“Riley?” Giles and the others looked at the ex-commando.
“Giles, do you have a map? I will show you.”
“Yes, of course, a map.” Giles scrambled behind the counter searching for a map of Sunnydale.
“When I was with the Initiative, we explored most of the caves in Sunnydale. The caves along here.” He pointed to the southern part of the map, that Giles placed before him. “Are made up almost entirely of red clay. The caves I saw were fairly small, but there could be some larger cavern connected to them, possibly subterranean.”
“Riley, was this the only area that the Initiative discovered that had red clay?” asked Wesley.
“Well, then I suggest that is where we should look.”
“I agree,” nodded Giles.
“Giles?” Willow interrupted quietly. “If that is where the cave is, then what? I mean, I realize that Cordelia can defeat the immortal.” She glanced apologetically towards Buffy. “But if the spell hasn’t been cast then what?”
Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his face. “If we can, we need to stop the emergence from happening. And if the cave, like Cordelia suggests, is protected by vampires then we will have a fight on our hands. We have to destroy the talismans.”
Willow looked thoughtful. “Um, Wesley do you have the spell that St. John needs?”
“Can I see it? Maybe I can find a spell that can block or interfere with St. John’s incantation,” she said timidly.
“Good idea,” exclaimed Giles. “Willow, you and Anya start trying to find an appropriate spell. The rest of us will search for the cave, starting here,” he said jabbing at the map.
“Ahem,” Angel cleared his throat. “That is a good idea, Willow. But, Giles, I think some of us should stay behind. Cordelia needs to rest, just in case.” Angel paused, he wanted to stay with Cordelia and to make sure she was protected.
But if he went to the cave now, then maybe he could destroy St. John and the talismans. If they were destroyed before the emergence of the immortal, then Cordelia would never have to be placed in danger. Angel decided that he could protect Cordelia best by attempting to prevent the danger from ever happening.
“Wesley, Gunn, stay with Cordelia…and, of course, Willow and Anya” he added as and afterthought. “They will need protection to get to the cave when and if they are needed. Wesley, you can help Willow find a spell.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Oh, all right,” complained Gunn. “I guess, I can stay with the book people, but there better be some vamps left to stake, when I get to the cave.”
“Angel,” interjected Cordelia.
“Angel,” she tried again.
“No, Cordelia. You need to rest, you have fought the immortal twice, have been killed once, then wounded and you haven’t had any real sleep in two days. You need to rest,” he said firmly.
“Are you done?”
“Angel, it is daylight outside, you know sunny. How are you Mr.-UV-allergic, suppose to get to the cave from here.” She pointed to where the shop was located on the map. “To here?” she asked pointing to the location of the caves.
Angel looked at the map, then the blue bright sky through the window. “The sewers?” He asked hopefully and a little sheepishly.
“No.” Riley reluctantly acknowledged the vampire. “The sewers stop a few miles from the caves.”
“I know. Angel, you stay with the book people. I will go and stake all the vamps.”
“I…okay. I will stay here, but Gunn call as soon as you verify where the cave is located.”
“Done, man,” Gunn said. He was happy that he wouldn’t have to sit around anymore doing nothing.
“Well, then, Riley, Xander start gathering the weapons. Buffy?” Giles gave a concerned glance to the quiet slayer.
Buffy got up giving one last disgusted look at the vampire and his seer standing close together. “Let’s go,” she said. Buffy saw Riley get up to follow Xander out of the room.
“Riley?” she asked hesitantly.
“Not now,” he said leaving the room.
“I can’t rest,” complained Cordelia.
“That’s just nervous energy.” Angel stopped pacing the floor. “You need to relax.”
“Maybe, Mr.’Not so calm’ undead guy, you should take your own advice. You have been up as long as I have and you haven’t exactly had a stress free time of it, either,” she retorted as Angel resumed his pacing.
“I fine, I just…”
“Want to be out there,” she said understandingly. “But unless, Giles has a Teflon suit stashed away in between the newt eyes and frog legs, you are going to have to be patient.” Cordelia stretched her shoulders and began her own pacing. She stopped as she felt Willow’s watchful gaze following her about the room.
“What?” Cordelia asked more sharply, than she had intended.
The young immortal liked the witch. She had been truly pleased that she and Willow had some how moved past their previous strained relationship and had established a friendship of sorts. But, even so, she wasn’t going to sit back and let Willow berate her or her relationship with Angel.
Willow bit her lip, nervously and got up from the couch. “Um, Cordy?” The young immortal watched warily as the witch approached.
“Cordy, I’m not mad,” Willow said softly. Cordelia bristled at her words. As if the witch had the right to be mad, she thought.
“What I mean is, I understand. It is obvious that you, Angel and Wesley are a family. That you found something that you didn’t have here in Sunnydale. Buffy will see it and accept it, like she will eventually come to grips with the fact that you and Angel are a couple.”
“Like I care, whether Miss ‘Stake- happy’ or anybody else accepts it. Angel and I are together, forever,” Cordelia said bluntly.
Willow flinched at the harshness of Cordelia’s tone. Willow took a deep breath. “I think you do care,” she said kindly.
Cordelia stopped herself from uttering a caustic comment. Willow was right, she did care. Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles were an important part of her past. They had been the ones that first showed her that she could be more than the popular, bitchy Queen C.
Granted, they had a tendency to under value her and treat her with contempt, but then again, she had done the same to them. Damn, she thought, it was hard to grow up.
“You are right, I do care; but, not enough to deny my love for Angel. Or to live my life at the altar of the almighty slayer.”
“Cordelia, Buffy has had a lot to deal with…”
“Give me a break, Willow. Who here, hasn’t? What’s so special about her destiny that makes it more vital than Angel’s or mine? What makes her more important than you? Nothing, that’s what. Buffy just expects everyone to bow down to her and her ‘destiny’ and you all do. Well, I am not.”
“Cordy, it’s not that simple.”
“Yes, it is.” Cordelia said firmly. “Don’t worry, Willow, if she plays nice, I will.”
Willow was thoughtful as she watched the young immortal go to Angel. Maybe, Cordelia did have a point; everybody involved in the fight against evil has had to make sacrifices, not just Buffy. Her eyes widened at that traitorous thought.
No, Buffy was her best friend and that’s where her loyalty should lay. She looked again at Angel and Cordelia softly talking. But, Cordelia was also her friend. Willow was getting an headache. She shrugged and went back to where Wesley and Anya were arguing about which spell to try.
“What did Willow have to say?” Angel asked gently, pulling Cordelia down next to him on the couch.
“Nothing, just your typical defense of Buffy speech,” she grumbled. “She was nice, though. And she is okay about us,” Cordelia conceded. “I guess, I still like the witch.”
Angel smiled and caressed Cordelia’s dark hair as she settled against his chest. “Rest.”
“You too, ‘grr’ guy,” she yawned.
Angel leaned back and listened to Cordelia’s breathing and heart beat calm into a restful pattern. Soon, the steady rhythmic sounds his lover’s young body lulled the vampire to sleep.
“I think we should split up and explore the tunnels and see where they lead,” Riley suggested. The group of cave explorers had been investigating a small red stained cavern when suddenly they came upon several tunnels that branched off in different directions.
Giles nodded. “Yes, you are probably right, but nobody should go alone.” He contemplated the assorted group. “Um, maybe three groups, Buffy, you and…”
“I will go with Riley,” she jumped in, relieved. She had been trying to get Riley alone since they had left the magic shop. So far, her boyfriend had been successful in avoiding her. But, he would have to talk to her if they were alone in one of the tunnels.
“No, I will go with one of the immortals,” he said coldly. “Duncan?” Riley wasn’t ready to listen to Buffy, Giles or Xander try to explain and justify his girlfriend’s violent reaction to Cordelia and the vampire.
“But…,” started Buffy.
“Buffy, you and I will take that tunnel,” Xander interrupted shooting a dirty look at the ex-commando for upsetting Buffy.
“Yes, um, well…I guess. Methos?” Giles asked the older immortal. Methos nodded. “Gunn, you should go with Buffy and Xander,” Giles added.
“What?” “No way.” Both Buffy and Xander shouted.
“Hey, man I don’t have a problem with that,” Gunn chuckled at the slayer’s and young man’s apparent distress.
“Good,” sighed Giles. “If you find the cavern or don’t, everybody back here in 20 minutes. I don’t want anybody to get lost.” Everyone acknowledged Giles’ warning and headed into the dark tunnels.
Buffy and Xander took great pains to ignore the former street kid following them.
“Xander, why won’t Riley talk to me?”
“It will be okay, Buffy. He will understand,” comforted her friend.
“Sure, he will,” broke in Gunn. “I mean what is there not to understand? Every guy likes his lady love to go into a major violent tizzy over another guy.”
“Shut up,” both Buffy and Xander yelled.
Buffy was seething. This had been one of the most horrible days of her life. She really hoped that they saw a vampire soon, she was in dire need of something to hit. Buffy couldn’t even imagine what could make her day worse.
“Bad day, pet?” a voice smirked out from the darkness of the tunnel. Buffy groaned as she realized that her day just got worse.
Buffy lunged in the darkest and threw Spike up against the wall. “What the hell are you doing here,” she yelled, dropping the blonde vampire on the ground.
“I am sensing more than the usual type of hostility, slayer. What’s got your panties in a bunch? Hey, who is the new Scooby?” he asked looking at Gunn.
“Don’t bother.” Xander pushed down the stake in Gunn’s hand. “He is defanged and pretty much washed up as the lethal type. Now he just shows up all of the time like a bad penny to annoy us, isn’t that right, oh impotent one?”
Spike shot Xander a nasty look.
“Spike, what are you doing here. Don’t tell me you are helping that screwy old lunatic raise the ‘all powerful immortal’. If you are, I will stake you,” she promised. “Hell, I might just do it anyway.”
“My, aren’t we testy,” the blonde vampire cracked.
Buffy moved aggressively towards the vampire. “Hey,” Spike stepped back. “I am here just to see what all the fuss is about. Harm has been going on and on about some old mortal offering tons of money to the local vamp population to help in some sort of diabolical plan. Would that be your screwy old lunatic? I guess that makes this mighty immortal person, the diabolical plan.”
“Spike, what do you know about it?” Buffy demanded.
“What, I said. And that the sinister bad thing is to happen tonight in the underground cavern at the end of this tunnel.”
“The cavern is here?” Buffy started to take off in the direction of where he pointed.
“No one’s home. The shindig doesn’t begin until after sunrise. I imagine the party goers won’t be showing up for a few hours,” called the blonde vampire.
“Hey, vamp,” Gunn called. “How did you get here? The boyfriend said that the sewers don’t reach out to the caves.”
“They don’t, but there is a tunnel.”
“Cool.” Gunn whipped out his cell phone.
“Buffy, I think our 20 minutes are up,” interrupted Xander.
The slayer nodded. “Come on Spike, you are coming with us.”
“Angel,” Gunn said into the phone. “The cavern is here and there is tunnel access.” Gunn turned to Spike. “Blondie, where is the access tunnel?”
“Angel? The poof is in Sunnydale? Poor little slayer, no wonder your panties are all tied up in little knots,” laughed Spike.
Buffy, Xander, Gunn, along with a sullen Spike joined up with the rest of the gang in the small, main cave.
“Buffy, we have been…Spike? What is he doing here?” questioned the former watcher/librarian.
Duncan looked intently at the vampire that was forced to join them. Methos leaned over and whispered,”Whatever it is Mac, not now.” The Highlander slowly nodded.
“We found him scurrying around in the tunnels,” the slayer explained. “The underground cavern is back through there.” Buffy pointed to the tunnel they had just came from.
“Did you see any vampires, other than him?” Riley asked.
“No, Spike says that it is empty and that the bad guys won’t be here until sundown.”
“Just what do you have to do with all of this?” questioned Giles.
“Nothing, I was just curious to see what all the hype was about.”
“You do know that curiosity killed the kitty, don’t you,” commented Xander.
“Good thing that I am not a bleedin cat then, now isn’t it?” the blonde vampire retorted.
“Giles, the plan?” Buffy asked, ignoring the vampire.
“I suggest we go to the site and prepare a ambush for when St. John and the vampires do show up.”
The others nodded in agreement and headed towards the tunnel. Gunn hung back. “You all go on. Blondie here is going to show me where to meet Angel and Cordelia.”
“Yes, you are,” ordered Gunn.
“Fine,” Spike grumbled in disgust. Before he turned to follow Gunn, he couldn’t resist a final snipe at the slayer. It was one of the few pleasures left in his life. “Hey, slayer, how does your soldier boytoy feel about the return of your ex-undead boyfriend?”
Spike laughed at the expression on Buffy’s face. He could no longer cause her any physical pain, but he could still have some fun making her miserable. “Ouch, is Peaches homecoming causing just a teensy bit of tension?”
“Come on, vampire. Let’s go.” Gunn pulled Spike from the seething slayer.
“Spike? The Billy Idol want to be of the dead set, the other half the dastardly, deranged love couple is helping the Scooby Gang?” Cordelia asked Willow in disbelief. Angel had just hung up the phone with Gunn.
“Sort of,” Willow shrugged. “He doesn’t really like to, but well, the only things he can fight are demons and Giles pays him. Spike is okay. He just gets a little grumpy about the no biting human thing.”
“Right,” said the brunette immortal, rolling her eyes. “Angel?”
“Spike is in the caves, so there must be tunnel access,” reasoned the vampire.
“But how can we trust him?” Wesley inquired worriedly.
“I am sure he is telling the truth. Buffy may not stake him, but he knows she will pound him to almost dust, if he lies,” reassured the witch.
Angel turned to Wesley. “Get some blankets and open the trunk. Willow get the items you need for your spell. Cordelia?”
Cordelia shrugged, picking up her coat and sword. “Okay, let’s go and cause some major damage to evil watcher’s stupid scheme.”
Angel under the cover of several smoking blankets made it safely from the trunk of the car to the access tunnel. Soon, everybody joined him in the dark underground passage.
“Angel, man. Over here,” called Gunn’s voice from the blackness. Angel turned and saw the young man and Spike clearly in the darkness. Spike was leaning up against the wall of the tunnel lightening a cigarette.
“Poof,” Spike said taking a drag.
“Spike,” Angel said guardedly.
Spike leaned up from the wall when he noticed Cordelia standing close to Angel’s side.
“Well, Well, this is interesting and I must say it puts a whole new spin on the Slayer’s testy mood,” he commented raising his eyebrows in a smirk. “You and the cheerleader are doing the bedroom tango,” he chuckled. “Eww, I am sorry cheerleader, Peaches still has that obnoxious soul thing. I guess you just can’t get that happy thing going. But don’t worry; if it’s a real vampire you want, I am sure that you can make some happy time with me,” he leered at the beautiful brunette.
“Shut up, you defanged sorry excuse for a dead guy. I will have you know that Angel and I…” Cordelia blushed, she couldn’t believe it, she had just been about to defend her and Angel’s sex life. God, she was starting to sound like Xander’s h—- ex-demon girlfriend. “Shut up. Don’t we have some place to be,” she said angrily brushing past the laughing vampire.
Spike was about to comment again, when he was suddenly and forcibly thrown up against the wall. “YOU, will not go near her,” the dark vampire growled, his game face flickering on and off.
“Is that a little bit of grandpappy Angelus, I see,” Spike choked.
“No,” Angel said silkily as he dropped the blonde vampire to the ground. “Angelus is gone for good, but he did leave some of his unique talents behind.” Angel grabbed Spike’s hand and jerked him up until he was face to face with the blonde. “She is mine,” he growled. “Touch her, bother her and you are dust, defanged are not.”
“Gee, Peaches, I get it.”
Spike brushed off his duster and turned to Willow who had been watching the confrontation. “What’s the deal with the souled poof and the cheerleader?”
“They are in love. His soul is permanent, no more happy clause, but he seems to get a little Angelus-like when Cordelia is threatened, badmouthed or even joked. It is kind of scary.”
“Scary, it’s kind of cool. The poof is getting his edge back.”
Willow shook her head at the smiling vampire. “Where are the others?” the witch asked deciding to ignore Spike’s last comment.