Cordelia ran the brush through her long, brunette hair.
Even *that* didn’t seem right. The hair felt funny as it brushed against the back of her neck. And the weight of it seemed to want to pull her head down.
Sighing, she laid the hairbrush down next to the sink. This was ridiculous. Her hair had never been shorter than shoulder-length. She was vain about a lot of things. But her long, lustrous hair was the biggest of the big. It was like…her crown. The thought that she would ever cut it was beyond nuts.
But, when she’d first looked in the mirror, for just a second, she saw a shorter style. Hair that reached her chin. And, even weirder, *that* was the image of herself that seemed right. Much more right than the image that stared back at her from the mirror.
Cordelia studied her reflection for a long second. If this was some weird kind of identity crisis, she wasn’t liking it.
Finally, with a shake of her head, she left her private bathroom.
* * *
Angelus peered through the opening in Cordelia Chase’s designer curtains. He had to say, he was impressed. The room was as classy as the girl herself. Tasteful. Understated. Solid oak furniture. Silk sheets. Not a single poster of a teen idle on the wall.
Just than, Cordelia Chase exited the bathroom.
Angelus studied her with narrowed, black eyes. She wore a silk pajama top, pale blue, that reached mid-thigh. He let his gaze linger over her long, tanned legs. Up her long, curvaceous body.
And he was assailed by a sense of familiarity.
Angelus frowned. It wasn’t unusual. He’d been alive—sort of—for almost three centuries. He often encountered people who reminded him of someone he’d known in the past.
A tavern wench who was always up for a tumble.
Or the man who sold him his favorite horse.
Or his father. That had happened more than once. When he was souled, such instances always lead to dark, painful thoughts. But, without his soul…
Well, there was that man in Rome. The one who watched him charm a young prostitute. Who looked at him with the same contempt and disapproval as young Liam’s father had a century before.
The man whose face Angelus had removed. It took hours because the vampire stopped whenever the man passed out…which was often. By the time he’d finished, the man so like his father was a raving lunatic. Almost as bad as Dru. But not quite as entertaining.
But this was different. He’d known Cordelia, in a way, for over a year. If it was just a matter of her reminding him of someone from his past, he would have sensed it before now. So, that wasn’t the explanation.
But, the longer he watched her, the more familiar she seemed. He felt like…he knew her. Not on a conscious level, perhaps. But a deeper, emotional one.
Which made no since. Beyond a few brief conversations—when he was usually busy trying to ignore her unsubtle advances—they barely spoke.
But that perplexing sense of familiarity persisted.
Not only that, but he couldn’t get one ridiculous thought out of his head. That her hair should be shorter…
Cordelia sat on the side of the bed. Picked up a bottle that, from the look of it, no doubt contained something ridiculously expensive. She poured its contents into her hands.
She began to apply the lotion to her legs.
Angelus watched with hungry eyes as she applied lotion to her legs in long, even strokes. Her hand smoothed up her calves. Her thighs. Pushed the night shirt up until he could see the edge of her panties, silk and lace.
A growl rumbled in his chest, almost like a purr. As his demon visage flickered into place, he ran his tongue over his sharp, jagged teeth. He imagined that her hands were his. Not gentle, but tight and punishing. Leaving fingerprint-bruises wherever he touched.
He imagined gripping her knee as he sunk his fangs deep into the flesh of her inner thigh…
Suddenly, Cordelia clutched her head. Crying out, she fell to the bedroom floor.
Angelus frowned, his fantasy put on hold put on hold for the moment.
What was this?
* * *
Pain, like nothing she’d ever felt before, crashed through Cordelia’s head.
It felt like someone had dug their fingers into her forehead and pulled her skull apart. Then shoved hot coals inside. While a friend went at the back of her head with a sledgehammer.
But, as hard as it was to believe, the pain wasn’t as bad as what she *saw*.
Two kids, about twelve years old. Feeling all rebellious because they snuck out of their houses to smoke in the park.
And something had found them. Something strong enough to rip off an arm or a leg. To shove a fist into a chest and crush a young, frightened heart.
She felt it all. The fear. The pain. The screams scratched across her mind, like a thousand nails across a chalkboard.
As the…whatever it was, released her, Cordelia went limp. For a second, she just lay there, gasping for air. Fingers pressed to her temples because the pain lingered. And her shocked mind tried to grasp what just happened.
That’s when her bedroom door opened.
“Cordelia?” Her mother’s voice. “What’s going on in here?”
Cordelia’s eyes popped open. She sat up, ignoring the twinge of pain that shot down her neck.
“We heard screams,” her father said with a frown. He looked worried. And annoyed.
She’d probably interrupted a late business call.
“Mom. Daddy,” she said as she stood up. “I…I’m fine. I just…tripped. Hit my elbow. You know how much *that* hurts.”
She didn’t know why she lied. Something just told her not to try to explain what had happened.
Besides, what was she supposed to say?
“You tripped?” her father asked. Like he’d never heard of such a thing. His eyes searched for what she had tripped *on*.
“Well, try to be more careful, honey,” her mother said.
They didn’t linger. They never did. She could have been bleeding from the nose and mouth. But, as long as she said she was fine…
“Oh, God,” she whispered as she remembered. She wished she could believe it was her imagination. A waking nightmare. That she was going nuts and had just had a hallucination.
But she knew. Somehow, she knew what she saw was real.
Staggering to the nightstand on legs that trembled and shook, she picked up the ‘phone.
* * *
Angelus watched Cordelia dial the telephone. What had just happened? What had he just seen?
Actually, she’d looked like an epileptic he’d once met late in the 18th century. The people in her village, even her uncle, decided her “fits” were a sign that she was possessed by the devil. And, in an act of unparalleled bravery, two dozen grown men chased the lone, frail girl into the woods, fully intending to beat the devil out of her.
Angelus saved her. Her knight in shining armor.
She would have been better off in the hands of the villagers.
Hearing the name, Angelus snapped out of his reverie.
“You know that park over on DePalmer?” Cordelia continued. “Yeah? Well, I need you to go there. Now!
“Why? Because a big, scaly demon with gray skin and serious varicose veins is about to snack on a couple of pre-teens.
“How do I know? Listen, we don’t have time for twenty questions! Just get there now. You don’t have much time.
“It doesn’t *matter*. Just go! *You’re* the damned Slayer. Go slay!” And she slammed the ‘phone down.
Angelus arched one eyebrow.
“Well,” he muttered. “This is…interesting.”
* * *
As Angelus entered the mansion, he heard Drucilla moaning.
He walked into the great room, and found his childe lying in front of the fireplace. Hands clutching her head. Writhing and moaning on the floor.
“What’s going on here?” Angelus asked.
Spike wheeled his chair closer to Dru. “Don’t know,” he said in clipped tones. He took a moment to glare at Angelus, as if this were somehow the elder vampire’s fault. Then, he turned worried eyes on his sire. “She’s been like this for the last twenty minutes.”
Angelus frowned. His mind leaped to what he had seen twenty minutes ago.
Carefully, he approached Dru. He knelt down beside her, reached towards her. Paused. Let his fingers hover above her face.
“Drucilla,” he said, his voice gentle. “What do you see?”
“Knives,” the demented seer moaned. Half in pain. Half in pleasure. “*Ripping* through my brain. Stabbing. Stabbing.” A beatific smile spread across her face.
Angelus smiled with her. Fascinated, as always, by the workings of her mind. Her gift.
“She felt it all,” Drucilla continued. “All that delicious fear. And terror.” She giggled. “Pain so rich I could drink it.”
“Another seer?” Angelus prompted. “Someone with the sight?”
“So much power,” the vampiress said on a happy sigh. “Flashes. Horrible, brilliant flashes. And the screams. Like music.”
Drucilla turned away from him. She moaned, and whimpered, and giggled. Reliving the details of her vision.
Angelus smiled, amused. It seemed Drucilla had had a vision of Cordelia having a vision. Talk about irony.
“What’s going on?” Spike demanded.
“Nothing for you to worry about, Spike.” Angelus stood up. “Just a vision.”
“Of a seer?” Spike said. “Someone else for you to torture?
Angelus smirked. On some level, Spike resented Angelus for what he’d done to Dru so long ago. True, the younger vampire might have done the same…if he’d had the talent for it. And he loved Dru as she was, insanity and all.
What he resented was that it was *Angelus* who tortured her. *Angelus* who drove her over the edge of madness. *Angelus* who had her eternal devotion.
“You should probably get ready, Spike,” the elder said. He waved towards the vampiress. “Dru will be needing your…services in a few minutes. I mean, *I’d* oblige her. But I have some thinking to do.” Grinning, he glanced at Spike’s wheelchair. “And she probably won’t even mind doing all the work.”
His grandchilde’s murderous glare boring holes in his back, Angelus left the room.
In the master bedroom, he lay down on the massive, four-poster bed.
Cordelia Chase. A seer. And a powerful one.
And, he couldn’t deny it. Seeing her writhe around on the floor, crying out, clutching at her head, had aroused him as much as watching her on the dance floor had. More.
He wondered. Could she see what he was going to do to her? Could she feel it? Could she sense the terror and pain of it?
He didn’t know how he felt about that. On the one hand, he loved surprises. Catching his victims unawares. Becoming the nightmare they never thought would come true.
But the anticipation, the fear and dread. It would make her as succulent, as sweet, as a newly ripened peach.
Sighing, Angelus closed his eyes. It had been too long since he’d tasted the blood of a true seer.
* * *
“…and I saw the demon pull the other kid’s heart out, and take this huge bite. And, let me just say, ewwwww! Then, I woke up or whatever.”
A heavy silence fell over the library.
Imagining what Cordelia had just described, in vivid detail, Buffy shivered. She’d thought *looking* at the demon was bad. It had definitely been one of the more ugly variety. But at least she’d gotten to the park before the feeding frenzy began.
She shivered again. Now, she knew what would have happened to those kids if Cordelia hadn’t called.
“This is…extraordinary,” Giles said for the hundredth. “Amazing.”
“No,” Cordelia said with a bitter frown. “It means that, after a year of hanging with freaks, I’ve finally *become* one.”
It was a familiar, Queen C insult. The Scoobies barely heard it.
“There have been accounts of people having a single, precognitive episode,” Giles said. “Usually when loved-ones are concerned. This could possibly be a one time event, Cordelia.”
“I hope so,” Cordelia said. “If I *want* to feel like someone’s shoving an ice pick through my skull, I’ll listen to a Backstreet Boyz CD.”
“Or,” Giles continued. “It could be that some latent, psychic ability you never knew you had has been activated.”
Cordelia glared at the Watcher. “Great.”
“It sounds cool!” Willow enthused. “Being able to see into the future.”
“No.” And a haunted look shadowed hazel eyes usually filled with confidence. “I felt those kids *die* in a really painful way. That so *wasn’t* cool.”
Abashed, the red head looked down.
Oz, always in tune with her moods, laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. And Willow gave him a grateful smile.
Xander raised his hand. “Ummmm, does this mean Cordelia can read our minds?” His eyes widened. “Or see stuff I’m doing even if we’re in two different places!”
“Oh, please!” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Like I want to see you dance around your bedroom in your underwear.”
Xander gasped in horror. “You *saw* that!”
A stunned silence filled the room.
“I was *kidding*, Xander.”
The teen squirmed in his seat. “I knew that!” he forced a laugh. “You don’t think I knew that? I was just making a joke. Big joker. Yep. That’s me.”
“Yes, quite.” Giles cleared his throat. “Seers are very rare. Especially those with visions as vivid and detailed as Cordelia’s seems to have been. The fact that she was not only able to pinpoint a location but an approximate time is extraordinary!”
“Giles,” Buffy said with an amused smile. “Do you want me to tell you how many times you’ve used that word?”
“Hmmmm.” He gave her a blank look. Then, as the light dawn, he became slightly embarrassed. “Yes. Sorry. It’s just that, this is quite…”
“Extraordinary,” the room chorused.
Giles gave them a look. “Yes.” He took off his glasses and began to clean them. “I’d like to do some research on the subject. Perhaps I’ll find something that’ll explain what’s happened. And, Cordelia, I want to know as soon as you have another vision.
“Whatever,” the girl sighed. The thought of having another vision wasn’t a happy one.
Buffy could sympathize. Cordelia had spent her entire life not caring about the feelings of others. But, thanks to her visions, she got to experience the feelings of others first hand.
At the most horrifying moment of their lives.
Buffy kind of knew what this “seeing the future” business was all about. Her prophetic dreams always freaked her out. But they were more symbolic than anything else. How else could you explain Willow having coffee with a monkey at the Bronze?
To actually see something so terrible. As if it was actually happening right in front of you. To have a vision…
“Oh, my God,” Buffy gasped> Her eyes widened with sudden realization.
“Buffy?” Giles gave her a worried look. “What is it?”
“Psycho stalker boy?” Xander asked. His expression turned sour. “What about him?”
Buffy hesitated. Her eyes flickered towards Cordelia, then away. “Angel told me about Drucilla. All the things he did to drive her crazy. He said he became so obsessed with her because…she had visions.”
For a second, the silence was thick enough to cut. Then…
“Oh no,” Willow gasped.
“Not good,” Oz muttered.
“Oh dear,” Giles said. He polished his glasses a little harder.
“Shit,” Xander whispered. And he moved his chair a little closer to Cordelia’s.
Cordelia didn’t say anything. Just turned several shades of pale.
“We’ll just have to make sure he d-doesn’t find out,” Giles finally said. “There’s no reason he should. After all, none of you have seen him in over a week. And, as long as no-one discusses Cordelia’s new abilities in public…”
Buffy nodded. It made sense. It made perfect sense. There was really no way for Angel to know unless he overheard them talking about it in a public place. Which they weren’t going to do.
Fortunately, Angel—with and *without* his soul—had never paid that much attention to Cordelia. So this vision thing should be an easy secret to keep.
The doorbell rang at 6:45.
Marta sighed. Her cab would be here in half an hour. She had little time to pack a bag for the three days she planned to spend with her sister in LA. The last thing she needed was an interruption.
For a moment, she considered not answering. After all, the visitor was most likely there to see one of the Chase’s, none of whom were at home anyway. So, why bother?
Because, officially, her time off didn’t begin until 7:00. So…
Marta sighed. So, she’d answer the door.
The housekeeper hurried into the foyer and opened the door. And her mouth dropped opened.
That’s what happened when one found a gorgeous man on their doorstep.
“Um, yes,” the housekeeper said. She tried not to stare at his leather pants. “May I help you?”
“Yeah.” His smile was breathtaking. “I’m here to pick up Cordelia. We have a date.”
Marta frowned. Cordelia had a date? With this young man? But wasn’t she dating that Xander boy?
Then again, Xander Harris had never really seemed like Cordelia’s type.
But this man certainly *was*. Handsome. Self-assured. From a wealthy family, no doubt.
Perhaps a little too old for a 17 year-old girl. But Cordelia had been dating college boys since she was 15. Marta didn’t approve. But, her parents didn’t object, so…
“I’m afraid Cordelia isn’t home right now,” the housekeeper said.
The man frowned. “What? But she told me to pick her up at 6:30.” He gave her an embarrassed grin. “Actually, I thought she was going to give me a hard time for being late.”
Marta smiled in return, more in sympathy than anything else. This wouldn’t be the first time Cordelia hadn’t been home to meet a date. “Well. I’m sure she’ll be home any minute.”
Marta hesitated. Her cab was due at 7:15. She still had to pack.
But leaving the young man outside to wait didn’t seem right.
“If you’d like, you can come in and wait for her,” she offered. “But I have to tell you I have a cab coming to take me to the airport. If it gets here before Cordelia does, you’ll have to wait for her outside.”
“Not a problem, ma’am,” he said.
Marta smiled. Manners were so rare in young people these days. Unless you were at the grocery store.
Deciding she might like Cordelia’s new boyfriend, Marta waved him across the threshold.
* * *
Angelus pressed redial. Holding the ‘phone to his ear, he whistled a jaunty tune.
“Yeah, hi. I’d like to cancel a cab…The Chase residence…459 Bernson…Yeah, we had kind of a family emergency…Thank you…You have a nice night, too.”
Hanging up, Angelus wiped a red smear from the corner of his mouth. Bending down, he slung the corpse Chase’s live-in maid over his shoulder. Then, taking a look around to make sure everything was in place, he left through the back door.
* * *
Cordelia stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror.
“Well, here I am again,” she muttered. And a lot had changed in the last 24 hours. One minute, she was an average…well, *above* average—high school student. The next, she was just another freak in the Freak Patrol.
Slayer. Werewolf. Computer Geek. Mr. Tweed. Seer.
Her worst nightmare had come true. The weirdness wasn’t something outside her anymore. Something she could look at, occasionally ridicule, ignore when something else came up, or walk away from if she chose too. If the vision wasn’t a one-time thing, the weirdness was inside her. A part of her. There was no walking away.
So, why wasn’t she more freaked out?
Cordelia frowned. Because the vision—with the pain, and the icky images, and the horrible emotions, and those kids being saved from a horrible death—felt…*right*. More right than anything else had since yesterday afternoon. As right as the shadow image of herself, with shorter hair.
Cutting off the light, she left the bathroom.
Cordy walked into her bedroom…and came to an abrupt stop. Something wasn’t right.
She’d turned the bedside lamp on before she went in to take a shower. She always did. It was like a habit.
But, now, the room was dark. The only illumination the moonlight flooding, like liquid silver, through the open window.
The window she’d closed because it was a little chilly outside.
As the wrongness of this picture sank in, Cordy’s heart did a dull thud in her chest. In Sunnydale, wrongness equaled bad.
Instinctively, she took a step back…
…And collided with a solid form.
She barely got out a startled shriek before a powerful arm wrapped around her chest. The other wrapped tight around her waist.
“Hey, Cordelia,” a familiar voice said. “How ya doin’?”
With a whimper, Cordy squeezed her eyes shut. Horror creeped through her veins like ice water. “Angel,” she whispered.
“Ah, what’s in a name?” the vampire asked. “A rose by any other name has thorns. Or something like that.”
Cordelia cringed as he rested his cheek against her head. She heard him breathe deep. “What’s that? Vanilla?”
Cordelia stood completely still, unable to move. Her body was frozen. Her throat was locked.
“I like it,” he continued, as if she had answered. “I like the whole thing.” He rested his lips against her ear. “We’ve known each other for over a year now. But it’s like we’re still strangers.” She felt him shake his head. “Well, I think it’s time we got to know each other better.”