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Faint Heart 17   1 comment

(nb: ookay. I wasn’t going to write today, but the bug hit- on this WiP. Now, I’m not saying this chapter is any good; more like a bit of history that needs to be written. Apologies for the dryness. (No doubt I’ll be popping in to edit on and off to fine tune. oops! 😀 ))

Part 17

When Angel had settled down in his chair for the day, he’d more or less expected his time to be taken up by the same things that occupied him the day before- and every day since Cordelia had left for Italy.

Brood in the dark, stare at the framed photo on his desk, pick up the phone every fifteen minutes; either to start dialing the number Buffy had left, or the Airport… eventually grabbing one of the many bottles of Irish whisky stored in the drinks cabinet along the far wall.

But today, fate obviously had other plans.

Within an hour of sitting down, Both Wes and Gunn arrived- the latter surprisingly lacking the spiffy suit he more or less lived in since they’d abandoned the Hyperion and became Satan’s Toadies, as Cordy so succinctly put it.

Wes seemed more… animated, for want of better description.  A far cry from the almost uniform expression of distraction Angel had become used to.

It turned out that Wesley Wyndham Pryce had been rudely introduced to the past – and his part in it with no holds barred, several days earlier.

It didn’t ease the sick feeling in Angel’s gut when he added that, so far, Fred and Lorne were still none the wiser.

Gunn, who’d walked over to lean against the edge of his desk; arms folded, coolly informed him that his own memories had never been affected.

Apparently he was having a ‘pow wow’ with the Powers at the time. “About getting all Lawyered up. A real tasty carrot after the shitstorm we’d gone through.” he explained, dark eyes briefly reflecting the stark place he’d occupied since moving to Wolfram & Hart.

“At the time I was pretty much done.”

“We will, of course be discussing this… decision of yours, in more depth. But after an interesting conversation I had with a very unexpected source, that discussion will have to wait.” Wes added, his tone warning that the respite was only temporary.

“For now we have more pressing issues. Unfortunately, for all of us, this means a trip down memory lane.” Seeing Angel’s mouth open, his face darkening with warning, Wes raised a silencing hand.

“Unpleasant as it is, Angel, this is necessary with regards to perspective. Things have come to light and there is no doubt this understanding of the wider picture will enable us to decide what happens next. Connor’s conception was … machinated by the Powers. Although they had their suspicions that Jasmine’s return to power would be connected to you, they were at the time uncertain as to how.”  Wes leaned against the far wall, outwardly relaxed; his expression grave.

Apparently they  took advantage of your slip to the, uh, beige to pull it off.  Things didn’t work out as they’d envisioned. Vampires aren’t physically able to create or sustain life. A female vampire was more of a problem, although not beyond their capabilities. Not their first choice, but it was the only avenue left to them.”

Angel’s head lifted at that. “First choice?”

Wes sighed heavily. “That night, they sent Cordelia a ‘message’ that you had in your possession a ring and that it was her job to take it from you. Darla turned up instead, and any delays would have lost them their only chance of stopping Jasmine”, he explained.

“They were left with no choice but to use her instead. It entailed more involvement on their part, but it was worth the risk. It wasn’t until much later that they realized the vision sent had been blocked by an outside force.

Wesley paused when realizing he’d lost the vampire’s attention. After several seconds, he cleared his throat loudly.

“It wouldn’t have worked,” Angel finally spoke, his voice a thread of sound. Wes raised an enquiring brow but didn’t have to wait long for clarity.  “I know without a doubt I’d have lost my soul if it had been Cordy instead of Darla…”

“You would have killed her.” Wes stated rather than asked.

Angel immediately shook his head. “I would have turned her.”

Silence reigned for several seconds before Wes responded. “Not exactly what the Powers would have preferred, but Connor still would have come into being.” Harsh, he knew, but it had to be said.

He paused, his head dipping for a moment before adding. “Although the outcome would have, unfortunately been the same. Not only can vampires not conceive or sustain new life labor would also have been impossible.” Wes elucidated gravely. “Cordelia wouldn’t have- surv-“

“I can connect the dots, Wes.” Angel interrupted hoarsely. “But it didn’t turn out that way, so let’s drop it.” He’d found himself unable to shake off the infinitesimal regret that it hadn’t been Cordy that night- until Wes had gone on to remind him that she too would have had to sacrifice herself for Connor’s sake.

“How did you find all this out?” Wes started at the vampire’s sudden- and emotive question, so absorbed had he been in not missing out any detail.

“Um, as said, from a surprisingly reliable source-“

“Who, Wesley?” Angel demanded, watching with narrowed eyes as the man swallowed heavily.

“Lilah- but she backed it up with physical evidence!” off the hard, suspicious stare Angel pinned him with.

“You still can’t trust that she’s telling you the truth!”

“Unlike you, who trusted her with your deal over Connor- Cordelia? Us?”

Thick silence settled heavily between them; two pairs of accusing eyes clashed. Both refusing to look away.

Then a loud whistle pierced the air causing both man and vampire to turn their now-startled eyes towards the young man who dropped his hand, looking totally pissed off.

“We gonna be here til eternity if you two don’t just bury your issues! We’ve got bigger things to deal with here”, he stated with mild disgust. “English?” nodding his head with raised brows.

Covering the faint smile that surprisingly touched his lips, Wes  cleared his throat. The familiar word Gunn used for the first time in … he couldn’t remember exactly; gave him a slight feeling of optimism.

Glancing briefly towards the rather subdued vampire, who now leaned back in his chair with his arms folded across his chest. Knowing it wasn’t forgotten. He would enlighten him regarding Lilah. But for now, it was mentally added to the growing ‘discussion’ pile.

“Um, oh yes: Connor, as we were aware, was prophesized to be the Destroyer. Thanks to Gunn – and Lilah for putting me in the picture,” Wes added pointedly, reminding Angel of the fact that he still had a lot of explaining to do himself later. “We are now aware that his role was in fact to kill Jasmine; which indeed occurred.”

“I still don’t get why we’re doing this?” at Wes off-look, Angel clarified. “Rehashing the past. It isn’t like doing so is going to change anything.” he added bitterly.

Wes begged to differ. “Actually, I am heading towards a few major points here, if you’ll bear with me?”

Gunn straightened up, rolling his eyes in exasperation. “Maybe I shoulda filled you in. I forgot how much that man can jaw.”  He raised his hands then settled back against the desk at Wes’ glare. “But booksmarts here will do it better”, he admitted.

“Holts’ appearance was entirely unexpected to all…” for a moment, Wes faltered, memories only recently retrieved coming back to hit him between the eyes. He glanced apologetically Angel’s way, half relieved to find the vampire’s gaze fixed on a glass of whisky he swirled in his deliberately relaxed hand.

“…even the Powers. Still uncertain as to when Jasmine would attempt to breach our world; possibly losing one of their main players permanently didn’t bode well.

Concentrating all their efforts on rectifying that- which apparently is how Connor found a way back, by the way,” he divulged, ” they were unaware until too late that they hadn’t been the only ones to target Cordelia as a means to an end.”

Wes paused to accept the drink that Gunn had poured and brought over to him. “Thank you.” he took a deep gulp before continuing, not knowing if he felt relieved or worried by the full attention Angel now gave him.

“Jasmine’s plans involved gradually taking over Cordelia’s physical form until her soul was literally forced out.” Except for the telling flicker of his eyes, Angel’s expression remained stoic.

“In the meantime, Connor returned, but was in such a dreadful psychological state that he was in no condition to take his place next to you when the threat of Jasmine was at its strongest.” Angel drew a sharp breath at that revelation.

How very different things could have been… he forcefully dragged his attention back to the ex-Watcher who’d begun speaking again,

“This setback unfortunately worked in Jasmine’s favor.” he paused the action of rising his glass on seeing impatience brewing on Angels face and instead rushed to continue.

“She’d almost succeeded in taking over Cordelia completely, when finally; the Powers managed to intervene and remove her from the equation…. but due to their own inter-power struggles, the only option open to them was wiping her memory and sending her back.  The idea being that without her memories, Jasmine would be unable to use the, um, disguise to weaken our group dynamics fully.” Taking a deep breath, Wes attempted to wind up it all up, but was interrupted by Gunn.

“Short version. We fixed the so-called memory glitch, gave Jasmine a get-out-of-jail, and were all too stuck in our own crap to notice our girl wasn’t right. Jasmine took over and kicked out her soul, which high-tailed it back upstairs.” Glancing round to find a chair, Gunn sprawled in it and continued- ignoring Wes’ put-out expression.

“With Connor being crazy, Bitch decided she wanted rid of barbie’s body and then came the baby from Hell.” glancing over towards the still pouting man, he indicated he could finish off.

“Wind it up, okay? I can feel my hair growing back already, “he grunted, before reaching for the bottle of whisky for a refill.

“I’ll try my best”, slight sarcasm in his response. “Her reasons for, uh, using Connor were twofold: to cause more conflict in the hope you would become too…self-involved” Angel looked up at that with a scowl, “to be much of a threat. And of course, she was counting on Connor’s DNA connection to protect her if he came to his senses and returned to his original path. : fortunately for all of mankind, it didn’t work.”

“What about the others?” At Wes’ frown, Angel explained. “Will they remember too? Connor-?”

“If you are asking about the deal you made, well, that is already fragmenting-” at the look of instant alarm on Angel’s face, he hastened to reassure. “The moment you dealt that blow to Connor, you removed him completely from the equation.”  What little color the vampire possessed drained out at Wes’ words.

“In other words, the Connor you knew- your ‘son’, died that day; his very reason for being, resolved the moment he killed Jasmine. The boy you’ve seen since is no longer connected to you on any level, his ‘new’ life is not a fabrication, Angel, it’s a reality. And it cannot be reverted to what once was, no matter the deal made.”

“I killed my son.” eyes deep pools of grief stared across the room at Wes, who swallowed hard before replying.

“No. Wolfram and Hart simply placed a new template over the old – a weapon to hold over your head and threatened if needed. The Powers stepped in and nullified the old template.”

When a long silence again blanketed the office, Wes sighed and wracked his brain for a clearer way to explain what he meant. When he opened his mouth to try again, Angel looked up, his eyes clearing a little.

“I get it. Go on.”

“Well, that’s all of it, on the history side.” Wes said awkwardly.

Gunn cleared his throat and straightened up. “I have to go round up Fred and Lorne. You can fill me –us, in on what our next move is when we get outta here.  Where we meeting up?” Both men looked at him in surprise.

“We thought you were coming back here?” Wes finally spoke.

“Nu uh. After the others are clued in -and believe when I say, that shit piles in quick with only a few words from me. That’s us done at this place,” he shrugged, feeling the relief and enjoying the gradual lessening of detachment that had gripped him for so many months.

“So… basically, we are now in a bed of vipers?” Wes asked

“It’s always been a bed of vipers, Wes, we just ignored what was staring us in the face.” Angel was rifling through the drawers of his desk, before rising lithely to his feet, the Plymouth’s car keys in his grasp.

“Damn, the visions.” Gunn stopped in his tracks, facepalming; eyes tightly closed.

“Visions? You’re having a vi-vision, Charles?” Gunn looked up, dropping his hand at the startled squeak from Wes.

“Stick. Wrong end, dawg… With Angel getting his ass out of here,”he began -then noted the unearthly stillness of the vampire.

The shit just never quit. “

“Barbie’s gonna freak”…

TBC

 Califi

Posted August 13, 2017 by califi in TBC

Right of Possession 3   1 comment

Chapter 3

Something was…off.

Cordelia couldn’t put her finger on it yet but there was a sensation, not of wrongness, but more that something wasn’t exactly right.  It wasn’t a feeling of danger, more a vague awareness that things weren’t quite as familiar as they should be.

At first she thought it might be the small but lingering aching of her head that was mildly reminiscent of the way she felt when she was 13. She’d pilfered the last of the brandy from the crystal decanter in her father’s study, while her parents were off in Europe for a few weeks.  Of course that headache had been accompanied by the continual need to vomit for the next 3 hours.  Noting the general lack of barfiness she abandoned the idea of a bender.

Although if anyone deserved to drink it was the people who were forced to live in this god-forsaken town.

Coming fast to the conclusion that she was going to have to open her eyes if she wanted any real idea of what was happening, Cordelia sighed and bit the bullet.  The one thing she knew for sure was that if Giles and a stupid demon hunting plan had landed her in the hospital this town was gonna be short one librarian…not that anyone would necessarily notice.

Opening her eyes in a half-hearted attempt at consciousness, she was surprised to find gray stone walls, awash in the dancing shadows of what could only be candlelight- when she had been so sure that the sterile white of a hospital room would greet her.

Okkkkkkay.

Well, Cordelia could now say with certainty why she had such a persistent sense of unfamiliarity; because she didn’t know where the hell she was.

But as she tried to sit up memories roared through her mind like a crashing wave and she remembered where she’d been.

Damn Giles.

With the haziness of any decent traumatic memory she recalled being assigned the job of bait tonight.  That was pretty much the standard every time they needed to attract a demon.  She preferred not to think of herself as a demon magnet, but more that she was obviously so attractive that it effected more than just the human race.

That was much better for her self esteem.  And she’d needed the boost since her break up with Xander.  Facing that he’d cheated on her when she’d cared for him so much, she could hardly wrap her mind around it.  Although the rebar certainly helped clear up any indecision she may have had about giving him a second chance.

They had all been at the cemetery.  She knew that for sure.  She’d lured the demon out into the open and the chase had been on.  The others taking off without her in pursuit of the demon.  Geez, they wanted her to be bait but never took into account that that limited her to some extent with the whole fleeing thing.  And they thought she was self-involved.

She remembered hearing the snap of her heel breaking and cringed at the true tragedy of the evening.  Her black leather, knee high, Italian boots deserved so much better then to be sacrificed to protect a bunch of people who thought that all the town’s troubles could be chalked up to the evils of PCP gangs.

Heaving a heavy sigh at both the loss of her shoes and the utter stupidity of the populace at large Cordelia’s hand rose to run through her hair in an automatic, soothing gesture.  Before it made contact with her mahogany locks she jerked it back.  Getting a clear picture in her mind of being tackled by the whosiwhatsit demon she remembered grabbing hold of for balance.  No matter what kind of head trauma you sustain you never forget slime like that.  Ewww; she didn’t want that in her hair!

And yet, as she checked her hand it looked suspiciously mucus free.  Looking down at the rest of her she realized that all of her was clean…and naked.

Crap.

Sitting up she quickly began scanning the room for her clothing.  While a small part of her brain tried to point out that wherever she was someone had obviously gone out of their way to save her from the demon, bring her back to a safer location, tend to her minor wounds, and leave her relatively gunk free, so it might not be that bad; the much larger and more prone to live through the night part of her brain screamed – “You’re naked in a creepy Hellmouth house – RUN!!!”

Unable to make out much in the darkness that blanketed most of the room she moved to leave the bed and begin a closer search for anything that she could wear to speed up getting out while the getting was still good; which was generally a temporary state of affairs in Sunnydale.

Unfortunately her attempts to rise were halted almost before they’d begun.  Glancing down at what was impeding her progress she saw that a long piece of crimson silk was bound to both her ankle and the iron bed rail.

Double crap!

It was bad enough waking up naked in a strange place in Sunnydale, but waking up naked and tied to someone’s bed was never of the good.  Her hands shot down to frantically tug at the elaborately knotted fabric, but her previous movements and her desperate pulling were  having the opposite effect and actually drawing the knots tighter.

In a minute she was going to have to upgrade to serious profanity.  Could things possibly get any worse?

And of course they did.

“Going somewhere?”

TBC

Califi

Posted August 12, 2017 by califi in TBC

Mercenary Hearts 3   1 comment

Part 3

Rising lithely to his feet the stranger reached out to help her up. Amusement danced in his dark eyes. Cordelia’s blush of mortification intensified and she roughly pushed the large pale hand away, her lovely face scrunching into a deep scowl. Jerk!

Climbing to her feet with as much grace as she could manage, Cordy attempted to ignore the tall, black-clad man standing a little too close for her liking and quickly tugged down the skirt that had twisted around her waist like a gauzy rope. This was all Buffy Summers fault, she thought resentfully. If the annoying girl had given her more notice, displaying her panties to the world- well, him and God knows who else, would never have happened.

Then she looked up. Just her luck. Tall, dark and sinfully handsome from what she could tell in the semi-darkness, anyway. Any other time, Cordy would have appreciated the sight of salty goodness- a rarity in this town, but at this moment all she wanted to do was cringe and smack the smirk off his chiseled yet full lips. “Thanks.” Her grudging gratitude caused the smirk to widen into a sizzling smile that made her blink hard before looking away.

“Glad to help,” Angel eyed the young woman with open appreciation. From the top of her glossy head to the tips of her perfect toes, she fitted every one of his fantasies. Her rumpled appearance and flushed cheeks only added to the becoming picture, bringing illicit thoughts to his head.

When he’d turned from snapping the demon’s neck and saw her sprawled out so enticingly, the urge to slide his hands up legs that seemed to go on forever had been difficult to quash. The need to touch was still strong, so he gave into it, running his fingers innocently along the hot flush of one cheek. Appeased for the moment, he asked, “Are you hurt?”

For a second, Cordy unconsciously leaned into the touch, then her eyes widened in shock. What the hell am I doing?! One touch of those cool fingers and her knees had turned to jelly. Sheesh. With a huff, she knocked his hand away, shook her head and took a step back. Only my dignity, she thought with growing embarrassment, recalling the first words he’d uttered and opened her mouth to rip into him.

Lucky for him, a short, sharp scream caught her attention. Cordy broke eye contact with him, and looked around his large body just in time to see one of the demons attempting to herd her now-alone friend towards the trees.

“OHMIGOD!” she cried, moving forward to push the dark-haired man out of the way. Then she froze as a blond guy appeared out of nowhere and jumped onto the demon’s back. “What the…?! That’s a vampire! ” Sheer disbelief colored her tone. Her brow scrunched up in shock and confusion. She watched in horror as the demon still attempted to approach Tara even as it struggled to dislodge the vampire on its back.

“This is just GREAT! First demons and now vamps are joining in.” She took a second to glare up at the hulking figure still blocking her way and with an angry huff tried to slip around his unmoving body.

A powerful arm hooked around her waist before Cordy had taken two steps, swinging round and depositing her back to her original spot. “He’s with me,” Angel replied vaguely, keeping hold of her wrist, and again blocking her way.

Cordy tugged at her arm and glared up at him. “With you?” Shaking her head in growing anger and confusion, the move dislodged the clip that had been holding her hair back. Broken in the tussle with the demon, it released its tenuous grip and the glossy strands fell to surround her flushed face.

Angels gaze was instantly drawn to it, his nostrils flaring as the scent of apples enveloped him. A low sound of appreciation escaped his throat and caught her attention.

Did he just…? Cordy could have sworn she’d heard purring- then gasped. For a split second, she was almost certain she’d seen a flash of fang. Jeeze, now she was seeing things. Putting it down to oxygen deprivation to her brain earlier that was affecting her, she shrugged it off and instead narrowed her gaze, tugging again at her captured arm.

“Well, if he’s your friend, shouldn’t you go help him out?” she asked pointedly, and peeked around him again. Even with the vampire on its back, the demon was still making ground towards Tara, who’d belatedly remembered the sword in her hand and was waving it in front of her haphazardly. “We so need to learn how to use those things,” Cordy muttered anxiously, now tugging in earnest.

Angel flicked a look behind him and shrugged, seemingly uninterested. “He can hold his own.” He grabbed her other wrist quickly when she gave up pulling and instead started clawing at his hand.

“Lemme go, you big bully, I want to help her.” The demon roared when a lucky swing of Tara’s sword-nicked it’s face causing it to increase its efforts to dislodge the vampire who was reigning punches into the back of its thick skull.

“You’ll be of better help keeping out of it,” Angel shifted to avoid the swift kick she aimed at his shin, a grin stretching his mouth. Feisty! He was really starting to like this little spitfire! “Your friend’ll be okay,” he assured her- then cursed under his breath when the blond vampire was abruptly thrown across the clearing. After giving itself a violent shake, the demon turned its attention back onto Tara, who had backed into a tree and was cornered.

“Maybe not,” Angel muttered under his breath and moved so fast, Cordy blinked in shock before shouting worriedly, “Tara! Run!” She breathed a sigh of relief and an ‘ewe’ when Tall, Dark and Unfairly Yummy appeared behind the demon and removed its head effortlessly with a sword pulled from beneath his long leather duster.

After rescuing the gorgeous sassy brunette, Angel kept her in his sights. He’d been impressed with how she’d defended herself. Not bad for a human. No match for the demons, but quick on her feet and flexible…boy was she flexible! He had salivated at the thought of how that could come in handy in other ways. He’d had to force his thoughts out of the gutter and concentrate on the fight at hand, taking care not to hurt the humans that kept getting in his way.

The chaos continued, fast and furious for several more minutes, then after a lucky punch from the demon he’d been fighting had knocked him to the ground, it had taken off, along with two remaining demons- one injured by a bolt sticking out of it’s scaly shoulder. He dusted himself off as Spike snapped the neck of one and the Slayer and two male youths finished off the other.

With intense irritation, the vampires watched their marks scatter. Now their second confrontation and only three killed between them thanks to the Slayer and the humans interfering. What the hell they were doing there? He wondered with a dark frown…the Slayer, yeah- both vampires had been aware that a Slayer resided at this particular hellmouth, and had hoped to avoid confrontation for obvious reasons.

But in all his long unlife, he’d never heard of a Slayer that actively worked in the field with humans in tow. Although the Slayer had managed to kill another two of demons, which narrowed down the marks he and Spike had to deal with – but with the reckless help from the humans? Weren’t Slayers supposed to keep a low profile? What was the world coming to, Angel wondered shaking his dark head in disgust.

Several days earlier, after finding Spike who’d been shoved down a derelict elevator shaft at the New York Warehouse, the fall knocking him out cold, Angel had pulled him out, and then both had impatiently waited until the cover of darkness to continue their pursuit. Already aware of the demons’ planned destination, it hadn’t taken them long to catch up. They needed a Hellmouth for a particular ritual the vampires were contracted to avert, so it was expected the demons would make for Sunnydale, the nearest one in these parts.

What they hadn’t expected was the sound of fighting- and the sight that met their stunned eyes. So much for their decision to keep a low profile! Vamping out hadn’t helped either, judging by the wary eyes now aimed their way right now. Just fucking great.

Angel walked over to retrieve his sword, but before he could reach down and grab it, a booted foot appeared in his line of vision and slammed down on the bloodied blade. He sighed silently and rose to his full height, backing up and leaving the weapon where it was. Equally wary brown eyes lifted to connect with the cold blue of the Slayer.

“Who the hell are you- and, more importantly- why are you helping us?”

***

Spike appeared next to his partner in a blur of movement that made the humans jolt in nervous surprise. Buffy remained steady, used to their unnatural speed, but her eyes flicked from one to the other vampire warily.

“Who said we were helping?” Spike drawled “You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He added with a casual shrug and pulled out a crabby pack of cigarettes, shook one out and lit it with a heavy silver lighter.

They faced off each other in the now eerily quiet clearing. Buffy headed her group, who now congregated slightly behind her.

Angel eyed the crossbow that the redheaded youth, who didn’t smell quite so human at closer quarters, had now leveled towards them- also taking note of the stake that had appeared abruptly in the Slayer’s hand. “We’ve been tracking that particular clan for a while,” he finally replied. Then went on to briefly explain that they’d been hunting the demons who’d escaped them and fled New York a few days before. They’d been following their trail for several nights when they came upon their fight.

“Good thing we showed up,” he finished, almost insultingly.

Buffy’s back immediately went up at his scathing tone. “We could have taken them without your help,” she responded coldly, even though inwardly she knew that was debatable, but they didn’t have to know that. At the same time, it hit Buffy that these two were the reason her vampy tinglies had set off earlier.

Angel looked at her expressionlessly for a long moment before glancing around him pointedly. “She would have been dead or worse by now.” He gestured to Cordy, who scowled and folded her arms tight, but kept her mouth shut because, unfortunately, it was true. “Those two whelps were having trouble taking them on, too.” Angel indicated Xander and Oz with a jerk of his dark head.

“Little cutie over there was left alone,” Spike added, and winked casually at Tara who found herself blushing like a schoolgirl. She ducked her fair head and looked at the soft grass beneath her shoes.

Buffy swallowed the guilt as she belatedly recalled that Tara had been separated from the rest of them in the midst of battle. The vamps had a point, but no way was she going to admit it to them. Instead she folded her arms and attempted to stare them both down.

Angel raked a hand through his spiky dark hair, unconsciously drawing Cordy’s eyes, which then dropped to get a longer look at his face. Although hard and pretty expressionless, she could see clearly an edge of violence in those almost black eyes. No revision on her initial thoughts; he was sinfully handsome …pity! A small, disappointed sight left her.

Watching him beating the crap out of one of demons earlier had been quite a turn on she grudgingly admitted; for such a powerfully built guy, he moved with an almost feline grace that drew her eye. But it had been one hell of a shock seeing his handsome face change when the demon had got in a lucky punch. Just her luck, she thought. The only decent male around for ages and he had to be not only full of himself, but a vampire to boot.

Oblivious to the brunette’s thoughts, Angel pinned the Slayer with hard eyes. “I get why you’re here, Slayer, but bringing along humans? You’re either new to the gig or just plain stupid,” he chastised coldly.

A collective gasp echoed, and then Xander stepped forward, his youthful face twisted in defensive anger. “Back off, Dead Boy, it’s none of your business how we do things around here.”

Buffy remained silent as the familiar guilt surged to the surface. Their human frailty wasn’t lost on her and it was a worry that still plagued on and off. But she knew from past experience exactly what they’d say or do if she told them not to accompany her on patrol. They’d done it before, and if she’d hadn’t have come across them when she had, Willow would have been dead- or undead after they’d been attacked by a small group of vampires. Better they were with her rather than worry they’d follow regardless of her demands.

Quashing her emotions on the subject for now, Buffy hardened her own gaze. It was so easy for these two interlopers to say that- not that she could understand why they’d helped- or why she was still standing there listening instead of staking their asses. Why the hell would these vampires have even the remotest feelings about anything but the kill- of humans?

“How I work is none of your business, Fangy,” Buffy fiddled with the stake even as she eyed the two vampires with mistrust. “What I wanna know is why you helped us?” she lifted a hand when Spike opened his mouth to reply, “Yeah, I get that you were after those demons, but why not us- me? I *am* your natural enemy,” she reminded them unnecessarily.

“We’re here to do a job, nothing more.” Spike raised his hands in mock surrender and took a step back, his expression now reflecting boredom. “Now, if you’ve finished, luv, we’ll be on our way.” He half turned away, wanting to put as much distance as he could between them. The girl and what she stood for brought bad memories and even worse regrets back to the surface. The terrified face of the last Slayer he’d killed still haunted him. What had once become some kind of personal quest back in the day now sickened him. He needed to leave now.

But Buffy wasn’t finished by a long shot. She’d seen what was under those human veneers. Would have sensed it even if she hadn’t – she hoped so, anyway. They weren’t acting like any vamps she’d ever come across and that made them more dangerous in her book. An unknown quality was never a good thing. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get out of Sunnydale and not look back,” she finally warned.

Spike turned back and looked at her with a lift of a dark brow, but didn’t bother to reply this time, his expression unreadable. Angel, equally poker-faced replied instead. “Once we finish what we came here to-”

“This is my territory,” Buffy butted in abruptly and took a step forward. “I can deal with them. Go back where you came from or I’ll deal with you now.” It wasn’t a threat and both vampires seemed to turn into stone. The tension on both sides racked up and Buffy swallowed thickly.

And then the dark haired vampire relaxed and let a slight smile touch his mouth. Buffy’s breath hitched. “We don’t want trouble, but …” Cool confidence oozed from him as he shrugged offhandedly, unspoken words hung in the air between them, and it gave her pause for thought.

Right now, each and every one of them sported bruises. She could see no other choice but to retreat. She’d seen them fight. It had taken three of them to kill one of those uber-strong demons. Granted she was the only one with supernatural strength, but still, the two vamps had taken out three demons with relative ease.

More powerful than the average vamp, these two – especially the dark haired one. She’d bet her life on it that his large, imposing body was finely honed with muscle. The brutal yet efficient methods they’d used told of years- maybe centuries of fighting skills. Hell, just looking into those deep brown eyes that seemed to hold a lifetime…

The last vampire she’d come across with that look in his eyes had been Luke, – and he hadn’t shown as much skill as the ones facing her now. Buffy had beat him – but by the skin of her teeth. It had taken several days to recover from the injuries he’d inflicted on her

Unlikely she’d walk away Scot-free. Yes, Buffy, decided grimly. Retreat was the best option- for now. She took a step back and lowered her stake slowly.

The vampires widened the gap a little more, and after eyeing the contemplative Slayer briefly, Angel flicked his dark gaze over Cordelia, from head to toe. This one was worth hanging around for… even without the business that brought him here. He admired her sass…amongst other things. It probably wasn’t the time or place, but dayyamn, she’s sweet! He let a slight, sensual smile touch his firm mouth. “Maybe see you around.”

The pure male appreciation in that look had Cordy tingling right down to her toes, but she rolled her eyes and shoved aside the accompanying shiver that ran along her spine under his hot appraisal. “Not if my stake sees you first, vampire.” She jolted when a soft, deep chuckle floated through the air even as they stepped back and then seemingly melted into the darkness.

TBC…

Califi

Posted August 11, 2017 by califi in TBC

Mercenary Hearts 2   1 comment

Part 2

Tara sat herself in a nice quiet corner of the University library and did what she did best – watched with interest as the group she’d become a part of since meeting Cordelia Chase, went through what she’d found to be their nightly routine.

Well, Tara didn’t really see herself as a part of the group; more of someone in ‘the know’ and willing to help when she could. More or less the role Cordelia played… which at first confused Tara, as there was history between her, the redhead, Willow Rosenberg who, like her, was a pretty accomplished Witch; the girl’s squeeze, Oz – who was also a werewolf on a full moon basis, and the blonde girl, Buffy Summers, who, she recently found out was a supernaturally enhanced being going by the ‘Official’ title of Vampire Slayer.

The one girl chosen to rid the world of evil vampires…. Only since she’d become friends with Cordy, Tara had heard there was also another- not that anyone one really talked about it. Even Cordelia hadn’t said much about the other Slayer, besides her name being Faith and the pleasure she’d taken at the time the other girl had arrived, and put Buffy’s nose out of joint. – And that the girl had left under a dark cloud.

Cordy had been pretty blunt about her own place in the ‘Scooby’ dynamics, although she had admitted to not exactly making an effort to be truly accepted – the only connection originally having more to do with the guy she’d been dating at the time. Watching the interaction between the two girls and Xander Harris had filled in quite a few gaps that had said a lot more to Tara than anything Cordelia had.

She was more than certain that his almost worshipful regard for the Slayer and over-protectiveness of the little redhead wasn’t something new, and could understand to a large degree why *that* particular relationship was doomed from the start. Her new friend, in Tara’s opinion, deserved more than coming third place. Hell, anyone did!

She’d met Cordy by chance in the halls of University on her second day. Being painfully shy, Tara had done her usual avoidance tactic and attempted to blend in, but being a pretty girl with soft blonde hair and lush curves obviously worked against the ability to do so. She’d filled out quite a lot in the time between High School and the first day of uni. A come on by one of the older students that had quickly become unpleasant had her cringing against the wall and inwardly panicking- until a voice cool enough to freeze the air had cut through the tense atmosphere of the deserted uni corridor and put the would-be groper in his place quick smart.

Tara had watched with relief and quiet admiration as the young woman reduced the 150lb jock to a quivering wreck before he’d rapidly disappeared with his tail between his legs. She’d then turned to asked Tara if she was okay.

The others had seemed pole-axed the first time Cordy had introduced Tara to them- a week or so after striking up a surprisingly warm friendship. An unlikely one going by the reaction of the Scoobies. Buffy had pulled Cordelia to one side and although her voice was lowered, Tara hadn’t been able to help but hear the admonishment which her new friend had let wash off her like water on a duck’s back.

“You think I’d bring Tara along if she wasn’t already in the know?” She’d asked with a raised brow. “Trust me, she knows ‘monsters under the bed’ isn’t just a saying.” Cordelia then went on to reveal that a small spell Tara had used saved her life out in the university car park.

“I’d be vamp chow right now if she hadn’t come along,” Cordy Explained briefly how her arms had been full of books at the time. The redhead, Willow, who’d watched silently from the sidelines, had immediately turned her inquisitive eyes on her.

“You’re a Witch?” After the nod of confirmation, Willow had visibly warmed to her, admitting to ‘dabbling’ herself and went on to ask if she’d be interested in joining a local Wicca group run by some of the older students…

The Scoobies had found out pretty quickly that her friendship and loyalty to Cordy was unshakeable. After several initial comments as they’d wondered how she and Cordelia could possibly be friends- that only missed being snide due to what looked to be real confusion on their expressions, were soon brought to a halt when Tara in turn had asked why? Weren’t they her friends?.

The disbelief on their faces when she’d added that Cordy, although only knowing her a short time, she’d found to have a warm heart and was ‘interesting to be around, had been disconcerting.

Xander Harris’ “Interesting isn’t the word that comes to mind” comment had her zipping her lip and keeping her personal opinions to herself. After that, they’d wisely backed off.

But Tara had decided to take up Willow on her suggestion and joined the Wicca group -after the girl had pestered her for several nights, seeming genuinely pleased when she’d finally agreed. Cordelia had bluntly asked if it was really what she wanted, knowing Tara wasn’t one to deal with someone like Willow Rosenberg and her ability to talk anyone under a table; offering to step in, until Tara admitted to agreeing purely out of interest in the group.

Not knowing many people, and what with Cordy having Self defence classes, as well as weapons training she’d worn Rupert Giles into agreeing to several months before, it gave Tara a feeling of some independence- as well as not wanting Cordy ever to think of her friendship not unlike that of a barnacle to a ship’s hull. A small grin touched her pretty mouth as she imagined Cordy’s response to that thought if ever she said it out loud.

But comfortable enough with solitude, Tara usually spent her spare time sat quietly, the times Cordelia was absent, actually grateful for the ‘clique-yness’ the others had; too involved with their own gossip and interests to think of pulling her in. That left her plenty of time to observe and absorb.

She noted that Oz, too, tended to sit back, only now and again making comments that held depth beyond his years. Oz mostly listened as Willow chattered almost constantly, jumping from one subject to another in a way that would have had Tara blinking dizzily if she’d have been taking notice fully.

Willow twittered a lot. At first it was pretty endearing, but Tara sometimes felt the girl wasn’t quite as ditzy as she outwardly appeared and that the twittering, almost childish speak was more of a habit she refused to grow out of.  Xander… Xander Harris at first came across as a bit bumbly, a major joker- especially when things were tense…but there was something there on occasions that reminded Tara of the saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’.

A lot of the joking around seemed to her to be deliberate at times, as if attempting to pull the Slayer out of her frequent funks. The young mans’ dark eyes unknowingly revealed his feelings where Buffy was concerned, but she either ignored it or was completely clueless- which was a shame in Tara’s mind, as his normality could possibly balance out the girls life in a good way.

Buffy Summer’s topics of conversation were mostly self-involved- but Tara could understand that to a point. The girl obviously had a lot of responsibility on her young and deceptively fragile shoulders, and Tara supposed that the world probably did sometimes feel like it revolved around her. She did think to herself sometimes that the girl would excel in Drama, and was tempted to suggest it whenever Buffy complained of her boring, ‘sucky’ life.

Rupert Giles, once Librarian at the now derelict Sunnydale high, had managed to acquire the position of Head Librarian, and ran the University Library like clockwork. It amazed Tara how he managed it, what with his extra curricular activities. But she supposed after several years of juggling his time, he’d got it down to a fine art.

After a meeting with the Wicca group, and nothing much else to do, what with Cordelia being out with her parents and her assignments done and dusted, Tara had agreed to accompany Willow to the Library and help with what she’d soon found was almost nightly demon research. Willow mentioned that Buffy and Xander had gone out for eats, but Oz was going to meet her at the library.

Her thoughts were wrenched to the present when the library doors crashed open. All eyes turned and widened as the rumpled state of the pair who stumbled in.

“Houston, we have a problem,” Buffy blew at a loose tendril of hair, her face a little bruised, and expression highly pissed.

“Don’t tell me they’ve ran out of Rocky Road at the Ice cream Parlour?” Willow’s weakly witty comment broke the stunned silence.

***

“From your description I may have an idea of what kind of demons you faced,” Giles spoke as he rose from his seat at one of the large study tables scattered around the vaulted library. “Hold on a moment,” he told them absently and headed off towards his office.

Buffy looked around with a slight frown on her face, until her eyes landed on Tara, who was still tucked away at a smaller, nearby table. “Where’s Cordy tonight?” she asked after a perfunctory smile and nod.

“She-she’s out with her parents- for dinner,” Tara replied, responding with a tight smile of her own, which dried up instantly at the resulting scowl on the blonde’s face.

While Tara was wondering why Buffy would ask in the middle of a mini crisis, the scowl deepened. “Damn; we could really do with her here tonight,” understanding dawned and Tara had to stop herself from rolling her eyes, Cordelia fashion. Giles, appeared carrying an old, tattered tome, and a newspaper

“I think it best that I remain here while you and the others go out on patrol.” He told them, sitting back in his chair and placing the book to one side. If I find anything worthwhile, I’ll call you- you have your cell, yes?” he asked, his already distracted eyes lifting briefly in time to see Buffy pull it out of her back pocket and wave it at him. “Good; make sure it’s turned on this time.” Buffy rolled her eyes before nodding.

“_And not smashed to smithereens accidentally,” he added pointedly, again looking up from the pages of cramped text.

“It’s not like I did it on purpose,” Buffy pouted. “Don’t forget, I get thrown around a lot in this gig.”

Giles cocked his head to one side before replying; “If I recall, the last time was when you happened to sit on it after fighting over a slice of pizza with Xander.” A flush stained her cheeks even as the pout melted into a grimace.

“Now back to business,” Giles added after a pause, opening the newspaper he still held and laying it open on the table. “ I saw an article in here this morning which may have some relevance on the situation…”

***

“Sorry that we have to love you and leave you, darling, but the flight leaves in three hours, and you know how they are at LAX about passengers arriving at the last minute.” Mrs Chase checked her watch even as she threw an apologetic smile towards her daughter in the back.

“It’s okay, mummy, I’m heading straight for a long bath anyway,” Cordy replied as she opened the rear door to climb out of her parent’s Jaguar. Her father reached over to pat her knee.

“Are you sure you can’t come along?” He asked, ignoring his wife’s reminder of the time. “It isn’t too late, sweetheart, I can arrange for a ticket to be held for you at the airport- you could meet us at our hotel tomorrow, or in a day or two?” Cordy shook her head, a warm smile spread her lips, brightening the evening.

“Sorry, Daddy, but I have way too many assignments to do to even get away for a weekend,” she leaned into the car and dropped a grateful peck on his cheek. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Have fun, and don’t forget to bring me back a bottle of vintage wine, okay?” she gave his arm a playful squeeze, then leaned in to kiss the air next to her mother’s rouged cheek.

“We will, but you won’t be able to open it for another few years, darling,” her mother reminded her with a regal lift of an arched brow, missing the sly wink and stifled smile father and daughter exchanged.

A minute later the car pulled off, and Cordy couldn’t help but sigh longingly as she watched the taillights fade and vanish out of sight. With another heartfelt sigh and a pout that would have impressed Buffy Summers, she turned wearily towards the short flight of steps to her front door, then muttered an oath under her breath when the mechanical strains of “Who let the dogs out” broke the silence.

Reaching into her purely-for-decoration purse, Cordy extracted her cell and flipped it open. “y’ hello?” her eyes rolled. “I’ll just go cha- riiiight.” She closed the phone with a snap and glared at it like it was a rotten egg.

“No time for that! You’re needed pronto!” her voice rising in an exaggeration of Buffy’s. Shoving the cell in her purse, she dug out her keys. And about turned before stalking towards the garage.

“I Knew I should’ve gone to Baruch!”

***

Cordy eyed the dense trees that lined the side of the highway with misgiving before frowning down at her attire of floaty chiffon skirt and strappy silk top, grateful at least for the incongruous looking tennis shoes she’d found tucked in the recesses of the trunk of her car- as well as her decision to wear silk panties instead of the sheer lace thong that had tempted her eye when she’d got ready for the restaurant earlier.

Damn, “You shoulda let me at least change into something a little less ‘pet me, I’m available'”, she griped, flicking an irritated glance Buffy’s way after briefly sending Xander a killing glare when he commented snidely that available was good since they were trying to get the demon’s attention.

“Sorry, but time was of the needy type,” Buffy replied lightly, adding faux-sweetly. “We didn’t have time for you to go through you’re uber closet,” garnering an arched brow from Cordy

Catching Tara’s eye, and the slight ‘let it go, it isn’t worth it’ shake of her head, Cordy let out a calming breath; “So, what? Any idea where these big n scalies are gonna be? She asked.

Buff shook her head. “Nope. Not really- but Giles said he’d read in the Tribune that some teens were frightened off from this area yesterday.”

“But this is the hellmouth, Buff; things like that happen all the time,” Xander piped up. Buffy flipped the stake she always seemed to have on demand no matter the time of day, making Tara wonder if she took it in the bath with her.

“You heard what Giles said: the would-be attackers were ‘badly disfigured’- and it was still light when it happened, which rules out vamps” Buffy told them. “So I reckon here is a good place to start.” She turned to Cordy; “These demons were after a girl, – and you’re it” she added bluntly. Cordy grit her teeth. Although things were better since the High school blew up, there still existed an edge– moreso since she’d picked up on the more-than friendly vibes between Buffy and her ex.

She personally felt they deserved each other- plus the fact that it was obvious that Xander had it bad when he was her boyfriend- that was one of the reasons she broke it off with him- that and realising she wasn’t in love with him, and probably never would be.

Oblivious to Cordy’s thoughts, Buffy continued. “There’s a small clearing just past those trees. You head towards it.” all business now, she stepped back. “We’ll follow behind and watch your back.” She assured the brunette when seeing hesitation.

“What about my front?” Cordy muttered under her breath, turning away from the group and headed for the trees, wondering, not for the first time why she agreed to be permanent Bait girl. “Sounds so *not* like a well-thought out plan” she whispered nervously to herself as the clearing came into sight.

Buffy in the meantime, felt tinglies. Odd. Normally, she only got them when vamps are nearby. Oh well, two birds with one stake… she thought with a shrug…. and then a high-pitched yelp broke the semi-silence.

She rushed on ahead; leaving Xander, Willow, Oz and Tara trailing behind, her attention focussing on Cordy as she left the trees behind her. The brunette was struggling with a demon that looked identical to the two herself and Xander had come across earlier that night. She also noted absently that Cordy was doing pretty well at staving – and then she skidded to an abrupt halt.

“Well, crap!” the others caught up and stopped too. There was more than one. About half a dozen of ‘em, in fact. And they were surrounded.

“A little help here!” Cordy’s yelp shook Buffy out of her crap moment and she took a flying leap toward the struggling pair and landed on the demon’s back. The jolt caused the demon to lose his grip on Cordy, who instantly dropped to the grass and then rolled to her feet. The others spread out in a small semi circle.

Oz lifted the crossbow he’d brought along and waited for a clear shot, and as soon as the demon faced him, Buffy still on it’s back; took aim and fired. Willow winced and ewwed under her breath at the sloopy, cracking sound made as the bolt jammed through its eye socket. The demon died instantly and dropped like a stone. Buffy landed gracefully next to it, pausing to give it a hard nudge with her booted foot before throwing Oz a quick grin and then all hell broke loose.

The death of the first demon seemed to act as a catalyst. The remaining demons had been just as surprised to see the Slayer and the others as they were and had frozen in their tracks- until their comrade hit the ground.

Cordy took a step forward, about to make her way over to Tara, who now stood alone holding onto a crossbow for her, and brandishing a short sword but looking a little nervous about using it- then Cordy’s arm was captured in an almost crushing hold. The demon that’d grabbed her swung her round roughly but Cordy used the impetus to kick high and ram her heel into its gut. She grimaced when all that got her was a slight ooph. “I should’ve kept my kitten heels on.”

Hooking a foot around the back of one of it’s knees, she yanked hard, and then her mouth opened in a dismayed yelp when, instead of falling backwards, the demon, who still held her arm lurched towards her bringing them both down, with her ending up pinned between it and the ground.

A large scaly palm pressed down on her mouth and nose, and no amount of heaving or kicking moved the great hulking beast. Just as stars started to appear before her vision, the weight of the hand -and demon abruptly vanished.

Only vaguely aware of a sharp snap sounding a few feet from her, Cordy sucked in much needed air- then the sensation of someone- or thing hovering over her caused her eyes to flicker open … and found herself looking into a shadowed face… Dark, yet glittering eyes held a touch of leering appreciation as they flicked over her before lifting again to lock with her dilated gaze. The gleam of white teeth flashed for a moment and she blinked, still a little dazed.

“Nice panties,” a dark as velvet voice commented….

Part 3

Posted August 11, 2017 by califi in TBC

Mercenary Hearts 1   1 comment

Part 1

Rumania, 1898.

The acrid stench of fear hung in the air like a pall. Angelus’ mouth watered copiously, impatient to push aside the pleasantries Darla loved so much.

“We decided today was our boys’ birthdays,” she purred softly into his ear, slim pale arms wrapped around his thick neck, her body plastered against him. He gave her a cursory glance then looked over her fair head impatiently, attempting to see what had assailed his senses so deliciously from the moment he’d entered the building, but Drusilla blocked his view as she literally danced on the spot; her glittering eyes widening with excitement when the door behind him opened and her loved one entered.

“My Spike is finally here and now the party can begin!” She clapped her hands with glee. “Can we let them open their presents now?” Her delicate face turned towards Darla, feral excitement twisting her pretty features. The blonde shook her head and twining arms tightened, thin fingers threading through Angelus’ hair to tug demandingly.

“All in good time, sweetling, but first I want my boy to greet me in a proper manner.” China blue eyes gazed into his expectantly, and with an inward growl of building impatience he brought his head down and devoured her scarlet mouth brutally.

Spike peered around the brunette and grinned in sheer delight. “Ahh, Dru, you’ve truly outdone yourself tonight. However shall I repay you for such a precious gift?” Striking dark brows wriggled deliberately and the answering girlish giggles were stifled abruptly as the sound of wet kisses and purring growls filled the room… but then the softest whimper intruded and avid curiosity had Angelus finally tearing his lips away from the woman in his arms and looked up.

Flames danced and spat in the impressive stone fireplace casting its golden glow across the marble floor. Candles flickered warm yellow light from every available surface bringing an almost dreamy ambience to the cavernous and sparsely furnished chamber.

But nothing compared to the gold fire that lit the dark vampire’s eyes as they finally sought out and rested on the ‘gifts’ his sire and childe had laid out artistically a few feet from the large hearth. Pulling away from the arms and body still clinging to him like poison ivy, Angelus stepped around the petite blonde, his tongue sliding out to moisten suddenly parched lips.

Walking over, he circled slowly, a lecherous smile lighting his strong pale face as glittering tigers eyes caught a glimpse of delicate ankles peeking temptingly from under the voluminous material of heavy, pale blue skirts. Wrists were tied together with red silken cords and pulled taut over their heads, the ends wrapped around the thick oak legs of a large damask-covered couch.

Dropping to his haunches, Angelus reached out a large hand and ran it from hip to knee, a deep dark chuckle rumbling through his chest when a bare foot lifted and kicked out.

With the accuracy of a deadly snake, he grabbed the fragile ankle and held it high, grinning in delight that the lower limbs were left unbound. He brought it to his mouth; dropping light teasing kisses along warm, olive silky flesh, which quivered in his firm grip.

Spike teased Drusilla’s smiling blood red mouth with biting kisses before releasing her to saunter over. Cool blue eyes ran over both the young girls huddled next to each other, liquid brown gazes frantic with fear above the confining gags. Their clothes although lacking the richness of wealth were still bright and flattering. Long dark hair hung loose around their shaking shoulders, and his eyes glinted with more than the reflection of the roaring fire. “Gypsies,” he breathed with a pleasured purr.

The female vampires held hands and swayed coquettishly. “Not just any gypsies,” Darla responded with a triumphant grin, causing Drusilla to giggle and swing their joined hands.

“Romany,” Angelus murmured softly, his free hand reaching down to slide the covering fabric along from the trembling leg he still held fast. “I have no idea how you both managed such a difficult endeavor,” he grinned back briefly, “but be sure I’ll show you just how impressed I am, later.” His promise of reward made, Angelus’ dark head turned back to the banquet laid out before him before opening his mouth and suckling on the soft skin now bared to his hungry eyes.

“And I look forward to it, my love,” Darla replied, licking her too-red lips as avid eyes followed the path of his roving hand and grinned with feral amusement when a muffled cry of pained distress echoed through the chamber following the sound of tearing fabric. His purr of delight as thick, blood-tinged fingers slid between his lips had her impatient for a taste, she tugged on Drusilla’s hand taking a step forward, but stilled when a low growl warned her they were close enough. Willing to let him have his fun alone for a little while longer, she settled down to watch.

“Twice the pleasure,” Drusilla giggled softly and pulled away from Darla and began to dance around the room. “Two pretty little girls who share the same face, isn’t that just wonderful?”

Spike shifted his avid gaze from the now bare writhing limbs of the girl chosen by his sire and tugged the other closer. He ran a long finger down the side of her frightened face, enjoying the silky texture, the gentle smile that graced his sculpted mouth at odds with the savage light in his eyes. “Wonderful, pet, truly wonderful.”

*
*
*
“It hurts, yes? Good. It will hurt more.” The old Romany woman smiled coldly, her wrinkled lips twisting with a hint of glee as she looked down on the two prone vampires.

“You don’t remember… everything you’ve both done. In a moment, you will. The face of everyone you killed… our daughters faces… they will haunt you, and you will know what true suffering is….”

***

“So… Could you tell me if we need to help you file for assistance?” The woman smiled in what Cordelia guessed was the “I’m-your-friend-trust-me’ look these people probably worked on constantly to get it just right.

”What do you mean by that?”

The smile faded pretty quickly. Obviously it wasn’t working this time.” Ah…assistance. Public assistance. Do you have a job?” Cordelia nodded instantly; an expression of pride on her face.

”Yup. Got a job. I work at the cafeteria at the University. You ever been there? I’m the beverage girl. See, I get there really early in the morning, 6:30 am, and I start these big huge urns of coffee. And I make the iced teas. And the lemonade, too. And I have my afternoons all to myself cause I get off around three. It’s great, to get off work and it’s still like practically the middle of the day!” She finished breathlessly and then sat back, folding her arms tight across her chest.

”So you don’t need to apply for public assistance.” The woman asked again causing a dark frown to crease Cordelia’s normally smooth brow as she glared at her.

” I just told you. I’ve got a job.” The woman stared back. After years in her job, she was pretty much used to antagonism. Then she blinked and finally broke contact, dropping her eyes to the open file on her lap.

”Let’s see… ‘Recently released from…Women’s penitentiary. Probation for a year…’ That’s what it says here, in your record.” The woman pointed out so calmly that Cordelia had to stifle the urge to yank the file from her and throw it across the room. “Now, could you tell me about this attempt to steal the Christ Child out of the rectory of the University Lutheran—”

“Didn’t steal nothing.”

The woman blinked rapidly at the vehement tone in the voice that interrupted her. “Sorry?”

Cordelia’s expression was tight with anger, defensiveness in every line of her body. “Who says I stole? I didn’t steal nothing … Anything.” She added reluctantly after a pause.

RINGGGG!

“Timeout. Thank you, Sarah, Cordelia. Very well done, now don’t forget, study, people!” Closing the book on his desk with a snap, Mister Barnes eyed the class with a stink eye before leaning down and grabbing the tattered old briefcase next to his chair. “I want this scene wrapped up by tomorrow afternoon. Get to it.” With a quick flick of his hand, he left the room without looking back.

Chairs scraped across the floor as students got to their feet and made a mass exodus to the open door.

“That was really good, I wish I could just…” she shrugged before continuing, “forget everyone else was watching when it’s me up there.” Tara took her time rising, sliding her books and notes carefully into the holdall she pulled off the back of her chair.

“Like I said before, just imagine everyone in their underwear. Works for me,” Cordelia’s grin turned into a grimace. “But then, maybe not such a good idea where Mister Barnes is concerned. Can I say ewwe?” Tara giggled, pushing in her chair before walking over to join the brunette at her desk.

Reaching out quickly to grab a book that tried to slide off the top in protest as things were stuffed into a large purse haphazardly, she held onto it until everything else disappeared, then handed it over. “What do you have planned tonight?” she asked as they made their way out of the now empty room at a more leisurely pace than the other students had.

Pulling a face, Cordelia shrugged with a sigh. “Dinner with mother and daddy,” her bottom lip pushed out a little. “They’re off to Sicily tonight. Business trip thrown in with a little sightseeing.” She shrugged again, outwardly unconcerned, but Tara picked up on the hidden pique.

“Didn’t they get back from Hawaii not long ago?” she asked, shifting her hold all more securely on her shoulder. Cordelia nodded glumly. “I’m sorry.” Tara added.

Cordelia shook off her mini funk, leaning over to nudge the blonde girl with a grin. “It’s not your fault my parents decided to ask me if I wanna go to Italy half way through a semester.” The grin faltered for a second. “Dammit, I’ve always wanted to go to Sicily too,” she whined. Tara patted her arm consolingly, and then dug into her jean jacket pocket.

“Twinkie?” she proffered a slightly squished candy bar, and then grinned at first the look of horror, quickly followed by guilty greed as Cordelia took it, then Tara pulled out another bar and unwrapped it.

“Don’t think I won’t remember this when I’m as big as a hippo and have to buy two seats on the next plane I ever get to travel on,” she warned between bites. Both giggled as they sauntered down the rapidly emptying corridor of Sunnydale University.

***

“God, I don’t think I have room for ice cream after that,” Buffy groaned, rubbing her middle soothingly as she walked out of the Pizza Parlor.

“If that’s your way of saying you want me to pay for the cold creamy goodness, forget it.” Xander gave her a warning look as he shrugged into his jacket. “I got the pizza,” he reminded. Buffy rolled her eyes before poking him in the ribs lightly with her elbow, eyes rolling once again at his exaggerated ‘ooph’.

“And here was I thinking that the man was supposed to buy,”

“Who said I was a man?” he quipped, “Anyway, the man only buys when it’s a date.” The grin slipped a little as awkwardness worked its way to the surface. “And it isn’t a date – is it?” Mentally kicking himself for making it a question, Xander gave a quick sideways look and flushed a little when wide eyes collided with his.

What was she supposed to say? No, don’t be stupid, we’re FRIENDS-? Or… well, I was actually kinda thinking…. Giving herself a shake Buffy instead decided to change the subject. “So what flavor ice cream are you gonna have?” She plastered a big smile on her face and deliberately ignored the stifled sigh that left him.

Xander kicked a bottle lid absently while he attempted to shove down the urge to confront the abrupt shift in atmosphere between them. He knew they’d have to talk about whatever it was that was that was going on soon, but not now. Lifting his head, he turned to respond when something caught his eye. “Uh oh, trouble.”

Buffy instantly followed his gaze and stiffened as her eyes locked onto the shadowy figures several meters away down the dark alleyway they’d been about to pass. Reaching round the back of her jeans, she pulled out a stake and changed direction. Xander followed closely with a frown and whispered,; “How did you sit down with that in your pants?” Then shrugged and concentrated on the scene ahead.

“What’s up, scaly? Didn’t she like the idea of a date with ya?” Buffy quipped, eying the unconscious girl one of the demons held close to its large, blue-skinned body whilst she worked out the best way to rescue her safely. Xander widened the space between them and sidled along the wall, his eyes never leaving the demons as he edged forward.

As soon as they’d heard her voice, both demons had turned to face her; the one holding the girl stepped back until his cohort was almost in front of him. He sniffed the air and grimaced. “A slayer” he hissed gutturally.

The one who’d taken up a protective stance half turned his large head to flick a quick glance behind him. “We can’t risk a confrontation right now. Leave the sacrifice; we can get another one,” he ordered harshly.

Sacrifice? Buffy and Xander exchanged glances then moved as one.

Xander looked around the dark alley for something to use as a weapon while his companion charged the empty handed demon. Just as he spotted and grabbed a length of rusty pipe, the other demon had started to make good his escape with the girl. Checking quickly behind him and finding that Buffy was still busy with the other demon, Xander weighed up his choices and then decided a slightly injured victim was better than a dead one and ran forward, swinging the heavy pipe.

The demon grunted loudly as the metal caught the side of his head and staggered, but still doggedly held onto the girl. Groaning in frustration, Xander jogged ahead and turned, blocking his quarry and hoping he could stave until Buffy had dealt with the other one.

Shaking its big head, the demon righted itself and then eyed the youth for a moment through lidless eyes before its thin lips spread into what was obviously a sneer but looked more like a grimace, revealing small yellow – and very sharp looking teeth. It lifted the girl and threw her over a large bony shoulder and then advanced.

Xander gulped, but refused to budge. Pipe at the ready as the demon got closer, one of its large hands curled into an impressive fist.
His anxious eyes sought out Buffy’s’ whereabouts and he swallowed thickly when realizing she was too busy fighting herself to come to his aid. His split second distraction cost him. The demon was now only a foot away and he raised the pipe to shoulder level, wondering how the hell he’d be able to use it to its full potential with the girl in the way.

And then a small pair of hands appeared either side of the demon’s head, which abruptly twisted it in the opposite direction with a sickening crunch. Relief filled Xander even as he rushed forward when the large figure began to crumple to the ground, managing to grab the girl round the waist before it hit the floor.

Surprised brown eyes met wry green when he lifted his head.

Keeping hold of the arms she’d grabbed at the same time Xander had moved, Buffy steadied the girl, who was now slowly coming round, while Xander settled her feet on the ground. “So much for an ice cream pig out,” she grumbled.

Part 2

[The small scene in the class came from NOVEMBER WOMEN, a one-act play by Kate McGrath]

Posted August 11, 2017 by califi in TBC

Mercenary Hearts Prologue   Leave a comment

Title: Mercenary Hearts
Author: Califi
Posted: 25/06/05
Email
Rating: R/N-17
Category: AU
Content: C/A
Summary: Challenge by Impress.
Spoilers: Based Around BtVS 4 timeline- but AU
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: Did I ever tell y’all I hate bruddy fight scenes? Grrr Arrrgh! A/N: Some already know that this fic is also a kinda ‘lesson’ that Lysa is overseeing….so I would like to thanks Lysa once more for her support through this fic. I only hope I do the lesson justice.
Challenge: details at bottom of page.
Feedback: Is always nice!


 

Prologue

“Are we gonna go in there and kill ‘em, or just act like bruddy virgins at an orgy?” Spike asked; rolling his eyes when Angel lifted a silencing hand in response, his dark eyes fixed on the grubby window of the derelict warehouse.

“There are too many,” Angel finally spoke, his voice a low rumble. “Let’s wait until they split up.” A statement, rather than a suggestion, Spike noticed sourly.

“Then it’ll take bloody forever to find ’em again.” He shifted impatiently on the crate he’d found to sit on; he’d never been one to avoid a fight, regardless of the odds, and he was getting antsy just waiting. He could think of better places to hang out than this particular area of New York. The bleached blonde hated the smell of harbour water. It brought back too many bad memories of his not-so brief reign of terror in the murky Docklands of England.

The dark haired vampire beside him hadn’t so much as twitched a muscle since they’d ended up on the outside looking in, and that just pissed him off more. Oh, he could do the impression of a tree alright, but that meant being still. Which soon led to boredom… “Shoulda brought popcorn”, he muttered under his breath. At least eating would take the edge off.

They’d been tracking the group of demons hiding out in the warehouse for several weeks, and had been more than irritated earlier to find out there were easily half a dozen more than the seven the paperwork had stated.

Although that put the kibosh on ending it tonight, being pissed had nothing to do with being outnumbered, and everything to do with the price agreed upon. Angel was more than tempted to stick to the original number and let the ones who’d hired them sort out the others themselves.

But his decision to wait it out until the group broke up a little and pick out their marks then, was just about to hit the crapper.

In fact, from the second Spike dropped his half-smoked cigarette and rose lithely to his feet. “Sod it. I’m going in.” Angel cursed a blue streak, as the hand reaching out to stop the impetuous vampire wasn’t quick enough and grasped thin air.

“Im gonna kill the scrawny bastard” Angel swore under his breath as he headed rapidly towards the doorway the younger vampire had just kicked open. If he isn’t already dead, he thought as the sound of raised, guttural voices, roars and crashing grew to an ungodly level…

***

“Fuck it!” the curse tore from him as his blood coated hand slipped on the length of wood jammed between his ribs jolting it higher. Sweat popped onto his brow as he realized how close the buried shaft was to his heart.

Gritting his teeth, Angel eased it out an inch at a time, groaning aloud when it finally pulled free and his borrowed blood sluggishly filled the jagged hole. Dropping the wood to the ground next to him, he finally lifted his dark head and scanned the gloomy warehouse; dilated eyes briefly resting on every dead demon sprawled on the filthy floor.

Counting up seven, a growl of annoyance rumbled his powerful chest, changing pitch as he attempted to get to his feet. Blood starting pissing out of his wound, and with a grunt, Angel slumped back onto the floor, his back propped against a wall.

Resigning himself to the fact that he’d be going nowhere for at least several hours, he settled as comfortably as he could and tried not to think too much about the distinct lack of a bleached-blonde’s head amidst the carnage….

Part 1

 

Challenge by Impress – “Angel and Spike are highly sought after freelance mercs. They fight for which ever side offers the most lucrative incentive. They come to Sunnydale, why I leave to you.
Cordy and Tara are Scoobies, but not Scoobies. kind of on the outside looking in. The gang is in college. Cordy and Angel meet and Angel is immediately attracted. Their first meeting has Cordy putting him in his place, which only attracts him more. He begins an all out pursuit of her, which she does her best to resist despite being attracted to him.
A big end of the world situation threatens and the Scoobies find they need Angel and Spike’s help to stop it. Angel agrees to help, only if they are willing to pay his price…Cordelia. Musts: *Angel and Spike with souls, but without the brooding, guilty, angtsy. dorky stuff. They should be close to their presouled selves, cocky, confident, etc… just a bit more tempered. ***Angel saving Cordy’s life, preferably when she’s acting as bait girl.***Spike/Tara.***Buffy and Angel animosity. ” I will attempt to cover what I can. Tara is someone I haven’t written before, so fingers crossed I get it *gulp*

Posted August 11, 2017 by califi in TBC

Right of Possession 2   1 comment

Chapter 2

Sagging against the trunk while thanking their pathetic asses for leaving her behind, Cordelia sighed tremulously, and then reached down to remove her last boot. After spewing out several choice curses, she concentrated on the job at hand, debating whether or not to take the boots with her. That took all of two seconds. Tucking them snuggly under one arm, free hand gripping the stake that had, up till now, been stowed snugly in her waistband, she began to gingerly making her way across the moonlit clearing.

“Eww. Gross.” the complaint hissed out between clenched teeth as the sensation of cold and slimy blades of grass slid between her bare toes. It wasn’t the most pleasant of feelings, and to take her mind off it, Cordelia instead thought of the various ways she could make the others suffer for abandoning her in the middle of nowhere, and wishing she could recall the place they entered the clearing.

Knowing her car was most probably only yards away wasn’t helping her mood at all, but the anger helped mask the fear of the possibility that all kinds of evil creepy, flesh-eating demons could be watching her from the surrounding darkness and just waiting for her to enter the cover of the trees before attacking.

As if on cue something on the periphery of her vision caught her attention, and she turned, her mouth dropping open in shock as a dark, familiar figure came hurtling towards her.

Angel?!” the name had barely left her lips when something heavy crashed into her back. A blur of brown and green came rushing up towards her face, and then… nothing as blessed oblivion swamped her mind.

*~*~*

Dark eyes raked Buffy’s pretty face with almost clinical precision. Although still vibrating with the boundless energy that came with being an enhanced human, it was clear to see that time and experiences had wrought changes, even though less than half a year had passed since he’d been banished. Features were finer and more honed and her petite yet compact frame thinner than he recalled.

After nearly two centuries in Acathla’s time-warped hell dimension, he wasn’t surprised by his unresponsiveness to the familiar face that once had him aching with a variety of emotions. Although Angel had been back nearly a month, he’d made no effort, or indeed felt the compulsion to seek out the girl he’d once loved. His release from hell had a price, and once he’d paid it, he intended to leave Sunnydale for good.

Time had inevitably changed him too. Physically, his formerly large but lean frame was now powerful with heavy, defined muscle. He’d survived the cruel, harsh environment that might have broken him. It had strengthened him physically as well as mentally, heightening his predator side until he’d literally become a fighting machine that relied heavily on supernatural senses and instincts.

Psychologically, the changes in him were far subtler, and not all what most would consider for the good. The constant struggle for survival had honed his senses, his mindset that much closer to the predator he had once attempted to keep under his skin.  Emotions had no place in the world he’d been part of for so long, and as his scrutiny of Buffy Summers continued, it absently hit him that whatever had once flared between them had definitely died along the way.

Angel continued to watch them. Memories of what once had once been nothing to do with why he lingered; determination not to lose his prey to another the only reason. After so long where survival necessitated kill or be killed, he’d long become used to hunting for his nourishment.

On first returning, he’d attempted to go back to cold/processed animal blood, but it had turned his stomach, too much to consume. The thrill of the hunt was also something he was loath to deny himself.

When he’d first ventured out into the more populated areas of Sunnydale, ever vigilant of the Hellmouth’s protector even as hunger drew him from the shadows of the mansion, Angel had come across several attacks on humans. Initially, Angel had not only killed the demons but also turned on the grateful victims blindly seeking to quench the hunger that would always be a part of him.

It was those few times which had brought home to him that, although his behavior and morality may have blurred from so long in an environment that would have destroyed him if not for the demon beneath his skin, his soul still had enough of an influence that he’d left them alive; albeit dizzy from blood loss.

The high of killing and the unexpected contact of the odd victim who threw themselves into his arms in gratitude, superficial wounds tainting the air with the alluring scent of their blood… Angel would have been lying if he’d denied still taking the occasional snack.

Even though Sunnydale’s residents seemed to harbor the unique ability to rationalize the attacks and move on without reporting them Angel was ever wary of the slayer getting wind of it- especially of victims who’d survived a confrontation with a vampire.

So he’d made demons his prey though Angel’s tastes had become refined. These specific demons were too much of a prize for a vampire -especially one cursed with a soul, their blood a rare delicacy. Being so close in taste and nutritional value to human, they had the added bonus that due to their hulking size double the quantity flowed through their veins. Draining just one would keep him sated for a good while.

Angel assessed the demon taking mental notes of the way it moved, the speed in which it recovered from the slayer’s powerful kicks & punches, and its inability to do more than defend itself against its much smaller, fast moving adversary.  Quickly gauging its size, Angel figured out from what he already knew that the demon fighting for its life was the female.

This particular species mated early and remained together for life. A small satisfied smile curled his pale mouth at the knowledge that this left the larger male to him easing the irritation he’d felt at the slayer’s presence.

The demon began to falter at the duel assault of both Buffy and Harris, who shot bolts that mostly connected and sunk into its leathery hide. Angel’s satisfaction grew on seeing the exact moment the demon decided to flee into the surrounding coverage of the dark woods, knocking her to the ground and making a run for it.

With hardly a moment’s hesitation, Buffy sprung to her feet and took off after it closely followed by Harris and Willow.  Angel turned instantly to follow them and then paused on seeing that Cordelia had been left behind.

Nothing was more tempting than picking off a straggler, and Angel doubted the male he knew was lurking nearby would pass up the opportunity of an easy meal. As if on cue the male came silently but rapidly out of the cover of the trees and made a beeline for Cordelia who had pushed away from the trees she’d been leaning against to begin a tentative trek across the clearing.

Instinct took over and he approached at a run, bone shifting under the skin of his face even as he exited his hiding place. A large twig hidden by the thick grass snapped under his boot, drawing startled hazel eyes in his direction, and Angel muttered curse when her mouth parted, his name tumbling from her lips an instant before the demon barreled into her half-turned back.

Before she’d even hit the ground, Angel’s boot had connected with the demon’s chest taking advantage of its forward momentum. Instantly it staggered; focused so fully on its’ prey that Angel’s sudden attack had been unexpected.

Before it could regain its balance, Angel kept up his assault, curled fists connecting with its face and torso with savage accuracy taking advantage of reflexes that were even slower than the female’s due to the fact it also carried at least 200lbs extra weight.

Almost belatedly, the demon seemed to remember his razor sharp claws and brought up both arms attempting to deflect Angel’s flurry of punches and kicks as well as get in a few blows itself. But it was too late to avoid the inevitable, and all too soon for the demon, its attacker had managed to get it into a headlock and sink deadly fangs into its throat.

Unfortunately, with double the blood going through its veins, it took a lot longer to drain the demon, thus was slower in having the affect to weaken it. To avoid being thrown off its back, Angel altered his heavy grip and wrenched its head around until a satisfying crack broke the air.

Following its now limp and heavy body to the ground, Angel continued to feed until sated, retracting his fangs and releasing the rapidly cooling corpse to step away and straighten up to his full height.

For several moments, euphoria filled him, enjoying the feeling of almost-human blood coursing richly through his veins. Head tilted back, eyes half closed, Angel purred with satisfaction, as the hunger that rarely left him was sated almost fully for the first time since he’d been cursed with a soul.

Then the sound of a steadily beating heart brought him back to the present, his eyes snapping open and turning to rest on the still figure lying several feet away. The purr turned to a low growl, a scowl darkening his features.

For a moment, he’d forgotten the presence of Cordelia Chase, and now, realizing that the heavy blow had obviously not killed her outright, Angel wasn’t sure if he felt relief that an innocent life hadn’t been taken or anger that it left him with a major problem.

She’d seen him. Not only that— recognized him. That brought potential discovery by the slayer and her watcher.

Various options slid through his mind as he approached her, most ending with a quick death by his hands, but all reluctantly quashed; not completely by the presence of a soul, still buried deep enough to be a bleep on his moral radar. No, his decision had more to do with part of his conditional release.

Dropping to his haunches, Angel reached across and carefully turned the supine body over, taking in the graze and forming lump on her temple. On closer examination, he noted she’d hit a large branch, which, luckily for her had already begun rotting into the earth. Angel didn’t doubt that if the wood had recently fallen, the blow would have killed her.

He half growled in growing discontent.

It would have saved him the hassle of deciding what to do with her, he thought, shoving down the faintest flicker of shame that attempted to prick his conscience.

Running large hands through his already tousled hair, Angel checked out the rest of her for other injuries, dark eyes narrowing in subtle male interest on seeing that her silky blouse had lost several buttons, gaping open to display the rounded curve of one full breast snugly encased in fragile blue lace.

Nice! The thought popped unexpectedly into Angel’s head, and with an annoyed grunt he quickly checked for broken bones then rose to his feet and turned his attention to the demon. His brow furrowed in thought, considering the options left open to him, until, with a resigned sigh, he moved over to the corpse and, hefting it up, he strode over to the nearest thicket of bushes and dumped it. Satisfied that it was concealed, he turned back to unconscious girl and lifting her up, he eased her onto his shoulder.

The slightest chance of the slayer or her cohorts believing Cordelia’s claim to have seen him wasn’t worth the risk. At best Buffy could check out the mansion just to put her mind at rest; at worst…

Fuck. All he’d wanted was to do what he’d agreed and get out of town without anyone being the wiser. Taking the brunette with him, although appearing to be his only option right now pissed him off and made him wish he could have just killed her and be done with it.

Angel just hoped they didn’t find the demon’s body. If the Watcher knew anything about this species, and the vampire was positive he did, then he would no doubt be aware that it hunted in pairs. Said Watcher would also know of its ability to consume its victims quickly, leaving no trace behind. Their companion was easy prey and for the time being, it suited Angel to let them believe Cordelia Chase was dead.

Chapter 3

Posted August 10, 2017 by califi in TBC

Right of Possession 1   Leave a comment

Title: Right of Possession 
Author: Califi
Posted: 27/05/2006
Rating: R/N-17
Category:  Angst.
Content: C/A
Summary:  Unbeknownst to the others (incl Buffy) Angel is back from hell. His intention to leave Sunnydale (after honoring a bargain that got him out of hell) just as secretly is compromised, leaving him with a moral dilemma.  WARNING: If you are hoping for an Angel with finer feelings and morals, this fic isn’t for you. His moral ambiguity through out this fic may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Spoilers:  BtVS, Season three, (Post Hell,)
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt created the characters in the Angelverse. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution:  GTCA. Anyone else, please ask first.
Notes:  This is the result of a challenge put forward myself,  that ended up with several Authors (shoutout especially to Cydnestorm & Impress) putting forward ideas (in other words, I write it, and other DW members take part by suggesting material to include.
Thanks/Dedication:to Lysa, who agreed to Beta the fic for me (yay!) and to all DW members who’s ‘interactive’ suggestions have made their way into RoP. *hugs*
Feedback:would be yummy icing on the cake.


Chapter 1

Although the moon was at its zenith its pale rays barely penetrated the dense woods that both predator and prey threaded stealthily through. Neither relied on its illumination to see.  After twenty minutes of tracking two particular demons, Angel was confident that they hadn’t picked up on his presence.

Not so the night before when their roles had abruptly been reversed. One he could have handled; two were a force to be reckoned with.  So far, tonight was going as planned, and a small satisfied smile curled his lips when finally he’d picked up on two distinct trails. They’d separated. From what knowledge he had of their hunting habits, Angel knew it wouldn’t be long before the distance between them would be enough for him to make his move.

Satisfaction fled on hearing voices breaking through the relative silence and he cursed virulently when the distinctive sound of fighting followed quickly after. Picking up his pace, he followed the sounds of the struggle.

Angel’s nostrils flared as the scents of the interlopers reached him, scowling heavily as recognition hit. Reaching the skirmish he used the cloak offered by the surrounding darkness to remain hidden where he could easily observe the ongoing battle. Irritation flared at the possibility that their interference would cause him to lose his prey.

*~*~*

Life for their little group had certainly changed in the past four months. Once implausible relationships had shifted into more complicated ones, and then shifted again. Friendships were tested, love was gained and lost.

Buffy could remember a time she and Cordelia were more alike than she cared to admit, and their unexpected alliance painfully embellished that fact. Before her fateful calling had reared its ugly head, she too enjoyed the simpler things in life: popularity, vanity…indifference to those around her. And like Cordelia, falling for the wrong guy had knocked her world off its axis.

Their personal lives had all gone to hell in a handbasket. Thoughts of hell quickly reminded Buffy of two names that still caused conflicting emotions: Angel and Angelus.

She swallowed hard and forcibly pushed thoughts of the vampire out of her mind. Or was it vampires? It wasn’t really her Angel that had done those evil things. Buffy held onto the concept despite knowing better. Hopeless love refusing to die, she supposed, a dangerous mindset when preparing for slayage. So she turned her mind to the latest developments that were still of a personal nature, but was kinda glad that this time at least her heart wasn’t so intimately invested.

Finding out that Xander and Willow had a ‘thing’ going on— behind Cordelia’s back no less— had been a major surprise to Buffy. That almost fatal fall taken when fleeing after catching them together— to say she was amazed that Cordelia was actually back and helping out several weeks down the line was an understatement.

After taking a quick peek at Cordelia’s profile, her features unreadable, Buffy sighed under her breath and climbed out of the car. Part of her wished the older girl had stayed away. The atmosphere in Cordelia’s car had been more oppressive than it had been at the library, and Buffy couldn’t recall the last time Willow, who’d huddled in the back seat, had regressed into the shy persona of the girl she first met within minutes of leaving the school grounds.

Guilt: another not so subtle supposition.

Buffy had loved despite the intuitive warnings of a slayer and a woman. And in her pursuit of this doomed, great love she had risked the lives of her friends and the innocents she was charged with protecting. Even now this sat heavily on her slim shoulders. Shaking her head in an attempt to clear it failed miserably as ‘what ifs’ filled her mind yet again.

“Um, can we walk to patrol next time?” The timid, quivery voice had Buffy turning on her heel in surprise. Mainly due to the fact that she was so deeply into her thoughts she’d not even heard Willow approach. Distractions, tonight of all nights, would be dangerous.

Willow’s face reflecting the deep unease she’d felt at being in such close proximity to Cordelia confirmed Buffy’s theory. Guilt shadowed eyes that furtively watched as Cordelia climbed out of the car moments later. Buffy sighed again. Maybe that was why she felt so antsy tonight. Nothing at all to do with the demony lecture Giles gravely impressed upon them earlier.

Well, maybe a little.

For a moment, Buffy rethought the wisdom of bringing her friends along. Granted, some time had passed since the accident, and her biggest Big Bad to date was now out of the picture, but she hadn’t failed to notice that Cordelia occasionally favored her side, especially after patrol. Giles’ earlier and repetitive warnings about what she was about to face tonight, also had her wondering if she’d made the wrong call agreeing to let Cordelia be ‘Bait Girl’.

With a heavy sigh, Buffy hooked her arm in Willow’s and both turned away to begin a slow trek across the grass towards the patch of trees. As they neared the dense line of trees along the offbeat road on the outskirts of town, they stopped and waited for the other two to catch up.

“Oh, boy,” Willow’s softly muttered words caught Buffy’s attention and she looked back to see that Xander still hovered by the car, obviously waiting for Cordelia to lock the doors. Even from this distance she could see the tentative yet hopeful expression on his face.

*~*~*

Cordelia spotted her ex-squeeze-slash-rat-bastard-cheat standing right behind her. “Hover much?” she hissed through thinned lips while locking the car door.  Turning abruptly, she stalked around the hood before allowing Xander time to think of a reply.

As soon as they left the roadside, she cursed under her breath when the fine heels of her Italian boots instantly sunk into the soft grass. Probably not the best decision she’d made tonight. Make that the third, she corrected herself wryly. The first had been turning up at the library for the fourth night in a row and second, offering to be Bait Girl. The boots she could deal with.

As she stared straight ahead her eyes, that landed on Buffy and Willow watching from the distance, narrowed angrily. They were probably afraid for ‘poor’ Xander’s safety because he was alone with her. They’d gotten this far with the Harris family jewels intact, hadn’t they?

Conscious of him dogging her heels, Cordelia quickened her pace putting most of her weight on the soles of her feet to keep heel sinkage to a minimum. Rolling her eyes after hearing him clear his throat for the tenth time, Cordelia swiveled round to face him, one hand settling on her hip. His deer caught in the headlights expression was the only thing worth looking at, she thought with a sharp bitterness that just wouldn’t quit.

Before Xander could get over his surprise at the sudden confrontation of fiery hazel eyes pinning him to the spot, Cordelia opened her mouth and informed him icily, “If this is you trying to apologize again, save it.”

He persevered; the rehearsed apology so far not fully given chance to recite on the tip of his tongue, but she forestalled him with a sharply raised hand then jabbed her finger in a hard poke to his chest.

“I may be here with you losers, but this isn’t your get out of jail free card, so get that thought out of your dumb ass head now.” Her lips curled, showing clearly the displeasure she felt in even looking at him, but after a breath, she continued on.

“Unless it is of the ‘watch out for the sharp claws’ variety, do NOT talk to me.” Finished she turned her back on him.

“Cordelia, I-”

Her spine stiffened at his hesitant response and without turning back warned frostily, “The talking portion of the night with me is now over.” Satisfied with the thick silence that followed, she continued walking.

As they entered the cover of the trees, Xander sighed thickly before moving ahead to flank Buffy’s other side. Cordelia eyed their backs, a scowl curling her lips. Typical. Five seconds of attempting to make everything right between them and he gives up like the spineless rat he is, then does the expected- runs straight to the other girl he’d always put before her too.

Letting out a sharp breath, Cordelia cursed herself virulently for her contrary thinking. One thing she knew for certain: it was over. But that didn’t stop her wanting at least a shred of her self-respect back. Never would it have occurred to her the possibility that she, Cordelia Chase, would become the laughing stock of the entire school- and it was all their fault.

Which brought her back to the question that had bugged her for the last hour: Why the hell am I here again? She bit back a resigned sigh. Oh that’s right, helping the hopeless. Only Cordelia wasn’t quite sure why helping the hopeless was becoming so important to her.

As she watched them stride ahead through the clearing just beyond the trees, The Three Musketeers came to Cordelia’s mind, and as she thought of who fitted each of those characters, her footsteps gradually slowed until a growing gap separated them.

…Realizing suddenly that being alone in a dark woody place was definitely not of the good, Cordelia quickened her pace, but just three hasty steps into the clearing and pain exploded down her left side. The air whooshed out of her lungs before she even hit the ground, only half aware of Buffy’s yell of alarm– and then the heavy weight that pinned her abruptly disappeared.

Rolling onto her side with a pained groan, Cordelia looked up dazedly to see the slayer doing what she did best: delivering a roundhouse kick to what must have been, in her opinion the ugliest demon they’d had the misfortune to come across. Wincing, She muttered ‘oh, crap’ as Buffy rebounded like a rag doll when her foot connected with its broad chest. The demon hadn’t even budged at the impact.

Renewed fear flooded through her quickly as it crossed her mind that she was way to close for comfort. The sight of razor sharp talons lifting in an arc only to luckily miss their aim when Buffy dodged back sent Cordelia scrambling frantically to her knees.

A whoosh sounded out above her head a little too closely for her liking causing her to forget about rising.  Instead, she literally crawled out of the way until her hand thankfully connected with the solid bark of a tree. Glancing behind her and confident that there was a big enough gap from the tussling figures, she climbed shakily to her feet.  Almost instantly her ankle gave way, wrenching the tendons painfully and her pain-filled eyes dropped to investigate.

Great! She cursed angrily under her breath on finding that one of the heels of her new Italian boots had snapped like a twig. Another whooshing sound pulled her attention away from the annoying discovery and she was just in time to see a bolt sink into the demon’s sinewy neck.

Noticing another protruding from its shoulder, Cordelia looked around and saw Xander holding up a reloaded crossbow, obviously waiting for another clear shot. Willow stood a few feet to his right, her face deathly pale and eyes impossibly wide with fear. She clutched a small cloth sack close to her chest, and Cordelia recalled that it had some kind of sucking-of-demon-strength mojo inside.

Giles had taken great pains to warn the little witch that the powder had to be used carefully; apparently having the same effect on a Slayer as their quarry.  Cordelia hoped to God that Willow stopped visibly shaking enough to get it right when the time came. Otherwise a broken heel would be way down on her list of major disasters.

On seeing that Buffy’s constant attack was finally having an effect on the demon, Cordelia risked looking away to assess the damage to her boot, and then proceeded to go over her options. There weren’t many: remove them both or break the other heel off. The latter thought didn’t go down well. Three hundred and eighty dollars down the drain, jeeze!

Deciding they might be salvageable- considering they were one of a kind, she bent down to unzip them. As she was about to remove the second boot a loud thud sounded a little too close for comfort and her head jerked up, eyes widening at the sight of Buffy sprawled on her back only feet away from her. Before she could think to move, Buffy had sprung back to her feet agilely and took off after the now-fleeing demon.

Cordelia’s mouth gaped in disbelief as both Xander and Willow chased after her without once looking back until the trees and inky blackness veiling them swallowed them up.

Chapter 2

Posted August 10, 2017 by califi in TBC

Getting to Know You 15   1 comment

nb:Very short chapter, which read, will clarify why.

Part 15

The last hours of school couldn’t come soon enough for Cordelia. Visions of white sandy beaches and turquoise sea as clear as Venetian glass, taunted her throughout the boring dissertation that the English Teacher had decided to read out to the class.  Checking her watch for the zillionth time, she willed it to speed up and put her out of her misery.

I should be so lucky.

Her mind wandered back to two days before, when her parents had unexpectedly arrived home – only to inform her they were off again on Saturday morning.

Cordelia had instantly jumped at the opportunity to escape from SunnyHell, if only for a while. Literally begging to be included in their plans. Reminding them that school closed for Summer recess on Friday, when her mother attempted to use that as an excuse not to take her along.

She’d turned beseeching puppy-dog eyes towards her father, promising: “You won’t even notice I’m there.” This tactic had never worked with her mother, be he usually folded when exposed to the well-learned and perfected gaze from his ‘Princess’.

Or, it could have simply been the near-desperation in clouded eyes that did it. Whatever.

Her father had agreed, and in less than a day she’d be flying  first class, naturally, to Bermuda.

The bell finally rang. Cordelia held back, waiting for the initial rush for the door to be over, before shoving her books into her bag and rising quickly to head out of the classroom. Towards freedom. She’d given Harmony and her ex-Cordettes short shrift, and had no problem ignoring them after that, but…  A much-needed break from the-now two Musketeers and the Watcher was definitely in order.

Since Sunnydale High wasn’t exactly humongous, it had been impossible not to figuratively bump into them. And unfortunately there had been times when she’d had to visit the Library to grab books needed for her classwork. Xander -surprisingly, turned his eyes away after the initial glare each time they’d seen each other. Which suited her fine.

Willow, on the other hand, would catch her eyes and smile that weird/sad little smile that always tightened her throat, and made her mostly want to throttle the girl. Cordelia did not need- nor want her pity! With grinding teeth she’d skim the shelves for books needed for study, feeling the burn of her gaze on the back of her neck. The knee jerk reaction to turn and bitch her out stifled, for fear something might slip.

Mostly, Giles would be closeted away in his office, which again suited her fine. Not thinking for a second that he hadn’t thought long and hard on their very brief conversation. Her confidence, calm and “leave me the hell alone, I’m busy” persona had so far worked when occasionally confronted with his concerned and oftentimes deeply searching gaze.

Each night, she’d go home feeling drained and not a little depressed. Then spend hours rebuilding slightly cracked walls.

But finally, Cordelia could put all that behind her… until Sunnydale High inevitably opened its doors once again.  But by then, she hoped enough time would have gone by to bring some sort of normality to her World. ‘Normal’ hadn’t been part of their World for a long time, but the remaining ‘Scoobies’ would probably be concentrating on some other Big Bad by the time she got back.

One could but hope.

TBC

Califi

Posted August 10, 2017 by califi in TBC

Getting to Know You 14   1 comment

Part 14

“Xander, stop! – Please?” His body tensed and stilled at the last softly spoken word, looking down at the redhead hanging onto his t-shirt for dear life.

Suppressing the urge to push her aside, he settled for glaring down at her. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t go over there and express myself, Will?” He exclaimed angrily, his dark hair almost on end with passionate; and to his mind, justified anger.

Willow glanced over at Giles’ office as the door closed behind the girl in question. She’d swept into the Library seemingly without a care in the world- unless of course, you were looking with critical eyes. The too brittle smile. A slight pallor that emphasised dark shadows under eyes that make-up couldn’t quite conceal. 

It had taken the speed of light to get to Xander before he managed to confront Cordelia who was by then at the door of the office. An almost impossible feat considering the cold dismissal in the brief flick of the girl’s dark eyes over his angry features.

Grimacing helplessly. Willow wracked her frazzling brain trying to think of the perfect thing to say. To turn this from what was definitely going to be so, so bad. Then it came to her.

“Don’t forget, Xan, we pretty much left her to fend for herself that night”. Although more than a little upset at the time, Willow had paled with the recollection:  the moment Buffy collapsed they’d both ran over. Completely forgetting for too long a time, that Cordelia’s life hung in the balance.

She looked up at her friend, relieved to see the hot anger bleeding from his face. “Can you honestly hold onto that angerfest you’ve got going knowing that you; well, we” she hastily amended off his accusing look; “did something worse?” Xander visibly deflated and she dropped her restraining hands.

Now bitterly regretting the anger-laced calls she’d made to both Xander and Giles right after the other girl had left -the same way she’d arrived. Sleep had been elusive as her mind constantly went back to the ‘spat’ between herself and Cordelia.

It had taken the best part of the night before Willow herself had come to that mortifying conclusion.

“I still think I have every right to be more than a little upset about this.” He muttered morosely, slowly sinking into the edge of a library table.

“I know,” willow sighed, “but right now I think we need to back off and regroup for a while, then try to build bridges.” Not that it’s gonna be that easy she thought sadly, glancing again at the door of the office.

***

Sitting back in the chair on the other side of the desk, Cordelia managed to keep her veneer of calm from cracking.

The still tender-looking cuts and bruises that adorned his face, the numerous taped fingers  and the wheelchair he now sat in had caused her confident stride to briefly falter when she’d first entered the library’s Office.  Willow had told of his kidnapping and rescue, but failed to mention the torture he’d endured. How’d he swung that past weasily Principal Snyder? she wondered. Car crash? Definitely believable.

Her own fading bruises paled into insignificance in comparison. Not that her short time with Angelus hadn’t left its mark.  The physical scars would eventually fade, but the psychological ones would stay with her for a lifetime. A small sigh fell from her mouth at the recollection of Xander’s reaction to her entrance; the little witch frantically rushing across the library to hang onto his shirt when he instantly approached her; self-righteous anger colouring his face bright red.

As pissed as Willow had been the other night, which in itself had been a little disconcerting for such a mouse it seemed she wasn’t looking for another round of the Blame Game. Restless fingers absently checking the neckline of her silk turtleneck top, she brought her attention back to the present.

Giles sat silently observing her with thoughtful eyes, and her jaw unconsciously angled high as she waited for him begin the inevitable lecture. Fortune had shone on her for most of the day, managing to avoid all three until, in her last class a school Monitor had popped in to hand her a note from the man facing her. The temptation to ignore the ‘summons’ was strong, but she knew she’d have to face him eventually.

Dragging it out would only make things worse in the long run. After what she’d been through, facing Giles would be a walk in the park. Most of all she wanted the whole thing finally put to bed. But long tense minutes of continuing silence was starting to grate. Shifting uncomfortably then half rising in irritation; her mouth opened ready to make excuses and leave, he finally deigned to speak. With reluctance, she settled back down onto the too-hard seat .

“Mrs Phillips mentioned this morning that your housekeeper called on Monday to confirm your absence. Due to a bout of influenza?” Thrown by his innocuous question Cordelia’s head nodded yes. He leaned back in his wheelchair, eyes sharpening as he continued.

“Apparently this was the only call she’d received. Even though you had in fact been absent for several days previous.” Giles noted and mentally filed away the guarded expression that now settled on her face. “I’m a little confused as to why you waited five days to notify the school of your… malaise.” He raised a stalling hand when she went to speak.

 “Let me finish, Cordelia. Please” off her look of frustration. Leaning forward, resting his hands gingerly on the desk he sighed wearily, a tinge of regret lit his tired eyes.

“I’m more than aware that I may have been a little…terse on the phone yesterday, and I can only put that down to the fact that for almost a week I thought you had died -horribly, I might add, at the hands of A-Angleus.”  The slightest stutter eased her annoyance somewhat, as did the reminder of the other girl’s death. They both had justifiable cause to hesitate over the vampire’s name.

“But things don’t seem to be adding up,” another sigh, “and as credible as your explanation of events sound, I’m left with the feeling that you aren’t being entirely…truthful?” For a moment stricken eyes stared into his. “Please talk to me, Cordelia,” he urged softly. “What really happened that night?”

Then she blinked and the moment was gone.  Expressionless hazel now stared into disconcerted blue. “Nothing else happened,” she asserted, her voice as cool as her eyes. “Given your background and everything, I can understand your need for dramatics.” Giles’ eyes widened, for a moment wanting to defend himself, but kept his mouth shut as the young girl continued on.

“I escaped. I survived.” Keeping her gaze locked to his, she rose to her feet. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience caused” with a subtle hint of sarcasm, “but the last thing on my mind at the time was ringing in sick.” Releasing his eyes, Cordelia bent to retrieve her purse off the floor and turned towards the door- only to look back; her expression mirroring his earlier weariness.

“Just remember, Watcher man. I’m not the only one that did a runner.” He jolted at that reminder, “Not that I blame her. But you can all freak out, lecture and recriminate to your heart’s content. As for me?” pulling the door open, she continued, her face hardening. “I’m done. I’m gonna put this whole sucky chapter in the trash where it belongs and be grateful I can carry on living my life.”

A slight shrug lifted one delicate shoulder.  “It’s getting late and Rosa’ll have a cow if I’m not home soon, so I’ll maybe see you around. Night” The door closed, surprisingly softly, behind her.

The Watcher stared blankly at the door, unable to shake off the fact that the young girl had thoroughly turned the tables on him.

Game, set and match.

Part 15

Note to self: Never reread your own fic once published. It never ends well.

Posted August 8, 2017 by califi in TBC