It was often said that it took a special person to really appreciate working the graveyard shift. Typically it meant a fondness for bland fluorescent lighting, skin slightly more pale than the light, chain smoking, and an intake of diet caffeine that actually equaled the mass intake of lab rats.
The graveyard shift peeps are…different. Out of the box. Edgy. Non conformists. The Graveyard shift begins, for many, just at midnight. When the sky is bathed in ink, those souls of working America stumble out of their homes and lift their pasty faces to the twinkle of starshine before heading off to another day, another FICA’d dollar.
Cordilia Chase had found a whole new meaning to “graveyard shift.” For one thing, it could literally involve graveyards. The smokin’ was more…dust related, after the correct application of a stake. Caffeine was still king, however, and had a nice caramel flavor.
And the sky. It went from twilight’s gift of ribbons streaked across west in tendrils of pink and orange all the way to velvet blue-black, then slowly lightening to a dusty grey when the day awoke. And then she slept. And then woke to a new night.
It had not been easy. She loved the sun. She tried to maintain in shifts, so she could have the best of both worlds, but it meant draining time from Angel. All in all it was workable, she had some sun, and she had the Broodmeister too. It was her new reality. Night was her new day.
Tonight the sky was not offering a palate of hues to welcome the dark. It was raining outside; gently spilling down the windows making the air thick and muggy. Cordy stood at the front, quietly watching the rivulets wind their way down the glass as her hand pressed to the pane.
In her musings, she imagined the droplets to be crystals, diamonds even; streaming just out of reach of her touch. The stillness was nice and even the whimsical thoughts had a contented air to them. This was her life.
Not the one she thought she’d have, not what she ever expected; but then, did anyone ever really get exactly what they thought they would in life?
A subtle tingle at her throat shimmied; her hand lifted to cover the mark of Angel’s bite just before she felt his body a whisper away, standing behind her as he rested his head to hers. His hand reached to cover her smaller one as it lay against the glass, pressing gently to her warmth.
“What’s the matter, Cor? Rain got you all blue?” There was an intimacy to his voice, hushed and warm as his breath tickled her ear.
She smiled at the question, her gaze never leaving the spatters of rain. “Nope, no blue here. Just…welcoming night.” She turned and her smile lifted further before she tilted her head up to slide a kiss to his mouth. “Good evening’, handsome. Sleep well?”
“Sleep of the dead.” He pulled back, his forehead resting against hers briefly before lifing his head and peering outside. “Gloomy night. It been doing this all day?”
“Think so. Just got up an hour ago myself.”
Angel nodded, threading his fingers with hers before tugging her away from the window, backing towards the lobby and pulling her along. “You know this means maybe a busy night. Don’t know why, but crappy weather hauls demons out of the woodwork like ants at a picnic.”
“And if by chance it IS busy, you’re not gonna go all Neanderthal on me and think up some lame ass excuse for me to stay behind are you?”
He shook his head, his eyes carefully solemn. “Of course not, Cordelia.”
“Because I am…” She nodded, prodding him to finish the sentence.
“Strong and capable.” He parroted her earlier declarations perfectly. She nodded in satisfaction.
“And if you treat me like I’m fragile and useless, that makes me…..”
“Exactly. Cranky. And if I am cranky….”
“Things will get ugly.”
“And if things go so far as to get ugly….”
“Mr. Happy will not get any and be cranky, too.”
“Exactly!” she beamed as if he’d finally mastered a difficult equation. She patted his arm as she smiled up at him. “Now, was that so very hard?”
He was about to tell her exactly what was getting hard when Fred popped around the corner, a shy grin lifting as she saw them standing together. “Hey, Angel. Hi, Cordy. Um…rainy day, huh?”
Cordy smiled, feeling an ever present mixture of comfort and exasperation around the brainiac. “Hey, Fred. Rainy, but it’s all good.”
Fred turned her grin to Angel, fleeting before a look of startled awareness brightened in her eyes. “Oh! I took a message, hang on….” And she rummaged through her pocket, pulling out a post it note. “Um, it was a really bad connection, and the guy had some kinda accent. It was like totally the phone call from hell. Metaphor, Angel.” And Angel relaxed again.
“Some guy from Pakistan, who was going on about a scroll, cuz otherwise he has a stroll, and maybe even a stroller, and I’m not sure what that means, cuz we’re too far away to babysit…”
“Oh. Sorry. Anyway, I think he said scroll, and he said, and I quote, the tree will moan and reheat the nun.”
Silence grew, and no one moved for a full minute.
“I’m sorry?” Angel leaned in slightly, as if he had trouble hearing.
“I know! It makes no sense! But I swear, that’s what it sounded like. Then I started thinking, ohhhh, maybe it’s like, spy talk and he’s some kind of agent or something…” She trailed off. “Ya know, there’s a possibility I misunderstood him.”
The cultured voice flowed into the quiet, authority in the tones. “Indeed. There are no moaning trees or heated nuns.” All eyes turned to the entry, where a drenched Giles stood, fatigue drawn upon his face. He looked around a bit before spearing Angel with a glance. “You live in a hotel?”
“Giles!” Cordy tugged her hand free and walked to Giles, throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him. “Holy cow! What are you doing here? Why didn’t you call? We would have picked you up at the airport!”
“Cordelia.” He patted her back, awkwardly, before pulling back and smiling down at her.
“You’re looking well. I had heard….” He paused a bit, as if choosing his words carefully. “I had heard that you had developed a…skill.”
She laughed softly. “Oh, a thrill of a skill. And I didn’t develop it as much as…get infected with it. Enough about that, it’s boring.” And she skittered aside, brushing off the subject.
Interesting, Giles thought. He and Ms. Chase were going to have to sit down and discuss this thrill of a skill later. “Giles, this is Winifred Burkle. She’s a genius, lives here and helps with the agency.”
Giles nodded at Fred. “The agency?”
Cordy nodded towards Angel. “Yeah, Angel Investigations. We help the helpless.”
Giles stared at Angel. “As opposed to killing them.” Angel didn’t blink, just stood there, his expression carefully blank. Giles sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I’m sorry. It was a long flight. I was going to inquire as to a recommendation for a good hotel, but….it appears that problem is solved, if it’s acceptable.”
“Well, heck yeah! Wesley is here, he’s going to be glad to see you! You know, the English homie stuff.”
Giles paused at the idea of a British homie. “Well that’s that then. It’s good that Wesley is here; we may need all the help we can get.” He paused a bit. “I’ve sent for Faith. If the connections hold true, she should be here tomorrow.”
A curious thickness filled the room, as though something was waiting to be unleashed, barely contained. It was a dread, and it was strong. Giles shook his head briefly and looked at Angel. “If I might freshen up just a bit…”
Angel nodded and picked up one of Gile’s suitcases. He smiled easily at Cordy and Fred. “Hey, I’ll get Giles settled. Why don’t the two of you order in some Chinese. Chinese ok?” He glanced at Giles, who nodded. Angel glanced at Cordy and started up the stairs, Giles following behind.
The girls stood there, unmoving for a full minute before Cordy spoke, her voice flat. “I think the word you’re looking for, Fred, is crap. Holy, stinkin’ crap.” She sighed, sitting down on the stair. “Whatever it is, we’ll deal. I can deal. I’m used to it.”
Fred nodded and sat down beside her. “Is this Sunnydale stuff?”
“Well, Giles is part of the Sunnydale stuff, but this could be bigger. He hates Angel. Only something really bad would make him come to talk to Angel.” She thought a moment. “Faith. Jeeze.”
“Yeah. A slayer. And a superskank. Can’t imagine how she’s involved. One thing I know for sure.”
“This is big, and it’s bad.” She glanced at Fred. “Maybe way more than you ever signed on for.”
“Well, I’m here.”
“Yeah. I say that to myself every day. I’m here.”
And it was quiet. And Giles was here. And whatever was coming was going to make the graveyard shift look like a party.