Cordelia sat on the flush watching Giles secure the last of the chains on the vampire as he was tied into the bathtub. “Is this a popular theme with you, Giles? The bathtub I mean?”
The watcher sighed. “There aren’t any other chairs or tables in the house Cordelia if you recall. Besides, this is the only room without windows considering you don’t have curtains.”
“Oh right. I’m broke. Kinda forget that every time.” Rupert Giles straightened before he looked down at the slumping brunette sitting on the closed toilet seat.
“What happened? Where are your parents?”
“Wallowing in Barbados from what I’m told. See that little bit of information I found out at six in the morning when those tax and debt collectors started playing with my doorbell.”
She waved an indifferent hand, her mind a blur with images. “Woke up to accusations, threats and demands. Not the perfect way to start a day I tell you.”
Noticing the startling clarity in her hazel eyes despite the amount of alcohol this girl has consumed, Giles was filled with panic and concern. “They left you?”
“Pfft!” The brunette snorted bitterly. “No they’d left long before. They just never came back.”
The older man allowed himself a moment of fury at the prospect of her parents sitting under a beach umbrella while their teenage daughter was dragged into the gutter, but the girl had been through enough tonight.
“Cordelia, why don’t you take a shower? And then maybe I’ll see if I can find something for you to eat. It’ll give us something to do until Angelus wakes up.”
A yawn caught Cordelia off guard before she frowned, as she regarded the dead man in their guest bedroom bathtub.
He lay there, like a marble statue, lifeless and not breathing. But already she could tell the wounds were healing at the expense of her very expensive Doberman.
In Angelus’ drunken stupor and between his growling at her medical skills he’d managed to piece together his entire experience with this Initiative group.
The starvation, the torture, and the experiments. She felt a certain amount of incredulity that she could feel sympathy for this monster. But then sympathy was all she had left.
“Who are these people Giles? I’m not in the slayer’s loop, not that I ever wanted to be, but he was supposed to be the strongest; master vampire and blah blah; right?” She blinked up at the watcher. “Just makes me wonder, if they can do this to Angelus; I hope they’re on our side.”
“So do I Cordelia.” Putting a gentle hand on her shoulder, he tried a reassuring smile. “You should get cleaned up.”
She ran her gaze once over the sleeping vampire before standing and stretching. “Vamp-sitting shift is officially changing.” She offered him a rather wobbly smile. “I better take that shower, before the water goes.”
She was almost out of the room when Giles called out, “Cordelia?”
Looking over her shoulder she met curious brown eyes behind the glistening spectacles.
“Why did you save him?”
And she’d been asking herself that exact same question all night. “I don’t know. Seemed like the only option at the time.”
She frowned slightly, more to herself. “Weird, huh?”
The watcher looked back at the silent vampire as Cordelia left. “Most definitely.” From previous experience, he knew Cordelia Chase was never the kind of girl who put her life on the line for a lot of people.
In one night, she’d managed to rescue a crazed vampire, drag him to cover before dawn, administered first aid and managed to keep herself alive in the process. This wasn’t the girl he’d seen walk out of her last Scooby meeting.
What had changed between then and now?
Rupert Giles liked answers and so far, he was only accumulating questions. Picking up a bag of blood he’d purchased on his way over, he held the vampire’s chin and poured it down his throat.
It was almost afternoon when Cordelia finally made it downstairs into the study. She felt stronger and more in control; the pep talk she’d given herself in the shower still echoing in her head. She didn’t need anyone.
She was Cordelia Chase.
From the suitcase she’d packed of the belongs she could call her own, Cordelia had picked out her white tennis shorts and a soft gray t-shirt and brushed her damp hair straight and away from her face.
What she wouldn’t do for a hairdryer right now. She blinked at Giles sitting on the white bathroom floor, his head against the wall as he snored.
Hiding a smile she perched back on the toilet seat and noticed the four empty bags of blood. So now he was also fed. Suddenly they’d gone from fighting these creeplings to nursing them; all because she’d managed to get one home.
Now that she was cleaned and slightly sober, she wondered what the hell had she been thinking.
But then there was something about the desolate loss in his gold rimmed eyes that had matched her own. Like losing your life. Or worse. Your religion.
“Have a nice bath?”
She nodded as Giles’ weary question before asking hers. “You called the slayer?”
“I left her a message on her voicemail I believe.”
“Call her back.”
The watcher blinked. “Pardon?”
She turned to him with icy hazel eyes. “Call her back Giles and tell her not to come here. I don’t want her to see me this way. None of them.”
She raised her hand before looking away. “Pity, I don’t want. I had this planned. I was supposed to be on a bus to LA as we speak, on my way to an acting career and new life of fame and fortune. He was never a part of it, but I bet God is laughing his ass off now at the joke that is my life. Well God has another thing coming.”
She looked back with resolve etched across her beautiful face.
“No catastrophic life altering plan is keeping me here Giles and no one follows me. That was the plan. I go without notice and never look back. Well, maybe to brag once in a while to people that shall remain unnamed for trying to break Cordelia Chase. Besides that,” she stood purposefully,
“I’m gone.” There was the reference again.
His eyes narrowed behind his glasses. Something had happened. Something he was not aware of. “Where will you go?”
She shrugged. “There’s bound to be an acting agent out there looking for a beautiful fresh face.”
“How will you find one?”
“They have yellow pages; don’t they?”
The man sighed before standing. “Cordelia, there are reasons for everything that happens in your life.”
The brunette looked up with a frown. “Oh please don’t.” She held up a hand and rolled her eyes. “Don’t lecture me. I’ve done it alone all this time Librarian-man; believe me I can do this.”
“You didn’t catch that bus for a reason.”
“One who calls himself Angelus; yeah. I know. I was there,” she shot back the acidic retort before letting out an exasperated breath. “Look, just call the slayer.”
“Whatever!” She snapped, her anger getting the best of her as she glared at him. “Call her and tell her not to come just yet. I’ll be packed and out of here in an hour. Then you can go save the world or whatever.”
When soft compelling hands caught her shoulders, it was almost hell not to wrench away or throw herself into his arms, but he was one of them. They’d only laugh.
He hadn’t; but it was a matter of time. “Let me go Giles.”
“Cordelia.” She finally met his eyes, only to blink at the understanding in the place of the pity she was expecting.
“I’ll call her back, but only to tell her to meet us at my house. You cannot just get up and go to LA like that and alone no less.”
“Yes I can.”
“Cordelia be reasonable.”
Crossing her arms she stood there, with the stubborn line of her body and her eyes not meeting his. “Sorry, but sense and reason left when I lost my life Giles. Now all I have is me.”
“You aren’t alone.”
“Yes I am.”
Giles resisted the urge to reach out and physically shake the woman out of her mulish state. If she was worried about breaking, shutting herself away wasn’t going to help. And the lack of emotional response on the woman worried him more than her need to distance herself from her previous life.
“No you aren’t!” When her brow and spine stiffened at his sharp rebuttal he softened his tone.
“Come home with me. I have a friend in LA. He has contacts. Let me at the least help you settle down and give you a few names. You can’t just pack up and take a bus to a new life Cordelia; these things take time.”
“IT is NOT charity!” He held her firmly, without letting her avert her gaze.
“You are my student. You have been someone who I care for as much as I care for all my other students. I will not let you put yourself in harms way and I will, at the same time, not be in your way. Just take a little time and let’s plan this properly.”
Every notion and defense she’d made in her head seemed to crumble slowly and steadily as the man held her in place. She’d convinced herself that she could make it. She’d do it on her own. She’d find a way. She was Cordelia Chase.
Now here he was standing there telling her she wasn’t alone and she was supposed to just shut up and take it like a good little girl.
Why did they always seem to dictate life to everything in Sunnydale? Slutty Buffy, cheating Xander and opportunist little Willow! Now they had the watcher telling her what to do.
“I’m not telling anyone I’m penniless Giles. I’ve had enough traumas to last me a lifetime.” The line of her shoulder was still distrustful.
“I won’t say a word.” Stepping away he gave enough personal space to reassure her that he wasn’t pushing her into any decision, but he just couldn’t bear the thought of letting the young woman lose herself in the dirty little alleyways of LA.
She might not have been the greatest Scooby, but she was a part of them for a while and she was as innocent as the rest.
“We’ll tell them your parents sold the estate to buy a place in LA and when you have an agent, a place to go and a job to support you; you can leave and no one has to know.”
No. The word whispered through the young woman’s head until she grit her teeth and averted her gaze. Looking at the helpless vampire, who couldn’t feed himself anymore.
The fangless, defenseless creature needed them and by some sick twist of fate, she was still here in Sunnyhell between people who took her life from her to begin with. Looking up she regarded the silent man for a moment before letting out a sigh and rolling her eyes.
“Fine. I’ll shack over at your place until I’ve caught my bearing.” At the visible relief on his face she pointed her finger at him.
“Remember this is temporary Giles. You aren’t keeping me. And I’m only saying that so you can’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m very likable. Don’t get attached.”
He smiled. “I shall practice restraint.”
Just because she accepted help didn’t mean she trusted him or anyone else. If she was offered free room and board until she had her path clear, who was she to argue?
At least that’s what she told herself.
It had been a slow progression from her house to the car with one wrapped dead body between two people, one of which was still worried about her nails.
And from across the hood of Giles car Cordelia had let her eyes run over the white pillars of the house she’d been born into, the safe walls that kept the monsters out, the garden she’s played in as a child and the driveway where she’d backed up her mother’s Jag into a tree when she was eleven.
The memories, the moments and the security hadn’t been wrenched away until that moment when she stood outside the huge wrought iron gates that were closed to her forever. Along with the sanctity of calling some place her home.
And even in the old man’s company, Cordelia felt like she was the loneliest person alive. Or dead.
Now she stood there while Giles dragged the wrapped vampire across the living room and into the bathroom as she placed her suitcase at the foot of his stairs and surveyed the little den with listless interest.
Couch. TV. Books. That was all there was to Giles’s most lived-in room.
He walked up to her dusting his hands and wincing at the pulled muscle in his back. “I’m too old for this.” His smile was accommodating and Cordelia tried not to think it was ‘too’ accommodating.
He had invited her into his home. She couldn’t trust him, but she didn’t have to hate him. “Would you like something to eat?” When a yawn caught her by surprise he smiled. “Or you could catch up on some sleep.”
Flopping into the couch the girl took a deep breath. “Mind if I hog your couch?”
He shook his head before pulling off his coat. “Mi casa es su casa.” He hung it up in the hall closet. “I’ll put on some tea and rest for a bit. You sure you’ll be alright on the sofa?”
But the girl was already sprawled across its length her head on her folded arms and her mouth open as she lay there.