“Well, that was…interesting.” Buffy muttered as she stood over the body of a Lorapred demon.
“Yeah, Buffy. What was up with the self-slayage? If all your patrols are this easy then I’m not sure why you’re pullin’ in the big bucks.”
Buffy smiled distractedly at Xander, but her mind was still preoccupied with the fight. Not that it could really be classified as a fight.
From what Willy had told her earlier the cemetery was gonna be ground zero in some serious evil doing tonight. So of course, she gathered the troops, such as they were, and headed off into battle.
Weaving in and out of the tombstones, they finally stumbled on the impressively intimidating Lorapred. Grey scales and a slimy, thin, mucus-like fluid meant that he passed the first “Slayer Bad Guy Test” – He would definitely be messy to kill.
As he opened what she assumed was his mouth, he passed the second “Slayer Bad Guy Test” – He was dumb as a post.
Before she could even get to the third test, the inevitable spilling of all the evil plans just to hear themselves talk, the grey behemoth lunged at her, tripped over his gargantuan feet, and impaled himself on her sword. She hadn’t even finished her first quip of the evening. It was…unsettling. And it was even more disturbing that having a free night to Bronze wasn’t bringing the buckets of joy it normally did.
Although who the Hell knew what normal was anymore?
“Ah, Buffmiester? I hate to interrupt the all important prolonged ogling of the oozing corpse, but what might be equally fun would taking turns stabbing our eyes with sharp sticks. Oh, hey! Or we could go get my girlfriend and take ourselves to the Bronze and shake our victorious booties. Whadda ya say, Wills?”
“Well, my booty is feeling particularly victorious tonight.” Willow said with a faux serious nod in Xander’s direction.
And there was another weird thing in Buffy’s world today. Cordelia.
When Buffy first burst into the library with the evil tidings from Willy, her plan had been to use Cordelia as bait to lure the demon out into the open for more effective slayage. Of course, in retrospect, bait would have definitely been overkill in this case, but they hadn’t known then that he was dying to…well, die.
But as soon as she’d mentioned that plan Giles practically fell out of his chair. Muttering something about highly important research for which, and Lord only knows why, Cordelia was required, Giles put the breaks on any ideas that involved the cheerleader leaving the library.
So the question that had been plaguing her, besides the whole demon self-shish kabob thing, was why on earth anyone, much less her watcher/librarian, would want to voluntarily spend time with Cordelia Chase. Well sure, Xander did, ’cause he was gettin’ some. But Giles…
Oh – My – God!
No! No!! No!!!
Oh God, how do you poke out your inner eye???
Of all of the horrific things that Buffy had seen in her short tenure as slayer, not one could match the terrible, terrible image burning into her brain of her watcher groping Xander’s girlfriend. In a desperate bid to focus herself on something more palatable, she turned her eyes once again to the corpse at her feet, gratefully allowing the night’s carnage to push away pictures that had to be some sort of after killing, slayer hysteria.
“Buffy, are you okay?”
Willow’s soft inquiry broke into Buffy’s musings, and the caring expression on the redhead’s face had her shaking off her evil thoughts.
“Yeah, Will. Let’s go give Giles the lowdown on the Lorapred. Only, when we tell him about it, let’s make me seem a little more heroic. Otherwise it’ll be all “extra patrols” this and “preemptive sweeps” that. And my victorious booty wants to shake too. Even if it was only victorious on accident.”
“Ah, come on Buffy.” Xander cheered the slayer as he threw his arm over her shoulders. “I have the utmost confidence in your posterior.”
As Buffy watched the two best friends she’d ever had joke good naturedly back and forth she wondered how she had gotten so lucky. That thought caught her by surprise. It had been a while since she had considered good fortune a part of her life. Since her birthday. Since the night she fell asleep with Angel’s arms and woke up in his demon’s sights.
But Willow and Xander, they looked at her in awe and wonder, so sure she was a hero. They didn’t understand that they saved her every day. She couldn’t make it through any of this without them. Not school, not slaying…not Angel.
And although their unrestrained friendship was sometimes all that kept her going, at moments like this, she knew why slayers worked alone. If anything were to happen; if she were to loose Xander or Willow…No. It didn’t even bear thinking about.
In the end she knew that this would be why she’d finally kill Angelus. And it crushed her. To know that he was out there killing people, unleashing unspeakable evil, and that those actions would never be enough to conquer her love for Angel.
Even though she writhed in inner shame at the knowledge that the only way she would be able to kill Angelus was when he threatened those she cared about directly; when the pain he was threatening was poised to surpass the joy Angel gave her, she knew it to be true. Good God, she was only seventeen. Wasn’t she allowed any natural immaturity?
And as quickly as her moment of contentment had come, it passed, leaving her cold and alone with duty; her own, personal sword of Damocles.
Chapter Twenty One
Forty two minutes. According to Giles’ watch that’s how long Cordelia had managed to keep up her pretense of being completely engrossed in the research book she had grabbed to lend credibility to the lie he told Buffy.
His fabrication had sounded pathetically weak, even to his own ears. And yet the truth would have been so much worse. Sending his slayer into a fight with her mind filled thoughts of her demonic ex-boyfriend was not on his list of ways to ensure fast and effective victories. So he lied.
And he had to hand it to Cordelia. She was certainly making the most of his untruth. She kept her nose in that book as if her life depended on it. And as if she could actually read it. Which was doubtful given that it was written in ancient Sanskrit.
It was the sense of avoidance that he was getting from the girl that was disturbing him. Cordelia Chase was many things – brash, tactless, honest, smart, courageous, and annoying. But the one thing she wasn’t was hesitant.
Unfortunately, he was. And so he’d sat there for forty two- forty three minutes, wondering just what it was Cordelia was working so hard to conceal and how to best go about asking her.
His dilemma was simply this – If she was hiding something about this situation with Angelus, then for everyone’s sake he needed to know. However, if something of a personal nature was troubling her that had nothing to do with the vampire, then for his own sake he needed not to know.
Giles had learned in his time working with Buffy just how traumatic almost anything could be to a teenage girl. So if the stakes of a given interaction with the young woman were not apocalyptic in nature, then he felt it best to give the conversation a miss. It’s not that he didn’t care, but rather that one had to know their limitations. Effectively dealing with the everyday angst of adolescence seemed to be his.
Screwing his courage to the sticking point Giles leaned forward, his eyes catching Cordelia’s as she snuck another glance at the clock. Seeing that he had her attention, Giles straightened his spine, his eyes flinty with purpose as the concerned librarian fled, leaving the hardened watcher in his place.
Pushing aside forty-seven minutes of reluctance Giles opened his mouth and said –
He hadn’t meant to say Buffy. He’d meant to say something commanding yet comforting that would firmly encourage the young brunette to confide in him. And yet, he found his comment oddly appropriate since there, seemingly out of nowhere, stood his slayer.
Ooookay. If Buffy had thought that her night at the cemetery had been weird, and she had, nothing could have prepared her for the positively electric atmosphere contained within the library. Unfortunately Buffy doubted that it had anything to do with the opening to Hell tucked securely under the floor on which they were standing. And if it couldn’t be chalked up to a quirk of living on a mystical convergence, then that could only mean that it had to do with the other occupants of the library; Giles and Cordelia. But why?
Unbidden, absolutely one hundred per unbidden, her earlier suspicions returned full force. There was Cordelia looking every inch the young sophisticate in a little, black dress with flirty straps that exposed her long, well toned arms, a short yet full skirt that showcased her long athletic legs, and another of her apparently endless supply of long silk scarves that had sparked a new fad among the students and was fast becoming her trademark accessory. Clearly she had dressed with Bronzing in mind.
Never a breakout star in their drama class, Cordelia’s acting was no better here as she was obviously pretending to read a book that Buffy wasn’t even sure the girl was holding right side up. She looked anxious as if she could barely prevent herself from jumping up and running from the room. In fact, beyond the nervousness she seemed…guilty.
And so Buffy found herself, poised in the doorway of the library, with dark suspicions whispering through the shadowy recesses of her mind. “What would create the currents of tension in the air? What would bring forth such rarely felt intensity from her watcher? What would put a look of guilt on the face of a girl that seemed only capable of disdain?”
And although the situation begged the questions, the slayer begged with equal fervor that they not be answered. So much of her world was already lost to her, Buffy wasn’t sure that she could survive the knowledge the Giles, a man who was closer to a father then her dad had ever been, might be having a relationship with –
No, she couldn’t even form the words in her head. Whatever was going on here had to have a preferable explanation – Demonic possession, alternate dimension, hey, maybe these were shape shifters sent to assassinate her. Anything, anything at all had to be better than the possibility that the tension swirling in the air, the fire in Giles’ eyes, and the guilt in every line of Cordelia’s figure was because she had walked in on something too personal for them to share.
She couldn’t do this. It was too much. There was a limit to what anyone could deal with, even if they were the slayer. She may be “chosen”, but it couldn’t have been for this. No, Buffy knew what the others said about her in those moments before they realized she was outside the door. They said she was in denial, that she wouldn’t admit what was really going on. She may be in denial, but she was more than aware of that fact.
But who wouldn’t be? She was the slayer; born simply to kill things until her untimely death. Her boyfriend was a vampire who, after she’d given him her virginity on her freaking birthday for God’s sake, lost his soul and began a campaign of terror the likes of which she hadn’t seen, and wouldn’t stop until she drove a stake through his unbeating heart.
And now her watcher, father figure, and mystical confidant was messing around with her best friend’s girlfriend and all around nemesis. If this was reality then everyone could keep it and stick it where the sun didn’t shine! Denial sounded just right to this particular slayer.
And with that, Buffy pushed down all of her observations, forced her lips into mimicry of a smile, and turned to meet Giles’ inquiring gaze.
“Uh, yes, Buffy. I have to say that I didn’t expect you to return so quickly. Was the information you received faulty?”
Xander and Willow, having choosing that moment to enter the library, Xander having needed to stop at the vending machine for a sugar fix, put operation “Bootyshake” into action.
“You should have seen it G-man. This thing was 10 ft tall if he was an inch. Gray and scaly and definitely not a devotee of that whole shower trend. As soon as he saw Buffy he knew she meant business. Making his move he lunged for her.”
At this point Xander jumped across the room and grabbed at Willow who had turned towards the computer intending to check her e-mail before they went dancing. Willow shrieked in surprise as Xander spun her around and continued his colorful recitation of the night’s events.
“Ah, but our Buffy, she’s a cunning slayer. She faked left, she faked right,” Xander’s moved towards a now retreating Willow matched his words, “then she thrust forward, impaling her less than worthy opponent triumphantly, if messily, on her sword.” With that he propelled his arm in Willow’s direction in a dreadful parody of swordplay to which the young redhead responded by grasping her abdomen as if mortally wounded and collapsing to the ground in a ridiculous over dramatization of the throes of death.
Even the staid watcher couldn’t help but grin slightly at the antics of the children. He knew, better than anyone, how difficult Buffy’s life had been since her calling. Although they merely considered themselves her best friends, Giles understood the gift that they were to his weary slayer.
“A most interesting patrol report. Would it be considered an accurate accounting, Buffy?”
Buffy bit her lips as she wrestled with her conscience. The two people inhabiting her body, one a slayer of evil, the other a 17 year old girl dying to cut loose, argued briefly over how to answer that question. At seeing Giles’ earnest expression of expectation a third persona reared its head – that of the dutiful daughter who, together with the inner slayer kicked her fun loving teenager’s ass and ‘fessed up to Giles.
“Well, except for the part where I did anything other than stand perfectly still while the demon ran towards me, tripped, and stabbed himself to death on my conveniently outstretched weapon. Other than that it’s spot on.”
“Hmm. Fascinating. Not at all what one would expect from a Lorapred demon.” As Giles began a mental list of all the questions needing to be answered concerning this development he looked up in time to catch the slumping of Buffy’s shoulders.
“Look guys,” she said to the others of similar defeated posture, “why don’t you guys go on ahead. No point in everyone at the Bronze being denied all of us tonight. I’ll try to catch up later if I can.”
It was odd. Since their first meeting Giles had been adamant that Buffy needed to develop a greater sense of responsibility towards her duty as a slayer. And yet now, seeing his work come to fruition, he was amazed at how sad the sight made him. Buffy’s need to balance her slaying along side her “normal” life had often caused him fits, and yet her determination to do so was inherent to who she was. That fierce sense of self was the source of Buffy’s greatest strength. To see it wane in light of recent events in her life was far worse than the resulting emphasis on her work as a slayer was a blessing.
Knowing he would regret this, but unable stand by and watch Buffy loose herself to the slayer inside, Giles spoke.
“That’s quite alright, Buffy. I have more research that needs to be done tonight. The matter of the Lorapred demon can keep until morning. Why don’t you join the others.”
Unsure of such an unexpected reprieve, Buffy let her thoughts drift once again to the probability of demonic possession. But, ever the optimist, she concluded that if Giles were possessed, at least it was by some obviously kind hearted demon who understood the importance of post slayage partying.
“Thanks Giles. I’ll check in first thing in the morning.”
And then, as if they were all endowed with slayer speed, the four youths fled the library in pursuit of the non evil portion of their evening, leaving the librarian alone in his refuge of tomes to ponder the mysteries of vampire’s pets, suicidal demons, and the oddities of youth.
Chapter Twenty Two
Mmm. There was nothing like the smell of hot, young bodies. Unless it was a hundred hot young bodies. It’s what made the Bronze, even on a weeknight such as this, the prime takeout joint for vampires of the Hellmouth.
As Angelus soaked in the sensation of a predator literally drowning in prey, he began a cursory inspection of potential victims, wondering which would best serve his needs. Gift shopping was always so difficult, especially so last minute. Who do you kill for the girl who has everything?
Angelus froze in the midst of his musings as a shiver danced its way down his spine, tingling each nerve on its decent. He knew that feeling; or rather he knew its cause.
Cordelia. She was here; in this building, in this crowd. Even hidden in this sea of humanity he could feel her surging through his veins, burning away his perpetual chill and leaving licks of fire in her wake.
Despite his resolve to steer clear of the bewitching young woman after their last encounter on Cordelia’s balcony, he began to scan the crowd for her familiar form. He needed to see her, to fill his other senses with her. Like an alcoholic in a liquor store he was fast convincing himself that just a little wouldn’t hurt. Just seeing her, merely hearing her voice. One, brief touch. That would sooth the snarling beast rising inside of him, and he could stop. He was in control.
As his searching became more agitated his eyes passed a familiar blonde head. Skidding to a halt and retracing his visual steps, Angelus was more than surprised to find himself staring at the laughing face of the slayer.
As he watched her talk with the little hacker he wondered what could have gone wrong tonight. Angelus had no illusions that the Lorapred demon he had sent would beat, or even truly test the slayer. That was never the point. Still, the hulking giant should have been enough to keep her busy for a good part of the evening and recovering for the better portion of the night.
And yet here she sat, looking fresh and new, joking and giggling with her little friend in a seeming mockery of his plans for her of suffering and anguish.
The anger that was building at the interruption of his plans for the slayer was swamped as his attention was grabbed once more by the pull of Cordelia Chase. She was closer. He could smell her, taste her on the air. And as the flavor of rich, spiced wine teased his palette all thoughts of the slayer fled.
Closing his eyes he attuned himself to the bond they shared, letting it fill him until it became a living, tangible thing. Tugging him forward. Turning his head. Opening his eyes.
A growl ripped from his throat. A noise, so inhuman in nature that those within hearing distance prepared for flight although from what they couldn’t say.
He was touching her! That pathetic maggot had his hands on her.
There she was, a nubile young goddess, her sun kissed skin draped in a flurry of black silk as if night had married the day and given birth to the vision before him. Every movement she made, the gentle tilt of her head, the sensuous arch of her back, the rhythmic sway of her hips were all an erotic invitation.
Innocently offered and all the more compelling for the lack of intent, she beckoned the lesser beings around her like a siren, daring them to breach her shores. And, like the sirens of old, all that awaited those who would dare accept what she unknowingly offered was death; terrible destruction in the form of the demon even now planning her partner’s painful demise.
A shiver passed over Cordelia’s skin leaving goose bumps where the unease touched her. Her movements slowed and finally stopped as the sense of disquiet continued to plague her.
“What’s wrong?” Xander called to her over the heavy beat of the music.
Untangling herself from Xander’s spastic limbs, Cordelia felt marginally better as their physical connection was severed. Thinking that she must be coming down with something she decided to regroup in the restroom and see if she could salvage something of this night.
“I’m heading to the ladies room, Xander. While I’m gone, try not to embarrass yourself.” As soon as she turned to leave she swiveled back to face the sweet and gangly young man. “Actually, not much seems to embarrass you judging by that shirt you’re wearing, so try not to embarrass me while I’m gone.”
Cordelia wanted to soften her normal waspish words with a kiss, but found herself almost sick at the thought of touching anyone at that moment. Weaving her way through the throng of people, she could only hope that whatever it was she’d obviously caught was of the 24 hour variety.
As Angelus weighed the pros and cons of removing Xander Harris’ head as opposed to the more time consuming option of ripping off his limbs and then using them to beat what was left of him to death, he was pulled from his mental carnage by the sight of Cordelia heading straight for him.
Thinking that she must have seen him, he soon realized that couldn’t be the case; for while the luscious brunette looked mildly out of sorts, if she knew that she was delivering herself directly into his hands, discomfort would have quickly been replaced by a genuine fear. Especially after her little performance with Harris.
The Bronze was an interesting club; designed to let one be “seen” at the town’s only hotspot, it was also rife with small alcoves of privacy. These islands of intimacy were scattered throughout the club, as couples wandered in and out, making the most of every private moment they could grab. With an ease that marked him as a true predator, Angelus faded into the shadows of one of these convenient romantic retreats and awaited his quarry.
His muscles, already strained to the breaking point, grew impossibly tighter as Cordelia’s scent pushed ahead of her and surrounded him, clinging to his senses and making his head swim. Each step intensified the sensations and Angelus knew that, even with his eyes closed he would know when she passed. He’d feel it, feel her, experience the drowning, the gasping for air, although he didn’t need to breathe.
It was building now; stronger, deeper than before. Her presence, his rage; possession and bloodlust were pounding through him like crashing ocean waves blinding him to all but her. And then she was upon him.
With lightening speed the unsuspecting beauty was plucked from the floor and deposited in the shadowy corner the vampire had occupied. Locked in by the hard, sinewy form that tensed in angry anticipation, Cordelia could only stare in bemused apprehension, nonplused at the sudden manifestation of her nightmares.
His voice did nothing to calm her rampant fear, nor was that his intention as his ground out inquiry scraped like broken glass across her frayed nerves.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Cordelia knew that, although the slayer of all things evil was currently in the building with her, she was on her own with the furious vampire. There was no way her cries for help would be heard over the nearly deafening music and, as she was completely hidden by the body crowding her against the wall, all Buffy would see should she happen to observe them would be a large, dark haired man enjoying some private time with an unseen partner.
With those depressing thoughts in the forefront of her mind, Cordelia swallowed as much of her fear as she could without choking on it and resorted to the only thing she knew – attitude.
“I’m dancing with my boyfriend, obviously. Although the way Xander dances I can see how you’d be confused.”
Angelus was a contradictory demon; he loved a fiery spirit, yet demanded submission. It was forcing that passionate soul to yield to his will in all things that drew him like a moth to the flame. But in this matter he had no time for games, he would have his answers and her compliance.
Amber darts shot through the dark chocolate of his eyes, a warning of barely suppressed rage as his lips pulled back over elongating teeth and vicious snarls spilled forth.
“He was touching you.”
Cordelia, never one for patience was quickly being overcome by her exasperation, not just with the current situation, but with the vampire’s apparently endless and controlling presence in her life.
Glancing down at the tightly constricting hands grasping her upper arms in a bruising grip, she looked back into the glowing eyes of the demon before her and declared pointedly, “He’s allowed. That happens to be one of the perks of being my boyfriend.”
The rage, now a living beast within him was beating at him with relentless pressure. And yet his words were deadly calm as if they were of such deep and abiding truth that they did not require the force of his anger to make his will manifest.
“Xander Harris is not your anything, and if he’s gone even slightly beyond this fumbling touching, he’ll never have the chance to be anything at all.”
Although the part of Cordelia’s brain that dealt with self-preservation and the preservation of her friends screamed at her to quietly acquiesce in this matter, it was overruled by the building fury that seemed to be spilling from the vampire into herself.
“God! What is your damage?! This is sooo not happening. I’m not going to let one mistake ruin my life – and I stress here, my life.”
It was eerie the way that Angelus’ voice could get softer and yet the menace could increase proportionately. It sent chills spiraling through her, chills magnified immensely by his next words.
“That’s where you’re wrong, Cordelia. It’s not your life. It hasn’t been for weeks now and your denial and some pieces of silk won’t change that.”
With that decree still hanging in the air between them, Angelus tore the scarf from her neck and ran his fingers over the proof of his possession. Her sharp intake of breath ignited a conflagration in his brain and her convulsive shudders shot spears of electricity straight to his groin.
Moving his hands to her waist he pulled her upwards until her feet left the ground. Pinning her even further into the corner, Cordelia had no choice but to but to wrap her legs around Angelus’ waist. A sense of deja vu swept through her as she remembered back to her last interlude with the vampire and how they had ended up in just this position.
But within the blink of an eye those thoughts were driven from her head as Angelus’ hips thrust up to meet her own, his arousal large and rock hard against her rapidly moistening center. Cordelia’s mindless moan was swallowed by the vampire’s mouth as he wrapped a hand in her hair and forced her head up for his kiss.
The taste of her exploded through him, making a mockery of his attempts to escape this woman in the blood of others so immensely inferior. How had he thought that anything could compare to the nectar that flowed through every cell in her exquisite body.
This was what he sought. This quieted that unreachable itch within him; made him whole. Even as the thought formed in his head his mind rebelled, warning bells sounding. With an effort Herculean in scope he surfaced from the depths of passion long enough to focus his thoughts on the disturbance in his pleasure. He was, after all, a creature of instinct, and ignoring those primal drives rarely led to desirable circumstances.
So, pushing his inexorable lust down for just an instant, the thought he’d been trying to pin down materialized briefly. The bond. If he did this there would be no going back, no avoiding the girl to negate their connection. He had to consider this; he had to be careful to make this decision based on his grand design and cool, clear logic and not his dick…his throbbing, aching dick which was right at this moment tucked between Cordelia’s thighs as they grasped his hips, her weight pressing her molten core snugly to him.
Her skirt had ridden up during their hormonal tussle, and her panties did little to separate him from Cordelia’s most intimate secret. But in his licentious frenzy even that small barrier was too much. Running his free hand down the voluptuous curves of her body he settled on her thigh. Exploring the silky texture with nimble fingers, he skimmed her supple skin as he made his way to the scrap of silk and lace that barred him from her heat.
Twisting his fingers in the thin material, his growls echoed in the cavern of her mouth as, with a slight movement of his wrist he removed the last impediment to his lascivious wanderings.
Thrusting his tongue even deeper into her mouth, he robbed her of her breath, taking advantage of her distraction to thrust a long finger through her slick folds, burying it deep within her until it found the proof of her innocence.
Encountering the evidence of her untouched state every thought, logical or otherwise, vanished from his inner sight and he acknowledged that there would be no stopping, regardless of the consequences. There was no way that he would end this night in any other way than with Cordelia Chase underneath him.
As for the bond, well, he’d fuck her then he’d kill her. Her blood called to him, and while it would be a loss to annihilate such perfection, a pet just wasn’t part of his plans. Even one as delectable as the girl writhing in his arms.