Archive for July 6, 2015

Breakdown. 8   1 comment

Part 8

Hyperion Hotel
Los Angeles, California
June 30, 2003

Cordelia and Faith stepped lightly down the hotel’s stairs as they listened to Angel talking on the phone. It had been one week since that night in Serenity. The night where they killed Josiah.

It hadn’t taken long for the FBI to arrive at the small California town. To say the least, the agents had been shocked. They tried to compare it to Ruby Ridge or Waco. Cordelia imagine that if they could categorize it, list it along side other incidents, that they could deal with it easier. It didn’t work.

“Thank you, Agent Wilkins,” Angel said. “Yes, I’ll be sure to relay that information. Thank you. Good day.” Angel replaced the phone and sighed heavily. It just went to show: you didn’t have to be a demon to be evil.

“Who was that?” Cordelia asked.

Angel turned slightly towards his Seer. “That was Lela Wilkins of the FBI. She called to let us know what was going on.”

“What is happening?” Faith asked.

Angel hated this. When they arrived home that night a week ago, the girls told him about Andrea Ballinger. How they became friends with a girl that was stranded in that small town.

“They found Andrea,” he said. “They found her in a fresh grave behind the auto shop. The FBI’s forensic unit has been working day and night. They’ve unearthed over ninety bodies so far, and they think there still might be more.” Angel paused a second before continuing. “They say that some of the bones they found date back to the 1930’s.”

“Oh God,” Faith whispered. Both girls sat gingerly on stools next to the counter. They had been doing that to women for seventy years.

“What about the townspeople?” Cordelia asked.

Angel sighed again. This just kept getting tougher. “Agent Wilkins told me it’d be next to impossible to prosecute everyone. So they’ve indicted some of the town leaders. Sheriff Brady is one. The town banker is another. The entire town council, too. They’re going for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit. With all the bodies they’ve found, they say it won’t be a problem to get life imprisonment, maybe even the death penalty for a few of them. Brady in particular. They’ve also found other things.”

“Like what?” Cordelia almost didn’t want to know.

“They’ve searched the homes of the indicted parishioners. The FBI has found letters and manuscripts detailing some of the work they’ve done. It’s the main reason they believe there to be more bodies. Some of the documents date back to the late 1800’s.

“They’ve determined that the people of Serenity belonged to a divergent Christian sect. That the people believed if they found the right sacrifice, a woman deemed worthy, that they could bring forth God in human form.”

“That is such bullshit!” Faith exclaimed. “They wanted some demon to knock up Cordy! It’s sacrilegious to even call them Christian.”

“I know that, Faith,” Angel said calmly. “But this is the FBI we’re talking about. They don’t know about demons and all that. They have to work within the realm that they understand. Demons and vampires and witches are outside conventional wisdom.”

Faith was frustrated as hell. She pushed away from the counter angrily and stormed downstairs to the training room. Angel and Cordelia waited a few moments before following. They found her beating the stuffing from a punching bag.

“Faith,” Cordelia said softly. The slayer flinched at her name but continued to assault the bag.

“Faith,” Angel said louder. He approached her cautiously and spoke again. “Faith. Talk to us.”

Faith kicked the bag so hard it came off the hook. Panting from the exertion, she faced the vampire. “What do you want to talk about?” she yelled. “That a bunch of wackos killed a friend? That some town has been killing women for a century, all in the name of some demon? Well, I don’t want to talk about it. I want to beat the shit out of something.”

“Then beat me, Faith,” Angel told her. “But don’t walk away.” The vampire returned Faith’s glare until the young slayer broke down in tears. Faith slumped to the floor crying. Angel knelt down and wrapped an arm around her.

“I understand that you feel guilty for what happened to Andrea. That you could have done something to save her. But Faith, you didn’t know. You had no idea what they were doing. But in the end, you did something good. You helped stop these people from ever hurting anyone else. You helped families find some closer by returning their daughters to them.”

“Angel, I know that,” Faith said.

“Then what sweetie?”

Faith wiped the tears from her eyes and took whatever comfort she could from Angel’s embrace. “It’s just that Andrea was the first friend I ever made outside this group. You guys have been there for me, and I’m thankful for that. But she was someone new. Somebody else who could be my friend. The rational part of me says there was nothing I could do, but my soul says I could have done something.”

“I understand that,” Angel told her. “For so long you pretended you didn’t care. But now you feel guilt. For so long I didn’t have a soul. I caused so much pain and anguish. But then I received my soul. I felt guilt for all my crimes, but I also felt guilt for the people around me. That as atonement I should save everyone. But Faith, we can’t save everyone. It just isn’t possible. You just have to hope, that in the end, the victims didn’t die in vain.”

Faith cracked a small smile and gave a strangled laugh. “Having a conscience sucks.”

Angel smiled slightly as well. “Yes, it does.” Angel helped Faith to her feet. “Let’s go upstairs and clean up. And if it helps, the offer to beat me up still stands.”

“Thank you.”

The three walked back up to the lobby in silence. Faith then headed off to the bathroom to clean up, but Angel and Cordelia stayed behind.

“Are you okay?” Angel asked. “I know Andrea was important to you, too.”

“I’m fine,” she said. Off Angel’s look she continued. “Well, not exactly fine. But I’m dealing. I’m not quite as new to the whole feelings thing as Faith is. I feel sad for Andrea, but I’ll be okay.”

“Good,” Angel smiled slightly. “I’m glad.” The vampire pulled Cordelia close and kissed her softly. “I’m glad you’ll be okay.”

Faith came back, the tears washed away. “Ooh,” she teased lightly. “Am I missing the orgy?”

Cordelia laughed despite herself. “Shut up, Faith.”

Fred and Gunn burst through the Hyperion’s front doors in a hurry. “We got trouble,” Gunn said.

“What’s up?” Angel asked. Gunn made a beeline for the weapons cabinet and the gang followed.

“I just got a call on my cell about a gang of vampires squatting in an apartment downtown. Dude says there might be ten of them.”

“Then let’s grab some stakes and go.”

Angel tossed Cordelia her favorite sword, and handed Faith his spring-loaded wrist holsters. Faith quickly popped a stake in each one and strapped them on. “I could really go for whooping some ass.”

“You got it, Sweetie,” Angel told her. Loaded up, the gang strode out of the Hyperion, ready for action.

End

Liam

Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete

Breakdown. 7   1 comment

Part 7

Serenity, California
June 23 2003

“There will be no,” Cordelia emphasized each word with a punch, “bringing me forth. There will be no comshuking with the demon.” The last punch sent one of the parishioners flying.

“C’mon, Cordy,” Faith reasoned. “It couldn’t be all bad. I mean look at him. He’s probably hung like a horse.”

“Well, so is Angel, but size is hardly the point.” Cordelia kicked a parishioner in the temple. “It’s a matter of principle. There will be no insertion of any appendages below the waist.”

“Really?” Faith asked. “Angel’s hung like a horse?”

“Faith, shut up.” Both girls grabbed a man and head butted him.

“Hey! I’m just trying to make conversation. Trying to keep the situation relaxed. It’s not good to put too much pressure on yourself in a fight. Hinders performance.”

“Did you learn that in prison?” Cordelia asked. Both girls simultaneously delivered spinning heel kicks to parishioners.

“Nah. I learned how to hotwire cars in prison though.”

“Great,” Cordelia muttered. “At least I know my tax dollars are hard at work.”

When the parishioners once again ceased their attacks, both girls knew something was wrong. They realized very quickly what it was.

“Fools!” Josiah bellowed. “You cannot detain mere women? I shall do it myself!”

“Hey!” Faith yelled. “Who you calling ‘mere’?”

“Yeah!” Cordelia agreed. “We’re a demon and a slayer!”

“We kick ass!”

Josiah kicked aside the rubble easily and began to march on the girls. As the demon approached, both got a very clear look at how strong and large he was. The girls eased backwards as Josiah neared.

“Uh, Cordy?”

“Yeah?”

“I got your back.”

“Comforting.”
****

The truck zipped by the road sign proclaiming 15 miles to Serenity. No matter how far in the triple digits the speedometer went, Angel knew they weren’t going fast enough. His girls could be in danger, and he didn’t like that idea one damn bit.

“Angel? Could you not crush the door handle please?” Gunn asked.

Angel startled, and peered down at the door handle. Sure enough, it was cracking under his strong grip. “Sorry,” he muttered. “But if you’d drive faster.”

“Do not start that again!” Fred scolded. “I’m sick of it. We’ll get there when we get there. Now shut up!” Fred huffed and crossed her arms as she flopped back against the seat. Men were morons.

****

“Come here girl!” Josiah ordered.

“Not if you’re going to have that attitude,” Cordelia shot back.

The girls continued to slowly back away as Josiah continued to stalk. The demon grinned as he approached his prize. It was then that the inevitable happened. Something that Cordelia expected to happen much sooner.

Faith did something incredibly stupid.

“Enough of this!” Faith shouted and leapt at the colossus. Hands still bound, she delivered double punches to the demon’s gut and then a high kick to Josiah’s groin. He wasn’t even fazed.

“C’mon! I got you right in the jewels! You had to have felt that!”

Faith answer was a solid punch to the jaw that sent her flying. The slayer landed in a heap, right next to the executioner’s fallen axe.

“You are not worthy, insolent girl!” the demon shouted at the crumpled body of Faith. He then turned his attention back to Cordelia. “It is you that I want.”

“So I’ve been told. Listen, I’m from LA. What say I hook you up with some Southern California babes, huh? Maybe I could take you to Hollywood to meet some starlets? Demi Moore, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Cameron Diaz? Or maybe Melanie Griffith? You know she’s a Banghok demon, right? Could be right up your alley.”

Josiah merely leered at Cordelia, sensing that his prize would soon be won. “You are mine!” he bellowed. “I shall not be denied.”

“Cordelia!” Faith shouted. The rogue slayer was now on her feet and brandishing the executioner’s axe. “Catch!”

Faith threw the axe to Cordelia who caught it easily. Rearing back, Cordelia built up as much potential energy as she could before letting loose.

The axe was true in its course. Flipping end over end, the thick blade finally embedded itself in Josiah’s forehead. The demon groaned in shock before dropping to his knees. It lingered like that for several long moments before Josiah fell on his side.

The parishioners all gathered around their fallen idol. The body of Josiah began to slowly melt away as the crowd stared in shock and sorrow.

“You know what’s better protection than a condom?” Cordelia asked. “A hurling axe.”

Brady was furious. “You insolent whore!” he shouted. “You had the chance to be the mother of a living God! The chance to bear the child that would lead our people! For your stupidity, you will die!”

Faith tapped the sheriff on the shoulder to get his attention. Brady spun around, only to be greeted by a pair of fists in his face and a knee to his groin. “You talk too much,” Faith told him. Faith tossed him to the ground. Kneeling down, she dug in his pockets and found what she wanted.

“Handcuff keys!” she shouted gleefully. She quickly unlocked her own and tossed the key to Cordelia, who followed suit. “Did we do good?” Faith asked.

“We’re still alive. That gives us bonus points.”

“But Andrea isn’t,” Faith said, sorrow seeping into her voice. Cordelia had no response to that.

The truck carrying Angel, Fred, and Gunn chose that moment to stop at the entrance to the clearing. All three hopped out of the truck brandishing weapons.

“Cordy, Faith!” Angel called. “Are you two okay?”

“We’re fine,” Cordelia assured him. “But we need to get the police here.”

Fred and Gunn stared at the parishioners and the pile of ooze where Josiah once stood. Angel pulled the two girls that mattered most to him closer. Something very bad happened, he knew. Something that he couldn’t fix.

Part 8

Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete

Breakdown. 6   1 comment

Part 6

Serenity, California
June 23, 2003

“Cordy?”

“Yeah?”

“Next time we go on a road trip, remind me to pack my bazooka.”

“No problem.”

With their hands bound behind their backs, the girls were being led down a pathway in the center of a cornfield. Four guards followed close behind as they walked through the middle of two aisles of parishioners dressed in dark cloaks. As they reached the large clearing, Faith couldn’t resist herself.

“Ooh, bonfire. Pretty.”

“Silence!” one of the guards shouted. He punched Faith in her lower back as a warning.

“Gotta love a man that’s not afraid to hit a woman,” she aloud. She was rewarded with another shot to the back.

The parishioners began to move past the idle girls, carrying their torches and chanting in Latin.

“Any idea what they’re saying?” Faith whispered.

“My Latin is a tad rusty, but I think they’re saying something like ‘All hail the Sugar Plum Fairy’,” Cordelia answered.

“Silence!” the guard bellowed again, this time delivering shots to both girls.

When the parishioners came to a stop, Brady appeared, wearing his red cloak and taking his place behind the stone bench near the large boulder. When he motioned, the guards poked and prodded until Faith and Cordelia began to move again. When they finally reached the bench, the guards forced Faith to her knees. Cordelia was forced to stay back.

Brady pulled out the ground powders from his robe and tossed them at the boulder. He spoke loudly in Latin for several long minutes before falling silent. When he completed the ritual, the boulder began to glow a blinding white light. When the light finally dimmed, Faith was hauled away from the bench, and Cordelia was thrown in her place.

Brady went through the ritual once more, but this time, when the chanting stopped, the boulder began to glow a bright bluish-green. The parishioners began to roar in excitement.

Brady turned and faced Faith. “Josiah has deemed you.unworthy.” He then turned to Cordelia. “Josiah has deemed you.worthy.”

“Pfft!” Faith sputtered. “How come I’m never the worthy one?”
****

“Can you drive this rust bucket any fucking faster?” Angel shouted at Gunn.

“Hey dude, just chill out!” Gunn shouted back. “And don’t call Wilma a rust bucket!” Gunn took one hand off the wheel to stroke the dashboard affectionately.

“Wilma?” Fred asked incredulously. “You named your truck Wilma?”

Gunn shrugged his shoulders, failing to see the big deal. “What? I liked ‘The Flintstones’ as a kid.”

“Really?” Fred asked. “I loved ‘The Flintstones’. But I think ‘Johnny Quest’ was the greatest.”

“Can we talk about cartoons another time?” Angel asked. “Besides, you’re both wrong. ‘Scooby Doo’ was the greatest. Now can you drive faster?”

Gunn sighed, mentally counting all the reasons why he shouldn’t and couldn’t stake the vampire. Gunn stepped further onto the gas until the needle hit 95. “If I wrap myself around a light pole, you’re the son of a bitch that’s getting me a new truck.”

“If you wrap this car around a light pole, I’m the only son of a bitch that will survive it.”

Gunn muttered a few curses before putting the needle closer to 100.
****

“Worthy?” Cordelia shouted. “Worthy for what?”

“Josiah has chosen you,” Brady explained. “He has decided that you will bear the child that shall lead our people. He shall come forth to sow his seed.”

“Sow his seed?” Faith asked. “Is that anything like fucking?”

Brady turned to glare at Faith. “Why is she still alive?” he called out.

The axe man pulled out his blade from his robes and moved towards the bound slayer.

“Hey Faith!” Cordelia shouted.

“Yeah?”

“Now might be a good time to start whooping ass.”

Faith grinned widely. “It’s about damn time.” Faith dropped backwards onto her back and kicked the two guards next to her in the groin. She then showed off her slayer flexibility by sliding her handcuffed hands over her feet. With a quick kick, Faith was back on her feet and ready for action.

Cordelia followed suit by giving a quick leg sweep to the two guards hovering over her. When they went down, Cordelia whipped her bound hands over her feet and joined Faith in a defensive position.

“How you wanna work this?” Faith asked.

“I’ll take the thirty on the left, you get the fifty on the right?”

The parishioners began to circle the girls and prepared to attack. “Works for me,” Faith grunted as she roundhouse kicked her first attacker. She grinned as she broke the nose of her second attacker. “Now this is what I signed on for!”

“Don’t get cocky!” Cordelia shouted back. Cordy delivered a vicious shot to one man, and a spinning heel kick to another. “Man, I kick ass,” she said to herself.
****

Angel groaned as they passed the sign saying 35 miles to Serenity. “C’mon, Gunn!” he shouted. “I could run and get there faster!”

“You want me to pull over and test that assessment?” Gunn asked. “Because if it means I can quit hearing your bitching about my driving, it’s all good.”

“Would you both stop acting like a couple of bastards?” Fred shouted. Both fell silent at Fred’s rare use of profanity. “I swear, you’re both like a couple of pre-school brats sometimes. If you both don’t behave, I’m going to make Charles pull this car over, and I’m going to beat you both.”

Angel and Gunn both stared at the peeved brunette. “This is your girlfriend,” Angel reminded him. “Do something with her.”

But Gunn knew better. “Dude, you’re on your own. Now do as she says, and shut up. Maybe we’ll survive the drive.”
****

Cordelia ducked and rammed her bound fists into the groin of an attacker. She jumped up and grabbed the man by the cloak and tossed him, knocking down three more men.

“Hey Faith!” she shouted.

“What?” Faith shouted back. She delivered a sharp knee to one man’s gut, then delivered a spinning kick to another. “I’m kinda busy!”

“Don’t be a smart ass!” Cordy shouted. “How you doing?”

Faith kneed a man in the face, the tossed him aside. “I’m fine. You?”

A kick to the throat sent another man flying. “Okay,” Cordy said. “Getting kinda tired though.”

The banter was interrupted as the earth began to rumble. “What the hell is that?” Faith shouted.

“Josiah!” a parishioner called out. “He has come forth to claim his mate!”

“Hey!” Cordelia shouted. “I’ve already got a mate, thank you very much.”

The parishioners ceased their attack and stared as the boulder continued to rumble. Baseball sized stones began to fall off the edges, and large cracks began to form along the sides.

“No good will come of this,” Faith observed.

“You think?” Cordy shot back.

The boulder then exploded, sending stone flying in all directions. Finally, the parishioners screamed, Josiah has come forth!

Standing where the boulder once was stood Josiah. Standing over eight feet tall, the demon surveyed his domain. Muscles ripped over his bronzed skin. Horns curled around his head like a ram. Long brown hair dropped down to his waist, where a long black tail whipped about.

“Where is The One?” he bellowed in a deep, otherworldly voice. “Bring her forth!” It was then that his eyes locked onto Cordelia.

“Aw man,” she groaned. “What is it with demons trying to get me pregnant?”

Part 7

Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete

Breakdown. 5   1 comment

Part 5

Serenity, California
June 23, 2003

“Are you certain, Henrietta?” Sheriff Brady asked. “Josiah would be displeased if we showed poor judgment.”

“I’m certain, Sheriff,” Henrietta. “She healed Annabeth with her power. She touched my daughter and began to glow. Annabeth’s fever broke.”

“It’s true,” Henrietta’s sister, Mary, said. “I saw her yesterday evening. Annabeth was very sick. But this morning she was playing in the yard as if nothing were wrong.”

The group murmured in excitement. After all these years, had they finally found The One? It was almost too good to be true. But after so much prayer, Josiah was bound to eventually show them The One.

“Should we begin to make the arrangements?” a man in the back asked.

“Yes!” the crowd shouted. “We should take her before Josiah! He will certainly be pleased!”

Brady couldn’t help but become caught up in the enthusiasm. If what Henrietta said was true, then their search was finally over. All their hard work would finally be rewarded.

“Yes,” Brady said, much to the delight of the group. “We shall take her before Josiah tonight. We must be ready to perform the ceremony. He will certainly be pleased with this girl.”

****

Faith yawned as she threw back the sheets. She propped herself against the headboard and stretched, trying to work the sleep out of her limbs. As she wiped the sleep from her eyes, she noticed the other bed was empty.

“Cordy?”

The Seer chose that moment to step through the front door, cell phone in hand. “Hey,” she smiled slightly. “About time you woke up.”

“What time is it?” Faith asked.

“Almost noon,” Cordelia said. Cordy smiled as that information sunk into the dazed head of Faith.

“Fuck. Why didn’t you wake me?”

“No reason to. I went by the garage. They’re saying they should get our radiator tomorrow.”

“Kick ass. That mean we’ll be gone tomorrow?”

“Or maybe tonight.” Faith looked on in confusion. “I called Angel. He, Fred, and Gunn are going to leave around sunset. They think they can be here around eleven or so.”

“Kick ass,” Faith yawned. “Maybe then we can figure out what the hell is going on here.”

****

“Do you want to take this?” Fred asked. She held up a hurling axe for Angel’s inspection.

“Yes, I do,” Angel answered as he loaded his crossbow. “Gunn?” he called out. “You ready?”

Gunn walked through the courtyard doors. “Yeah. I got the swords we wanted all loaded up. Just a matter of waiting for the sun to go down now.”

“Which is still two hours away,” a frustrated Angel said. He didn’t like the idea of Faith and HIS Cordelia being all alone in a bad situation. He loved Cordelia more than anyone, and he had come to see Faith as a daughter or little sister. He didn’t like it when his girls were in trouble.

“Dude, remember what I said. Faith and Cordy are big girls. They can handle themselves in a fight.”

“I know, I know. But make sure you’re ready. Because as soon as the sun goes down, we better be on the highway.”

****

Serenity, California
Just before sunset

“Are you sure we should be doing this?” Faith asked. “I mean, with Angel coming, shouldn’t we wait for him?”

Faith trailed a few steps behind Cordelia as they waded through the brush leading to the clearing behind the garage. Faith had spent most of the afternoon researching, and had come up with more disturbing bits of information.

The body count had risen to eighteen in the past six years. None of the missing girls had ever been found. According to Faith’s research, somebody finally raised an eyebrow and a pair of FBI agents came out in early 2000. From what Faith could find, they stayed about a week before growing frustrated with the locals. The official report spoke of the possibility of transients being responsible for the disappearances.

“We’re just going to do a little recon,” Cordelia assured her. “Since you pulled the information regarding what cars these women drove off the Internet, we might as well see if any of them are here.”

“Fine,” Faith said. This place was freaking her out more than she cared to admit. And with backup coming, she didn’t want to make some stupid mistake that would get them both killed.

Both women flipped on their flashlights as the sun dipped below the horizon. Faith pulled out her copy of the car list as the girls split up. Faith’s blood began to run cold as she found four matching car makes. After several minutes of searching, Faith and Cordelia made their way back to each other.

“How many you got?” Cordy asked.

“Four. You?”

“Three.”

The girls sighed as they stared at each other. They had seven possible matches. Seven girls that were possible victims of the town of Serenity.

“Okay,” Cordy said. “Let’s go back and wait for the others. We got some evidence now. Maybe we can run with it.”

“What’s that?” Faith questioned.

Cordelia was confused by the question until she realized Faith was pointing her flashlight at the brush in the opposite direction that they had arrived. The girls stepped closer until they realized it was a path leading away from the highway. Cordelia took the lead as they cautiously stepped along the dusty trail.

They followed the path for thirty yards until they reached another clearing. They shined their flashlights around. Both were horrified at what they saw.

“Oh God,” Faith whispered “Cordelia. Are those…”

“I think so,” Cordelia said, equally shocked.

They stepped forward slowly, both trying to avoid stepping on the mounds littering the clearing.

“These are graves, aren’t they?”

“I think so,” Cordelia said softly.

Dozens of mounds covered the open area. And all about the size needed to bury a full-grown woman.

“This is where they put them,” Faith said. “After they’ve…” She couldn’t even say the word aloud. “There has to be sixty, maybe seventy graves here. My God, Cordelia, what the hell are these bastards doing?”

Tens of bright lamps suddenly lit around the area, blinding them both momentarily. “We have been searching,” a voice called out. “We have been searching for The One.”

The voice stepped forward, a rifle in hand. Both recognized him as the sheriff. “And now our search may be over.” Brady turned away from the girls and spoke to the crowd. “Grab them.”

Several men rushed forward from all directions, catching both girls flat-footed. In moments, both were bound in handcuffs. “Now you both shall be judged,” Brady told them.

“Cordy?” Faith said.

“Yeah?” Cordelia answered.

“I wish we were home.”

Cordelia glared at the sheriff in contempt. “What? And miss all this? This is supposed to be the fun part of the job.”

Part 6

Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete

Breakdown. 4   1 comment

Part 4

Serenity, California
June 22, 2003

“She was in this town,” Faith said. “She was here and the townspeople did something to her.” Emotions were a real bitch. Times like this, Faith almost wished she were still a sociopath.

“I think so,” Cordelia agreed. “I snooped around back of the garage. God, Faith, you should have seen how many cars were there. If they are doing something, then they’ve done it several times before.”

“I know,” Faith said. “At least six times if my research is accurate.”

“What do you mean?”

“I dug around in local newspapers some more. In the last thirty months, I found cases of six women disappearing within a few mile radius of Serenity. None have been found.”

Cordelia slid against the door as she contemplated that knowledge. Something bad was happening in this town.

“What do you think they did to Andrea?” Faith asked. The fear and sorrow in her voice wasn’t lost on Cordelia. The same emotions were playing in her own mind.

“I don’t know. But we sure as hell are going to find out.” Cordelia stood up and went over to her closet. She grabbed some clean clothes and headed to the bathroom. “I’m going to take a shower. Afterwards, we’ll go get some food at the diner. We’ll make conversation, maybe get somebody to tip his or her hand.”

“Cordy, if we go around and start asking questions, how is that going to look? Wouldn’t that put us in danger? I mean, we can’t figure out what happened to these girls, what happened to Andrea, if the people suspect we know something.”

“I don’t know if we really have a choice,” Cordelia said.

“What about calling the FBI or something? If there are murders going on, wouldn’t they respond to it?”

“Murder’s not federal jurisdiction,” Cordelia explained. “Besides, who knows how long it would take to get them here, if at all. The only solid evidence we have is a photo in a car. The rest is just conjecture.”

Cordelia could easily see that Faith was frustrated by the lack of options. So was she, but they had to play the hand they were dealt. It would have to be them to uncover the mystery surrounding this town.

“I’ll just be a second, then we’ll go eat. Faith, I promise, we will figure out what is going on.”

“I still think we should call Angel,” Faith said.

“I tell you what. If something weird happens tonight, we’ll call him. I’ll have him send backup. Until then, I think we can handle this. Remember, we’re a demon and a Slayer.”

“We kick ass,” Faith smiled slightly.

“Damn right.”

****

Sitting at the diner’s counter, Cordelia and Faith surveyed the scene. A decent crowd was gathering for dinner. Maybe one of these poor saps would be the one to slip up.

After deciding on what they wanted, both girls handed the waitress back the menus. They had a very simple game plan. Cordelia would take the lead in any conversations. Faith would follow her example and try to reiterate key questions.

Faith sipped on her Coke as she watched Cordelia try to decide whom she would talk to. Faith knew it would be best if she kept as silent as possible. She could admit her temper had a tendency to be short. It would be far too easy for her to make a mistake. Although Cordelia wasn’t exactly the most rational mind around, she was the more experienced investigator.

“This is a pretty nice town,” Cordelia commented. “You get many visitors around these parts?”

The waitress, Dorothy, set the food down before the girls. Chicken for Cordelia, roast beef for Faith. The slayer dipped a biscuit into her mashed potatoes as Cordelia made with the conversation.

“We get a few,” Dorothy replied. “And this is a nice town. Maybe a little small for some people, but we like it.”

“I can see why,” Cordelia said. “You’re away from the hustle and bustle of a big city like LA. It must be nice to not have to deal with the noise and pollution.”

“It is indeed,” Dorothy agreed. “It makes life a lot easier when you don’t have to put up with millions of other people.”

“I’ll second that.”

Faith spoke for the first time. “We were wondering something. We had a friend that came through town not too long ago. Haven’t spoken to her in a while, her name is Carol Emerson. Did you happen to see her? Pretty, red hair?”

Dorothy’s face went blank, her eyes lost all humor and benevolence. “I don’t think so. We normally remember all our visitors. When would she have come through?”

“About two weeks ago,” Cordelia said. “Would have been driving a black Pontiac?”

“No,” Dorothy said again. “Like I said, we normally remember our visitors. And I don’t remember anyone like that coming through. Do you boys remember someone coming through a couple weeks ago?”

A couple of men in their early twenties shook their heads in the negative. Neither Faith nor Cordelia liked the way they were looking at them.

“Our mistake then,” Cordelia said. “She told us she would be heading through here. Must have taken the interstate then.”

“Must have,” Dorothy said with a fake smile.

Cordelia and Faith then began to eat their meals in silence, but now they knew. Dorothy was lying out her ass. The relative peace of the diner was broken when a woman rushed in. She looked to be in her early thirties, and she was very scared.

“Does anyone know where Doctor Johnson is?” she asked in a desperate voice.

“He’s visiting family in Oakland,” someone called out.

“What’s wrong Henrietta?” Dorothy asked

“Annabeth is running a 103 degree fever. I can’t get her to keep anything in her stomach either.”

The woman seemed quite stricken. Faith elbowed Cordelia to get her attention. “Maybe you should say something,” she whispered.

“Say what?” Cordy whispered back.

“Well, you got all those cool demon powers, maybe you could do something for her kid. It couldn’t hurt to try.”

Cordelia considered for a moment. It was finally the pleading look Faith gave her that broke Cordelia’s resolve. “Okay.” Cordelia stood to get the woman’s attention. “Maybe I could take a look at your daughter. I used to be a nurse,” Cordelia lied.

The woman rushed over to Cordelia, the relief evident on her face. “Could you? Please, I need someone to help my daughter!”

Cordelia gave Faith a quick glance before saying, “Sure. Lead the way.”

***

Cordelia and Faith followed Henrietta to a small two-story house on Railroad Street. Henrietta quickly showed the pair to her daughter’s room. Cordy and Faith both gasped at the sight.

The child only looked to be about six years old. Sweat matted the young girl’s hair to her forehead. Annabeth’s skin could hardly be contrasted against the white sheets she was so pale. The only color the child seemed to have was red around the eyes.

“Could you please leave for a moment?” Cordelia asked politely. “I’d like to examine her privately.”

Henrietta quickly agreed. If she could help her child, she would do as the woman asked. Faith shut the door behind the worried mother as Cordelia moved closer to the child.

“I don’t know what it is you think I can do,” Cordelia said. “I received a lot of market extras with the demon package, but I don’t think the Florence Nightingale thing came with.”

“Cordelia, you see this girl. The doctor’s not here and she needs help. The least we can do is take a look.”

Cordelia once more marveled at the mental changes that Faith seemed to have undergone. She never expected the rogue slayer to give a crap about other people, but here she was, worried sick over a missing friend and a sick child.

“Okay. Maybe I got some mojo that could work here.”

Cordelia took a deep breath and placed her left hand on the child’s forehead, and her right hand on the child’s chest. She continued to breath deeply and concentrate. For several minutes, nothing happened. Faith was about to lose hope when Cordelia began to glow.

In the short time Faith had worked at AI, she had never seen Cordelia do this. She had heard about it, but damn was it amazing. The room was lit brightly for a period of time Faith couldn’t even remember. She was so caught in the fact that it was her friend that was doing this.

When the glowing finally stopped, Cordelia slumped against the small table next to the bed. Faith rushed to Cordy’s side. “Are you okay?” Faith asked.

“I think so,” a dazed Cordelia answered. “Is Annabeth okay?”

Faith quickly turned to the small child and placed her hand on Annabeth’s forehead. The smile that lit Faith’s face gave Cordelia her answer. “I think her fever broke,” Faith grinned. “You did it, Cordelia.”

Cordelia smiled tiredly at her friend. “All in a day’s work.”

Neither woman noticed that the bedroom door was opened a crack. Nor did they notice the shocked look that Henrietta wore after witnessing the incident.

“Josiah,” she whispered. “She’s The One.”

Part 5

Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete

Breakdown. 3   1 comment

Part 3

Serenity, California
June 22, 2003

Faith slipped on her shades as she held open the diner door for Cordelia. It was 8:30 in the morning, and also bright and hot as hell. As Cordelia appeared, she squinted a moment before finding her own shades.

“I wonder why Andrea didn’t come to breakfast?” Faith wondered.

“Maybe the garage got her car fixed sooner than expected,” Cordelia reasoned. Both were disappointed that their new friend may have already left. But she knew where they were from, and Andrea seemed eager to get together again sometime.

“That blows,” Faith commented earnestly. “Guess it’s just you, me, and the Andy Griffith Show rejects. I tempted to see if Floyd the Barber is running a special.”

“You have no couth,” Cordelia told her.

“And you have no tact.”

“Touché.”

The pair soaked in the sun’s morning rays for a moment before deciding a course of action. They’d go to the garage and get a status report on their car. They could also see if Andrea had left.

They set out on the highway to walk the half-mile to Joe Bob Henry Carl’s repair shop. The morning was very hot, and neither looked forward to the afternoon in a hotel room with a shitty AC.

When they finally arrived at the repair shop, Henry sadly informed them it’d be another day or two before the new radiator would be coming in. When they asked if Andrea had left, Henry explained they had installed her carburetor the night before, and she had left early that morning.

“That sucks ass,” Faith said. Cordelia grunted in reply. The two turned back towards the hotel, both planning on sleeping the rest of the morning away. They had just about reached the highway when Faith spoke.

“What kind of car did Andrea say she drove?”

“A Mustang I think,” Cordelia said. “Why?”

“Does that look like a Mustang to you?”

From their spot, they could see the side of the garage. There was a car, mostly covered by a blue tarp. But the one part that wasn’t covered was the most telling. The Mustang emblem on the front grill was exposed.

Cordelia and Faith stared at each other for a few moments. Both tried to calmly rationalize the situation.

“It’s probably another person’s car,” Faith reasoned.

“Yeah,” Cordelia agreed. “Or maybe it belongs to a mechanic. He fixes it for a hobby or something.”

“Yeah,” Faith readily agreed. “That’s probably it. I mean, there are tons of Mustangs in the world, right?”

“Sure, probably millions of them in fact.”

They stared at each other for a few minutes longer. Faith was the first to speak. “I’m wigging big time. You?”

“Same.”

“Aw fuck,” Faith cursed. “This isn’t gonna be like that X-File where the townsfolk were cannibals, is it?”

“I sure as hell hope not.” Cordelia brushed back a few strands of hair before speaking. “Maybe we’re overreacting. It’s a small town. The folks are quirky. But they are NOT cannibals.”

“Right,” Faith agreed, trying to retain some composure. “And even if they are psychos, we are two young women, more than capable of taking care of ourselves in a fight.”

Cordelia puffed her chest up in pride, as did Faith. “Damn right. I’m a demon, you’re a Slayer. We kick ass.”

Both women deflated at the same instant. “Aw fuck.”

****

Faith certainly had to give her props to the Los Angeles County Penal System. She learned all kinds of useful things in jail. For instance, she was more than capable of making an oak cabinet, wicker furniture, and even sew a throw rug. Of course, the technological age hadn’t passed her by either.

Faith had booted up Cordelia’s laptop and used the phone line to get on the Internet. Cordelia found her searching the Web when she returned with lunch for the both of them.

“What are you doing?”

“Honestly?” Faith asked. “I’m starting to wig out. I’ve been looking around on the Internet at local newspapers. I found out two weeks ago, a woman named Carol Emerson went missing just outside of town.”

That freaked Cordelia out just a little bit. The rational side of her brain tried to assert some dominance. “That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. People go missing all the time. Law of probability says that a small town would have an unfortunate occurrence or two.”

Faith would have liked to agree with Cordelia. “About five months ago a woman named Teresa Newman disappeared. She was last spotted about three miles outside town.”

“Two women in the last five months? I’d say that screws up the bell curve.” Cordelia pulled a rickety wooden chair by the bed and plopped down on it. Faith looked on, hoping that Cordelia would come up with some plan. Faith might not be the wisest girl on the block, but she knew acting rashly wouldn’t be good. And acting rashly was something she had a habit of doing.

“Should we call Angel?” she asked.

Cordelia pondered for a moment. “No,” she finally decided. “I wouldn’t want to risk him being caught in daylight. Besides, LA needs him. If things start to get hairy, I’ll call and get Gunn and Fred to come back us up. Until then, we stay calm and keep from doing anything stupid. Keep researching newspapers. I’m going to put out feelers with the townsfolk. Maybe I can get them to tip their hand on what they know about this last girl, Carol Emerson.”

“Right,” Faith agreed. See? Cordelia came up with a plan. Now Faith had something to do.

“Did the newspapers make note of what kind of car Emerson drove?”

Faith flipped back to the page that detailed her case. “It says she drove a ’97 Grand Am. Black. What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking maybe I can snoop around the garage a bit.” Cordelia stood and peered at the computer screen. A picture of an attractive red head stared back at her.

“Do you think she has a family?” Faith asked softly. “Do you think anyone cares that she’s gone?”

Cordelia considered the question for a moment. “She must,” she decided. “If she didn’t have someone concerned for her, I doubt anyone would take note of her disappearance.”

Faith seemed to take some comfort in that. Cordelia marveled how different the slayer was from the girl she knew in high school. “Would you guys care if something happened to me?” Faith asked. “You and Angel, I mean?”

“Yes,” Cordelia assured her. “You’re apart of our family, whether you like it or not.” Faith was satisfied with that answer.

“I’ll see what more I can find,” Faith said. Cordelia smiled and nodded. Slipping on her shades, she opened the door and walked into the blazing afternoon sun. Faith had a job to do, and now, so did she.

****

Cordelia made sure to duck off the highway a few hundred yards before she got to the garage. Scampering into the brush, she kept low so she could approach the rear of the building without being detected. She finally reached a clearing behind the garage. She didn’t know what to feel when she saw nearly two-dozen cars parked there.

“Please, God, just let us be overreacting,” Cordelia prayed.

Cordelia slowly made a trip around the clearing, hoping to whoever was listening that she wouldn’t find a ’97 Grand Am. Her heart sank when she found one. Checking to make sure no one was nearby, she opened up the car to do her investigation.

There was quite a bit of dust inside the vehicle. The panel and seats were coated in a thin film of dirt. Cordelia knew this car had been sitting here for a while, but how long she couldn’t determine. She checked behind the sun visors and underneath the seats for some kind of identification. Finally, she popped open the glove box. At first glance it was empty but in the very back was a small rectangle. Reaching for it, Cordelia sighed heavily when she saw what it was.

The photograph showed and older man and woman smiling happily at the camera. They stood side by side as they rested their hands on the shoulders of a young woman. Carol Emerson smiled brightly at the camera. They looked like such a perfect family. Cordelia wondered where her parents were right now. She knew that they must miss their daughter.

The sound of voices made Cordelia startle. She quickly tucked the photo in her pocket and climbed out of the car. Quietly she shut the door and rushed back to the safety of the brush. Moments later one of the mechanics appeared to salvage a battery from Emerson’s car. He didn’t notice the dust that was swept away inside the car.

****

Faith was surprised when Cordelia rushed through the front door of their hotel room. Cordy looked like she had ran the entire distance back, which she had. Sweat covered her shirt and face as she took deep breaths to feed her lungs.

“Are you okay?” Faith asked.

“Not really,” Cordelia answered. “I got a big ass wiggins going on.”

“Why? What happened?”

Cordelia reached into her jeans pocket and withdrew the photo. She tossed it to Faith. The slayer glanced at it. Recognition set in instantly.

“Aw fuck.”

 

Part 4

Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete

Breakdown. 2   1 comment

Part 2

Serenity, California
June 21, 2003

The sun was already extraordinarily bright for 7:30 in the morning. Cordelia slipped off her shades as she entered the diner and brushed back a piece of highlighted hair. Scanning the tables for Faith, Cordelia idly wondered when this place last passed a health inspection.

“Yo! Cordy!”

Cordelia turned and saw Faith sitting at a booth with a view out the front window. Cordelia was pleased to note Andrea was also there. She liked the young woman that she and Faith met the previous day. Cordelia ignored the glances a pair of old farmers gave her and sat down across from Faith.

The women exchanged greetings and Cordelia called to the waitress for a cup of coffee. “The coffee is really great,” Andrea explained. “Perks ya right up. Removes some stomach lining too, but nothing better to wake a person up.”

“It also appears to be a good rust remover,” Faith added.

“Well, if I had some rusted farm equipment, I’d be all set,” Cordelia said.

“Speaking of rusted farm equipment, did ya notice Jim Bob and Bubba Ray checking you out?” Faith asked. Cordelia nodded that she had.

“Those guys freak me out,” Andrea said. “Every morning I come in here, they sit there and stare at me.”

“Just stare right back,” Cordelia explained. “Drives them crazy when you show fear.”

“Isn’t that wolves?” Faith asked.

“Regardless,” Andrea said. “This town gives me the creeps. I feel like I’m in a town full of X-Files extras.”

“I admit, this town does give off a strange vibe,” Cordelia said, “but I think we’re reading too far into it. It’s a small town. They’re kinda far away from the city. They’re entitled to be a bit quirky.”

“I don’t know if quirky is the word I’d use,” Andrea said. The blonde finished off her coffee. “Well, I’m going to check in with Henry and John Boy and the body shop. Maybe good news will actually await.”

“If not, maybe you’d like to drop by our room tonight?” Cordelia suggested. “Play some poker or something to pass the time.”

“That’d be great,” Andrea said. “See you girls later.” Andrea slid from her seat and dropped a five on the table. With a last wave, Andrea left.

“Drop by for poker or something to pass the time,” Faith teased. “You looking for a threesome? Cause I might be game.” Faith licked her lips suggestively.

“You know it, Slayer. If there’s one thing I like more than sleeping with a vampire, it’s sleeping with two chicks.”

“I’ve always wanted to ask about that. Does your screwing a vampire make you a necrophiliac?”

“Does your screwing everyone make you a slut?”

“Touché.”

Cordelia reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out her cell phone. “If Gertrude ever arrives with the java, tell her I’ll be back in a second. I’m going to go call Angel. Anything you want me to tell him?”

“Yeah, tell him to buy me a Playstation.”

“Shut up, Faith.”

****

Angel hung the phone back on the hook. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like it one bit. And what the hell was a Playstation?

“Yo, Angel. Was that Cordy?” Gunn asked.

“Yeah,” Angel answered. “They’re still stuck in the middle of nowhere.”

Gunn could tell from the tone of voice that Angel was immensely displeased by the situation. And when the vampire got displeased, something usually lost appendages.

“And you’re still worried about them.” Angel’s noncommittal grunt was his answer. “There’s nothing to worry about. You got two girls, one of them a half-demon with super powers and the other is a sometimes psychotic slayer with a fetish for sharp things. Both of them are big girls. Hell, I feel sorry for the first person that tries messing with them. What do you think Cordy would do to the guy?”

Angel had to smile in amusement at the thought. He certainly taught Cordelia how to take care of business. But the vampire sobered up quickly. But the fact remained, he was here, and she was there.

“I’m going to guess my little pep talk did nothing for you, right?”

Angel’s grunt was his answer.

****

“Full House,” Faith grinned. “Eights and threes. Beat that.”

Cordelia threw away her ninth consecutive losing hand in disgust. “I just remembered why I stick to Monopoly.”

“And I just remembered why I love Vegas,” Andrea smirked. “Four of a kind.” Andrea laid out four nines as Faith’s jaw dropped in shock.

“If we were playing for money, I’d so be beating your ass right now,” Faith said.

“And if we were playing for money, you’d be flat broke right now.”

“Just deal five new ones.”

Cordelia leaned back on her bed and rested for a moment. Clad in her nighttime wear, tank top and sweatpants, Cordelia sighed heavily. She hated this town and she missed Angel.

“So Andrea, where you from?” Faith asked.

“Portland. I was heading to San Diego because of a job offer.” Andrea huffed in annoyance. “I doubt that the job’s even available anymore. I got sixty thousand miles on my Mustang and never a problem until now.”

“Life’s a bitch,” Faith said.

“So what’s the story with you two?” Andrea asked.

Faith fielded that one easily enough. “I just got out of jail and Cordy’s horny because her lovey dovey is back in Los Angeles.”

“Shut up, Faith,” Cordelia groaned.

“Is it my fault you forgot your vibrator at home?”

“Faith, be warned that I will suffocate you in your sleep.”

“Course, there’s always the fingers, but it just don’t have the same feel.”

“Shut up, Faith.”

Andrea just laughed at the two and put the cards back in the box. “You two are very sad. And I also must call it a night. Need to get some sleep before I go out on the road.”

Cordelia looked up. “You got your car fixed?”

“Bubba Carl Ray Bob or whatever said they got the part in early this evening. They’ll install it tomorrow morning and hopefully I’ll be on the road by noon.”

“And leave us alone in Hellburg? You bitch,” Faith retorted in mock anger.

“That I am, but I’m the bitch that’s got a ride outta here.”

Cordelia and Faith were both saddened by the prospect of spending the rest of their time in Serenity without the company of Andrea. They both really liked the woman. “Well, look us up if you’re ever in LA. The Hyperion Hotel is where we run our investigation agency. We can paint the town red.”

“Sounds like fun. Faith an I can pick us up some hunks while you sit in the corner sipping tonic water and telling the barkeep how happy your relationship is.”

Cordelia just grinned. “Faith was right. You are a bitch.”

Andrea stood and stretched her tired muscles. “Meet you chicks for breakfast?”

“Sure thing,” Cordy agreed. The girls said their goodbyes as Andrea left for the night.

“I must be going soft in my post-rehab state. Did I actually go out of my way to be nice to her?”

“You did,” Cordy agreed. “And you know what? You may have made…a friend.”

“Aw fuck.”

“You came out of prison acting almost human.”

****

Andrea made her way down the metal steps to the first floor of the two-floor hotel building. Automatically, her hand went to pat her back pocket to find her keys. But realizing she was wearing pajama pants, she remembered she had the room key in her jacket pocket.

She had just pulled the key out and was about to stick it in the lock when a strong hand covered her mouth. More hands grabbed her waist and arms. Before the young Oregon girl knew what was going on, her hands were bound and she was blindfolded.

“Take her to the field,” a voice ordered. Wasn’t that the guy that worked at the diner?

“Do you think Josiah will be pleased?” an eager voice asked. Didn’t that voice greet her at the dollar store?

“Silence!” the first voice ordered. “Do what you are told. It is not for me to decide if Josiah will be pleased. Only He can make that judgment.”

The second voice obeyed and helped toss Andrea into the back of a truck. Moments later the truck fired up and pulled onto the highway. The half dozen men that were left went to gather their own vehicles and drive out to the cornfield. The first voice, Ernie Connell pulled out his cell phone.

“Sheriff Brady? We have the first. She is being taken to the cornfield now. Yes, we let the other two be, just as you instructed.” Connell disconnected the phone. It was time to take another before Josiah. He couldn’t afford to be late.

Part 3

Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete

Breakdown. 1   Leave a comment

Title: Breakdown
Author: Liam
Posted here: 05-26-2002
Email
Rating: PG-15.
Category: Action
Content: C/A
Summary: A small town. A horrifying secret
Spoilers:
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Just ask.
Notes:
Thanks/Dedication:
Feedback:


Teaser

Serenity, California
June 12, 2003

“Please, don’t hurt me,” Carol Emerson begged.

The two masked individuals paid no attention to her. They dragged the young woman by both arms past the procession of people.

A twenty-foot wide pathway had been cut down through the cornfield in which all had gathered. People stood single file along both sides of the pathway, holding small torches and chanting in Latin. The procession all wore dark, flowing robes and wooden masks covering their faces.

“Please, you’re scaring me. What are you doing?”

The two continued to drag the woman through the aisle of corn until they reached a hundred foot wide clearing in the center of the cornfield. Carol looked around in fear at her surroundings. In the center of the clearing stood a large rectangular boulder, standing perhaps ten feet high and six feet wide. On three sides were lit large bonfires, and in front was a stone bench.

The two men holding her stopped at the clearing’s edge. The double row of people walked by them, torches held high as they continued to chant. The processions stopped when the lead individuals reached spots on either side of the bench.

From behind her, another appeared. This person was different from the rest. His robe was a bright red, and the mask he wore was decorated in the fashion of some monster. The being walked confidently down the center of the aisle of parishioners. When he reached the bench, he turned around and nodded at the two holding Carol.

“What’s going on?” she cried. “Why are you doing this?”

The two dragged her past the parishioners and threw her before the red cloaked being. Cold blue eyes stared down at her through the mask. “What’s happening?” she cried again. “Let me go, please!”

The red being ignored her and began to chant in Latin. Hands raised in the air, he cried out emphatically.

Then he was silent.

He turned, and from his cloth removed some powders. Chanting a few phrases, he tossed the powder at the boulder. Then again, silence.

The fear in Carol was multiplied as the boulder began to glow a bright yellow, seemingly turning the night into day. The boulder did so for a minute before fading out.

The red being turned back and faced Carol. For the first time that night, English was spoken.

“Josiah has deemed you…unworthy.”

“What?” Carol screamed. “I don’t understand.”

The red being spoke no more. He nodded to the lead parishioner on his left. From his cloak was produced an axe. Carol tried to jump back, but the two who brought her grabbed her once more. The red being moved aside, allowing the two to throw Carol on the bench.

Forcing her on her back, the two strapped her down, the young girl screaming all the while. “Please stop! What are you doing?” Carol struggled against the ropes, but was unable to break free.

The axe man stepped closer and raised his blade. With a swift stroke, he brought it down.


Part 1

County Road W
Three miles outside Serenity, California
June 20, 2003

Cordelia Chase lifted the hood of the Plymouth convertible. Brushing back a piece of stray hair, she shook her head in disgust. “It’s the radiator,” she said.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, that is why you always check the engine before going on long road trips.” Faith hopped from the passenger seat and joined Cordelia in looking at the boiling over radiator. “Oh yeah, that puppy is shot.”

“Thank you, Faith,” Cordelia said dryly. “But I kinda noticed.”

Faith grinned in amusement. “Hey, just trying to lend a helping hand. Offer input, trying to be a productive member of the Angel Investigations team.” Faith then turned serious. “Well, we’re a couple miles from the nearest town. You wanna walk it or wait to see if a kindly local will give us a ride?”

“Number two is sounding good to me.” Cordelia pointed in the distance. Coming towards them on the gravel road was a pickup truck. “You wanna show leg to get him to stop, or you want me to do it?”

The two women waved their arms at the coming vehicle. Both breathed a sigh of relief as the truck slowed to a stop by the side of the road. “Car trouble?” the middle aged man asked.

“Nah, we stopped to set up a produce stand,” Faith muttered.

Cordelia grinned at the slayer’s quip before answering. “Yes sir. It looks like our radiator is shot. Could you give us a ride into town?”

“Sure can,” the man smiled. Faith almost busted out laughing at the man’s yellowed teeth. “Hop in back. I’ll drop you off at the auto repair shop.”

“Thank you. We’d appreciate it,” Cordelia said. They hurried back to the car and grabbed a few bags. Then the two women went around back and hopped in the bed of the truck. Once they swept away some beer cans, they took a seat. In moments, they were moving again.

“You gonna call Angel when we get in town?” Faith asked. “He’ll probably be worried about us.”

Cordelia gave a sardonic grin at Faith. “He’ll be more worried about needing a new radiator than anything else.” Faith laughed. It was probably true. “I figure we can get a hotel room, then I’ll call him. He’ll need to call that Davidson guy and tell him we’ll be late for our appointment.”

“Yup,” Faith agreed. “Until we get a new radiator, Sacramento will have to wait.”

****

Hyperion Hotel

Earlier that day

“Angel, it’ll be a simple job. I’ll only be gone two days, three at most. I’m sure things won’t fall apart that quickly around here without me.”

“That’s not what I’m concerned about,” Angel sighed. He loved the girl, he really did, but sometimes she frustrated the hell out of him. “I don’t like the idea of you going up to Sacramento by yourself.”

Cordelia turned her best smile on the vampire, the one that turned him into putty that she could mold. “Angel, I’m a big girl. I’m also half demon, and I’ve learned self-defense from the best. Besides, the job is to exterminate an apartment full of Vocklar demons. A Chihuahua could kill one of those things.”

“I know that’s what the guy says, but how do we know? You’re going to be a couple hundred miles away. We won’t be able to help you if you need it.”

Cordelia gave the frustrated vampire a kiss on the cheek. “I get that you want to protect me,” she started, “but I’ll be fine. Anyway, no use in arguing. Since I’ll be traveling in daytime you can’t ride up there with me.”

“I wasn’t going to suggest that I go,” Angel defended. “I want you to take Faith.”

“What? Why?”

“Because. She just got paroled, she just got a place to stay, and she just got a job. I want her to feel like she’s earning her keep around here, that I’m not letting her stay out of obligation or something. Besides, it’ll be someone to watch your back. And, maybe give you an opportunity to get to know each other. You know, girl to girl.”

He wasn’t going to relent on this, she realized. “Fine,” she huffed. “Go up and tell Faith to be ready in thirty minutes. I want to be up there by sundown.”

Angel smiled and pulled his Seer close for a kiss. “That wasn’t such a big deal, now was it?” he asked.

“I guess not,” she begrudgingly admitted. She more than willingly accepted the vampire’s kiss.

“Do I get a goodbye smooch, too?” Faith quipped. The recently paroled slayer had a duffle bag all set.

Cordelia pulled away and glared at the vampire. Angel had the good sense to look embarrassed. “I might have told her I might be able to, uh, you know, let her come with you.”

Smiling would ruin the death look she sent him. “If I didn’t need to go real soon, I’d take the time to stake you.”

“What about my smoochie?” Faith asked again.

Angel rushed over to the newly employed slayer and gave a peck on the cheek. It was an excuse to get away from Cordelia. He thought she was only pretending to be mad, but he knew best not to chance it.

“Come on, Faith,” Cordelia called. “Looks like a road trip.”
****

The head mechanic looked to be about fifty. With calloused hands and a smile missing a few teeth, he wasn’t the prettiest thing either woman had ever seen. They also didn’t like what he was saying.

“I’m sorry, Miss,” Henry said, rubbing the stubble at his chin. “But it’ll probably be three, maybe four days before we can get a new radiator in for ya.”

“I don’t believe this,” Cordelia said.

“I’m sorry,” Henry apologized again. “This is a small town. There’s no need to carry around parts for a 1960’s Plymouth.”

Cordelia was, to say the least, very upset. She felt a hand on her arm and turned to face Faith. “C’mon,” Faith said. “It won’t do any good to get upset. Let’s just get a hotel room and get some rest.”

When did Faith become the voice of logic? But still, Cordelia had to agree. Losing her temper would not help matters. “Fine. Sir, we’ll be back tomorrow to discuss this further. Is there a hotel around here that we can stay at?”

“Sure is,” Henry nodded. “Just down the road here about half a mile.”

Resignedly, Faith and Cordelia gathered their bags and began to trudge off in the direction Henry had pointed. They had gone only ten feet or so when they saw another young woman arguing with a second mechanic. The young blonde woman walked away, realizing the argument was going nowhere.

“Can you believe this town?” she asked when Cordelia and Faith approached her. “Four days ago they told me it’d take 72 hours to get me a new carburetor. Now they’re telling me it might be another two days. I can’t believe this damn town.”

“We know the feeling,” Faith sympathized. “They just told us maybe four days for a new radiator.”

“I swear they’re trying to run some scam,” the blonde huffed. “You girls heading to the hotel?”

“Yeah. Mechanic said it’s about half a mile?”

“That’s about right,” the woman said. “Don’t worry, there will be plenty of room. Surprise, surprise, but this place doesn’t seem to be a big tourist spot. I feel like I’m in Deliverance or something. By the way, my name is Andrea Ballinger.”

“I’m Cordelia Chase, this is Faith Burton. Pleased to meet you.”

The three women walked slowly back towards the hotel. None noticed the sheriff car that pulled up at the repair shop. The sheriff rolled down his window and called Henry over.

“I don’t believe I’ve seen those two before.”

“Their car broke down outside town. Radiator. Told ‘em it’d be a few days before I could get the part.”

“Good,” the sheriff said. “That’ll give us time to watch them.”

“You don’t want to just grab them all tonight?”

“No. We performed the ceremony just last week. We should wait a few more days. Don’t want any eyebrows to be raised.”

“Well, that one has already been here a few days. I don’t know how much longer I can stall before she tries to find another means out.”

The sheriff turned a pair of cold blue eyes on the mechanic. “If she asks, say the part will come in day after tomorrow. We’ll have a meeting tonight. We’ll prepare her for tomorrow night.”

“And those other two?”

“We will deal with them,” the sheriff said. “Just like the others.”

****

“No, Angel, we’re fine. Just an unforeseen delay.” Cordelia tucked the cell phone to her shoulder as she tossed some jeans into a drawer. “They say it could be a few days before we get a radiator. I know it’s bullshit, but we’re not exactly in a bustling metropolis. Things apparently take time around here. No, Faith is fine. Ya wanna say hi?” Cordelia held the phone out.

“Hi, sugar daddy!” Faith called. The slayer claimed the single bed furthest from the door as her own. “Cordy’s being mean to me!”

Cordelia tucked the phone back to her shoulder. “Just ignore her. She doesn’t know mean until I try to smother her with a pillow. Angel, I’m sure we’re fine. Just call Davidson and tell him we can’t get there until Friday. I know he’ll be upset, but tough cookies. Who else will exterminate an infestation of Vocklar demons? I can’t see Animal Control trying to deal with them. Bunch of guys in white overalls with butterfly nets trying to catch a couple dozen Vocklars. Listen, we’ll call if something goes wrong, right Faith?”

“Damn right!” Faith called out.

“You don’t have to come out and play knight in shining armor. Okay? I love you and I’ll call again tomorrow. Bye.”

“Oh, I wuv you,” Faith teased. “I’ll call again tomorrow.”

“Shut up, Faith,” Cordelia said, turning a slight shade of red.

“Aw, Cordelia’s blushing! Tell you what, how ‘bout we scream each other’s name and bang the headboards to see if we can freak out the neighbors?”

“Shut up, Faith.”

****

Nearly two-dozen people gathered in the living room of Sheriff Michael Brady. The people talked animatedly to each other, discussing the possibility of having not one, but THREE visitors in their town.

Brady sat in his rocking chair, cold blue eyes surveying those around him. It was time to call things into order. “Ladies and gentlemen.” The room quickly fell silent. “We’re here to discuss what to do about our visitors.”

“We should all take them out to be judged immediately!” one person called out. A chorus of support rang out.

“We will not,” the sheriff said calmly. “We have not had time to observe our two newest guests. Josiah would be displeased if we hurried and made poor judgment. We shall watch them. As for the other, this Miss Ballinger. Tomorrow we shall gather. We shall take her before Josiah. Perhaps she will be The One.”

The crowd enthusiastically agreed. Yes, maybe this girl would be The One.

Part 2

Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete

4: All the Rest of it. 2   1 comment

Part Twelve

Sunnydale High

What was the penalty for jamming a fork through someone’s hand? Cordelia thought she might find out in a few days at her hearing. If Harmony, Aura, and the rest of the gang didn’t stop staring and giggling at her then they would find out about the pain involved in it.

Cordelia squashed the quasi-homicidal urges and speared a cucumber from her salad and not some bimbo’s thumb. She sat in the center courtyard, alone, as was becoming the norm. She wasn’t much for company. The past few days since the funeral, Cordelia had sat at this very picnic table picking at her lunches and struggling through a book of French poetry she found on Adele’s bookcase.

She was so not looking forward to tomorrow. It was D-day. The day Aurelie and Cousin Marcus arrived in town to take away Adele’s possessions. Joy. She got to look mom in the eye and reaffirm her daughter was dead.

It still all seemed like some distant dream. Check that, a distant nightmare. It was hard to believe that Adele was really gone. But here Cordelia was, trying to sort through her existence and trying to put things back together. Not that Angel had it any easier.

The vampire was taking it hard. In a century he had never allowed himself to get close to anyone. Because of that he never had to deal with what he dealt with now.

The bell sounded loudly in the courtyard. It was time for fifth period. European History. Another mind-numbing fifty minutes of counting the number of times Miss McGill says ‘okay’. Cordelia just loved teachers with little quirks. Oh, wait, no she didn’t. Cordelia tossed the poetry book into her backpack and started to gather up the remnants of her lunch.

She paused a moment when a sneeze threatened to overtake her. The next thing she, or anyone else knew, Cordelia was on the ground, screaming, clutching at her head.

Then for several moments there was nothing. Cordelia simply stared up into the sky, the sunlight and the incoming migraine forcing her to squint. The images she just found herself privy to continued to race across her retinas. Oh God were those images racing.

“Angel…”

Cordelia blindly began to fumble for her purse to get to the cell phone. Her progress was halted by a shadowed figure standing atop her. Speaking in a soft English accent it said, “Cordelia?”

Cordelia squinted and just made out the face of the figure. “Wesley?” He made no move whatsoever. “Well, don’t just stand there like a dumbass, help me up!” Wesley momentarily fumbled his books and pushed his glasses back up his nose.

He then offered a hand and helped her up. For his generosity Cordelia ignored the fact that he peeked down the top of her blouse.

“Go get Buffy and the rest of the gang,” she ordered sternly. “I got something you all need to know.” Wesley didn’t make any sudden movements to leave. He wasn’t exactly looking at her face. “Go fetch Buffy and you can look all you want later. Go!”

Wesley nearly fumbled his books again. Looking dutifully embarrassed he turned and sprinted off to find the Slayer. Cordelia then took a moment to shoot some “Fuck off” looks to those daring to stare at her and her outburst. It hurt like hell to bend over and grab the purse, but when she did, Cordelia quickly pulled out her cell and hit speed-dial one.

“Angel? It’s me. No, everything’s not okay. I need you. To come here, I mean. I’ll be in the library. It’s important, so hurry…please? Bye.”

Oh God, Cordelia would feel so much better if she could put a bullet in her head right now. It felt like every single blood vessel in her brain was on the verge of exploding. She slowly slipped the purse over her shoulder and thought about grabbing her books. Cordelia decided to forego that.

Nobody would want them so they should be safe. The only thing that propelled her towards the library was the hope that Giles would possess some drugs. Drugs would make her head feel better.

***

When Angel appeared in the library about twenty minutes later he looked scared shitless. He didn’t even pause to say hello when he breezed through the stacks and past the Scoobies en route to Cordelia. Sitting at the main table, Cordy was pressing an ice pack to her head and vaguely flipping through the day’s edition of the Sunnydale Gazette.

“Are you okay?” Angel asked as he knelt before her. “Did you hit your head? Are you hurt?” He tried to get Cordy to move the ice pack so he could see but she wouldn’t have it. “What’s going on?”

“That’s an excellent question,” Giles spoke from behind him. The Englishman cleaned his glasses and observed the girl. “Wesley found her screaming in the courtyard. She then ordered he get Buffy so we could have a group meeting.”

“About what?” Angel asked confused.

“About what that stinking woman did to me!” Cordelia spoke for the first time. The group edged closer when the object of attention finally looked to shed some light on the situation.

“Huh?” a perplexed Angel asked.

“I knew something was fishy,” Cordelia ranted. “Why the hell else would she kiss me? I knew she was all lesbo and everything, but I thought we had an understanding. And not that I’m complaining about the kiss per se. It was a very nice kiss. Better than most actually, no offense to Xander. At the moment it almost seemed fitting when she did it. But dammit! If it was just so she could do this to me then the moment is completely ruined. Now I know why she got all kooky and wanted drugs all the time. Hell, if I had to live with them, I’d want drugs too. Oh wait, I am living with them!”

Angel’s eyes went wide. “You had a vision,” he said simply.

“Boy! Howdy! And let me tell ya, Adele didn’t just pop Codeine like they were M&M’s for nothing. These things hurt.”

“One door closes and another opens,” Angel murmured to himself. “You’re my new Seer,” he stated for the room to hear. “You’re now my link to the Powers.”

“I’m your who to the what now?” It wasn’t meant to be a smart ass remark. Cordelia was just having a tough time comprehending verbal cues at the moment. After her brain put together what he said she shrugged and answered, “Well, I’ve heard worse.”

The room as a whole was pretty much left speechless at the ‘Cordelia was a Seer’ part. Not even a derisive or smart ass remark was to be heard. Cordelia made a mental note about the date and time. This would never happen again.

“Anybody gonna ask me why I requested this little pow-wow?”

“I asked 15 minutes ago,” Giles pointed out.

“Angel wasn’t here then,” Cordelia returned. “Now you can ask me.”

“Why did you call this pow-wow?”

“I know what the Mayor is up to.” That was an attention grabber. Buffy, Giles, Wesley, and everyone else began to shout out questions at a frantic pace.

“Alright people,” Cordy shouted above the din, “it’s my turn to talk!” Everyone quieted down long enough for her to finish her thought. “At least I think I know what he’s up to. Does turning into a big snake mean anything to anyone?”

Blank stares. “Apparently not.”

D-Day ~ Cordelia’s Apartment

The television screen flickered as Angel watched the Dodger game with vague interest. Karros smacked a double into the right centerfield gap and Angel had enough. He punched the power button on the remote and tossed it onto the coffee table where he picked up his glass of blood.

“Cordelia, please sit down,” he said softly.

Cordelia was too busy chewing her fingernails and pacing the kitchen floor to hear him. Angel sighed and stood up to go in there. Two hours of pitter-patter on linoleum was driving him bonkers.

“Cor, sit down, please.”

She shot him a look and brushed by him, continuing her well-worn route. “I can’t. I’m too nervous.”

“There’s nothing to be nervous about.”

Cordelia stared at him like he was stupid. Angel squirmed under the glare. “Nothing to be nervous about? Aurelie and Marcus will be here in like,” a quick glance of her watch, “Holy shit! Any minute now! Do I look okay?” She began to stroke at her hair and went to the fridge and retrieved the small mirror she kept atop it for such an occasion.

“I don’t think she’s going to be concerned with appearances, Cor.”

“Pfft! Like I’m going to give Aurelie the impression her only daughter hung out with a pair of vagrants. Now zip your fly and tuck in your shirt.”

Angel looked dutifully embarrassed. He knew he forgot something after his trip to the bathroom. He thought he just forgot to put the seat down. Obeying the order, Angel was about to again try and convince Cordy to sit down. The sound of the doorbell stopped that.

“Oh shit, they’re here!” Cordy frantically checked her makeup and hair once more. “Damn. I had a whole opening speech prepared. Now I forgot it! What am I going to do?”

It took Angel grabbing her roughly by the shoulders to focus her attention. “You’re going to take a deep breath.” Cordelia did. “You’re going to relax. You’re going to open the door. You’re going to show her why you were such a good friend.”

Thankfully, Cordelia seemed to calm down. “When did you get so good at the talking thing?”

Angel shrugged. “I pick things up along the way. Now go open the door.”

With a final cleansing breath, Cordelia stood straight and tall and marched to the door. Just as the doorbell rang a second time, Cordy opened the door only to be taken aback. When Angel stepped behind her, he understood why she was stunned.

It became quite obvious where Adele got her beauty. Aurelie was an exact replica of her daughter, albeit around fifty years of age.

“Miss Chase?” For the first time, Cordelia noticed Cousin Marcus standing behind Aurelie. His accent was fairly thick and Cordy had to pay close attention to understand him. “Are you okay?”

He must have meant the stunned expression she wore. “Yes, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare. But your aunt is very beautiful. Adele looked just like her.” Marcus leaned into Aurelie’s ear and spoke in quick French. From Cordy’s limited knowledge of the language, she realized Marcus was repeating what she said.

“Thank…you,” Aurelie answered in unsteady English. The woman smiled sadly and cupped Cordelia’s cheek. Tears began to well up in the older woman’s eyes, and before she knew it, they were forming in Cordelia’s as well.

“Come on in,” she beckoned. “I guess we have lots to talk about.” Cordelia moved aside and ushered them in.

For the rest of the afternoon and long into the night, Cordelia and Angel shared their experiences with Adele while Aurelie recounted tales of her little girl’s childhood exploits. When it was over, and all of Adele’s possessions had been turned over, the pair realized they felt better than they had in days.

In fact, Cordelia and Angel almost felt normal again. They would never see their friend again, not in this life. But maybe they could get by in this one.

Graduation Day ~ Late Morning

“How are you?”

Buffy looked up from the table where she was sharpening her sword and found Angel looking down at her. She turned away and continued to sharpen. “Fine. Usual pre-apocalypse jitters. Happens all the time. Sharp things calm me down.”

“So I noticed.” Buffy responded by sharpening the blade with a little more intensity. “Are you mad at me?”

“Mad? No. I’m just surprised that you want to talk to me. Things shouldn’t be difficult when you finally decide to leave. So when is that exactly?”

Angel stepped further into the library’s storage room and sighed. He understood that she wasn’t actually angry. Just hurt. “That’s what I came to talk to you about. I’m leaving tonight if, you know, I survive this.”

“Tonight?” For a brief moment he heard panic, or remorse, or something similar in Buffy’s voice. But she quickly recovered. “Is Cordelia going with you?”

“She pretty much has to.” And suddenly Angel was right behind her. She continued to focus on the sword in front of her. “We’re connected now. She’s my Seer. Makes things simpler if she’s by my side rather than 100 miles away.”

“100 miles? You’re moving to…”

“Los Angeles.” Angel reached into his pocket and retrieved a folded up slip of paper. He tossed it on the table before her. “That’s the address of an office building we’ve leased. The phone is my cell number. The office doesn’t have a number assigned yet. I thought you might want it. For emergencies and such.”

“Of course. You never know when another apocalypse may take place in which we’ll need some backup.”

“Well, it is the Hellmouth.”

They stood in silence for several long minutes. Buffy merely stared at the slip of paper. Angel stared at her staring at the slip of paper. Finally, Angel turned slowly and was about to walk away. At the last instant Buffy called out to him.

“Don’t stray too far. Commencement starts soon.” Angel nodded. “And Angel? Good luck.”

Angel smiled slightly. He turned and walked away.

Graduation Day ~ Night

“A wise woman once said ‘Fire bad, Tree Pretty’. I think that holds a certain poignancy.”

Angel smiled as Cordelia parked herself atop the hood of the Buick he was leaning against. He watched as the fire continued to engulf the school, and the carcass of the Mayor, into oblivion.

“And who said that?”

“Buffy. I heard her talking with Giles a minute ago.” Cordy slid off the hood and plopped down next to him. She took his hand and leaned her head on his shoulder. “So what’s it like to still be alive after all this?”

“I dunno. I wasn’t alive even before all of this.”

“Smarty-pants.”

They continued to watch the blaze take down the high school. All around, survivors of the Class of 1999 reunited with their families. Police and firemen rushed around trying to assert some vague semblance of order. Angel hadn’t seen this sort of chaos since Disco Night at Comiskey Park.

“Did you talk with Buffy?”

“I did.”

“How’d she take it?”

“With remarkable maturity.”

At that moment, through the smoke and haze filling the Sunnydale night, Angel locked eyes with said Slayer. There was a moment of understanding that passed between them. An acceptance that the past was over. An acceptance that things were changing.

Buffy looked down and noticed their entwined hands with remorse. From there she just turned and walked away. It was over. One journey come to an end, another just beginning to unravel.

“So what do we do now?” Cordelia asked. “Where do we go from here?”

“I’m not sure,” Angel answered honestly. “It’s been so long since I’ve been anywhere else, done anything else. I’m not sure what it’s going to be like once we’re not…here.”

“Think we’ll make it in the big, bad city?”

“I think we stand a chance.” He smiled at his unsure friend and began to lead her away from the scene.

“Now c’mon. Let’s stop by Rosie’s Diner and get some pie in you. My treat.”

“Your treat? Wow, we really must have come close to death if you’re buying.”

“You got a smart mouth on you, girl. Have I ever said how much I like that?”

“No, but that’s a thing a girl should hear.”

The laughter and joking continued for the rest of the night. Although neither was sure of the path that awaited them, they accepted that it must be faced. After all, a bloke couldn’t stay stuck in the past forever.

There was always a time to move on and face new things. There was always a time to turn the page and move on to the next chapter.

That time was now.

THE END

Can I get some Hell Yeah’s? I hope you enjoyed this series. If you did, let me hear it please. I would also like to thank all the people who ever read my drivel and offered some kind words. Because of it I gained the confidence to start planning my own original endeavours. 

Thanks,
Justin ~ aka Liam

Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete

4: All the Rest of it. 1   Leave a comment

4: All the Rest of It

Part Eleven

This was where it was all supposed to happen. This was where the helpless were supposed to come for aid. Well, that plan got shot to hell.

Angel leaned against the wall of what would have been the main office of Angel Investigations. He pulled the cigarette away from his lips and blew out. The smoke filled the room along with the soothing sounds of an Enya CD playing on his small boombox. Said soothing sounds only helped moderately.

He reached over to the side and grabbed a bottle of whiskey. This was helping a little bit more. Angel poured another shot and lifted it up. Mixed with the moonlight, the whiskey appeared to have an odd color that vaguely amused him.

“To you, Adele,” Angel saluted to the heavens and downed the liquid in a gulp. His hand again went to the bottle. As he poured again, Angel heard a light squeaking from the lobby. It certainly didn’t take long for her to find him.

Cordelia stood in the doorway simply watching him and listening to the soft strains of music. “Is this Watermark?” she asked. “I think I have this CD.”

“Actually, this is your CD. I snooped through your collection earlier. And you make fun of my music. At least I don’t own Bananarama.” Angel tossed back another shot.

For the first time all day Cordelia actually cracked a smile. It didn’t last long, but it was there. In the two days since Adele’s death, that was the first one he remembered seeing. He watched as she delicately limped over and sat down next to him.

The calf wound was still playing hell, but she was working through it. But Angel knew that injury was nothing compared to an injured soul.

“Well, I did buy that when I was five. Cut me some slack. At least I don’t listen to Jethro Tull.”

Angel actually managed a quick grin at that. He decided then to forego the shot glass and just drink straight from the bottle. Cordelia looked on as he took a long swill.

“Does that help?” Cordelia began cautiously. “To, you know, not hurt so much?”

Angel paused a moment and offered it to her. “While you’re conscious? No. But if you drink enough you don’t dream. At least that’s how it works for me.”

Cordelia gladly took the bottle. “That’s good enough for me. Dreams haven’t been kind lately.”

“I know the feeling.”

The bottle tipped up and Cordelia took a long drink. She promptly went into coughing fits. “Oh good God.” Angel took the bottle with a slight smile. “Oh, that takes some getting used to.”

“It is an acquired taste,” Angel admitted.

For several minutes they sat there sharing the bottle. Each time Cordelia’s coughs became less and less until she finally began to sip it with ease. The sounds of Enya kept floating into the air. The combination of music and alcohol almost made Cordelia feel better. Almost.

“I finally got through today,” she informed him.

“To her mother? What was her name? Aurelie?”

Cordelia nodded. “Yeah. When I called there was a few minutes of awkward communication. Seems that Aurelie doesn’t speak a word of English. Thankfully cousin Marcus was around whose understanding of the language was fair to moderate. With the English he knew and the French I understood, we were able to communicate to Aurelie…that her daughter was dead,” she finished weakly.

The bottle was jerked from his grasp and was promptly finished off. That liquor was going to knock her on her ass shortly. Oh well, Angel thought, she probably needed it.

“You shouldn’t have had to do that. I could have called, after all…”

“No. It’s ok,” Cordy assured. “She asked me to do it. Besides, you’re the one who’s been making all the arrangements and such. I needed to do something.” Angrily she threw the bottle against the far wall and watched it shatter.

“That looked therapeutic,” Angel observed.

“It kinda was.” Cordelia fixated on the ceiling fan for no reason whatsoever. It suddenly occurred to her she was damn near drunk. “So what are we doing with this place?”

“I called the realtor. Told her we weren’t interested anymore. So she canceled the paperwork and this place is going back on the market. Simple as that.”

“So no Angel Investigations.”

“No. No Angel Investigations.”

There was a long silence. “So what do we do now?”

Angel scratched his chin and felt around for his pack of cigarettes. “I don’t have any desire to stay here. In Sunnydale, I mean. I’m so tired of everything. I’m tired of this town. I’m tired of demons. I’m tired of this life.”

That statement cut through the fog of intoxication. “What do you have in mind?”

“I want to leave Sunnydale. Go someplace. Anyplace.”

“I’ve never been someplace,” Cordelia mused. “Can I come?”

“Sure. If you want.”

After a few minutes of silence, Angel suddenly realized that Cordelia was slumped against his shoulder. The poor girl couldn’t handle her alcohol. What was becoming a habit was he was around Cordelia, Angel managed a smile.

He readjusted his body slightly so that her head wasn’t at an awkward angle. Angel contented himself by breathing in her soft scent as he drifted off into sleep.

***

How the hell did he get here? Angel could swear that just a minute ago he was asleep in the office. So why the hell was he sitting on Cordelia’s couch watching a Jimmy Stewart movie?

“Because it’s a dream, numb-nuts.” Adele hopped over the back of the couch and plopped down next to him, a goody grin planted firmly on her face. After delivering a quick peck on his cheek, Adele amended her statement.

“Well, it’s not exactly a dream. More of a nexus really. You know, a psychic connection between the consciences of two souls. It just so happens that this one is being manifested in a dream state.”

Angel stared blankly at her. “So you’re…”

“Really here? Yup. For the time being anyway. The Powers normally don’t allow this, but they saw that you and Cor were feeling low. They decided I could talk to you for a short while and give you some vague answers.”

“Why not full and complete answers?”

“Mystery is the spice of life. Besides, there are some things you’re not quite ready to know.”

“You’ve never kept anything from me before.”

“Never before has so much been at stake. Believe me, Angel, if I could tell you I would. But please trust me when I saw that some things must unravel naturally.”

“Fine, some things unravel naturally. But what the hell does that have to do with me? It isn’t like I have a Seer anymore.”

“Oh, c’mon, Angel,” Adele admonished. “You’re old. I’m sure in your lifetime you’ve heard the saying that when one door closes another opens. Another door will open for you, Angel. You still have a purpose for the Powers. There are still people that need saving.”

Angel sighed. This running around in circles thing was making him dizzy. “So what should I do?”

“Well, I hear that you’re planning on leaving Sunnydale. That could be for the best.”

A wry smile played on Angel’s lips. “You just want me away from Buffy.”

Adele pretended to be offended. “I resent the implication. I have nothing but good feelings for the slut, er, Slayer. But seriously though, it isn’t a bad idea. Sunnydale really isn’t big enough for two superheroes. It may be time to search for greener pastures. But you know your work here isn’t finished yet, right?”

“The Mayor.”

Adele nodded in agreement. “The Mayor. Faith indicated the old boy was planning something nasty. Might be appropriate to see this one through.”

“I know. But after that, I make no promises.”

“Fair enough.” She frowned at the TV. “Is this Spirit of St. Louis?” Angel nodded. “I don’t like this movie.”

“Change the channel.”

“I would, but it’s time to go.”

Angel figured she was going to say that. Didn’t make it any less difficult to hear. “I’m sorry I let you die,” he said softly.

Adele rolled her eyes and swatted his arm. “You didn’t let me die, you dork. My death occurred because it was my time. My purpose was served. I brought you to the Powers and convinced you that you had what it takes to be a Champion. I helped set the ball in motion. Now you and Cor need to take care of the rest.” She petted the back of his head and smiled.

“You know I love you two, right? You and Cor were the two greatest people I ever knew. The few weeks I had you both in my life made the whole thing worthwhile. Just remember that, okay?”

“Okay,” Angel whispered. “Doesn’t make this hurt any less, though.”

Adele smiled and motioned she wanted a hug. Angel found himself surprisingly eager to accommodate. They held the embrace for several moments, neither quite ready to let it end. But finally Adele sighed and pulled away.

“I’m sorry. It’s time to go.” The vampire pouted slightly as Adele trailed a finger along his cheek. “Remember, everything will be revealed to you in time. When one door closes another one will inevitably open. Keep the faith and keep your chin up. I don’t wanna have to find a way to go all corporeal just so I can kick your ass, okay?”

“Like you could kick my ass.”

“Watch it A-Dog.”

A small smile played at his lips. For a moment he almost forgot that he would never see Adele again. “I love you, Adele. I want to thank you for so much.”

“Don’t mention it. Now you need to wake up so you can go to my funeral.” Adele’s form started to dematerialize until she emitted a loud, “OH!” She rematerialized quickly. “I almost forgot. When my mom comes to pick up my belongings, make sure to hide that plastic box beneath my bed.”

“The one with the Hustlers and your lesbian gangbang videos?”

“Yeah, that one.”

“Sure thing.”

“You can keep them if you want. Or Harry down at the Paradise Adult Boutique might buy them at a good price. But, uh, I don’t want mom to remember her daughter as a nympho box muncher, ya dig?”

“I dig.”

“Okay.” A moment’s silence was followed by, “I’ll see you in the Great Beyond.”

“Uh, alright.”

And with one last smile, Adele was gone.

***

The rain continued to pour as the casket was slowly lowered into the ground. Cordelia, clad in her finest black dress, watched from underneath her umbrella as her friend disappeared into the ground. Her left hand fumbled around blindly until she found Angel’s right. She felt a slight reassurance when he squeezed lightly.

It was a small crowd that attended the service. They were vaguely surprised when Buffy and the rest of the gang actually accepted the invitations and appeared. From Giles, to Xander, to Willow and Oz, the Scoobies wore their most appropriate attire and paid their last respects, however heartfelt they actually were.

Besides the minister, two other figures were in attendance. One was a small petite redhead named Angie. The other was a tall athletic Hispanic woman named Rosalita. Angel and Cordy had met them both briefly before. Adele introduced the former as a friend and the latter as her “Spicy Mexican Treat”. Any further inquiries about the relationships were dropped.

“I’m glad that it is raining,” Cordelia said suddenly.

Angel quickly glanced over at the sad girl. “I know. I’m glad I could be here instead of waiting until nightfall.”

“I don’t mean that. Although, that is good. It wouldn’t be right if you weren’t here. But I meant that it would feel wrong if the sun was shining on a day like this, you know?” Cordelia hoped he understood what she meant. Angel did.

The minister declared the final words and wished everyone a safe trip home. Everyone then began to form in line and took a clump of dirt. Cordelia walked by the hole first and murmured a prayer she recalled from Bible school as a little girl.

Angel followed suit and whispered another prayer his mother taught him centuries before. He then reached into his coat and retrieved a single red rose that was soon dropped on the casket.

Slowly but surely, all those in attendance paid their last respects. Both Angel and Cordelia appreciated the gesture. None had truly known their friend, but all made a polite show of things. But it would be nicer if Xander weren’t picking his nose.

“Hey Cor,” Angel spoke as he touched her arm. “I need to talk with Buffy a second. Is that okay?”

Cordelia smiled slightly and nodded. She had a good idea what the conversation would be about. Handing the umbrella over, Cordy turned and hustled to the car and out of the downpour. Angel waited patiently.

Buffy was the last in the procession. After she murmured a few words and dropped a clump of dirt onto the casket, Angel nodded to the side asking her to follow. She did.

“I’m sorry about Adele,” she began softly. “If I had been paying more attention on that roof she might be alive now. I’m so…”

“That’s not your fault Buffy,” Angel interrupted. “I don’t blame you for her dying and neither would she. What I wanted to talk to you about is something else.” Buffy gazed up at him, her soft eyes shining behind her damp bangs.

Angel hated this. This was the woman he had loved. It was weird thinking he was about to say what he was going to say.

“I’m leaving Sunnydale.” Buffy looked as if she just witnessed an atomic bomb explosion. “After this business with the Mayor is settled, I’m leaving town.”

Silent tears fell down her cheeks. “Why? Why are you leaving? Is it me? I’m sorry for everything I said and did. I was angry and hurt, but don’t leave because I acted irrationally.”

“That’s not it,” Angel denied. “It’s just that…” He tried to figure the best way to say it. “My destiny isn’t in Sunnydale. I was meant to do something with this second chance I received. And with you here to guard the Hellmouth, I don’t have a place.”

“But where will you go?”

Angel shrugged. “I’ll know where I should be when I get there.”

Buffy was simply stunned. It felt like her entire life was running before her eyes. “We’re really over, aren’t we?” she finally asked. The pitiful tone of voice she used made him feel like a bastard.

“Buffy, I’m sorry. It’s just…” Buffy held up her hand to stop him.

“No. Don’t. Just let me process for a while.”

Angel acquiesced to her wishes. He murmured a quick farewell before winding his way through the headstones back to Cordelia’s car. Opening the passenger door, Angel folded up the umbrella and slid in. Out in the cemetery stood Buffy, but now, Giles was there beside her holding an umbrella to protect them from the rain.

“How’d she take it?” Cordy asked softly.

“With remarkable maturity.”

“Good.” Pause. “Now what?”

That was a good question. “We can get drunk and hope to forget,” Angel suggested.

Cordelia seemed keen to the idea. “Okay. But you’re buying.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The drive home was made in silence.

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Posted July 6, 2015 by califi in Complete