Title: Shadow of the Beast
Category: Angst, AU
Summary: This is Beauty and the Beast C/A style
Spoilers: None. This fic is almost AU
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Just Fic/GT
Notes: Angel left Sunnydale in Season One (Buffy was unable to see past the vampire, think the way she saw Spike) Cordelia knows the Scoobies and a little of who and what they are (just as other students in their town do), but she was never a part of them. Wesley did come to Sunnydale for a while as a replacement for Giles when he was fired, but left soon after. And in this story, there was never a gypsy curse.
Artwork created by SpikesSire
Cordelia Chase stared out of the rain splattered cab window into the dark night, her stomach twisted into knots. This was her last chance, her last hope to save her dad from the mess he had created for himself, as well as his family. If only there were another way, another option. But she knew there wasn’t. She had exhausted all of her father’s resources, practically begged any and all of his former business contacts for their help. It was no surprise really that she had found no support, no one willing to risk themselves for a man who had fallen prey to the most deplorable state amongst his set. Poverty.
Her eyes focused themselves on the large drops of rain that had settled onto the glass beside her, watching as each one weaved a crooked path across the smooth surface before sinking down and disappearing into the dirty, black void. No matter where they landed, or what path they took, each one was doomed to slide down, pulled from below by a force of nature beyond their control. She felt like that. As if no matter what path she took or how hard she fought to pull things back up again, laying in wait just below her was some omnipotent force of nature, tugging her heart and soul toward some black void, whispering for her to give up, surrender her mission to try and save her father, and herself.
She closed her eyes as she thought about the way she had acted just months earlier when he first broke the news of their ‘situation’. They were in debt, had been for the better part of a year. So, he had explained, for almost her entire Senior year, he had been gradually borrowing money in order to keep them all in the ‘state of which they had become accustomed’. It had started out simple enough, a small amount here for a car payment, a minute amount there for the lodge dues and her mother’s weekly spa visit. But over the course of almost a year the small amounts had turned into one whale of a sum. Three-hundred fifty-two thousand one-hundred and eighty-four dollars to be exact.
Cordelia had just stood quietly at first, college forms in hand, as he explained to her why she would be unable to go to any school, much less the very expensive, private, far away from Sunnyhell one that had accepted her. But as soon as his confession ended, her anger flared and she tossed the useless papers in his face, ranting and raving about how he had ruined her life, destroyed any chance she’d ever have at a normal, safe existence. Little did she know at that moment just how right she had been.
In the few weeks that followed, she and her father had slipped into a tense silence, while her mother slowly distanced herself from them both, eventually packing her bags and leaving for New York, her childhood home. Cordelia really wasn’t surprised. Her mother had always made it quite clear that she had married her father for money. She had never really wanted the ‘family life’ or at least not one that included children. She had let that fact slip out in one of she and Cordelia’s many disagreements. It had hurt when her mother voiced it, even though Cordelia had been intuitive enough to guess it early on. Even when Cordelia was just a small child, her mother had exuded a coldness, a detachment from her husband and child.
Her dad had tried to make up for her emotionally absent mother by spoiling Cordelia rotten, thinking that the things that made her mother squeal and brag and pledge her undying affection to him, would in some way have the same affect on his daughter. But, although Cordy had an appreciation for nice clothes and good taste, the tangible gifts of love had had the opposite affect on her, making her feel disconnected from her father by proving the fact that he didn’t know her at all. She wasn’t like her mother; she was like him. The way he used to be. A man who loved horses and art. Who hid his great intelligence behind an even greater sense of charm and charisma. Or at least that is who she had always wanted to be, had tried to be in her youth.
But soon she grew to know another side of her father, one that pushed and climbed to the top of his company, using any means possible to reach his goals of power and wealth. That was a side she didn’t want to know, didn’t want to be.
She loved her father. She even loved her mother in the only way she had been allowed – from a distance. And as the days past and their tense silence eased, she had learned to forgive her father for what he had done, feeling great pity for him as he apologized daily for the direction in which he had turned their lives.
Finally, Cordelia forced herself to grow up a little, accept her fate and move on. She vowed that she would make something of her life. Not going to school and being broke wasn’t a death sentence, just a delay. She would make her own way in the world. But not before she helped her father. So, one night after he had fallen asleep, or passed out from the increasing and ritual amounts of alcohol he seemed to be consuming, she snuck into his office, knowing that he kept meticulous records on everything. After a few hours of rummaging through the boxes of files that were packed and ready to move, she found what she was looking for. Folding the piece of paper, she stuck it into the pocket of her silky robe and quietly shut the door, taking her time as she made her way slowly back to the room she could call hers for three more days, every step worrying over just what she would say to the man who had loaned her father so much money.
Cordelia shivered at the memory of what had happened the next day, the meeting with the ‘thing’ her father had borrowed from.
“Almost there, Miss,” the cab driver offered over his shoulder as he waited on the light in front of him to change. “Just a couple blocks now.”
Cordelia reached down and opened her purse, counting the small amount of money she had left. It had been a fairly long ride from the bus depot. At least longer than she had expected and she was beginning to wonder if she would have enough to pay the fare as she glanced up to the front seat, watching the meter tick away. Closing the purse, she held it in her lap, clutching the only thing, besides the clothes on her back, that she owned.
Looking out of the window again, she said a silent thank you for the rain. Surely Wesley would not turn her away in this. Not if he knew she had nowhere else to go. True he had warned her away, told her that the things she had heard about the vampire were untrue, that if she came she would be in danger. But she was already in danger and her father was in the claws of the monster she had so shamelessly begged for lenience, asking him, or it, to extend the length of the loan and allow her father more time to repay his debt.
She had meant to help, had pledged to him that she herself would take over the debt, pay it in full in the years to come. He simply answered her pleas with a sinister smile and in that moment Cordelia knew she had made a mistake. Little had she suspected that this demon would fixate on her, capture her father and torture him, vowing that he would do so for the rest of the man’s mortal days or until the debt was paid in full. Unless, of course, she wanted to take his place. The choice was hers, and just to show her that he wasn’t a complete monster, he would give her a week to decide her fate. The money or her life, for her father’s freedom.
She had four days left, the other three wasted on business contacts, so called friends and even Mr. Giles. None of which could or would help her. She couldn’t blame any of them really, especially not Giles. After all, he had been the one to tell her about Angel, the supposed vampire with a soul. Of course he had warned her just as Wesley had, telling her that his state of soul did not ensure that he was good. In fact, Giles had explained to her that since Angel had fled Sunnydale almost three years ago, the accounts of him were more dark than not. That he had been known to help a few humans, but that at best he was indifferent, uncaring about the human race, and at worst, a demon, in every sense of the word. Especially since Sunnydale, his first contact with humans in almost a hundred years, leaving him with a curse inadvertently placed on him by Willow.
With sympathy in his eyes, Giles had suggested then that it might be a better idea if she sought help from the Watcher’s Council, that he would have Buffy help her if she was not dealing with an apocalypse, that if successful, would render Cordelia’s attempt at saving her father irrelevant.
She hadn’t gotten to the part of the deal that included the trade, and when he mentioned an apocalypse she decided that it was best not to tell him. He would help her then and she didn’t want the burden of the world added to her shoulders. Nor did she want to pile onto the Slayer her family problems, as desperate as they were.
The cab stopped short at the corner of a dark and deserted road, causing Cordelia’s body to jerk slightly backward.
“It’s just there,” the cab driver pointed to a dark, massive building at the end of the street. It looked like some old hotel that in its prime might have been quite grand.
“Well?” Cordelia raised a brow impatiently. “Are we going or not?”
“I’m really sorry, Miss. This is as far as I go. This is as far as any cabbie or sensible person in L.A. will go. In case you haven’t noticed, that street’s like a ghost town, literally. I’ve only heard of a couple of people who have actually claimed to have gone down there at night. Junkies. Even so, the stories they tell…are you sure this is where you want to go? There’s a real nice Econo on fifty-second. Take ya at no extra charge.”
Cordelia stared out of the window and down the dark empty street, feeling that sense of doom pulling at her again.
“Huh?” she focused back on the driver.
“Are you sure this is the place?”
“I sure hope it is,” she answered and pulled what money she had left out of her purse.
Getting out of the car, she squared her shoulders and began the long walk down the street, her shoes splashing in the occasional puddle. The rain had stopped, allowing her to lift her head and study the other buildings as she passed by them. Each one was obviously empty and in disrepair, making the definition of ‘ghost town’ that the cab driver had given the street seem a perfect fit.
She wondered what had made Wesley come here. No one knew much about his life in L.A.. Just that he had left the Watcher’s Council for some unknown reason and now he resided in the towering building where, according to Giles, so did the vampire Angel. That bit of news had shocked her at first, having known Wesley, if only briefly, it just didn’t seem to fit. But, people change, as she was perfect proof. Maybe it was some kind of study, like a Watcher for vampires. Who knew? She was still getting used to all of this occult and supernatural stuff. It had been a real shocker last year to find out that all of the weird things she used to scream or laugh at in horror movies actually existed. And even more shocking to find out that the girl she had been so snarky to over the past three years was actually a superhero of sorts.
She wondered if the story Xander Harris had told her was true or if he was just trying to impress her as usual with his vicarious tells of his adventures as the Slayer’s sidekick. It was obvious that Xander held no affection for Angel and openly admitted that he was glad that the ‘curse’ had chased him away. He told her that Angel had come to Sunnydale with the pretense of helping the Slayer, never telling her what he really was. Xander supposed that it was a skillful but faulty plan to trick her into trusting one of them in order for them to learn the secrets of a Slayer. When Buffy found out, she was so upset, so disgusted with herself for being attracted to something that she was sworn to kill, that she asked Willow for help. Knowing that Buffy’s attraction to Angel was mostly physical, Willow, the fledgling Wicca, tried a spell that should have made it impossible for Buffy to see anything but Angel’s demonic face. The spell worked, all too well, and Angel was cursed to wear his vampiric face permanently, for not only Buffy, but all to see. Never again being able to appear as a human.
Eww. Vampires. She had seen a couple before. Living in Sunnydale and all. They weren’t a pretty sight. All bumps and fangs, with yellow eyes that glowed like a crazed animal. Well, it didn’t matter. It couldn’t. Angel was her last hope. No matter how difficult, she would be as civil as possible. And just maybe he would help her.
She was in front of the hotel before she realized it and raised her eyes to take in its full height, her heart skipping wildly in a moment of foreboding. It looked like something fit for monsters to live in. Perfect, she guessed, since that was just what she was looking for. Only a monster could defeat a monster.
She squinted and tried to focus on one of the dark balconies, swearing that for a moment she had seen, something, a shadow maybe, gone before she could decide if it was real or just her fear playing tricks on her. Walking up the steps, she noticed that the double glass doors that must have once served as a very attractive entrance, had been painted a deep black on the inside, blocking out prying eyes and, she suspected, the sun as well. She swallowed hard, banishing thoughts of what vampires looked like and what they ate for dinner, hoping that Wesley would be her ally in this quest, and, if need be, her protector.