Title: Another Time
Content: This is a sequel to “Time Trip” and “Times Two”. Angel and Cordelia take another trip to the past. But, this time, there’s one big, soulless complication.
Spoilers: Takes place after “Provider” on ANGEL. Also general BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere, just drop me a note so I’ll know where.
Notes: (Third in the Time Trip Series) This is the answer to a challenge made by Spike ‘n Cordy over at the Stranger Things Forum. Once again, I didn’t exactly follow the challenge to the letter. But I hope you enjoy it just the same.
2) This story is AU in as far as “Waiting In the Wings” goes. In my little world, that episode won’t take place until several weeks after “Provider”. When I wrote “Time Trip”, I really had no idea it would turn into a series, and I’ve decided I need time and space to move.
Angel made a sharp, left turn. The black Plymouth convertible defied gravity for one long, heart-stopping moment, hanging on to the road by just two wheels.
Fred, sitting in the backseat between Wes and Gunn, made a startled, squeaking sound.
“Um, Angel,” Wesley said. He gave Fred’s arm a reassuring pat. “Could you, perhaps, slow down?”
“No,” Angel answered. “According to Cordy’s vision, we don’t have much time.”
“Which is true,” Cordy agreed. She sat hunched in the passenger seat, ready to curl into a protective ball if it looked like they were about to hit something. “And, you know, I’m with ya on the people saving. But, if you hit a telephone pole, we’re *really* going to be late.”
“Late, as in dearly departed,” Gunn said. “Well, Maybe not *you*. But *we* don’t have an immortal card to play.” When he saw that Wesley’s hand still rested on Fred’s left arm, he put his own hand on her right arm. And pretended not to see the ex-Watcher’s baleful glare. “Besides, Fred’s turning green.”
The physicist gave him a grateful, if sickly, smile.
Angel didn’t comment. But Cordelia thought he maybe eased his foot off the gas. A little.
Since the scenery was flashing past way too fast for her to look at, Cordy concentrated on the vision she’d had. She hated it when the Powers didn’t give them much time. It led to speeding, and possible head-on collision.
And why had some teenager turned to the black arts to solve his bullying problem? Why couldn’t he talk to a teacher? Or his parents? Or, if he was really set on revenge, he could have put Ben Gay in his tormentors’ jock straps.
Anything was better than trying to call on the Dark Ones to help you punish a bunch of football players, only to accidentally conjure up a demon that wanted to plant it’s tiny, demon-baby larva under your skin.
“And *that’s* a picture I’ll never get out of my head,” Cordy murmured.
As the car screeched to a sudden halt, everyone but Angel lurched forward.
“This is it,” the vampire said as he opened the car door. He paused to give Cordelia a look. “Maybe you should stay here. Wes, Gunn and I can…”
“Uh huh,” Cordy said as she opened the passenger door. As she got out, she heard Angel sigh. She noticed he did that a lot lately.
The team from Angel Investigations hurried up the walkway towards the simple, two story house. From the tension running through his body, Cordy knew what Angel wanted to do. Kick the door in and barrel inside. It was one of his favorite things.
But, since that wasn’t an option, he rang the bell. Four times in three seconds.
“Yeah,” Gunn said. “They probably didn’t hear the first two.”
Before Angel could comment, the door opened to reveal a young girl, about 8 years old, with shaggy blond hair. In one hand, she held a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Cordy frowned. Had no one told this little girl not to go around answering doors? At least, not until she knew who was on the other side.
“Who are you?” she asked. As she studied them with curious eyes, she took a huge bite of her sandwich.
Cordy took a cautious step forward and offered her most winning smile. “Um, hello. We’re here to see…your brother.” Just a guess, but the odds were in her favor.
The little girl frowned. “Are you the friends Eddie’s always talking about? ‘Cause Eddie’s always talking about how he’s got all these friends. But I ain’t never seen no friends of his.”
There was a stunned silence. Fred couldn’t have done better.
“Yeah,” Angel finally said. “We’re Eddie’s friends. Can we come in?”
“Well, he’s in his room.” She waved her sandwich towards the stairs. “And he told me not to bother him for nothing.”
“But we’re his friends, right?” Fred asked. Nervously, she played with the left cuff of her sweatshirt. “And he won’t mind if some friends drop by, right?”
The little girl considered this for a second. Then, she shrugged. “You can come in, I guess.”
Like a bronco let out of the gate, Angel pushed through the door and charged up the stairs.
Knowing how urgent the situation was, Cordy, Gunn and Wes were close behind.
Fred stayed with the little girl.
“You know,” the physicist began, “you really shouldn’t invite strangers into your house. Especially not at night. Unless they’re us, of course.”
Cordy made it to the top of the stairs just in time to see Angel kick open a door at the end of the hall.
And a strange light poured out of the room, flooded the hallway. Like wafts of illuminated smoke, floating on silver beams.
Cordelia was mesmerized by it. Unable to move, or even feel afraid. Just watch as the light rushed toward her. Fast…but in some kind of weird slow motion.
Then, she saw Angel fall.
She had only a second to feel alarmed before everything went dark.
* * *
Someone slammed a locker door shut.
Startled by the metallic CLANG, Cordelia Chase jumped. She felt swamped by the noise.
Doors opened and closed.
Students whispered, talked, shouted, laughed.
The sounds rushed at her like a huge wave. Crashed over her so suddenly, she actually staggered a little.
Cordelia stepped away from her open locker and took a deep breath. Blinking owlishly, she looked up and down the busy hallway of Sunnydale High.
She had the weirdest feeling. Like she was supposed to be somewhere else, doing something else.
Cordelia frowned. The only place she had to be was history class in three minutes.
Shaking her head, she went back to her locker. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror that hung on the door. And was surrounded by pictures of Xander Harris.
Shoulder-length, mahogany hair perfect.
Clothes neither wrinkled, stained nor linty.
With a satisfied smile, she grabbed her history book and closed the door.
* * *
The Sunnydale High School library wasn’t the hottest spot in town. For some reason, it had gotten a reputation for being creepy. So, as a rule, most students preferred to take care of their literary needs at the public library.
Which suited Buffy Summers just fine. She and her friends kind of viewed the library as a sort of clubhouse. No parents with prying eyes and ears. Few visitors to disturb their privacy. Right on the school campus, where they spent a large part of their day. It was the perfect Slayer HQ.
“So, Giles,” Buffy said as she hopped up onto the counter. Once seated, she swung her legs from side to side. “Is there anything…Hellmouthy for me to worry about tonight?”
“I’m fairly certain there isn’t,” the Watcher said as he started to organize the few books that had been returned that day. “All seems to be quiet. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Yep, the man love’s words,” Xander Harris said. Sitting on the library steps, he paged through a comic book. “Why say a simple ‘no’ when you can stretch it out to three whole sentences?”
The librarian gave the teen an annoyed look. “Thank you, Xander, for that critique.”
“I like to help,” Xander said. His eyes never strayed from The Adventures of Captain Future.
“I say we Bronze it tonight,” Buffy said, determinedly cheerfully. “I’m in the mood for some mindless fun!”
“And Dingoes isn’t playing,” Willow chimed in with an eager smile. “So Oz and I can dance.” She donned a thoughtful frown. “Not that we’ve ever really…danced before. So we’ll sit. You know? Together?” She petered off into an uncertain silence.
Giles gave Buffy one of his patented Watcher-to-Slayer looks. “You will, of course, do a quick patrol at the very least.”
“Of course,” Buffy said. She’d mastered the art of getting patrol out of the way before a night of fun. “I get in my full quota of vamp slayage. Then, it’s a party!”
And she was *going* to have fun. She’d decided, while she was still in bed this morning, only half awake. She wouldn’t worry about the fact that she hadn’t seen Angel in over a week. She wasn’t going to hang on edge, nerves frayed like a rope stretched too tight, wondering if his absence meant he was planning something particularly nasty.
She was going to take this opportunity to forget that the man she loved wanted her dead, and be a typical teenager, just hanging out with her friends.
As she gave her head a decisive nod, Buffy’s eyes fell on Cordelia.
The girl sat in a chair a little removed from the rest of the group. She was staring with distant eyes at some point near the ceiling. A perplexed frown marred her brow. And, weirdest of all, she hadn’t said a word since they all filed into the library.
Xander must’ve noticed too. Even those his nose buried in a comic book.
“What’s with the quiet, Cor?” he asked. He shivered dramatically. “Kind of creepy.”
Cordelia gave her boyfriend a Queen C glare. “Shut up, Xander,” she said…but without the usual bite. Almost like an afterthought.
“Hey, I’m just saying.”
“Well, don’t. Read. Or do whatever passes for reading in your tiny little micd.”
Xander shrugged the insult off. He was used to them by now.
Buffy shook. She was never going to get those two.
“You’ll call me if anything comes up?” Giles asked as he straightened his glasses.
“Yeah, sure,” Buffy said. She hopped off of the counter. “And I’ll have my cell. So, vicey-vercy.”
Giles raised an eyebrow at her phrase-butchery, but made no comment.
* * *
The woman had chin-length, brown hair. A tall, lithe body. And, although he couldn’t see her face clearly, he could *feel* her smile. It filled him with warmth. Made him feel alive. Human.
Images flashed through his mind.
The two of them, arguing. She gave him a look that made him crumble. And, at that moment, he knew the kind of power she had over him.
The two of them, both with swords. Moving as one. And he felt so connected to her at the moment.
The two of them, barely speaking. She was mad at him, and he was miserable. And he knew, at that moment, that she was in control…
The two of them, holding on to each other. And, at that moment, he knew that he’d been away too long. He would never leave her again, because she was a part of him…
Angelus woke abruptly. He bolted upright in the large, four-poster bed.
He tried to hold on to the dream. But images were like clouds of smoke. The more he tried to capture them, the faster they dissipated.
But, while the images vanished like they had never been, the feelings remained.
He felt that hunger. The hunger of wanting something you couldn’t have.
And the warmth of something precious and familiar.
Angelus growled low in his throat. Because both feelings made him uneasy.
Angelus shook his head, and tried to shake off the feeling. Probably just an afterimage, left behind by his soul’s departure. He still felt its influence sometimes. Like an infection. For example, he could sense his soul’s more tender feelings for the Slayer with crystal clarity. Which was one of the reasons he wanted to hurt her so badly.
Angelus got out of bed. Dressing in his favorite leather pants, and a maroon, silk shirt, he left the master bedroom.
Spike and Dru were in the great room. It looked particularly gothic tonight, filled with hundreds of black and blood red candles.
There was Spike, sitting near the French doors. In a wheelchair because of the Slayer. Mesmerized as he watched…
Angelus’s childe danced in front of the dead fireplace. Swayed to music only she could hear.
Angelus watched her with pride. When he first encountered Drucilla, she was the embodiment of purity and innocence. Obedient daughter. Loving sister. Always reaching out to those in need, friend or stranger. So afraid her gift meant she was evil.
He had turned her into what she was. A true childe of evil. Her purity corrupted. Her goodness turned to cruelty. Her innocence forever preserved by her insanity.
Angelus grinned. Ah, the pure artistry of it. It was just…beautiful.
It was too bad he didn’t have time to do that kind of thing more often. But, with Buffy…
“Buffy,” he muttered. He smirked even as the now familiar, cold hatred filled his dead heart.
Hearing him, Drucilla spun around. Her eyes lit up with love and wonder. In an instant, she was there in front of him, still swaying.
“Dance with me, my Angel,” she said in her soft, childish voice.
“Not right now, Dru,” he said. “Why don’t you ask Spike? I’m sure he’d be happy to…” He paused, casting a contemptuous glance at the younger vampire’s wheelchair. “No, I guess he really can’t, can he?”
Spike glowered. “Stuff it, Angelus,” he said rather casually.
Angelus grinned. His grandchilde was so delightfully easy to piss off.
Still swaying, Drucilla pouted prettily. “You don’t like my party?”
“It’s not that, Dru,” he assured her. “I just have places to be.” He walked to the mantle. Ran his hand through the flame of one of the candles that rested there. “It’s been too long since I’ve done something…special for Buffy. She *is* the most important woman in my life…at the moment. Don’t want her to feel neglected.” He shook his head. “But it’s just so hard finding new ways to top myself.”
“But you will,” Drucilla said. The brunette vampiress followed him, like a wraith carried on the wind. “You always do.”
The elder vampire graced his childe with an indulgent smile. “Thanks, Dru. Knowing how much you believe in me always gets me”—he tapped a spot over his unbeating heart—“right here.”
Rolling his eyes, Spike steered his wheelchair towards the pair. “I have a suggestion. Kill the Slayer, already. That would be special. Slash her throat. Rip out her heart. Break every bone in her body. Lots of ways for her to die.”
“Spike, Spike,” Angelus sighed. He shook his head woefully. “You want me to kill my favorite audience? What would be the fun in that?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” He pretended to consider it for a moment. “Your annoying blond would be *dead*!” He shifted in his chair. “No more super chick to muck up the works.”
Angelus nodded. “I hear what you’re saying.” He donned and expression of sincere concern. “I feel where you’re coming from. And don’t fret. I plan to kill the Slayer.” He let his smirk shine through. “Just want to give her a good mind fuck, first.”
Drucilla kneeled beside Spike’s chair. With her hands clasped, she almost looked like a child praying at bedtime.
“My Angel wants to play,” she explained to her childe. In earnest, like she really wanted him to understand. “He wants to make the Slayer bleed inside.”
Angel snapped his fingers, suddenly inspired. “And what better way than by turning one of her friends?” As the new idea blossomed, he nodded in satisfaction. “Oh, yeah.”
Spike sighed. He would never understand the games Angelus liked to play. The way he seemed to prize the art of torture and torment more than…more than blood!
It wasn’t natural.
“But who?” Angelus mused out loud. “Willow, or Xander? Willow? Or Xander?”
* * *
A new song started. The suddenness of it made Cordelia jump.
Startled, she glanced around the Bronze. It looked the same as always. The same décor. The same people. The same music.
So why did it feel so wrong?
She shook her head. What was the matter with her? She’d had this…preoccupied feeling since that afternoon. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if she was actually thinking of something. Like the new spring collection.
But she worrying about *something*…and didn’t have a clue what it was.
It was just weird! And she had enough weird in her life, thank you very much.
Frowning, she glanced around the table. Everyone else was having a good time.
Xander munched on the free snacks, mouth never empty for long.
Willow and Oz talked softly, as if no one else in the room existed.
Buffy was trying really hard to have fun. No doubt to forget her ex was a psycho killer. And, while it might have been just an act earlier, she seemed to really be enjoying herself now.
“I’m starting to think this place could use a make-over,” Xander said. He cast a critical eye around the Bronze. “I’m thinkin’ brighter colors. Lower tables. Plenty of plush places to sit.”
“Forget it, Xand,” Buffy said. “The only thing that could change this place is an act of nature.”
“Or super nature,” Willow chimed in. “And, since this is Sunnydale and all, you never know.”
“I kind of like it as is,” Oz said. Slouched down in his seat, he reached for Willow’s hand. “It’s comfortable.”
“Like an old robe,” Xander said. He nodded in agreement. “It’s holey and frayed. It’s been washed *way* too many times. And the smell is even starting to make *me* sick.”
Everyone at the table turned to stare at him.
Xander looked uncomfortable for about five seconds. But he soon regrouped. “Yeah, like *you* don’t have one!”
“Let’s dance,” Cordelia suddenly said.
“What?” Her boyfriend gave her a startled look. “But you said you never wanted to be seen in public dancing with me to a fast song.” He waved vaguely at the air. “This is a fast song.”
“I don’t care.” Before he could argue, she grabbed his arm, and pulled him out of his chair. Maybe moving would make her feel more connected. ‘Cause this *disconnected* feeling was creeping her.
* * *
Keeping to the shadows, Angelus looked towards the Slayer’s table.
He glanced at the blond. And the cold hatred mix with anticipation.
There she was. The first woman he had ever loved.
He could never make her pay enough for that.
Arms folded, he leaned against the wall. A little like a bidder at an auction, he ran speculative eyes over the redhead. Memories of having his hands wrapped around her throat still made a little thrill pass through him. That was fun.
Little Willow. So innocent. So inexperienced.
The things he planned to do to her would crush her spirit nicely.
And, more importantly, she was one of the Slayer’s best friends. Imagine the guilt Buffy would feel. For one, she’d be responsible for whatever he did to Willow’s delicate little body. For another, when Willow tried to kill her—and he’d make sure she did—Buffy would have to kill one of her closest friends.
“Hmmm,” he murmured. “I like it.”
The perky blond who was just walking by turned to look at him. “Did you say something?” she asked with a friendly smile.
Angelus tried his best to look embarrassed. “Uh, no,” he said. “Just talking to myself.”
“I do that sometimes, too,” the lovely young lady said. A speculative look in her eyes, she stepped closer. “Are you here alone?”
“W-well,” Angelus said with a bashful grin. He turned on the awkward charm. “I’m meeting a friend later. Just to say hi. After that, I’m free.”
“Good,” she said. “I’ll see you around.” With a smile that was pure invitation, she turned and sauntered away.
Angelus shook his head. He loved the hunt as much as the next vamp. But there was something about prey that offered itself up on a silver platter…
Speaking of hunts, where was the Slayer’s other bestest bud? That annoying boy he’d barely managed not to kill even with a soul?
Angelus’s eyes moved towards the dance floor…and he froze.
Xander Harris was there, jerking about as if he was having some kind of spasm.
Angelus barely noticed. His eyes were glued to…
In contrast to that fool Xander, the lithe brunette moved fluidly. Sensuously. Her body flowed with the music. Her arms. Her legs. Her hips.
Angelus watched, mesmerized. His eyes roamed. Down her back. To her slim waist. Up to her slender neck.
A feeling of familiarity rushed through him. Almost like in the dream. He felt his face flicker, the demon almost breaking free. And the ever-present hunger roared to life, like a fire.
So far, she had escaped the torments he’d visited on the rest of Buffy’s friends. The game was to hurt the Slayer by hurting those she loved. And she and the brunette weren’t that close.
True, Buffy would feel bad if, say, Cordelia’s corpse washed up on the beach. But she wouldn’t grieve as she would for Willow, or Xander, or Giles. She just didn’t like Queen C that much.
Logic told Angelus he should still target Willow or Xander. Turning one of them would hurt Buffy the most.
But, as he watched Cordelia dance. As his body stirred. As he imagined how her blood would taste. As the craving made him lick his lips in anticipation…
He knew who his next victim had to be.