49: Kingman’s Bluff Cemetery, Westside, Sunnydale
Angel emerged from the dusty confines of the crypt serving as Spike & Dru’s lair. Though a dreary hole in the ground was just what he expected of Spike who had only commented that the crypt was a fixer-upper, it did not have enough velvet and lace to suit Drusilla’s taste. He doubted they would stay there long.
A soft rustle caught his attention, head cocking in the direction of the subtle shift of footsteps along the cropped grasses in the cemetery. Staring in to the fog that had rolled in over the bluffs encompassing the grounds in a knee-high mist, Angel saw movement ahead. A shadowy figure slipped closer and even superior night vision failed to breach the gloom.
For a split second, his senses warned of danger. A tingle spawned by an age-old instinct. Then recognition hit even before proximity and the moonlight revealed the intruder’s identity, Buffy. The tension remained. Her expression held purpose. This was no routine patrol. No coincidence that she had crossed his path tonight.
“So this is where Spike hangs out,” Buffy twirled her stake and tapped it against her leg. “A little low-rent compared to the factory, but harder to track down.”
“You were looking for Spike?”
Aghast, Buffy answered, “No, you actually. Willy wasn’t very talkative tonight. He seemed upset about his bouncer getting into a fight. So I had a little stake-to-heart chat with some vamp at the bar.”
Surprised that the vampire he had questioned stayed at Willy’s, Angel looked for confirmation, “Broken nose?” If so, the kid was having a rough night. A smidgeon of guilt settled in his gut.
She nodded. “That’s the one. I don’t think he likes you, by the way. He was more than willing to tell me where to find you.”
Yes, Angel figured he probably thought she was trying to track him down to slay him. The fledgling obviously was not up on Sunnydale gossip. “You found me. Now we’re leaving.”
“What about them?” Buffy jabbed her thumb in the direction of the crypt, sensing them inside. “I thought—”
Angel walked past her, forcing Buffy to follow. “Let them be.”
“Don’t ask questions,” Angel picked up his pace away from the crypt toward the outer edge of the cemetery. “Just stay out of their way.”
Stunned by his words, Buffy pointed out, “That sounds like a nice way of telling me to shut up and mind my own business.”
He was asking a lot without giving Buffy details. Angel knew she was going to push for more, but he could not tell her everything. Not when Dru’s vision involved his desire for Cordelia and seemingly the likelihood of Angelus’ return.
Still trailing after him, she followed up with, “Not that this version is much nicer. I ought to be in their face, not giving them free reign of Sunnydale. The last time those maniacs were in town, they weren’t exactly model citizens.”
Stopping, Angel let her catch up with him. She deserved something in the way of a response. “This is about Cordelia. It ties into the prophecy and has something to do with the reason she was chosen as a sacrifice.”
“Okay,” she looked alert and thoughtful, “I’m listening.”
“Drusilla came here to warn me, to share her vision of the trouble ahead. Buffy, if I don’t follow through with this, Cordelia is going to die.”
Buffy frowned, “That just sounds like Spike making threats. I should—,” she half-turned around to head back toward the crypt. Angel grabbed her arm, holding her in place.
For a moment, Buffy looked ready to fight. Then the resistance against his hold relaxed until she stood quietly beside him. Angel recognized that this was merely a standoff and not acquiescence to his demand. He knew that if Buffy caught either Spike or Drusilla taking one misstep, especially if it involved a human life, their existence would be forfeit as far as she was concerned.
One more reason not to let her enter that crypt was the recently drained corpse lying in plain sight on the floor. For now, he needed Drusilla in one piece. There might be more to discover about her vision and Cordelia’s role in the prophecy. Spike would have to be there to keep Dru in check. Whether he liked it or not, they were going to be in town for the duration.
As the mist swirled at their feet, a long silence stretched between them. Once, this kind of quiet enhanced their connection to each other, bonded them closer, but now the void was filled with suspicion and doubt, secrets.
“Sooooo, subject change?” Buffy searched for something to say, but all she could think about was the fact that Angel was so concerned about Cordelia that he was willing to let Spike & Drusilla get away scot-free. “Cordelia has a grandma. That’s a surprise.”
Angel started walking and Buffy fell into step beside him. When he said nothing, she prompted him again, “Not to you, though. You brought her to the hospital.”
Grunting an acknowledgement, Angel knew that she was fishing for information that Cordelia was not prepared to share. Buffy took a roundabout way of getting to the point and then finally asked, “How come you knew about Grandma Bev and we didn’t?”
“Cordy trusts me,” he answered noting the stung response. That implied Cordelia did not trust them. Perhaps that was true to a degree, at least with something so personal.
Until now, he had not considered that implicit trust. Considering the lack of it that first night back with the Scoobies when she had poked him in the gut with a stake, and then warned him against snacking on her neck, things had taken quite a turnaround.
“Oh,” the tiny sound emerged from her throat. Awkwardly, Buffy tried to shift the topic again. “I take it Bev doesn’t know. About you being…”
“A vampire?” The way her voice trailed off made Angel realize that she still had a hard time admitting it to herself. “No, she doesn’t.”
Buffy stopped at the edge of the blacktop leading away from the cemetery. She stared off into the distance as if checking for traffic. The mist was thin here, too light to cause a problem with seeing on-coming cars. The road was empty. Angel asked her what was on her mind.
“The picnic was a cover-story for Bev, right?” Buffy guessed wrong. Even as she said it, there was doubt in her eyes, “Just a way to explain why Cordelia was out on patrol.”
He could not help but smile at the memory of Cordelia feeding him little samples of tasty foods. Or the way her pupils dilated and her pulse quickened as she watched him move through the standard forms of Tai-Chi.
“That’s right.” The lie easily passed his lips without a shred of guilt. There would be no sharing of those memories. Angel wanted to keep them to himself. It was curious that Buffy was taking such an interest in what Cordy and he were doing while on patrol.
Silence won out again as they walked the yellow center line of the empty access road. It led back toward the Main Street crossroad. The subject changed again, but once more Cordelia was the topic of conversation as Buffy voiced concerns about Cordelia going out on patrol.
“I’m thinking it’s too dangerous.”
Buffy’s arguments were compelling. They were not far off his line of thinking. If it was just Drusilla’s mysterious threat, he could deal with it, but his childe had seen a future filled with blood and death. He could not easily protect Cordy unless she was with him. Buffy and Faith had duties of their own to perform. Though he trusted them to guard her, it was not the same as being there.
Unless, of course, he was the cause of the blood and death Drusilla predicted.
“One step at a time. We’ll deal with patrol when it comes up. Cordy isn’t ready for it.” Though he made it sound simple enough, Angel was not naive enough to think Cordelia would make it that easy. If it was up to her, she would have been here to give Drusilla a piece of her mind. Then it occurred to him, “Cordy sent you here, didn’t she?”
“No,” Buffy answered quickly. “It was Faith. She paged me.”
Angel was surprised. His words stumbled a bit, “Faith, right.”
Still frowning, Buffy suggested, “So, umm, I figure we should try to track down this Demon Cop guy. We should start back at Shady Hill.”
His first instinct was refusal, but Angel bit back the words. Going there with Buffy seemed wrong, especially after throwing her name in Cordy’s face after their kiss. Just the thought of it made him want to find a dark corner to sit and brood, but there was no time for such self-absorption.
The danger to Cordelia was real, albeit cloaked in prophecy. He was not going to let anyone sacrifice her to their cause. Determination alone was not enough. Angel needed help and Buffy was offering it. Unhesitatingly, he suggested, “Let’s cut across Maple Court. We’ll get there faster”.