Before Buffy could storm into the apartment and grab Faith by the ponytail, Angel pushed his way into the hallway and slammed the door shut behind him. He so did not want to get into a fight this early in the morning, but God had evidently decided this was the week he wouldn’t get anything he wanted.
“Get out of the way, Angel.”
“Don’t make me move you.”
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can make me move.”
“Is that a challenge?”
“No, just an advisory warning.”
Buffy just stared up at him and clucked in disbelief. “She got to you, didn’t she? Did Faith give you the big old brown eyes and say sorry after torturing you? Or maybe she did the whole heaving bosom thing.”
“Or maybe she decided the road she was on would lead to a bad place and asked for directions to someplace nicer,” Angel countered.
“She really got to you,” Buffy stated as she noticed a nasty bruise on his cheek. “Faith is a monster, Angel. She killed a man.”
“I’m a monster. And I’ve killed a lot more men that she ever could. So please differentiate between the two of us.”
“You didn’t have a soul. She did and yet she still didn’t care.”
“All evidence I’ve seen is to the contrary. Now I think she deserves a chance to prove that to everyone.”
“I don’t think she deserves that.”
“It’s not your matter to decide.”
“The hell it isn’t. I’m the Slayer.”
“And so is she. And just for the record, I’m a Capricorn. Now since that drivel is out of the way, this is the part where I tell you that Faith is my responsibility. I’m looking out for her and I’m the one who’s gonna lead her through this. She can change, Buffy. All it takes is the will and she has that.”
“Yeah, well, she can exercise that will in a Council operated jail facility.” Buffy tried to brush past but Angel pushed her back.
“Don’t fuck with me, Buffy. It’s been a long couple days and I’ve yet to have my daily recommended dose of caffeine. You push me and I’ll push back. So I suggest that you…Get down!”
Angel threw open the door and tossed Buffy inside just as Ian leveled and fired his pistol. The bullet slammed into his right shoulder before he could safely duck into the apartment. In less than an instant he slammed shut the door and threw the deadbolt into place.
“What the fuck was that?” Adele frantically shouted. Every other nervous face in the room seemed to be thinking the same question.
“I think it was a guy with a gun,” Angel answered wryly. “Dark gray fatigues and a silenced pistol.” The door behind him began to shake and rattle. A moment later, a bullet ripped through the door and slammed into Angel’s abdomen. “Ah! Adele, get everyone the fuck out of here!” Two more shots fired and tore into his chest. Angel screamed again in pain as Adele leapt into action.
“There’s a fire escape outside my bedroom window! Everybody move!” Everyone began to rush back that way until Adele noticed Cordy wasn’t moving. “Cor! We gotta go!”
“What about Angel?” Cordy snapped back. To the vampire she yelled, “You have to come with us!”
“Cordy, it’s broad daylight! I’ll take my chances with the guy with the gun! I’d say my odds are better that way! Now go with Adele, I’ll be fine! I promise!”
Cordelia reluctantly allowed Adele to lead her away just as the deadbolt was shot off. Two more quick shots were fired, one tearing through his belly while another narrowly missed his groin. It was then that Angel sprung into action.
He recognized that model of gun and knew that seventh bullet just fired was the last in the clip. It would take a second to reload, and in that second, Angel would take the opportunity to rip the bastard’s throat out. Turning and throwing open the door, Angel was about to do just that. But this was a day when plans didn’t go as envisioned.
The stake Ian wielded was aimed slightly low and shattered a rib just underneath Angel’s heart. With an agonizing scream he fell back and collapsed to the floor, gasping for breath he didn’t need and crawling backwards on his elbows in a desperate attempt to get away.
With a calculating gaze, Ian eyed the prey and slipped his left hand down to his belt. He produced another clip for the Walther and slammed the new bullets in. He thoroughly enjoyed the fearful look in the eyes of his enemy. While Ian generally held distaste for the job he performed, this was indeed a momentous occasion. He was about to destroy the legendary Scourge of Europe. This might even earn him a promotion.
“The mighty Angelus,” Ian taunted. “Reduced to a bleeding beast crawling upon the floor in a feeble attempt for survival. How does it feel, Angelus, to finally pay for all your sins?” Ian leveled the gun at the vampire’s head to deliver a crippling shot.
Blooding pouring from his chest and mouth, Angel answered, “Feels like any other day.” In a swift motion he jerked the stake from his chest and jammed it into Ian’s inner thigh. The Brit howled in pain, but that agony wouldn’t be long. Angel snatched the pistol away and pointed it directly into Ian’s chest.
“I’m sorry,” he said before pulling the trigger. Ian, stunned beyond belief, rocked back on his heels and toppled over to the floor. Angel could hear the final pulsations of his heart before all was silent. As the blood continued to steadily ooze from his body, Angel desperately tried to get up and return to his friends. Passing out certainly negated that plan.
“Out the window, people!” Adele ushered. Faith was the first to step out onto the metal of the emergency stairwell. Cordelia squeezed through next, and just as Buffy was about to join them, a sharp “Ping!” grabbed everyone’s attention.
“Gun!” Faith cried as she pointed down to another fatigue wearing figure in the alley below.
“Come back in!” Adele shouted back. Screaming was heard from the living room as well as the unmistakable “Pfft!” of a silenced weapon firing. “Go back out! Up to the roof!”
Faith led the charge up the stairs to the rooftop. Several more bullets pinged against metal, one even slicing against the back of Cordelia’s calf. Cordy fell backwards, but with one hand wrapped around a metal bar for support, Buffy managed to catch the falling girl.
“Good. Then move! I don’t want to get shot!”
It was a two-story climb until they reached the top. Several more pings were heard but no one was hit. A quick glance over the edge showed that the gunman was just about to the third story.
“What do we do now?” Cordelia asked.
“There’s an access point up here that leads to the main stairwell,” Adele explained. “We get to it and double back to help Angel. Now everybody…GET DOWN!”
Adele spotted a third gunman crouching by the doorway leading back down into the building. An instant later he squeezed the trigger of his machine gun. Adele was amazed that everything seemed to go in slow motion. Out of the corner of her eye, Adele noticed Cordelia and Faith diving behind a large air vent. But Buffy, her back turned from the third gunman and looking over the ledge to watch the second man, was slow to react.
She quickly latched onto Buffy’s arms and twirled around to throw them behind an air conditioning unit. Everything sped back up the instant the burning sensation focalized in her belly. As she fell in a heap atop Buffy, the only thing Adele could hear was someone screaming her name.
“ADELE!” Cordelia cried. She watched horrified as a bullet slammed into her friend’s right side. As soon as Adele fell to the ground, Cordy, despite Faith pulling at her, was on her feet and rushing over.
But halfway between the ten-foot space separating their locations, the calf wound caused Cordelia to buckle and fall to the ground. She felt gashes open up on her knees when she crashed to the concrete. A bullet exploded a mere inch from her right hand, sending flecks of metal and concrete burying into her skin. Hissing in pain, Cordy pushed off with her good leg and dived the distance to cover and her friend.
Cordelia quickly rolled Adele off Buffy and immediately began to look at the wound. She ripped the blood stained white t-shirt off and wadding it up pressed it against Adele’s side to stop the blood flow. Cordy then began to gently stroke her friend’s cheek in a futile attempt to soothe her.
Adele gulped heavily and looked about with hazy eyes. Her breathing was coming in short, quick pants. Cordelia didn’t like where this was going. Next to her, Buffy could only watch in horror. Or she could do something about the second gunman.
James poked his head above the ledge and moved to lower his weapon at the trio of girls. Thinking quickly, Faith jerked the grating off the air vent and hurled it like a Frisbee. The metal caught James in the throat and sent him flying back. The impact from the five-story fall killed him instantly.
“Faith!” Buffy called out. “Can you create a distraction?” Faith kept staring at the spot where James had been a moment early. She appeared to be frozen in place. “Faith!” This time she snapped from the trance. “I need a distraction!”
Faith nodded dumbly and sprinted to her right. Douglas leveled his gun and ripped off a few shots, but as luck would have it, he ran out of bullets. He cursed loudly and tried to find a new clip on his belt. Buffy used the opportunity to charge. Leaping over the air conditioner, Buffy was on top of him in an instant.
A roundhouse kick knocked the machine gun away and sent Douglas reaching for his knife. Before he could even get his hand to his belt, Buffy delivered a hard left-right combination directly to Douglas’ sternum. A straight kick to the gut doubled him over and sent the young man crashing in a heap to the concrete.
“Faith, thanks for the…Faith? Oh, that…little…bitch.” Faith was nowhere to be found. As Buffy considered what she would do when she found her rival Slayer, Cordelia continued to kneel over her wounded friend. She kept pressing the shirt hard against Adele’s belly, but the blood just kept on coming.
“Just hold tight, Adele,” Cordy whispered softly. “We’ll get help. Buffy! Buffy! Call 911!” Buffy disappeared to do just that. “C’mon, Adele. Hang with me for just a little while, okay?” A tear dropped from her face and landed on Adele’s cheek. Cordy gently wiped it away while Adele tried to focus on something, anything.
“The irony,” Adele gulped, “of the situation is not lost upon me.” She grimaced when a bolt of fire radiated from the wound to her spine. “Shot saving the life of a woman I don’t even like. This would be so much more amusing if the situation were reversed.”
Cordelia forced a chuckle. “Yeah, that would be better.” She kept gazing at Adele’s face. That way she wouldn’t see that her own hand was coated in blood. Some of it was hers. Most of it wasn’t. “Just think of all the bed rest you’re gonna get so you recover. You won’t miss an episode of Montel or Port Charles for a while. You’ll get to lay around so that Angel and I can take care of you. I’ll even buy you the latest issues of Playboy and Penthouse.”
“You’re a doll, love,” Adele smiled weakly. “No wonder Angel’s taken a liking to ya.”
“Shut up, Cor, and listen to me. You’ve got to promise me you’ll take care of each other.”
Cordelia ceased her argument at Adele’s pleading look. “I promise.”
“Good,” Adele sighed. “Very good. You have no idea how big a role Angel will play in the coming years.” With a long look she added, “You have no idea how big your role will be either. He’s going to need you, Cordelia, and you will need him. Now more than ever.”
With a bolt of energy that shocked the hell out of Cordelia, Adele shot up and locked lips with her. After several long moments the kiss was broken and Adele slumped back to the ground, a slight smile playing at her lips.
“I’ve been wanting to do that since forever.”
Once the stunned surprise evaporated, Cordelia was still left feeling lightheaded. She then saw that Adele’s eyes were drooping shut and her breathing was seriously labored.
“Oh fuck, Adele. Don’t do this to me. You can’t…” Cordelia couldn’t even say the word.
“It’s…okay,” Adele gasped. “Just…call..my..momma…k?”
Cordelia broke down when Adele’s chest failed to rise again. “Adele!” Cordelia began to shake the body violently, feebly hoping she could wake her up. “No, please!” The ambulance sirens nearing in the distance only seemed to taunt her. Her eyes then caught a figure standing in the doorway of the stairwell. It was Angel, battered and bleeding, slumped in the shadows watching them.
“Angel,” she whimpered.
The vampire watched and cried silently in the shadows. He wanted to be there, but the sunlight kept him caged like bars on a jail cell. Cordelia, for the time being, would go this alone. And that was simply killing him.
With the sounds of sirens right outside the building, Angel knew he must retreat. He hoped that Cordelia would understand, and when their eyes momentarily locked, he knew that she did. He mouthed goodbye and slipped away.
Sunnydale Police Department. ~ That Evening
The questions all seemed to run together. Do you know who the men were? Who all was in the apartment? Are you telling us everything? What about this? What about that? Cordelia vaguely answered the detectives with a string of yes, no, and maybes. She wanted to go home. She wanted Angel to take her home.
The answer to the question of “Where was Faith?” had been answered. Looking to her left through a window she saw the Slayer sitting in the adjacent interrogation booth. From what Cordelia gathered, Faith had admitted to the murder of the Deputy Mayor, assaulting Anthony Todd, and killing two of the armed attackers in self-defense. Cordelia had corroborated on that last bit figuring Faith needn’t pay. And so it seemed that Angel was right. Faith did have the desire to change. The first part of that was trying to atone for her crimes.
“I’m really tired,” she said to Detective Peter Rodgers. “Can I go home now?”
The old detective sighed and waved her off. Cordelia took that as a dismissal. Pushing back from the desk, Cordy stood from the rickety chair and left the room. Truth told, she had no desire to go home. She just wanted to go somewhere and cry. Better yet, she just wanted to wake up from this god damn nightmare. Cordelia was sick and tired of it all. Everyone she loved kept leaving her. Or not everyone.
Cordelia hobbled quickly on her bad leg past all the detective’s desks and threw herself into Angel’s arms. He grimaced in pain at the sudden impact, but that didn’t stop him from relishing the embrace.
“Cordy, I’m so sorry I couldn’t be here. It’s just…”
“It was day and you’d have a hard time explaining away the non-fatal bullet wounds,” Cordelia interrupted. “It’s okay.” She immediately began to cry. “It’s not okay. She’s gone, Angel. Adele, she’s…”
“I know.” Cordelia pressed her head to his chest and he gently stroked her hair. He wondered how people did this. How did they survive when they lost someone? It hurt too fucking much.
“What do we do now?” Cordelia asked.
“I don’t know,” Angel answered. He had never done this before. “I don’t know.”
The embrace was broken. Angel gently lead them away. Through the long corridors they wandered, sullenly contemplating what would happen in the following days. They had to arrange for the funeral and Cordelia promised to call Adele’s mother.
Shit, what the fuck was she supposed to say? Dear Mrs. Claudel, your daughter, brave and noble as she was, died a death that for all purposes was pointless…Yeah, that phone call needed tweaking. How the hell do you even arrange for a burial? Or did she want to be cremated? Damn it, maybe Angel would know what to do.
They stopped in the police lobby and cringed. Cordelia just wanted to go home. She didn’t want to deal with them. But yet Buffy, Giles, and Wesley stood at the front desk asking about Faith Burton. It was Giles who spotted them first, and he and Buffy at least pretended to be courteous. Wesley was seemingly oblivious.
“Angel, Cordelia, I’m terribly sorry for your loss. I understand that she was a great friend to you both.”
“Thank you, Giles,” Angel answered as politely as possible. “What are you three doing here?”
“We came to talk to Faith,” Wesley stepped in. “But these officers refuse to allow us in.” The young female officer behind the desk was heard to murmur “pompous prick”. “Perhaps you could fill in some details?”
“Not tonight. We are tired and want to go home.”
This time it was Buffy who spoke. “Angel, I am sorry about what happened, but we need to…”
“I said back the fuck off!” Angel roared. And at that moment, a week’s worth of frustration decided it wanted free. “We just lost a friend today! I am in no mood to put up with your and this Council bullshit! You do know that was who attacked us, right?” They obviously didn’t.
“The one I killed wore the emblem of Council Special Operations. Now I’m gonna go on the assumption you didn’t know that. Because if you did know they were coming, well, do I really need to say anything else? Cordy and I are going to leave now. We will talk to you when we’re ready, and not a second sooner, understood?” They did understand.
Angel grabbed Cordelia’s hand and led the way out. No one dared stop them. Into the night they walked, both silently remembering the short time they spent with their friend. There were so many things that needed done, but none of which they wanted to do. Maybe they would get lucky and they would wake to find this was all but a bad dream.
Once more, luck wasn’t so kind.