Double or Nothing. 35

Chapter 35: Demon Brawl

“Get used to it,” Cordelia refused to budge on her decision. Strolling between the two vampires through Parkview Cemetery, she reinforced her point of view, “If you two patrol, then so do I.”

“It’s not safe,” fumed Angel having complained about her insistence in accompanying them.

This new tack on staying out of danger seemed to come out of the blue. “Hello! Bait Girl. What do you think I’ve been doing for the last two years?”

Angelus found his opinion wavering. He knew Cordelia wasn’t happy being told what she should do. Not that she was listening. Still, he found himself in agreement with his brother. “You could use more formal training, Cor. Maybe you should sit this out until I can teach you some better defensive moves.”

“Maybe?” Angel huffed giving him a hard stare over the top of Cordelia’s head.

“Pfft! It’s not like there is an apocalypse scheduled tonight, Angelus.” With all that was going on, Cordelia wasn’t planning to let Angelus out of her sight, especially if he was out with Angel. No telling what trouble they’d get into now that the souled vampire was running on instincts. “You weren’t concerned about my training when you dragged me into that warehouse full of vampires.”

“T-That was different,” Angelus countered in his own defense. He stuttered his way through an explanation. Finally adding, “I was evil. I didn’t love you then.”

Angel cut in with a snort, “Could you whine any louder?”

A growl from his brother suggested he should keep his comments to himself, but Angel reacted with a grin too lost in his own amusement to care. Angelus gritted his teeth, the muscle at his jaw working as he forced himself to control his anger for Cordelia’s sake. “I wasn’t whining.”

“Sounded like it to me,” Angel hopped onto a large upright tombstone in the middle of a family plot. “Since when did you become such a sap?”

“Since I turned into you,” barked Angelus now holding his fists at his side.

Instead of beating the hell out of his twin, Angel merely chuckled. “No, you’ve just gone soft. Cordy has you so henpecked, you couldn’t say no to her if you tried. You need to look out for your own interests every now and then.”

“You have nerve saying that,” Angelus returned. “It wasn’t that long ago that you were the Slayer’s lapdog.”

“Emphasis on the past tense.” With a quip, Angel added, “My balls are back. Think you can find yours?”

Angelus was about to let loose with his fist when Cordelia’s disgusted voice caused him to hold back.

“Eew! Men are so gross,” Cordelia whacked Angel in the chest. “What’s next? More vampire wrestling? Enough of the insults and the distraction mode. No changing the subject. Unless you plan to keep me tied up, I’m coming with you on patrols.”

Angel sent her a slow grin, letting his gaze travel over her slim form noticing the way that beneath her open jacket, her form-fitting top and pants hugged every curve. He imagined stripping her of those clothes, binding her wrists with those silk scarves and leaving her naked and tied to his bed until his return. “That could be arranged.”

“Don’t bet on it, Psycho.”

“I told you not to call—,” Angel stopped talking in the middle of his sentence as he watched a motorcycle drive by at high speed past the cemetery. “Did you see that?”

“Two Morvrak demons on a motorcycle,” Angelus had picked up on the speeding bike as it rounded the street corner, “going somewhere fast.”

Cordelia caught sight of the taillight having turned at the sound of the motorcycle whizzing by. “Those gaudy robes just scream last Halloween.”

“Looks like they’re headed toward the east side of town,” Angel stared after them as he tried to ascertain where the Morvraks were heading. “This is Park Drive so they’ve just turned onto Woodlawn.”

“That dead ends into Quincy Street,” Cordelia pointed out helpfully and then frowned as she realized just where that road led. “They’re going to the high school.”

Angelus judged differently, “To the Hellmouth.”

“Full moon and tacky robes,” Cordelia put the pieces together. “Add in the Hellmouth and I’m guessing these demons guys are up to no good.”

“C’mon!” Angelus nodded in that direction and took off running. “The Plymouth is on the other side of the park. We’ll get there faster on foot.”

Cordelia and Angel followed behind, though at a slightly slower pace. While Angelus might be revved up to fight the Good Fight, Angel had a different focus and it was currently jogging beside him and bouncing in the most delightful ways. “He forgets you don’t have superhuman speed.”

Ignoring the barb at her mate, Cordelia joked, “Thank goodness I decided not to wear the Jimmy Choo’s tonight.”

Angel wouldn’t have minded seeing her in a short skirt and high heeled shoes, but she was right. “You shouldn’t wear them on patrol anyway.” The form-fitting track suit and Nikes were far more appropriate.

“Only for special bait and trap occasions,” Cordelia told him. “They show off my legs. The vamps really go for that.”

With a smirk, Angel answered, “I know.”

She slapped his arm, which he barely felt through the layers of his leather jacket and shirt; her spontaneous grin had far more impact. It directly hit his unbeating heart. A flash of warm emotion filled her eyes just before they flickered away staring back to the path they were jogging.

Cordelia almost missed a step at the look on Angel’s face. Babbling about the first subject that came to mind, “Maybe I should design a line of Slayerwear. Clothes for all your demon-hunting needs.”

“You’d probably be good at that,” Angel responded seriously.

Rolling her eyes, Cordelia figured he was picturing her back the mansion designing her little outfits in the safety of her own living room. “I’m not the stay home and knit type, Angel. I’d prefer being tied up.”

“Really?” There was a touch of eager boyishness in his tone.

“Yes, actually,” Cordelia answered before realizing that her usual lack of tact would only spur on Angel’s sexually-charged notions.

She could almost picture what the vampire was thinking. No doubt of tying her to his iron wrought bed frame with the silk scarves he’d paid for; leaving her totally naked and aroused writhing against the sheets wanting more of his touch. Returning only at his convenience, this time not stopping at using that expert tongue, taking her the way he wanted, bringing them both to ecstasy and sinking his fangs into the turn of her throat at the moment of climax.

Angel has no business thinking things like that, Cordelia told herself. “Sheesh! I was just kidding.”

“You’re so growly tonight, Oz,” the werewolf’s girlfriends stared at him through the bars of his cage. Little lines of concern wrinkled her forehead as Willow watched him pace back and forth occasionally knocking against the locked doorframe restlessly. “I don’t think I’ve heard so much howling before.”

Giles glanced up from his research. “You shouldn’t bother him, Willow. There might be any number of reasons for his excessive behavior tonight.”

“Talking to him calms him down,” Willow’s lower lip stuck out just a hint more than normal.

“I never found that to be the case.” Although he noticed that the werewolf was now staring at Willow attentively.

The redhead pointed out, “I’m his girlfriend. He loves me. I just have that effect.”

“Hmm,” Giles muttered disinterestedly. “Shouldn’t you be searching for information on trans-dimensional summoning?”

“Guess so.”

Just as Willow was returning to her computer terminal, the library doors swung open as Buffy and Xander appeared in tandem. They headed straight for Giles who put his book aside carefully ensuring that the cover and its title were out of view. “I didn’t expect you two back so soon.”

“We ran into a demony thing,” Xander explained as he plunked down the gym bag full of weapons onto the counter.

Hardly an unusual occurrence considering this was Sunnydale. Giles tried to appear interested despite the urgency he felt in getting back to the research. “Could you be more specific?”

Buffy glanced at her patrol companion. “Nope. Demony thing pretty much explains it all.”

With a sigh, Giles removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Where was this?”

“Old Sunnydale Cemetery near the Creswell mausoleum,” Buffy told him helpfully. “The demon was cutting through the cemetery in a big hurry.”

“Going where?” Both Buffy and Xander shrugged simultaneously.

“Hey,” Xander remembered the talisman in his back pocket. “We did find this.”

Staring at the circular piece of ancient metal, the Watcher realized that he had seen the design somewhere before. Finally, he remembered, “Oh, dear God. W-What day is it, the thirteenth?”

Willow gave Giles an I-told-you-so expression. “Try the fifteenth, hence the presence of the full moon.”

“Then it’s happening tonight.” Giles looked like he was going to fall over with shock. “I cannot believe I overlooked this.”

Buffy started to get worried. “What’s it mean?”

Sitting back down in his chair, Giles told the Slayer, “About the same time that Angel and Angelus were separated, I was conducting some early research on an upcoming event that by my estimation was to occur within a two-week period.”

“So you were a little off,” Xander gave him the benefit of the doubt, but added, “only now we have demony doings going on.”

“Yes,” Giles admitted his mistake. “The correct timeframe was actually two months rather than two weeks. I simply forgot all about it with—.”

He was about to indicate his research on Angel’s condition. Fortunately, Buffy cut in with another question. “What was the demon doing with the talisman?”

“This is the night of the gathering of the Morvrak demons when they summon forth their deity in order to achieve another century of success,” Giles explained as he set the talisman down on the table. “Their leader wears the talisman as his symbol of power.”

Xander didn’t like the sound of it. “No summoning of the evil demon gods allowed.”

“Actually, you have already averted it,” Giles surprised them. “Obtaining the talisman prevents the demons from using it. They cannot bring forth anything without a way to contain or control it within this dimension.”

Willow stared wide-eyed at the talisman lying on the other table. She wondered if it also worked for other forms of summoning magick. Despite her interest in it, she had to ask Giles, “If Buffy killed the head demon guy where are the others gathering?”

“That’s right,” Xander realized. “You said there were others. Why don’t I like that idea?”

“Possibly because the natural mystical convergence of the Hellmouth makes it the strongest source of energy for their spell,” Giles had a sinking feeling that he knew the reason for the werewolf’s predatory behavior.

Buffy clarified for him, “They’re coming here…to the school.”

“I had a feeling you were going to say that,” Xander muttered now sifting through the patrol bag of Buffy’s weapons. “My guess is they won’t be too happy that their little party has been cancelled.”

“How many demons are we looking at Giles?” Buffy was already preparing herself for the fight ahead.

“This is a gathering of demons from across the globe. Traditionally, the Morvraks have performed the ceremony with their highest ranking chieftains present. Usually about two dozen,” Giles words came across calmly, but inside he was worrying.

“Two dozen?” Willow questioned, her eyes large and round. “Guess it’s a good thing they don’t bring the whole family along.”

Buffy agreed. “I think we could use some backup on this one, guys. “

“I’m on it,” Willow volunteered being closest to the telephone. She called out less than a minute later, “There is no answer at the mansion. The vamps and Cordy are out.”

“Xander,” Buffy caught his attention when he seemed to be focused on her bag of sharp tricks. “I want you to find Angel— no, Angelus. Just get both of them here. Try the Parkview and Restfield cemeteries first. They’re closer to Crawford Street and the mansion.”

“You got it.” Grabbing the small hand axe, Xander waited only long enough to hear the rest of the plan.

“Giles, Willow,” the Slayer ordered, “you two stay put for now. I’m gonna head out to the school perimeter and see what there is to see.”

Her Watcher simply nodded, still flummoxed over the fact that he had completely forgotten about this demon summoning. One of Oz’ long howls snapped him out of his thoughts. “It may be too late for that. I’m coming with you. Willow, you should stay with Oz just in case anyone gets through. If necessary, let him out of the cage and lock yourself inside.”

Willow wasn’t happy about letting her friends go off demon fighting without her, but she didn’t want to leave Oz by himself. “Okay.”

Buffy grabbed her weapons and picked up her long sword while Giles armed himself with his crossbow. “Any chance we can talk these guys out of a fight?”

“It’s possible once they realize their leader isn’t coming that they’ll disperse,” Giles told her.

Pushing open the doors leading outside, Xander decided they were past negotiating. A fight was already in progress with Cordelia, Angel and Angelus right in the middle of it.

With a burst of Slayer speed, Buffy ran forward clearing a path to the center of the melee with Xander and Giles following in her wake. “Hi guys. Want some company?”

“These guys are a little ticked off that we barged in on them,” Angel told her after he broke the neck of the demon who came close to sinking his claws into Cordelia.

“Cor, weapons.” Buffy tossed the bag at Cordelia’s feet. The brunette’s stake wasn’t going to help much against these creeps.

The group took up a circular defensive pattern standing back to back as the demons began to swarm around them. The Slayer’s arrival momentarily startled the Morvraks and gave them reason to suspect her as the cause of their leader’s disappearance.

“Hold them off from here, but if we have to separate, pair up,” Angelus called out as he sent one demon reeling with a hard punch to the jaw. Telling Cordelia, “Babe, you’re with me.”

“Duh!”

Giles nodded his agreement and stood next to his Slayer. The remaining duo, Angel and Xander shared an unenthusiastic glance. The teenager muttered, “Just great.”

With their tight circle, the demons were forced to come to them swarming around, but unable to attack all at once due to the lack of space. Buffy, Angelus and Angel were able to stop the majority of the initial charge through brut strength alone. As the crowd thinned and the demons realized this was not going to be a case of an easy slaughter, the warrior-chieftains retreated into a larger circle to draw them out.

Presumably of some authority, one demon issued orders to the others. Neither Giles nor the vampires understood the demonic tongue, but it was clear that they were regrouping.

With a guttural bark, the next attack came, a three-pronged move that focused on the weakest links in the inner circle. Directing their attack at Giles, Xander and Cordelia forced the others out of position as they moved into a more defensive stance. More demons died, but the second wave succeeded in its task as the group was drawn into a more vulnerable position.

Cordelia stuck close to Angelus and held tightly to the short sword she had taken from the gym back. Her vamped out mate continued to stave off any direct attacks upon her while using his martial arts moves. She held them off waving her sword in the air in front of them just long enough to give Angelus time to finish off the last guy.

A sword! I had to pick a sword, Cordelia grumbled to herself as she was pushed to the ground and felt a sharp jolt against her forehead. Using the slate rocks of the flower bed as leverage, she scrambled to her feet. Having held onto her weapon, she poked the sharp sword at the hideously robed demon.The pointy end is supposed to go into the bad guy. Just like a stake. I’d be better with an iron skillet. Bash them over the head. Eew! Is that blood on my jacket?

Having seen her fall, Angelus called out as he held one Morvrak in a chokehold, “You okay?”

“Fine,” Cordelia assured him. Not wanting to distract her mate with the fact that she just figured out that the blood was hers.

Angelus was too lost in the fight to notice the scent of Cordelia’s blood in the air. He found himself pushed back by another trio of armed demons all focused on bringing him down. In doing so, they effectively separated him from his mate. Cordelia was starting to feel a little woozy and dropped her sword arm to her side.

Not too far off, Buffy and Giles had already dealt with their attackers. Recognizing the Slayer, most of the demons had focused on the other groups. This only allowed Buffy to work faster. Along with Giles’ help, they quickly took out their opponents. Now surveying the front lawn of the high school, her keen eyes quickly assessed the situation.

Giles barely had time to turn around before Buffy started to sprint across the grass. Then he realized the reason. Two demons were about to pounce on Cordelia who was simply standing there holding a hand to her bleeding forehead. Leaving her feet at the last moment, Buffy appeared to fly through the air as she tackled the demons to the ground.

Rolling back to her feet, Buffy took a couple of seconds to acknowledge the irony that was her coming to Cordelia Chase’s rescue. “Mind if I borrow this?”

Taking the sword from Cordelia’s hand, Buffy pointed it at the two demons who were scrambling to their feet. Knocking one flat onto his back with a swift and powerful kick, she told him, “Wait your turn.”

Watching, Cordelia slowly regained her senses. She saw Buffy shove the sharp end of her sword into the first demon, but the second had not obeyed orders to stay on the ground. It was moving up behind the Slayer with its clawed hands curled and ready to shred her to pieces.

Thunk.

Buffy whirled to see Cordelia standing directly behind her with the second demon on the ground in between. Glancing down in surprise, the Slayer saw that a large piece of slate rock was covering the demon’s head. “Uh…you saved me?”

“Looks that way,” Cordelia shrugged as if it was nothing.

Looking at her suspiciously, Buffy had to wonder. Where was the snarky remark she was expecting? “You okay, Cor?”

Other than being embarrassed over the fact that she managed to cut herself with her own weapon, “Guess so.”

“No, you’re not,” Buffy noticed the streak of blood on Cordelia’s forehead oozing from an open wound. Stepping forward, she tried to assess the damage, holding onto her jaw as she looked.

“Don’t fuss,” Cordelia held up a hand. She didn’t want anyone messing with her. She was fine. Maybe she wasn’t a fancy fighter, but Cordelia didn’t see anyone fussing over Xander or Giles this way. “Get away. Just leave me alone.”

Concerned, Buffy told her, “Let me look at it.”

“Back off!”

From across the lawn, Angel finished pummeling the orange-robed demon into the ground leaving it in a bloody, battered and broken heap on the ground. His bloodlust simmered as he sought another opponent, finding that Angelus had snagged the last demon cornering it near the parking lot.

“You coulda left me one or two of the scrawny ones,” Xander complained that Angel had barely let him into the fight. “Hogging all of the demons.”

Angel ignored the teenager. All of his senses were trained on the sight of the Slayer standing sword in hand while Cordelia demanded she back off. A wounded Cordelia whose blood he could now sense on the night air. Angel’s ochre gaze narrowed upon the blonde as he watched her grab Cordelia’s arm as she tried to move away.

Approaching with superhuman speed, Angel was suddenly towering above her and flashing his fangs. “Slayer.”

Startled, Buffy’s mouth dropped open at his threatening tone. “What’s wrong?”

“You.” Angel took a step closer. He wretched the short sword from her casual grasp flinging it across the lawn. “Don’t touch what’s mine.”

“The sword belongs to Giles,” she countered unflinchingly. Even as the words left her mouth, Buffy realized her other hand was still on Cordelia’s arm. Meeting the brunette’s wary gaze, the confusing behavior suddenly started to make sense. “Oh.”

He was talking about Cordelia in that possessive tone, the predatory look in his eyes showing minimal control. Immediately, Buffy’s thoughts flashed back to the beach and the way Angel sank his fangs into her neck. Was that what he was planning for Cordelia?

That wary look on Cor’s blood-splattered face showed as much fear of her reaction as it did Angel’s. Instinctively, she pulled the cheerleader behind her into a more defensible position.

Cordelia figured the sudden return of Angel’s Psycho Vamp mode had to be blamed on the battle with the demons. She could see the bloodlust showing in his eyes while he matched unblinking glares with the Slayer. Neither one of them was backing down from the staring contest. Well, she wasn’t going to stand quietly until one of them let loose and she got caught in the middle.

“The fight isn’t over.” Cordelia referred to the fact that his brother was still battling the last demon.

Edging closer to Buffy, the vampire’s deep timbre rumbled through his chest, “No, it isn’t over.”

Cordelia tried to move around between them, but Buffy moved to intercept her still believing that Angel was capable of doing anything at this point. Unlike the Slayer, Cordy felt strongly that Angel wasn’t going to hurt her. She was more afraid of what Buffy might do to Angel in a moment of rage or vice versa. “Angel, stop this!”

He didn’t answer focusing only on the Slayer. Buffy stood her ground, but kept the cheerleader behind her. She couldn’t tell what Angel was thinking, not that she ever could. Telling Angel determinedly,

“Back away. Nothing is happening here. Least of all whatever it is you have planned for Cordelia.”

The vampire was apparently beyond reason, baring his teeth and growling his anger. If he did have plans, Angel wasn’t in a sharing mood. With a swift move, he grabbed Buffy around the neck with one hand lifting her off the ground with his considerable strength. Buffy latched onto his wrist to take some of the pressure off of her neck.

Horrified, Cordelia cried out his name and tried to pull him away from Buffy, but she got in the way of the Slayer’s flailing legs. The blonde accidentally kicked Cordelia with a move powerful enough to force the vampire to release her. Enraged at the sight of the brunette flying backwards into the bed of red and gold chrysanthemums, Angel tossed Buffy to the ground causing her cry out in pain, her voice now hoarse.

There was no time to reason even if Angel was willing to listen. Instinctively, Buffy knew that he was beyond that point. Bounding to her feet with a controlled flip, she prepared for another attack. Giles and Xander call out with concerned voices as they ran in her direction.

It was too late for concern. She could read it in Angel’s demonic yellow eyes and in the way he moved. This was not just a burst of anger from some misunderstanding. It was nothing like the controlled circumstances of their sparring sessions.

Remembering Xander’s concerns about Cordelia, Buffy wondered if there wasn’t more to this than Giles originally told her. The Fates’ warning about the dangers of accepting their deal had to be on target. That taking the deal might be deadly. Now it looked like they were going to find out if she was involved in those consequences.

She had crossed some invisible line in Angel’s warped brain and now he acted as if he was going to kill her. Blocking his next attack, Buffy kicked the vampire in the stomach sending him staggering back several feet. “Have you lost your mind? I’m not the enemy.”

Saying nothing, Angel merely attacked. The two of them exchanged a series of blows and kicks including some rather stunning acrobatic moves that left the onlookers agape. The speed at which they moved prevented any interference until Angelus came charging across the lawn having brought down the last demon in the horde.

By this time, Buffy was too caught up in the fight to care that someone was trying to help. She pushed Angelus aside in order to get at Angel. This time, she had a stake in her hand.

“Oh, dear,” Giles realized that things were going to end badly if something wasn’t done. “Angelus, you get your brother under control. The rest of us will handle Buffy.”

Cordelia barely heard Giles’ suggestion. She was already charging in landing on top of Buffy and latching onto the hand that held the stake. Her interference stopped Angel in his tracks long enough for Angelus to pin him to the ground. Not that he stayed there. With feral strength, Angel threw his double off of him.

“Stay out of this,” his rage poured forth at Angelus.

Regaining his footing, Angelus kicked his feet out from under him again. Holding up his hand, he showed him the ring as a reminder. “Do I have to remind you what it’s like to have a master again?”

“I told you I wasn’t going to bow and scrape to you.”

Angelus dark gaze held fast to those feral eyes. His twin was teetering on a thin line of control. Actually, he seemed to be past it. The Slayer’s presence was setting him off causing him to react violently and Angelus had a feeling that he knew the reason. Glancing at his mate, he got his first clear look at her sorry state noting the blood and dirt covering her face and clothes.

Growling at his brother, Angelus pulled him up by the lapels of his leather jacket. “I want an explanation. Now. What the hell happened here?”

“The Slayer.”

That was the only explanation Angel provided as his balled fist crashed into Angelus’ jaw followed by his booted foot throwing the other vampire off his supine frame. He was on his feet again and about to head back to the women who were still grappling on the ground over the wooden stake when Angelus tapped on his shoulder.

“You’ve got my attention. Deal with me.”

“Get off me, Cordelia!” Buffy pushed her aside none too gently still determined to make certain that Angel wasn’t going to cause anyone harm.

Giles and Xander reached them. The teen helped Cordelia to her feet, but she took off in the direction of the vampires as soon as she regained her footing. “Cordelia! Wait, you’ll get hurt.”

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