Thursday 8:12 PM
“I really hate this place,” Angel commented.
He and Adele stepped into the Bronze cautiously. Neither considered it a good time to be kicking it with a bunch of teens and early twenty-somethings and listening to bad alternative rock. But the place did serve a mean tequila popper and a good red wine, so both tolerated it. They’d be tolerating it a bit more as soon as said alcohol was in their bellies.
“But seeing as how you have no life, you keep on coming back,” Adele teased.
“I have no life because I’m dead. What’s your excuse?”
It was always interesting to watch Adele mingle with the crowd. The girl had a knack for wearing something that would get all the boyfriends stirred up. And when that happened, she stunned the poor chap by hitting on his girl. The only thing more surprising than the fact Adele had the courage to flirt with these girls were that a few of them responded.
“I’m still fuzzy on why I’m here,” Adele stated. She noticed a tall brunette standing by the bar that was looking in her direction. Or was she looking at Angel? Shit. Angel. Moving on.
Angel looked down at his lovely companion and noticed her checking out the crowd. He smiled slightly as he scanned the room himself. “Because I asked you to come.”
“Yeah, well, I still don’t understand why.”
“Because I wanted you to meet Buffy and her friends. She’s been asking me who you were, and I think she has the right to know.”
“She doesn’t.” The playful tone was gone. Adele looked up at him with serious eyes. “Angel, I am your Seer. You are my Champion. My work, my calling, my mission, has nothing to do with the Vampire Slayer. It has to do with you.”
“I’m coming to understand that, Adele. But you’ve also said that I should connect with humans. That I should interact with people. These are the people that I know. And I wish that you’d meet them, too.”
Adele sighed. “I hate when you do that sexy broody pleading thing with your eyes. You do it on purpose.”
“I do,” Angel agreed with a soft smirk. “You think my eyes are sexy?”
“Of course. And I say that since I am completely secure in my homosexuality.”
Angel gently guided them through the crowd as he zeroed in on the location he felt the Slayer to be. The distinct mystical signal Buffy gave off made it quite easy to locate the blonde. Before the inhabitants of the table spotted the pair, Adele wrapped a hand around Angel’s wrist to stop him.
“Oh baby, who’s the redheaded dish at the table?”
“Willow, and she’s very straight.”
“Give me five minutes alone with her and we can remedy that…”
“How about we not so her werewolf boyfriend doesn’t kick your ass?”
“Werewolf?” Adele’s nose did a cute little scrunchy thing as she pondered that. “Isn’t that like bestiality?”
“Probably. Now behave.”
Angel rolled his eyes and continued to lead the way to Buffy’s table. He didn’t really care for the social thing, and he certainly didn’t want to explain things and potentially be misinterpreted by a jealous girlfriend. But he felt his she had the right to know whom he was associating with. The only thing he could really regret was the fact that Xander was there. He really hated that little shit.
Buffy’s eyes lit up when she saw her boyfriend near. They narrowed when she saw that he wasn’t alone. Was this what he wanted to discuss? That was fine by Buffy, but did he really need to bring her along?
Angel smiled slightly and nodded to the table. “Buffy. Willow. Oz.”
“What about me, Deadboy? Don’t I get a hello?”
“Oh. Xander. I didn’t see you there. Well, actually I did, but I really don’t care.”
Xander frowned at the vampire’s behavior and pouted at the insult. Willow smiled politely at the barb and Oz raised a brow.
“Everyone, I would like to introduce Adele Claudel. Adele, this is Buffy and her friends.”
Adele smiled nervously and fiddled with one of her pigtails. “Hello,” she waved. Not much of a react was gained. Well, nothing much besides Buffy’s slight glare.
“So, Adele, how long have you known Angel?” she asked.
The vampire and demon shared a quick look. It was time to launch into the previously thought out cover story.
“I met Angel in New York a few years ago. He helped me through some tough times. He also said if I was ever in town to look him up so, alas, I did.” Adele squeezed out a convincing smile and hope no further questions would arise. It looked like Buffy had one, but Adele noticed out of the corner of her eye Angel giving a silencing glare.
A couple of seats were cleared and the pair sat down. Angel couldn’t help but notice that his friend took the one nearest to Willow. She was quick to turn on her most seductive smile. Thankfully Willow was oblivious. Oz wasn’t so oblivious. Angel delivered a sharp kick underneath to table to Adele’s shin. She squeaked in pain and turned off the charms.
An uncomfortable silence ensued. Most at the table nodded their heads to the music and waited for someone to speak. The waitress came by and took orders. They were surprised when Angel ordered a beer for himself and a red wine for Adele. The pair slowly sipped on their alcohol as Buffy and her group drank Cokes.
Buffy’s eyes narrowed once more when Adele leaned over and began to whisper into Angel’s ear. They both glanced quickly at Willow and caused the redhead to smile nervously and fidget. Buffy swore she heard Angel say, “No! Knock it off!”
The uncomfortable moment was made even more uncomfortable when Adele began to grab her head and writhe around in pain. Before the young woman could fall from her seat, Angel intercepted and clutched her to his chest. This was the third time Angel had witnessed her having a vision. And frankly, it made his heart break each time.
A few of the bars patrons stopped to watch the trembling girl in the handsome man’s arms. Angel’s growl and vamp faced snarl made them run off. He then reached up and grabbed the wine. Bringing it to Adele’s lips, he made her take a few drinks. Above him, Buffy and the rest peered down and watched in curiosity and confusion.
“What the hell was that?” Xander asked.
“Yeah, what was that?” Buffy demanded.
Angel turned his vamp face to where they could see. He made it quite clear they should back off. He didn’t like people looking at Adele as if she were a freak. Her last vision had occurred in the local mall. He had snarled and growled the crowd away then, too. But since they were with his “friends”, both felt a cover story should be devised in case. Good thing too.
“Adele, is your migraine bad? Do you need your medicine?” He gently stroked her hair as Adele regained her composure.
“Yeah, but my prescription has run out. You’ll need to go get it refilled. You know, to the pharmacist on Kimbrough,” she stressed, “right next to the park. But you should watch out. He can act like a big slimy green fanged monster when he wants to.”
“Well, I’ll just make sure to beat him to death.”
“No,” Adele denied. “Decapitation works better.”
Angel frowned. “Oh. Okay. I’ll remember that.” Decapitation? Shit, that could get messy. Angel lifted her up and helped sit Adele back into her chair. “Can you guys watch Adele while I go fetch her medicine?” It looked like Buffy was about to protest, but good old Oz came through.
“Sure. We can tell her all about the last Fumigation Party.”
Angel nodded his thanks. And as he watched Adele drain her wine, he felt the need to do something nice for her. “You know, Willow, Adele was telling me earlier how she’s been wanting to learn a few simple protection spells and such. I told her you might be willing to give her some one-on-one instruction.”
Willow began to grin in excitement. “Me? Instruct? Sure, I’d love to.”
Adele gulped. What just happened? She got her answer when Angel whispered into her ear. “Don’t say I never did anything for you.” He kissed her lightly on the cheek and was rewarded by a radiant smile. He also got a scowl from Buffy, but he didn’t care. That smile may have just made his night.
And now he had to take care of that pharmacist.
Kimbrough Street Park ~ Thursday ~ 8:28 PM
“Hey! A little help here!”
Cordelia Chase sighed heavily. This was just her night. She had been really excited about this date. Charlie Bowdry was a nice guy. Honor roll. Co-Captain of the school soccer team. It should have been a nice evening.
But then a slimy green reptilian looking thing demolished his car when they went parking in a secluded cove in the park. The two climbed out and took off running. Cordelia had thought perhaps he would be all chivalrous and protect her from the monster. But nooooo. El Gallo Grande wet his pants and ran for the hills. Now Cordelia had her back pressed up against an oak tree, effectively dirtying up her light blue dress, and prepared to be eaten up by a lumbering iguana.
“Oh, screw this.” Cordelia reached down and took off her sandals. With a pair of deliveries that would make Tom Seaver proud, Cordelia pelted the demon right between the eyes twice. The stupid thing went cross-eyed and began to slap at its face in confusion. That offered Cordelia enough time to run.
But she tripped over a God-damn tree root.
Cordelia tried to get up and go, but her ankle was twisted. And now Tonto was done with his conniption fit and went to pounce. It was at that moment Cordelia fully understood that she should have stayed home, ordered a sausage, mushroom, and pineapple pizza from Papa John’s, and watched that stupid Facts of Life marathon. Now she was gonna die barefoot and wearing an off-the-rack dress. Fucking figured.
But then a very sharp piece of metal sliced through the air and through the demon’s neck. The decapitated head rolled and came to a rest in a patch of dandelions. Angel reached down and helped her up.
“Angel! Hi! What’s up?”
Angel shrugged nonchalantly. “Got wind that somebody around here was in need of saving. Didn’t know it’d be you.”
Cordelia brushed off some of the grass and flecks of dirt from her dress. “Well, you shoulda figured. I get in trouble so much. Just when I think I got it on the right timetable, it happens on a different night.”
“Sounds like the WB’s television schedule.”
Angel wrapped an arm around a limping Cordelia and helped her to his car. “Very true. But when did you become knowledgeable about such things?”
“Eh, I’m staying with Adele while looking for a new place. She watches something called Dawson’s Creek. Ever heard of it?”
“A world of yes.”
Angel shook his head and opened the passenger side door. Cordelia slid in. “That Joey girl needs to get laid something fierce.”
“Very true.” Angel tossed the sword in the back seat of the convertible. When he turned on the car, the vampire quickly flipped the radio off. Curious, Cordelia ejected the cassette before Angel could react.
“The Allman Brothers Band?” Cordelia looked at the vampire in surprise. “Never pictured you as the Southern Rocker.”
“It was an impulse buy,” Angel defended unsuccessfully.
“I’m sure it is. Now play Ramblin’ Man and take me home.”
Angel smiled slightly. Good old Cordelia. He could always count on her to be amusing. “Yes ma’am.” He put the car into drive and pulled out onto the road. “So where is home exactly?”
Thursday ~ 8:45 PM
“So this is home?”
“Why? You were expecting something else?”
Angel stood on the outside of the doorway of Cordelia’s small apartment. From what he could see from his vantage point was several pieces of fairly nice furniture surrounded by a heap of dirty clothes, dishes, and newspapers. He knew of several bachelor pads that looked worse, but Angel had thought women liked things neat and tidy.
“Sorry to disappoint. But this is my life.” Cordelia waved an arm about the apartment and finally noticed that Angel hadn’t entered. “You know, air conditioning ain’t cheap.”
A guilty looked crossed his face. “I, uh, I can’t come in unless you invite me.” He tapped at the invisible barrier and made it ripple. “Best protection humans have against my kind. I can understand if you don’t want to invite me in. After all, I did try and end the world…”
“Make yourself at home.”
Angel was a bit taken aback at the easy invite. He watched as Cordelia cleared a recliner of an issue of Cosmo and a rank bowl of Cherrios. He politely declined the offer.
“I can’t stay. I should go back to the Bronze and check on Adele. She gets bad hangovers from the visions. And all the wine she’s probably drinking will only cause another one in the morning.”
“Oh. Well duh.” Cordelia paused a moment. “You left Adele at the Bronze alone?”
“Uh, no. Buffy and the gang were there.” Cordelia nodded in understanding. “Oz offered to look after her. Although I’m not sure why. She’s got the hots for Willow and I think he knows it.”
Cordelia snorted in amusement. “Already forgotten about me, eh?”
“So it seems.”
The smile disappeared and Cordelia turned quite serious. “Was Xander there?”
“Unfortunately. I don’t see why you ever dated him. He is a little douche. I’d eat him but I worry about the aftertaste on that one.”
Cordelia laughed again. She looked pointedly at Angel and smiled. “I like you like this.”
The vampire swore the thermostat went up a couple degrees. “Huh?”
“All confident and self assured. You still got the hot broody thing happening, but you’re not acting like Buffy’s bitch anymore.”
Damn. That was blunt. “You don’t hold back on anything, do you?”
“Nope. Life’s too short to be anything else.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Of course not. You’re immortal. You can afford to procrastinate.”
Angel smiled. Damn. He could always count on Cordelia to be amusing. “Would you like to come to the Bronze? Maybe help me save Willow from almost certain seduction?”
“No. I think I’d rather take a long hot bubble bath and scrub away the remnants of a lousy date and monster attack.” Angel was immensely surprised when Cordelia quickly crossed the room and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. “But thank you for being my hero again. It’s becoming one habit of yours that should never be broken.”
A small goofy smile threatened to appear on his face until he realized Cordelia was shooing him from the apartment. “Now get! You may be the hero, but you can’t watch me take a bath. And unless you can help me with the algorithms in my math homework, then you should go take care of your friend.”
“Uh, okay.” Angel had the dignity to let himself out. “Goodnight Cordelia.”
“G’night Vampirella.” Angel sputtered at the comment. He wanted to retort, but Cordelia shut the door before he could. After a few moments, Angel couldn’t help but smile and shake his head. Yeah. Cordelia certainly was amusing.
Thursday ~ 9:52 PM
“How are you feeling?”
Angel knelt in front of the sofa and handed Adele a bottle of Dasani and three extra strength Tylenol. She graciously accepted the proffered items and murmured thanks. She gazed in disinterest at the local news flickering on the television. A young boy was missing in Chesterfield. A two car accident killed a pregnant woman in downtown Sunnydale. The other driver appeared to be drunk.
“The news is so depressing,” Adele whispered. “So much wrong with the world.” She looked up at Angel. “Could you flip off the lights? The bright stuff is making my head hurt.”
Angel nodded and flipped off the light switch. He walked past the sofa Adele was stretched out on and kicked back in the leather recliner. The pair watched more of the news in silence. A man was murdered in nearby Reynoldsville. Sunnydale police busted a met amphetamine lab being run by a high school freshman.
“So much bad stuff in the world,” Adele murmured again.
“There is,” Angel agreed. “And I’ve been responsible for a lot of it. Some of this seems tame compared to my exploits.”
Adele waved a hand in dismissal. “That’s different. You were a soulless monster. You had no conscious to restrain you. With a soul you are a champion of good. But these are humans. They have souls. How can they still do this?”
There was a long pause before Angel spoke. “A soul isn’t indicative of a conscious. The tricky part of being human is the fact that freewill is part of the package. It’s the choice to do what’s right and what’s wrong. Even with a soul that can often be a difficult decision. Because even though most do strive to do what’s right, the choice to do wrong is always an option. And that is a very powerful thing. Because once you have the taste for what’s wrong, it’s very hard to turn away from it.”
Adele was silent so long that Angel began to think that his speech put her to sleep. But as he listened it was clear her breathing and heart rate indicated she was still awake. It was only after they the news turned to the sports update that she spoke.
“We should change that,” Adele decided. Angel remained silent as she voiced her thoughts. “Who says that the only people we should help are those in my visions? We should be saving all those who need it. People should be able to come to us when they are down.”
“You mean like private detectives?”
“Yeah. I guess I do.” Adele shifted on the sofa so she could look at him. “What do you think about that?”
Angel smiled softly. “I think it’s a good idea.” The vampire slowly stood and moved over to the couch. Bending over, he indicated he was going to lift her up. “But I think it’s something we can talk about more tomorrow. You’re tired and have a migraine. Let me get you to bed so I can have mine back.”
Adele sighed softly and curled up in Angel’s arms. She had to hand it to the vamp. He was an excellent nursemaid. The bloke took great care of her after a vision migraine. And if she were straight, she would be in heaven right about now.
She was snoring softly before Angel could even get to her bedroom. He took great care to lay her down and pull the covers around her. He smiled softly at the sleeping form and slipped from the room.
It was a great idea, the detective agency that is. They should look into it. As Angel grabbed the spare pillows and blanket from the hall closet, he knew that wasn’t the only thing he should investigate. He made a makeshift bed on the sofa just as he had every night for the past week.
Angel was curious why Cordelia Chase, daughter of the aristocratic Harvey and Eleanor Chase, was doing living in a dingy apartment down on Sunset. Maybe he should snoop on that blasted Internet for clues. Or maybe he could just ask Cordelia out for coffee and see if she would tell him.
Angel plopped down on the couch. Both were viable options. He reached over and grabbed the Discman from the coffee table and plugged the headphones in his ears. Angel decided on the direct approach as he drifted off to the crooning of Hank Williams.
Thursday ~ 11:37 PM
The young woman peaked over her shoulder and gasped when she still saw them pursuing. Caught in her fear, the woman tripped over her feet and crashed down on the sidewalk. The knees of her jeans ripped open and left several bloody scraps on her skin. She gritted through the pain, stood up, and kept stumbling forward.
“Help me! Someone help me!”
If anyone heard her cries then they didn’t care. The woman continued to hobble on wounded knees, her pursuers growing ever closer. She rounded the first corner she came to. It was an alley. Desperately she sprinted to the closest garbage dumpster and threw open the lid. She managed to slide in and replace the lid just before the two men stumbled into the alley.
“Murphy! Where the fuck is she?”
The shorter man, a brown haired and rail thin fellow that only look around 5’6, turned to his much taller and bigger compatriot. Both were exhausted after chasing this girl for several blocks in the cool, damp, Sunnydale night.
Murphy tapped his nose with a thick stubby finger and pointed to the dumpster. His friend understood that he smelled the girl. She was in there.
“I don’t know, Hal,” Murphy shouted for show. “She may have ducked into the sewers.”
Hal crept towards the dumpster and put his hands on the lid. He motioned for Murphy to get ready. With a quick jerk he lifted up. Murphy reached down into the dumpster and grabbed the screaming woman by the waist. He hoisted her out in a quick movement and tossed her roughly into the brick sidewall of Hecht’s.
“Hold her down, Murph!” Hal ordered. “I want to do this one!”
Murphy wrapped thick hands around the woman’s shoulders and immobilized her. He then lifted a massive leg and draped it over her two small and flailing ones. Hal reached down and swiftly unbuckled her jeans and tried to jerk them down.
“Please, God, don’t hurt me!” the woman sobbed. “I’ll do anything! Take my money! Take anything you want! Just don’t hurt me!” She desperately struggled against Murphy’s grasp, but it was a futile effort against a man weighing nearly 300 pounds.
Hal smirked at the struggling girl. “Well, we do want something from you. But it isn’t money, and it sure as hell ain’t pussy.” Hal produced a switchblade. The girl began to squirm and scream in earnest. “Murph, will you shut her up?” Murph reared back and slapped the girl so hard they heard her neck snap. Hal shrugged and grinned. “That works.”
He flipped the girl over and yanked down her jeans and panties. At the base of her spine jutted out a three-foot long tail. “How the hell did she hide this thing in her pants?” Hal wondered. Murphy shrugged. He had no clue either. Not that it mattered. A quick slice later and it was removed.
“So what’s the tail of a Mikai demon used for again?” Murphy asked.
“Grind it up and mix it with doe’s blood and it’s the world’s most powerful aphrodisiac. People pay good money for this shit. Now c’mon. Doug still needs us to help set up the auction room.”
Hal and Murphy left the young woman lying in a heap of filth and rainwater. They didn’t need the rest of her. They’d just let the rats have her.