Giles’ heart skipped a number of beats as he saw the vampire sitting behind his desk. Pushing down his fear he forced his eyes to meet the penetrating blue gaze.
Spike smiled at the response. It was calm and cool delivering the type of polite disdain that only a fellow Englishmen could achieve. He had sensed the man’s initial fear, but it had been contained almost immediately, and as one rarely given to self-control he had to admire that trait in others.
“You’re in my chair.”
Admiration was one thing, but Spike was still a deadly force to be reckoned with and he deserved a certain amount of respect even from those dedicate to eradicating his kind.
“Well, you could always console yourself with the fact that I’m not ripping your throat out.”
Giles let out a long-suffering sigh understanding that Spike’s visit, as Angelus’ had been, was motivated by the need for his cooperation. So while he probably wouldn’t like what he was about to hear he most likely wasn’t in mortal danger.
“Why are you here, Spike?”
The vampire looked at Giles ’appraisingly.
“Funny thing that. I was just wondering why you lot weren’t at my place. Sure, we all know that the world revolves around the slayer, but I would have thought you all would have at least tried to retrieve the cheerleader.”
Giles could feel the blood draining from his face as the implication of Spike’s words registered. In a voice edging towards desperation Giles refuted his claim.
“You’re lying. Cordelia’s gone. She left and if this is your way of gathering information for Angelus it’s not going to work.”
Spike let out a deep chuckle. “Now why would I bother helping that bloody wanker? Of course no matter what else he is, Angelus is no one’s fool. Did you really think he wouldn’t be prepared for the girl to bolt? He’s got minions everywhere, vampire and human alike. She didn’t even make it out of town before he had her snatched up and brought to him.”
Giles sunk down on the couch to prevent his weakening legs from collapsing. Cordelia’s flight from Sunnydale had been almost two weeks ago. To know that she’d been in the demon’s clutches all of that time made him want to wretch. But aware that loss of control would do nothing towards helping free the girl Giles forced himself to calm and look at the matter as objectively as he was capable at that moment.
“If I’m to believe you Spike and Angelus really does have Cordelia, why on earth would you be here sharing that information with me?”
“Well it’s no secret that me and my grandsire aren’t what you’d call bosom buddies. It’s not like I’m sheddin’ any tears at the thought of drivin’ him a little crazier than he already is. Besides, the girl did me a good turn, and as she pointed out, I owe her.”
Although he was burning with curiosity at what would put this vile killer in the young woman’s debt Giles bit back all questions knowing his answers could wait until Cordelia had been rescued. He cringed inside at the thought of the hell she must be enduring.
He didn’t trust Spike as far as Xander could throw him, but if Cordelia was with Angelus then there was no time to spare. And if what he was claiming was true he would deal with the Devil himself to help bring her home to them.
“Is that all you came to tell me?”
With a small, put out huff Spike stood and crossed over to the door.
“You know, you think the good guys would be a bit better with the gratitude. But as it so happens that’s not all I came for. Whatever little rescue plan you and the slayer are sure to hatch, it won’t do you any good ‘til tomorrow.”
Giles rose from the couch and with an emphatic head shake made clear that that idea was unacceptable.
“Absolutely not. Cordelia won’t be spending one moment longer in this nightmarish situation than is necessary.”
“Well aren’t we the brave little soldier. But it doesn’t make a difference how noble your motives are. Angelus took the chit out of town for the weekend.”
Spike shrugged disinterestedly.
“I didn’t ask and believe me, I’m the last one Angelus would think to share vacation plans with. But if it makes you feel any better, and for the record I don’t really care if it does, he wasn’t planning on hurtin’ the girl.”
And oddly enough Giles’s worry did ease a tiny fraction…until Spike once again opened his mouth.
“’Course Angelus is an unpredictable bastard and Cor’s not the most calming influence, so who knows? But assuming she comes back with her head still attached to the rest of her body I can tell you where to find her.”
“And what do you get out of this, Spike? I can’t believe that there’s anything Cordelia could have done to earn this type of appreciation, and please don’t insult my intelligence by suggesting you’re here out of the goodness of your heart.”
Spike smiled. He was a direct sort of demon, a trait he respected in others. Except for Dru he liked plain speaking and this man certainly pulled no punches. Actually, if everything went well and Angelus was left as nothing more than a memory in a dust pan, he’d actually think about turning him. He wouldn’t mind having him around providing they could dislodge the stick from up his ass. And it was always handy to have a few bright minions in what was usually a fairly useless lot. Besides, nothing would hurt the slayer more than the failure to protect her Watcher.
“What’s in it for me? Here’s the deal, mate. I give you the location where you can find your stray little lamb and you and yours leave me and Dru out of the fight.”
Giles eyebrows rose at the unexpected offer.
“It’s not going to be that easy. I doubt Drusilla will just let us come in and stake her Sire.”
Spike growled at the reference of Dru’s loyalty to her ‘Daddy”, but nonetheless addressed the question.
“You let me take care of Dru. You just get your slayer over there tomorrow.”
“And where might ‘there’ be?”
“Do we have a deal?” Spiked asked although knew they did. He held the cards in this negotiation.
“Yes. Now where is Cordelia being held?”
“The old abandoned mansion over on Crawford Street. You can’t miss it; it’s the one with all the guards around it. Angelus never was the most subtle of demons.”
Spike, business done, turned to leave but was brought up short by Giles steely voice.
“Spike.” The vampire didn’t turn but the stillness of his figure showed that he had his full attention. “If this is some kind of ambush or if Cordelia’s harmed in anyway you’ll have much more trouble than an angry slayer to deal with.”
Spike was impressed. First the cheerleader and now the Watcher had delivered threats that actually came across as fairly credible. It wasn’t all that easy for humans to pull that off. Well maybe slayers, but he’d killed two of those which made it that much more impressive.
“Don’t worry; this liberation gig is in all of our bests interests. You can count on me not to interfere.”
And he was gone.
Knowing there was no time to spare Giles picked up the phone and punched in Buffy’s number. They had to be ready tomorrow. Because one thing was a complete and absolute certainty – If Cordelia was there she definitely couldn’t stay.
The Great Escape
Chapter Seventy One
Xander Harris was dead. His still body lay where it had fallen moments ago; blood puddled around him a grotesque testament to the wounds which had ravaged his young body.
As the crimson pool slid with fluid grace across the floor, Cordelia made her way towards her fallen friend and stood silent, staring intently at all that was left of the boy she’d once loved.
Looking past the gruesome sight her eyes were drawn to the dark figure across from her; blood still dripping from his hands. As one of those stained hands moved towards her she leaned forward to meet it half way. Grasping it firmly she brought the slickened digits to her mouth and ran her tongue sensuously across them to the sounds of both their moans.
Cordelia’s heart stopped as her eyes flew open. She felt as if she was drowning in the darkness around her and tried desperately to pull air into her lung.
“Only a dream. Only a dream.” Her mind screamed at her in a futile attempt to stem the rising surge of panic that was so great it became a physical ache that beat at her chest. The images were so real that she swore she could taste the slight tang of copper on her tongue. Not knowing if she could stop her rolling stomach from heaving up it’s contents, help came for her from an unexpected source.
The words were low and the voice was sleepy but the strong arms that pulled her closer calmed her body if not her mind.
“Don’t worry, baby. It’s okay. I’m right here.”
Despite the horror so fresh in her mind, the mystical forces at work in her life swirled around her and she began to slip back into the deep abyss of sleep. Her eyes slid shut once more leaving time for one last coherent thought.
‘That’s the problem.’
Cordelia gazed at the weightless clouds moving languidly across the sky. When she was younger, like so many children, she’d tried to find entertaining shapes in their velvety hills and valleys. But today there were no happy forms only the freedom of the sky broken into lines of imprisonment by the bars of the windows.
Ever since her escape Cordelia hadn’t been allowed outside during daylight hours and never at night without Angelus at her side. But knowing that she would require some sunlight the vampire had found what he believed to be a reasonable compromise. And so here she sat in a large room with floor to ceiling panes of glass along one wall. Unlike the windows in the rest if the house the shutters and boards had been removed to allow bright streams of sunlight to spill onto the stone floor.
It would have been an almost enjoyable experience – bathing in the warm rays of the sun, except for the large iron rods that crisscrossed the windows to prevent even thoughts of escape. It wasn’t as if they obscured the light or impeded its warmth, but it was a constant and stark reminder of her captivity. And though that thought was never far from her mind, the glaring evidence denied her even the transient illusion that this wasn’t real.
Of course as she sat in a pool of golden light she acknowledged that even thoughts of confinement would be a relief from the images currently haunting her. Since she had awoken that morning nothing had been able to draw her mind from the horror of her previous night’s dream. Terrifyingly real the gruesome images played through her head like a never ending movie. It wasn’t the atrocities committed that were now overwhelming her, but rather her cavalier attitude toward the suffering and death that had permeated every vicious scene.
During their time in Los Angeles Cordelia had come perilously close to promising Angelus that she would stay with him; to using her presence as a bargaining chip to ensure the safety of those she cared for. But now she wondered if pledging herself to a life with the vampire would actually bring more danger to her family, her friends. What if her dream hadn’t just been a reaction to the trauma of the last few months? What if instead it was a foreshadowing of things to come? Could it be that over time she would slowly become desensitized to the violence around her? Looking back she realized that the first few times she’d encountered the demons and various weirdness of the Hellmouth they had shocked and frightened her; but although common sense dictated that the fright still remained, the shock had long since worn off. Would that also be the case with Angelus; a slow acceptance of unparalleled death and destruction until it simply came to be another facet of everyday life?
Suddenly cold in spite of the sunlight surrounding her, Cordelia pulled her knees to her chest resting her cheek against them. Refusing to give into the tears filling her eyes she tried to empty her mind of thoughts about circumstances over which she seemed to have no control. She was so tired, but the fear of the darkness in her own mind kept sleep at bay and left her alone without comfort, without hope.
Chapter Seventy Two
Angelus tuned in occasionally to the monotonous droning of the minion before him on the seemingly remote chance that he said anything of import. It was indeed a difficult effort as there were far more tantalizing thoughts swirling through his mind and every one of them having to do with Cordelia.
Last night he’d been awakened by the miasma of terror filling the room. The scent had been irresistible but he found even greater pleasure in the absolute knowledge that he was in some way responsible for the horror that had spilled from Cordelia’s very pores.
Whatever she’d been dreaming, and he had no doubts that she would refuse him the specifics of the contents, he knew that he had a leading role; and it pleased him to no end. Although he had been trying to woo her of late, he was what he was and whether she enjoyed or despised his presence the fact that she could not escape it even in slumber appealed to him on the most basic of levels. True, he wanted Cordelia’s acceptance, her love but those were things that, eventually, she would have no choice but to grant to him. But this; carving himself into every sliver of her psyche satisfied his need to possess her in ways that spoke to the very fabric of his being.
And that was the thought that he’d held onto in the night as he’d let her slide back into slumber instead of bowing to his instincts; pulling her beneath him and pounding furiously into her as he made her recount every detail, every nuance of her nightmares. But his Machiavellian mind turning even when half awake he understood that the momentary pleasure of fucking her senseless while he drowned in her fear wasn’t worth the progress he knew he’d been making with his stubborn pet.
And he was confident that his decision had been correct when she fell almost immediately into a deep sleep in his embrace. Whether she wanted to admit it or not Cordelia was coming to depend on him more and more for her emotional stability. And in the end that would be the harbinger of the demise of her independence as she would have no choice but to swear allegiance to him; the only constant in her strange and terrifying new world.
Chapter Seventy Three
Of all the things Giles had been forced to do in his life few had been as utterly unpleasant as the task before him promised to be. Searching the sleepy faces of the children seated around the large table of the library in the dead of night it pained him to see nearly identical expressions of wariness and a morbid sense of curiosity that one often found when driving past automobile accidents. Their weary eyes, so incongruous with their youth, brought home once again the terrible injustice that had befallen them.
Clearing his throat to allow himself one more moment to gather his courage and delay the inevitable Giles finally began realizing that his small comfort was purchased by the growing tension of his audience.
“I’ve recently been made aware of some quite distressing news that must be addressed immediately.”
Looks becoming even more guarded, the slayer and her friends waited with dread blooming in their hearts for yet another tragedy to befall their small band of fighters.
“In spite of our beliefs to the contrary it seems that Cordelia never made it out of Sunnydale.”
The gasps filling the room were drowned out by the scraping of chair legs against wood flooring as Xander leapt up, a terrible fury dawning on his face.
“What are you saying Giles? If Cordelia didn’t leave where has she been all this time. Why hasn’t she contacted us?”
Although he knew the logical answers to his questions he forced himself to ask them anyway in the hopes that he was wrong. He was still hurt and angry that he hadn’t been given the chance to say good bye to the girl he’d come to care for so deeply. But to hear what he knew would be coming next – well he wasn’t sure he could bear that. He’d tried for so long to be strong, for Buffy, for Willow, for his beautiful Cordelia, but he wasn’t sure that he could take anymore. He was tired of being a pillar of dependability, tired of being the shoulder to cry on; he was just…tired.
He cared so much about Buffy, he wanted her to be happy, to smile again, but lately there were more and more days where he hated the very sight of her. And more and more he hated himself for feeling that way. But he was helpless against the emotions that crashed into him over and over, each day finding them stronger than the day before.
Yes, Buffy lost Angel. Yes, it was a devastating tragedy for her. But he’d lost something too; something far more precious than a filthy demon with a tainted soul. And although he sympathized with the sense of loss she felt it was growing harder to suppress the feeling that if she’d done something before this – stayed away from the vampire, killed him when he’d first turned evil, protected those around her weaker than herself, then Cordelia would still be here. She’d still be the snarky, sparkling young woman who’d inexplicably brightened his life instead of the withdrawn and terrorized victim she’d been when last he’d seen her.
At the most basic core of his personality Xander Harris was loyalty made flesh; and so, within him now, the feelings of betrayal and friendship warred inside him. Every instinct within him called for him to stand beside his friend as he’d done since she’d come into his life. And yet he knew that if Giles gave him the answers he feared, the answers he’d do anything to shape to soothe his terrible fears, then he wouldn’t be able to be the one to comfort the slayer, to be a shelter from her reeling emotions. If the man before him said the words he knew, deep in the darkest recesses of his heart were imminent then he would break, maybe irreparably, and he would have nothing to give to Buffy because there would simply be nothing left of him.
“I’m sorry Xander.”
Knees buckling he fell to the ground as the words washed over him and his soul cracked.. He knew without explanation what those words meant. All that time that they’d though Cordelia was safe, that she was somewhere far away free of the horror that had become her life, she’d been within mere miles of them, trapped with the source of all of her nightmares.
“How?” The voice was low and harsh as the words struggled to leave his constricted throat. “How could we not know? How do we know now?”
This time it was Buffy who was asking the questions.
Heaving a sigh that spoke of long suffering Giles prepared to try to explain everything at once to avoid the constant interruptions that would only prolong this miserable experience.
“Last night Spike came to see me. Please,” Giles hand rose to halt the slew of questions perched on every tongue. “I would prefer to get through this and then we can address any queries.”
“Spike wanted us to know that Cordelia never even made it out of town, that she’d been with Angelus since that first day.”
Purposely blinding himself to the anguished expressions he pushed on.
“He relayed to me the address at which Cordelia was being held and the fact that Angelus took Cordelia out of town over the weekend and would not be back until today making moot any rescue effort until now.”
“I want to make it perfectly clear that Spike’s motives in revealing these things to us were in no way altruistic and indeed the information came with a price. Spike is going to insure that Drusilla is a non-issue in the fight that is certain to ensue upon our arrival and in return I agreed to let the both of them leave the Hellmouth unscathed.”
At the appalled look on the children’s faces Giles clarified his position.
“I want to be absolutely clear about this. Cordelia is our first and only priority. I don’t care if we have to let every vampire, demon, and minion go free, rescuing her is worth any sacrifice.”
Xander rose to his feet nodding in approval of the watcher’s words. Finally he felt in sync with someone on a plan of action. At last somebody agreed with him that nothing in this situation took precedence over Cordelia’s safety. It was a good feeling; empowering and he savored it knowing that no matter how reluctant Buffy might be to confront Angelus she would do as Giles said.
Resuming his seat, Xander leaned forward eager as hope surged through him for the first time in months.
“So, what’s the plan?”
“We go in today at 3:00…”