before Gunn silently nodded his approval and returned his attention to the axe. This time testing the keenness of its edge, his mind filled with pleasant thoughts of the killing that was bound to come.

“So the Dark Avenger agreed to this little camping trip, did he?” Lorne took a deep swallow of sea breeze, pinning Wesley with his red-eyed gaze.

“I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.” Wesley’s flat tone did not invite further discussion. “Did you manage to find a hotspot?”

At the mention of the task he’d been set The Host perked up. “I found you the hottest spot in town. If word got out about this baby, we’d have to fight our way through C-list celebrities and their entourages. And you are not going to believe where it is…” The green demon trailed off, seeing that their leader really wasn’t interested in the irony of the hotspot’s location. He sighed, Cordelia would have appreciated it.

“Good. Then we’re ready. As soon as the sun sets we can be on our way.” Wesley automatically began to sift through books he’d already triple checked, determined to leave nothing to chance.

The Host’s head snapped up. “Whoa there Speedy Gonzales. Don’t you think we should take a minute to talk about the fact that one of our travelling companions for this trip is walking around with big, warning lights flashing in his aura?”

“I think we’re all aware that this isn’t the ideal situation, but if your home dimension is as dangerous as you say then we are going to need Angel’s assistance.” Wesley sighed and pulled off his glasses, massaging the bridge of his nose. The tension that had started in his neck was now radiating across his shoulders. As each hour passed their chances of finding Cordelia dwindled and the pressure mounted. “Our rescue will be of little use to Cordelia if we aren’t able to get out alive.” His tone was unintentionally harsh. Months of shouldering Angel’s roles as leader and now Cordelia missing were taking their toll.

Lorne threw up his hands in surrender. “Hey, let’s not shoot the messenger, especially when he’s on the rescue team. I’m just saying that I’ve read our dearly semi-departed friend and its one scary-ass chapter he’s stuck in.” Though visits to Caritas were rare since Angel began his mission of self-destruction, each encounter left the anagogic demon with a sinking feeling of dread. Angel was a time bomb, and to Lorne’s dismay, the wayward vampire was interested in diffusing the inevitable explosion.

“We know. Trust me. The vamp makes one wrong move…” Gunn hefted the axe and brought it down in a graceful arc…”he ain’t gonna need a return ticket.”

“Impressive display Conan.” Lorne rolled his eyes. “One I’m sure Angel will appreciate as he snaps your neck.” That said he tilted back his head, draining the last few drops of pink liquid from his glass.

“We have considered the risks Lorne, and we’re well aware that Angel cannot be trusted.” Wesley winced as the pounding in his head increased, a timely reminder to double his next dose of painkillers. “There is simply no other way to ensure a successful rescue without his help.” Wesley had to believe that he had made the right decision in including Angel, regardless of the vampire’s obvious desire to cut them from his life. Otherwise, he and Gunn were on their own.

“The big lug is in a bad place right now. His aura is dark, and it’s getting darker by the minute.” Lorne warned, recalling the seething pit of despair he’d seen on his last encounter with tall, dark and deadly. “Listen amigos, you’re in a sticky situation, because Pylea isn’t a place you want to go unless your packing muscle.” The Host stood, his afternoon cocktail splurge making his head swim. “And speaking of packing; I need to get a few can’t-do-withouts. Home sweet home it may be, but they have yet to discover the joys of soap…or hygiene…or…”

A rush of air blew through into the room as the door closed behind the green demon. Wesley and Gunn turned, each sending the other a pensive stare. They had accepted months ago that Angel was no longer a friend. He had become brutal, giving in to the demon nature inside; but more disturbing than that; he was unpredictable.

A heavy silence descended as each man considered the grave situation they now found themselves in. Neither could quite comprehend how they had come to be in this predicament; Cordelia lost and in mortal danger, and having to bargain with Angel to gain his co-operation. Hopefully circumstances couldn’t get any worse.

“Man this sucks.”

“Indeed it does.”

***

To say that Cordelia Chase was having a bad day was the understatement of the century. Abandoned by her champion, forced from the agency she had helped build, and now fate had decided to deliver its cruellest blow. Sucked into a dimension where humans were considered less than cattle, she had been reduced to being a packhorse for a hideously unattractive woman with an apparent tick in her thumb.

Shackled and weighted down like a beast of burden, there was only one person to blame. This is all Angel’s fault, the angry chant echoed inside Cordelia’s head as she silently ticked off every wrong the ornery vampire had committed.

The bustle of the marketplace did nothing to distract Cordelia from the burning ache in her shoulders and the grate of the metal collar around her neck. Somewhere along the way the big cosmic plan had got screwed up. And as with every bad turn these last few months, this one led straight back to her defunct hero.

You’re all fired…Don’t make me move you…I’m a vampire, look it up… Cordelia gave herself a mental shake, not wanting to walk the gauntlet that was memory lane. Angel didn’t want or need her. The painful truth was that he didn’t care about her.

“You’re about to spill my viper’s milk.”

The shrill voice cut into her thoughts, and Cordelia attempted to shift the weight of a particularly heave bucker as her new owner whipped around to face her.

“Well, I – I’m sorry.” Covered in sweat and grime from her duties as packhorse, fear of punishment was momentarily pushed aside. “It’s just if I wasn’t carrying every…”

A familiar pressure began to build behind her eyes, followed by an even more familiar burn in her skull. “Oh no. Not a vis…” Cordelia’s last coherent thought fell silent as he dropped to the ground. I’m gonna kill Wesley and Gunn if they don’t rescue me soon.


Chapter 3

“Fascinating.”

“Why ain’t he on fire?”

“Angel, how do you feel?” His eyes alight with enquiry, and watcher’s curiosity outweighing natural caution, Wesley slowly approached.

Contemplating the question, Angel regarded his inquisitor in silence; but when Wesley’s hands fisted as though fighting the urge to prod a strange anomaly, he stepped back from the intrusion.

Getting no response, Wesley wrenched his curious stare away and turned back to his companions. “Well it is another dimension.” Unable to give up, he continued to theorise. “Perhaps the Pylean sun-“

“Back up, Copernicus. That’s suns. Plural.” Lorne jumped in, pointing at the vast blue horizon.

“Suns, yes…interesting.” Eyes narrowed in concentration, his index finger methodically tapping his chin, Wesley mulled over the possibility. “Perhaps they don’t have the same effect on vampires in this dimension.”

“Who cares that the vamp ain’t on fire. We”re here to find Cordy.”

Gunn’s challenge jolting him from his brief contemplation, Wesley’s attention veered to his antsy companion. His quelling look met with a stiff resolve, Wesley instead nodded his agreement. “Quite right.”

Tension defining every line of his body, his eyes continued their ceaseless scanning of the surround area. After his momentary surprise of Angel not bursting into a flaming mass of hair gel and leather, Gunn was ready to get down to business. Besides, Gunn reasoned as he considered their temporary alliance, the vampire was hired muscle, not an experiment for Wesley.

Standing on the other side of the car, Lorne tuned out the two men. His attention was focused on more threatening matters. He had caught a flash of…something in the brooding vampire, but before he could read Angel’s aura it had disappeared in a swirling mass of beige.

Sending up a prayer to whatever deity watched over his homeland, Lorne hoped Cordelia’s rescue would be quick, and that his limited supply of alcohol had survived the trip. Pylea without the numbing effects of a good sea breeze was too awful to imagine.

“Which way Lorne?” As intended, Angel’s terse tone drew their attention.

Wesley and Gunn interrupted their concentrated survey of the surrounding area; ad jolted from his private devotions as Angel stalked across the narrow clearing, Lorne met dark eyes that warned against any invasion of privacy.

Lorne gave himself a hug, staving off the goose bumps rising up at Angel’s threatening glare. He had his own problems at the moment, confronting a past he had hoped would never catch up with him.

“We should head into town. I have a friend there who’s like the National Enquirer of this dimension. If there’s any news on Cordy, Blix will have the scoop.”

“Very good then. We’ll hide the car and be on our way.” Without further explanation, Wesley began gathering brush to cover the convertible, Lorne and Gunn silently following his lead.

Remaining off to one side, Angel watched the men work, making no move to help. The relentless Pylean suns beating down on eternally cool skin, he felt the warmth spread over his back. Eyes closed tight, Angel ignored his companions, and drawing in the sun-warmed air, he allowed himself a brief moment of peace. He hadn’t felt anything in months, except the cold. He could risk feeling something.

The muted murmurs breaking through his brief armistice, Angel opened his eyes, immediately squinting against the unfamiliar glare. Reality reared its ugly head, and the cold took back its place. A vampire belonged in the dark, found clarity in the shadows. It was pretending to live in the light that caused confusion.

His purpose was clear. He was there to save Cordelia and gain the means to destroy his enemy. “Let’s do this.”

Wesley pitched the last branch onto the massive heap already covering the car. “Which way then?”

Suddenly the centre of attention, Lorne pointed across the clearing.

“Let’s move.” Gunn took the lead. “I wanna find Cordy, quick.”

Lorne trailed in his wake, apprehension growing with every step. “Me too. If I know Pylea, she could probably use a friend right about now.

***

Flickering torchlight caused shadows to dance across the faces of those leering down at her, rendering their countenances even more ghoulish. Cordelia winced, even the dim lighting was too much for her post-vision super sensitive eyes, and the low hum of voices was like a drill in her head. She could only lie on the dirt covered floor and pray that whatever was coming would be quick, painless, and most of all, quiet.

Her vision had sparked off a chain reaction, and in a world where she was considered no more than a beast of burden, Cordelia was guessing that the final link wouldn’t be a pat on the back and a trip to the mall. This dimension, Pylea, was a brutal place where physical strength was placed above all else. If you were at the bottom of the food chain then you didn’t stand a chance. Like that girl, Fred, dragged off to face God knows what just because she was hungry.

Cordelia squeezed her eyes shut, mentally willing Wes and Gunn to burst in and save her. They didn’t, of course, and she once again cursed their lateness. Cordelia didn’t doubt that her friends were coming, but their timing totally sucked. If there was ever a time for a heroic entrance then now was it.

A hush descended on the room and Cordelia looked up to see a red-robed figure approaching. Guess this is where I find out if I get that trip to the mall”She stared into dark eyes, filled with a mixture of disdain and fanaticism, not a combination that inspired confidence.

“We must discover beyond all doubt if the girl is cursed with the sight.” His deep voice reverberated through the chamber, silencing the crowd. “We will commence the test.”

Not the words I wanted to hear. “Test” But I haven’t studied.” Her quip drew no response. “Not much with the humour, are you guys?”

Robed men grasped Cordelia’s arms, holding her firmly in place. Her eyes widened in fear as Silas approached with a long, pointed implement. Not a written test then, she thought hysterically.

“Now we shall see if you are truly cursed, my child. I pray you are not.”

Cordelia’s screams echoed round the room, and she cursed the fate that had given her the visions. Her only hope was that the heroic rescue would arrive before her test was graded. Surely Wes and Gunn couldn’t be that far away.

***

“Oh yeah, that went well.” The sarcasm in Gunn’s voice was hard to miss as he glanced around the cell and then down at the chains binding his wrists.

“Well?” Fingers methodically stroking his chin, Wesley paused in his examination of the solid rock walls surrounding them. “We were rather outnumbered.”

“You think? Man, it was fifty to one out there.”

Pacing the length of the cell, Gunn replayed the fight in his head. The brief elation felt at finally getting to cause some damage had quickly faded as realisation had sunk in. The odds were against them, and they were going to lose. “Things mighta gone a whole lot easier if someone had been a team player.” He said louder then necessary, fixing the vampire’s broad back with an accusing stare.

The solid mass of black leather didn’t even flinch at the anger directed its way, and knowing it best to ignore Angel’s cool indifference while trapped, Gunn settled for working out his frustrations on the restraints. He yanked hard, and when they failed to give even a little he grunted in annoyance. “Must be made out of some kind of magical alloy.”

Wesley’s ears perked up. “Really, how can you tell?”

Anger and frustration were being relieved with forced discussions that were slowly wearing on threadbare nerves. And taking the few shot strides needed to reach the far side, Angel distanced himself as much as their confined space would allow and concentrated on tuning out the pointless chatter.

The fight ending almost as quickly as it had started had done little to release weeks of built up tension. And Gunn was right, Angel reluctantly conceded; he had held back. Pylea was bombarding him with new sensations, some familiar, some not. The feeling of sunlight on his face was an anomaly, but the burning itch that was getting worse with each passing minute was not. He felt it moving under his skin. A new desire for violence, deeper and darker than before. His demon rattled the bars of its cage, sensing that release was close, that it could rein terrible destruction on this new dimension. So Angel had fought, reluctantly, cautiously.

Drawing in a deep breath to steady frayed nerves, Angel forced back the violent yearnings; and instead focused on the guards conversing outside the door. They mentioned a test, and a girl with the sight. Cordelia.

Cordelia was alone, held captive by a merciless tormentor. How many times had he played that role, revelling in the screams of his victims” Too many to remember, and anguish swelled as memory became reality. Another familiar itch scratched beneath his skin. This one inherently protective. The temptation to set loose his true nature grew as the struggle to contain it dwindled.

“Do you think Lorne’s alright?” Gunn’s question broke through the rising haze of violence.

“I”m sure he’s fine. The probably just-“

“Quiet.”

Two heads snapped round at the growled command, neither man inclined to argue with the menace in Angel’s voice.

Dark eyes narrowed in concentration, Angel leaned into the door, straining to catch the last few words of the conversation as the guards moved off.

“…And judging from the screams that came out of her mouth…”

A deep growl resonated round the room, raising the hairs on Wesley’s neck. Back stiff, Wesley turned, facing down the disgruntled vampire. Angel was wound tight, fists clench and jaw locked; he was prepared to attack anything that crossed his path. Risking a quick glance at his comrade garnered little comfort. Gunn had immediately shifted his stance, primed and ready. Unfortunately it was Angel he was prepared to battle.

“Angel?” Wesley fell silent, waiting for a sign that his calm tone had gained attention. Detecting nothing he drew air into his lungs and realigned his ever- stiffening spine before stepping into the breach. “Is there a problem?”

Angel slowly turned, allowing Wesley to catch the fading flash of amber in his eyes. He fought for control, sliding his mask of cold indifference into place.

“The guards. They were talking about a girl…a girl with visions…”

Gunn started forward. “Cordelia?”

“They said they tested her.” Angel continued on, ignoring the interruption. “They said she screamed.” The sentence hung in the air, dread and anger drawing the group in closer.

Struggling to remain calm and rational, Wesley swallowed down the rising tide of fear. “So, now we know they have Cordelia. That certainly makes things easier.”

“Got a plan, English?” A gleam of hope returned to Gunn’s eyes.

“They mentioned taking us before their ruler for sentencing. That should give us an opportunity to escape, and with any luck, find Cordelia.” Order returned to Wesley’s mind and he began to work through the logistics of the plan. “It will only work if we all stick together.” He added, casting Angel a searching look.

“No problem.” Angel dropped Wesley’s gaze and turned his attention to the area outside their cell. Rescuing Cordelia meant first taking out the guards as quickly and quietly as possible. He decision was immediate. Three guards, six seconds, and when administered correctly, a snapped neck was soundless. “You just worry about keeping your part of the deal.”

***

Heavy shackles scraped across the stone floor, as Cordelia’s would be rescuers shuffled towards their impending fate. A guard yelled for the prisoners to halt, thrusting his blade into their path. Surrounded by cold, sharp steel, the three men regarded the imposing double doors standing before them.

Curiosity battled against dread as Wesley tried to imagine the ruler of such a place; then with an almost uncontrollable shiver he realised he’s soon see first hand.

Gunn’s eyes held an unexpected glint as they ceaselessly scanned the room. Survival instincts worked out escape scenarios, but hope fell as each became more impossible than the last.

The vampire stood as though unmoved by the predicament. Angel had faced worse odds and lived to tell the tale. He glanced at his companions and thoughts returned to Cordelia. They hadn’t found any evidence that she was still alive, but they didn’t have proof that she wasn’t, and that gave him a surprising glimmer of hope.

He thoughtfully flexed his arms, feeling the weight of the chains at his wrists. In the rights hands they could be a lethal weapon, and Angel was seriously thinking of testing that theory. Wesley and Gunn would either follow his lead or not, either way people were going to die.

His eyes slid to his fellow captives. He would hold back, for now. Let the scene play out and see what information he could gather. If nothing useful came out, then the chains would get a test drive.

Across the room, Gunn slowly made his way to Wesley’s side, the restraints hampering his usually confident gait. “So, English, when does this great plan of yours kick in? I’m thinking before we’re all sentenced to a horrible death would be good.”

Stress brought out a natural streak of sarcasm, and having been bound in chains for a number of hours, Gunn was beginning to feel a lot of pent up energy.

“I wonder whether it might not be wise for us to meet their leader and determine exactly what kind of opponent we’re facing.” Wesley half mused aloud. Knowing one’s enemy was one of the first rules of battle, and Wesley liked to have all the facts in his possession before waging a war. Which is what he feared would happen if their escape went to plan, and Lord help them if Cordelia had been harmed.

“Good idea.” Gunn replied brightly. “We’ll go in, meet the head demon, have tea, and then have our heads cut off. Great plan Wes.”

Wesley shot his friend a disgruntled look. “I highly doubt they’d put us to death in the throne room. Hardly the done thing.” Secretly however he did have his doubts, and they’d be of little use to Cordelia dead.

“Sure, and these guys seem real big on manners. I say we make our move now. There’s only four guards. We won’t get a better chance.” The need for action caused an itch in his fingers, and Gunn clenched his fists to try and contain his desire to strike out.

Angel watched the argument play out from across the room. He too felt the need to unleash the building violence within him. A dark voice whispered in his head, telling him to tear the palace apart brick by brick, to kill anyone who stood in his way, until he found Cordelia.

His mind once again pictured the ease with which he could take out the guards and pleasure rose at the thought of exacting some small measure of revenge. Angel’s body tensed, he was ready to act with or without Wes” blessing. The deal was to rescue Cordelia, and right now that wasn’t happening.

Angel shifted his weight, readying himself. Before a move could be made sounds of a scuffle reached his ears and a rumpled Lorne was thrust into view.

Two out of the three occupants of the room broke into relieved grins at the sight of their friend. The third settled back into a relaxed stance at the sight of two additional guards and the constable in charge. Dark eyes slowly began to recalculate the odds.

“Lorne.” Wesley shuffled to meet the new arrival. “What did they do to you?”

The green demon made a show of dusting off his suit. “Oh, well, first there was the welcome home parade thrown in my honour. Ticker tape, streamers. Honestly, I’m so touched, I almost wept.” At the blank stares he gave up on sarcasm and moved on to the truth. “They locked me up, pushed me around and asked a few questions.” Lorne waved a dismissive hand and leaned in to whisper to Wesley. “So, what’s the plan?”

“Plan?”

“To escape. We are escaping, right?”

All the while Constable Narwek had been droning on, his voice rising to a crescendo as he reached the end of his speech.

“…Eater of Our Enemy’s Flesh, Prelate of the Sacrificial Blood Rites, and Sovereign Proconsul of Death, is prepared to pass sentence on upon you.”

The doors swung open and each man jostled for position and footing as the guards pushed them forwards, eagerly herding them to their doom. Distracted by a tangle of legs and chains the men failed to notice the regal figure perched atop a majestic throne.

The figure watched the comical sight of the four captives continuing to struggle for space, none of them even pausing to spare a glance for the room”s other, most important occupant.

One slender eyebrow rose, a throat cleared in irritation.

Four heads snapped up, mouths gaped and eyes went wide with shock at the sight of the beautiful and beguiling ruler of Pylea.

“Hi guys.”

TBC…

Anna

Posted June 19, 2015 by califi in TBC

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