Title: Three Blind Mice
Rating: R for violence
Summary: This is for Debs (Damnskippy) based on her Millennium Challenge. (At bottom of page)
What if what was predicted for the year 2000 had come true? What if all the computers crashed, there was no electricity, no heat, food stores dwindled, and chaos ruled the streets? What would have happened at Angel Investigations?
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Thanks/Dedication: HUGE sloppy kisses, snogs and hugs to Cali for the beta and Debs for the cheerleading!!!
Feedback: Always hugely appreciated
Ficpic by DamnSkippy
Dontcha just lurve time travel?”
Forgive the sarcasm or not since, well… it’s kinda my forte. What I really mean is that I hate time travel. Think of a big, black suck-the-life-out-of-you black hole then add in a whole new world of pulling, spinning and ugh, puking. Believe me science fiction can keep it. Really… just keep it far, far away from me.
I also have this new perspective on New Year. Forget fireworks and bubbly; think of all the lights going out, no phones, radio or TV, no money for food… hell, even the food that was left soon went. All in all not the best party I’ve ever seen or ever want to experience ever again. It didn’t end with the night either, or the next or the one after that.
Typically in the end it was up to us to save the world, or my head, which was essentially the same thing since the damned visions were about to cause it to implode or something. Trust me, fried brain wasn’t in it. Okay, enough with the imagery. You get the picture, right?
One Month Earlier…
The vision didn’t just knock Cordelia off her feet. It catapulted her back the three ft between her and Angel’s desk with helplessly out-flung arms nearly knocking the lit candelabra off his desk.
Lucky for both of them Angel had been surreptitiously watching her, flicking looks up from the creased and well-fingered sheaf of hand written papers in his hand. Seeing the by now familiar seizure when it first hit, he was already up and with one hand swept the candelabra up while wrapping an arm around her back, hauling her to him rather than let her crash onto the un-giving surface of his paper strewn desk.
Under his hand Cordelia’s back arched and face scrunched up in pain while slim hands crushed and twisted his plain black sweater at the neck, unknowingly pulling their bodies closer, lost in the not so pleasant thrall of yet another vision. Her third one that day. Not good, not good at all. The glow from the candles lit her face with an unsteady orange glow and Angel mourned the exhausted sweep of black under her eyes even as he did the only thing he could do to help her, listened intently to every stuttered word falling from too pale lips.
“Sternack demon… sewers, North Alameda-“
In the middle of it, Wesley swung in through the door from the outer office so fast he skidded on the scuffed hardwood floor. Dropping the prized bag of scrounged apples to take the candles off Angel, he brushed Cordelia’s long dark hair off her face, removing his hand quickly so as not to crowd her when she blinked rapidly. It was a false alarm. The vision wasn’t ready to let go of her yet. Cordy spasmed again.
“-it’s shedding its skin and…” her shudders of revulsion were strong enough that Angel felt every single ripple, “there are people too. God, they wanted food and went raiding to get it.”
The blinking was real this time as were the tears of pain sparkling on those selfsame lashes as she whispered, “That’s it that’s all I got.”
Angel unclenched his jaw to say soothingly, “It’s enough. Get some rest and we’ll back soon.” Keeping hold of her shoulders while Wesley dragged over the chair from the window he watched out of hooded, concerned dark eyes as she sank into it. To his eyes she did that too carefully, as if her bones were old and brittle and might break.
If the visions were happening to anybody other than Cordelia Chase he was convinced they’d have broken already. Guilt raked with steel talons. The prom princess was gone and he was torn about that, among other things. Wesley rising up from solicitously handing her a glass of precious bottled water caught his gaze, twisting his lips as he easily read the vampire’s thoughts. Cordelia’s suffering concerned them both but Angel took it very personally.
“Ready?” asked Angel shortly, it wasn’t really couched as a question.
“When you are.”
Hating the helplessness but knowing that delaying to try and offer comfort would only prolong her pain, Angel settled for striding to the makeshift weapons cabinet he’d installed upstairs to save precious seconds. The old file cabinet had sticky drawers, but thumping the top first had them sliding right open, “Sternack’s, they like to use human skin during the replenishment process, right?” Angel asked, tossing Wesley a distracted look as he rummaged.
Finally something he did know off the top of his head, “unfortunately, yes. Twice yearly they come to the surface, consume twice their weight in fresh meat and then slough off the old skin. Afterwards, using the removed skin off their victims they form themselves a new one using a mixture of saliva and …”
“Hey! Enough of the details and get with slaughtering already, God!” The irate voice loudly interrupting from Angel’s office had both man and vampire stilling for moment before Angel promptly tossed the ex-watcher a throwing axe from the drawer and a scimitar sword from the rack next to it.
Who needs pep talk? Nothing got the two males moving faster than a pissed Cordelia, half their weight or not. Grimacing and miming for silence Angel, now gripping his favourite broad sword with its plain hilt and bronze pommel, snagged his leather duster and lead the way out. Cordelia wanted this vision taken care of pronto, but no more than Angel did. Then he could get back and … what?
Try and take care of her? Yeah, as if he was doing such a stellar job of that right now. Fury at fate’s merciless indifference had never felt so useless, but it was good for keeping his darker, violent side well oiled.
Outside Angel’s apartment building night held sway in a way previously unimagined by the citizens of the City of Angels, before the Millennium bug dropped them back in the dark ages. Nowhere in the world worshipped the automobile as much as California with LA being the brightest of temples. That being so the quiet, utterly complete blanket of night was a singular shock, with nary a single pair of headlights to break the black on black of a city without power, fuel or the means to defend itself from the creatures that thrive in the dark.
Even the quiet lasted only as much distance as it took for the demons to feel comfortable they were out of Angel’s immediate range. After that they owned the place with distressingly few exceptions.
Without gas for the Plymouth getting around had been a major problem. That was until Angel and Wesley had stumbled onto an overlooked gas station with a set of keys to open the sealed underground tanks. Filling up was dangerous to the say the least, especially with none of the pumps working. Typically Angel refused to let Wesley try it, despite the ex-watchers very logical argument that being a vampire Angel was every bit as susceptible to fire as humans. That wasn’t the point he said shortly refusing to be swayed. End of discussion.
Now, night vision goggles firmly in place Wesley sat in the passenger seat with Angel driving. They looked ridiculous but after the goggles, whipped off a Wolfram & Hart security guard, had saved his life a time or two Wesley no longer found them such a nuisance.
The yellow hazed landscape was no better for being visible. Gutted cars stripped of everything remotely useable hung limply off curbs with the bare metal of the wheel digging into the sun-softened tarmac. Fire gutted apartment buildings lined the street on both sides with streaks of soot rising up to scorched roofs caused either by careless tenants or possibly marauding demons.
That was the problem with civilisation being yanked back by a millennia, thought Angel driving with his mind only half occupied with navigating. The demons promptly lost their shyness in the face of world turned blind and helpless. Looking back it was even worse than in Angelus’ day, at least then the humans knew how to light fires without matches, heat their homes and grow their own food. Now thousands were dying and it was all thanks to having no power.
The dead were hastily buried, the dying soon followed them and everyone else was left living a half life, still shell-shocked that this nightmare was real and that there was nowhere in the world that could offer them any help.
Wesley interrupted his doom-laden train of thought, “What a truly awful mess. Do you ever despair if what we do makes a difference anymore? I mean, how do we truly know which is the subject of the vision with so many possible to choose from?”
Angel heard the screams and wails too but was so busy trying not to get mentally transported back into his evil past to make any mention of it. However, that kind of talk from Wesley was bad enough to have him throwing the ex-watcher a frowning look. Great; all he needed was Wes giving up hope. Frustration roiled, coiling him tighter and leaving him wondering how he was supposed to have enough hope for both of them when he could hardly bother getting up out of bed some afternoons?
“We go where the powers send us, Wes, and hope they know what the hell they’re doing,” was all Angel could dredge up as he pulled in. He hadn’t been this happy to arrive somewhere in a long time. Being a borderline evil creature, soul or not, making small talk was bad enough, but offering encouragement was his idea of hell on earth. One of them anyway.
“Is this it?” Chain link fencing separated the highway from the storm drains beneath them.
Getting out Angel quickly explained, “North Alameda has several access points, but this one has a maintenance section big enough for an ambush, so it’s the first stop.”
“Sounds reasonable,” agreed Wes too brightly climbing out too and unsuccessfully hiding the nerves he still battled with. He needn’t have bothered, Angel didn’t have a problem with nerves, reasoning who is braver; the one who feels nothing going into battle or the one who fears it yet still gives his all? “Let’s go before Cordy starts sharpening the butcher’s knives.”
Landing with a crunch on the smooth concrete the pair snuck down into the sewers with Angel taking point and using every one of his preternatural senses to seek out and identify problems ahead. Only problem was the smell of humanity was rife, along with sweat, fear and adrenaline. A potent mix to a starving vampire and his mouth watered enough that he was forced to swallow convulsively.
If Cordy and Wes knew the things he did to stave off that gnawing ache in his gut they’d stake him. Screw it, he might just let them. Forget that and focus before a stake between friends becomes a moot point. Good advice pity that voice kept getting fainter by the damn day.
Maybe it was that hunger but he located the humans in the dim dank interior before the demon and rounding a bend met the sharp end of some serious looking weaponry, “Hold it right there, fool, my boys and me, we got here first so the food’s ours. Do yourselves a favour and turn around.” The voice was young, brash and meant business.
Taking off the goggles rather than risk getting blinded by the rather ingenious lanterns in a bottle their blockade had strategically placed in the tunnel, Wesley focused on one of the man-shapes tucked behind a huge dirty grey inlet pipe and tried reason, “We don’t want the food, there’s a Stern-“
“Everybody’s interested in food… ‘less their already dead that is. You dead, boy?”
Depends who you’re asking, “You’re in danger. There’s a Sternack waiting for you,” Angel advised neutrally, keeping back and trying to appear harmless with not so much as a single aggressive bone in his large intimidating body.
Equally dark eyes narrowed in a taut cynical face under a navy bandana, “I may be young but I ain’t dumb. You coming in here tells me you knew about the stash. Man, that’s all I need to know.” Smirking, Charles Gunn tightened his finger on the crossbow’s trigger, held in cold steady hands, “Besides, you’re too late,” he advised, raising his voice to be heard deeper inside, all without taking his eyes off Angel and Wesley, “Yo! You about done, Chain? Time to head out, Bro.”
“There are more of you?” Wesley turned to Angel, “Well, if that doesn’t ring the dinner bell nothing will.” The message, along with tellingly raised brows, was loud and clear. Angel nodded and tucked in his chin raising his hands as he walked closer, “You can choose to believe me, or you can die. It’s up to you”.
Stiffening Gunn walked out from behind his shelter too, each sure stride rife with aggression, “Far enough, man, or I stick you with this. Think I’m not serious?” his eyes had a deadly quality that Angel recognised all too well. The gritty resolve to survive coupled with the will to strive and win shone through the murkiness of the sunless underground.
“I know you will,” Angel replied softly not stopping his slow advance; keeping the man’s eyes locked on his with a sure skill borne of his predatory nature. An element the battle-hardened street fighter sensed but couldn’t pin down in time.
Was this guy nuts? “Dude, who are you?” he had to ask. Unwillingly his palms went damp but the hands holding the crossbow remained steady enough. Another step and this fool was dead. No one took what Gunn had marked for him and his people. It was dog eat dog world and he was nobody’s dumb bitch. Still, he swallowed and sweat trickled down the nape of his bald neck.
“My name is Angel…” the still soft tone came from behind Gunn’s right shoulder, “And I lied, you don’t have a choice.” Eyes wide Gunn spun, expertly folding his body to change his position. What the fuck? “How did you…” stupid question the bastard was a vamp, had to be. Gunn’s mercurial temper soared with half of it aimed at himself.
How he’d got under his guard he’d analyse later the young black decided, kill first ask question later. There was always the other one, right?
“Gimme that,” Angel snarled aggravated by the sharp tangy scent of angry blood steaming off the street hoodlum and snatched the crossbow from strong resisting hands. Unseen by anybody Wesley dived and rolled on the hard cement floor, coming up just in time to ram the head of the axe into another hoodlums gut before he could drive his long knife tipped spear into Angel’s back as he staggered from a powerful right hook.
The tunnel erupted as more joined grinding to a halt only when Angel grabbed up Gunn in a headlock to save Wesley getting his throat slashed. At a stand off everybody froze when into that tense heaving for air tableau, a hair-raising scream splintered the strained silence filled with unimaginable horror; chilling them effortlessly as it went on and on before abruptly finishing with a gargling choke.
“What the hell was that?” Gunn asked removing his hand from Angel’s clenched jaw then dragged his gaze away from snarling fangs to stare down into the deeper darkness. His mind immediately turning to the men he’d left up that tunnel.
Oh God, no. “Chain!” a strong shove got him free of the vampire, “Answer me, man…” heedless of danger Gunn started to jog with the crossbow held at the ready and his expression fierce.
“Wait, it knows you’re here,” Angel’s warning fell on deaf ears and cursing kamikaze rescue-EE’s who refused to let them selves be saved, charged after him with Wesley at his side.
Unaware that it was the vampire and his cohort keeping pace with him, Gunn rounded the bend they’d re-conned so thoroughly before, stopping dead when a firm hand wrapped around his elbow, yanking him back from a deadly swipe that would have taken his head clean off. As they watched the razor tipped tail imbedded in the cement wall whipped free and retracted inside the bowels of the demon. A steaming hiss drew their collective gaze to the belly of the beast, an accurate description as it turned out.
Massive hindquarters resting in a squat and covered in peeling yellowed skin was Angel’s first impression. Then a monstrous head turned, slowly looking up from its crushed meal to pin the puny figures it had deliberately lured using the pitiful wails of a fallen comrade. Something that size should be ungainly, but Sternack’s were able to morph into any shape, flattening its skull or body at will.
It lunged, they charged.
“Thank God for rainfall. That’s all I can say,” whispered Cordelia as she laid her head against the cool tiles of the shower stall. The apartment building roof housed a tank that collected rainfall in addition to using the reservoirs. So, a shower was possible even if drinking the stuff was a bit hit-and-miss without the sanitation services offered by the water company.
She was in-between bouts of angry frustrated tears and her cheeks were hot. Then yet another hot poker stabbed between her eyes making her moan, she gave it full vent in the hope it would offer some release and missed heavy slide of the main door being thrust back.
The first inkling she had she wasn’t alone anymore was from a knock, knuckles rapping three times on the door. Jerkily Cordelia’s head lifted from the tiles. Damn, had he heard her whinging? Crap crap crappitty… she reached down and hurriedly turned the water off, “Hello, yes, what…?”
“It’s me,” a muffled voice identified itself through the wooden panel. Cordy’s eyes rolled. Well, yeah I figured that Angel, Wesley would have waited until I was good and ready. Her head gave a protesting twinge that barely raised a flicker on her wide-eyed fast thinking expression. If she let him see her with her face all puffy like this he’d never let it alone, either that or go into full brood mode, driving her insane.
The remnants of soapsuds pooled and drained by her bare feet. “I’ll be out in a minute,” she called out then worried at her bottom lip with sharp white teeth wondering frantically if that sounded too out of character? Maybe a bit more fire would convince him to leave her alone, she raised her voice again injecting some bite, “Geeze, can’t a girl get a shower without being stalked by the dark and brooding one around here?”
Then just in case that didn’t put him off she yanked the towel, his towel, off the ring to wrap it sarong style around her dripping body; using one corner to scrub at flushed, tear swollen cheeks and eyes. All the while silently cursing and wishing uselessly that nature had designed tears to leave no trace. Sheesh, was that too much to ask?
Angel wasn’t buying it and propped a shoulder against the frame, crossing his arms as he did, fully prepared to wait her out, “Humour me. I’m… worried about you.”
He’d heard her moans of pain and then the telltale hitch of breath that always followed a bout of tears. A couple of months ago he wouldn’t have dreamed of pushing, but things were different then, immeasurably so. For one thing Cordelia wasn’t being pummelled daily by the debilitating visions.
Concern spiked when she didn’t answer straight away so Angel straightened, wrapping long fingers around the doorknob but refrained from turning it, “please,” he added in a deep voice roughened with worry. In the kitchen he could hear Wesley pottering and hoped the Englishman stayed there. More often than not Cordy used him as a buffer when she didn’t want Angel confronting something to do with her or the visions and was wily enough to end up deflecting him. Something he didn’t want to have happen now.
On the other side of the door, standing wrapped up and surrounded by the steamy heat Cordelia sagged and puffed out her cheeks, frustrated at being unable to ignore the pleading note in that gruff tone. Reluctantly giving in and eyes downcast, feeling a flush crawl up her neck she stepped over to the door and almost growled, “Fine, I’m humouring… and next time I’m making a damned appointment for a shower when there are no idiot Neanderthal males around to spoil it.”
The door was yanked open before she’d finished and her towel clad figure stood framed by a backdrop of warm steam thanks to an oil fired boiler, “Satisfied?” she asked tartly with a smouldering glare. Stepping back before he got singed, Angel’s eyes zeroed in on Cordelia’s only to have them drop from his as she went to push past. She didn’t want him to get a good look at her face he realised.
Unthinkingly one black clad arm rose up to form a gentle barrier preventing her escape. Foiled, Cordelia’s head snapped up knowing unless she was willing to barrel through she was trapped, “Back off, buddy!” she snapped, stubborn chin firmly tilted and eyes snapping sparks, “You wanted me out, so I’m out. Next time… wait until I’m done before stamping your feet, okay? That kind of concern I don’t need.”
Shame at being caught wallowing in self-pity was the catalyst for the sudden temper, but she was helpless to tamp it down even knowing she’d regret it later on. You couldn’t miss the pain behind the fire and Angel dropped the barricading arm, wide shoulders slumping while he cursed the selfish need to know what was going on with her, “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
Do you ever, almost tripped off her tongue but it was only an automatic waspish retort and not truly meant so she caught it and instead heaved out a sigh, wishing she dared let go of the towel so she could rub at gritty eyes. Closing them worked well enough, she shook her head and side stepped to stop his turning away, “No, Its me… I wasn’t thinking. Just ignore me, okay. Bad vision… headache and stuff. You know the drill?”
He did all too well, “I just wish you’d lean on me- I mean us a little more. Let us help.” He’d even prefer a return of the snark and bitching about the visions. Anything was better than this new stoic silence, almost as if she just didn’t have energy to complain anymore.
His dark eyes usually so impenetrable held a pleading light and a lump formed in her throat. “Are you offering a shoulder to cry on?” she joked awkwardly, trying to dispel the new edgy feel of intimacy and all too aware of bare feet shifting on the floorboards and wet strands of hair snaking around bare damp shoulders. Cordelia was being a tiny bit facetious. You couldn’t be around Angel for longer than five minutes without realising how much he hated being close to humans. His personal bubble was way bigger and thicker than hers and that was saying something.
“If that’s what you need, yeah, they’re big enough.” Angel offered solemnly without hesitation.
Wow, he was serious. Hiding uneasy surprise but less successful in ignoring a spurt of honeyed warmth Cordelia felt a real smile stretch her lips, “They are that, big guy.” The silence stretched into a pause and as a peace offering she leant in to press her cheek fleetingly against his left shoulder, feeling a strong hand sweep over the delicate curve of her spin before she stepped back.
“Thanks, I erm,” That brief contact felt so good and him so reassuringly solid she nearly went back for more. Oh my God, I’m turning into a mush bag just because my vampy boss is being sweet and gentle and…
The shock faded and behind the dull throbbing in her head something bloomed and unfurled. Before it faded and self-consciousness reared its head again she rested a hand on his chest so he’d be in no doubt, whispering impulsively, “It’s nice to have friends.”
God, he’d missed that tentative smile or any smile for that matter. “It is,” Angel agreed slightly husky and tucked his hands in his pockets to give them something to do other than tingle.
Free now, Angel let his eyes roam over her face knowing she wouldn’t object. He was being overprotective and probably intrusive but he’d never had friends like her or even Wesley before. Not when he was human, not when he was Angelus roaming the world with Darla, Dru and Spike and certainly not with the scoobs. It terrified him at times just how easily the need to stay remote and apart could get breached by the contrary need for closeness and… acceptance.
I‘m an evil murdering demon seeking redemption in an insane world. I don’t need, want or deserve friends. The silent litany rang hollow as it sometimes did around Cordelia who generally drowned it out.
On the chair next to the shower her towelling robe lay draped. Feeling awkward and seeing the goose-bumps breaking out on her arms Angel spotted the pale lilac and bent down to scoop it up; dropping it carefully around her shoulders before picking up a strand of dark wet hair, “You’ll catch cold,” he warned softly then let it drop to quirk a brow, “just a friendly warning.”
In response and as he watched an arched brow climbed, “Yeah well, somebody who shall remain nameless and brooding used all the towels earlier. Trust me, you are so lucky I found one that was dry enough to use.”
He should have listened to his instincts; the ones telling him that a night-raid was a bad idea, but he’d let the need to get there first drive him on. So now Chain and Bonner were dead and gone, two more friends needing a marker on the cement wall they used as a memorial to their dead. In a few days their faces and monikers would be painted alongside Alonna Gunn, his dead little sister.
Pain welled, as did his eyes, turning them liquid enough to reflect the tired landscape of LA as seen from the uppermost shell of a room in the building they called home. Before him the map of the stars was laid out, clear for once and struggling to be appreciated by the preoccupied man.
Alonna’s face swam before his minds eyes, “I was never going to let anything happen to you…”
Chain, sincere and earnest, “Yo, Gunn, we need the food, man. Stocks are low c’mon it’ll be a breeze…”
The vampire intruded next, “My friend had a vision of you for a reason. The powers want you for something and until we know what it is I want you to keep this and remember us.”
Gunn had resented the card and its implication, snatching it rudely, “I don’t need or want your help. I’ve been around, seen and done things. Don’t think just cos you saved us tonight-“
“Maybe you don’t need help but I might. Keep the card.”
The plain white card with the printed logo was currently burning a hole in his denim jacket pocket. He’d meant to throw it away but something wouldn’t let him. Those damned instincts again and ignoring them for a second time seemed way too much like flipping fate the bird. Not a great idea.
Sitting at the kitchen table Cordelia’s eyes dropped to the bowl Wesley had just placed in front of her, “What is it?” she asked uneasily. Her gaze came back up to catch Wesley giving Angel an uncertain look before sitting down at the table.
“Stewed apples, very nice I assure you and not too crunchy or chewy for with a sore head,” offered Wesley eyeing his own bowl with feigned enthusiasm as he dipped the spoon into the sticky mess. His waiting blue eyes never really left her face.
There was that damned lump again, stuck fast in her throat. Ogod, ogod! He’d made this messy gloop out of their only solid food thinking it would save her more pain. Cordy gave him a blinding smile, “Wow, that’s just… great. I love stewed apples, reminds me of.. of.. camping.” Ugh, talk about reaching. Don’t even think about doughnuts, or steak or fried chicken and fries, pizza… shut UP!
“You went camping?” Angel asked with a sly smile as he sat too, lounging back with both legs outstretched and taking up half the space under the table with their length. Settled comfortably now, dark eyes slid over her with deceptive blandness, skimming over the turquoise vest-top, cream and blue printed skirt and dainty bead decorated sandals with bare toes peeping out.
Despite being seated all the way over the other side, Cordy could literally feel the table shrink to a teeny tiny postcard size. Why is it men can’t just… ya know, sit at a table for crissake?
Then catching the inference even she couldn’t miss hazel eyes narrowed and she waggled the sticky spoon at him, “Yes, smarty-pants even I’ve been camping,” across from her Angel’s brows brow rose in challenging disbelief.
Darn, when had he got her pegged so well? Honesty forced her to add, “Okay, fair enough it was pretty much luxurious camping, but hey- room service was out. That count’s, right?”
“Sure, it counts,” replied Angel agreeably, still with that slight smile. Not that he could have said anything else with Cordelia looking fiercely determined to defend her definition of camping. It was enough he’d got a little rise out of her and brought some colour back to her cheeks. Angel was satisfied with that.
Cordelia forgave him since she was still wallowing in the fuzziness from earlier and more importantly wanted a change of topic, “So how did the slicing’n’dicing go? Since my heads not spitting open anymore I’m guessing- good.” The bowl was half empty now, thank god.
“Interesting evening,” mumbled Wesley trying not to give into the urge to lick the bowl for the dregs, “Your victim turned out to be a rather venomous young hoodlum with a chip on his shoulder the size of the Titanic.”
She smirked hearing the affronted censure from both of the men in her life then blinked, going for innocently defensive, “What am I, a nun? Can’t a girl even ask anymore, geeze?”
Angel and Wesley harrumphed turning her lips up impishly higher which she promptly hid behind another mouthful of soggy apple pieces. God, they were so easy to wind-up. Just look at them, both so full of offended masculinity you’d think I’d asked if the guy was well hung or something. Now there’s a thought… nah, better not. Friends or not, honorary girlfriend wasn’t a title she’d ever give the not so angelic one.
Shoving away the discomforting thought that maybe Cordelia wasn’t so happy with her celibate status, Angel sat up and forcibly smoothed out his frown while admitting, “It got a bit hairy but we killed the demon in the end only not before it got one of the kids, unfortunately.”
Sighing heavily Angel’s gaze turned inward, fingers tapping a light tattoo on the wooden tabletop, “The leader interested me… he had guts.” Not to mention a light in his eyes that Angel recognised having seen it numerous times all over the world; bitter grit in the face of insurmountable odds. A long time ago that wilful spirit would have been similar to waving a red rag to a bull, the bull in this case being himself.
“I have another word for it,” grumbled Wesley rubbing a hand over his Adam’s apple and thinking back to how close it got to being slashed in two. If he never saw those kids again it would be too soon.
“Yeah, well I guess living like they do being all nicey nicey is a bit much to ask,” guessed Cordelia with a frown, losing interest in food despite the still empty ache of her belly. The spoon dropped with a clatter and her eyes came up to find Angel staring at her. He’d been doing that a lot lately.
“Hello, Angel… staring much,” Cordy said pointedly. Angel didn’t answer or change his expression one iota. Disquieted by the intensity of that glazed look Cordy raised a hand and leaning forward clicked two fingers in front of his face; seeing his pupils dilate she asked worriedly, “Are you,okay?”
Startled Angel was jolted to realise he hadn’t known he’d been staring at her as if in some kind of trance. “Sure,” he dropped his gaze immediately, praying she’d leave it that and scrubbed his palms over his face, hiding and hoping she didn’t put two and two together. He should have known better.
Looking at him something occurred to Cordelia and she blurted it out, “Have you been eating… I mean drinking…” her eyes closed in annoyance at the slip, “whatever?”
Caught, Angel looked up to answer only to find the smoothly rehearsed lie stuck on his chest somewhere. He closed his mouth again, inexplicably stumped and what followed was a pause that had Cordelia’s belly sinking. Then, before she could quiz him any more he straightened up to listen and his gaze turned fixed under frowning brows. Cordelia blinked at the sudden change only to find the chair empty and him gone. Flummoxed she turned to Wesley seeing him shove back his chair, his expression confused and worried.
“What’s up with him?” her dark, freshly washed hair tossed in waves as she jerked her head towards their disappearing boss.
“No idea, I suggest we go and find out.”
Reaching the office floor they heard it too and scrambled for Angel’s office. The harsh screaming continued and Angel’s broad, powerful silhouette already filled the window frame. In the alley running alongside the apartment building a young woman was running from a gang of three vamps howling and chasing after her; heaping torment by catching then letting her go only to prolong the game and her hope, jumping on cars to use the rusted hunks of junk as launch-pads to corner her again, laughing demonically as the terrified girl dived under their wildly waving arms.
“I’m going out,” announced Angel softly and pushed away from the frame heading with unnatural speed for the outer office and the exit. Unsurprised Cordelia nodded without taking her eyes off the nightmare scene below.
“I’ll come with you,” Wesley said reaching for his jacket tossed on the couch earlier.
Angel didn’t turn or slow down just tossed over his shoulder, “No, stay with Cordelia. I won’t be long.” The tone brooked no argument.
Wesley nodded, recalling how Angel hated leaving her alone when he was kicking demon ass so close to home. To the ex-watcher it seemed as if the vampire was afraid of LA’s other demons, now aware of her status as Angel’s sear, thinking up a distract/attack ploy to break in and harm her. Wesley only hoped that never occurred to them.
Turning to face him Cordelia stopped him cold with her usual brutal bluntness, “I know I’m stating the obvious here, but we have to find a way out of this and preferably before we all die horribly.” Her expression was so serious Wesley felt a sinking in the pit of his belly; afraid she was having another vision. “I mean, if we don’t do something pretty damn quick then we’re right back where we started. Ice Age none withstanding of course.”
“I don’t see what we can do, Cordelia. Humanity became accustomed to having unlimited electrical power and built everything on the assumption that it, or something to replace it, would always be there. Without it we’re blind too.”
Across town it was ghostly quiet along the palm-lined street. The house had once been beautiful, open plan and airy with floor to ceiling glass windows spanning almost every exterior wall. Inside, every gadget known to man and a fair amount that hadn’t yet reached the consumer market had held pride of place tucked away in discreet shelving and cupboards so as not to ruin the ambience when David Nabbit entertained.
Those days were long gone with the gadgets being no more, stolen or destroyed during the three raids made by hungry desperate humans; with the last one resulting in the house being set ablaze in fury at finding not a scrap of food. He’d hidden during each one and only snuck out hours after when he was sure they were gone.
With the incentive of the house removed that should have been the end of his hiding in the basement. Not the case. Now the demons came tearing in and it didn’t take long for the beleaguered ex-millionaire, computer whiz to realise they were not interested in spoils. So, precious laptop case banging against his short legs David ran, and ran and ran with his heart in his mouth, pounding away between whistling breaths for air; while for some reason a nursery rhyme kept spinning round, sounding off in his head.
…Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice.
Challenge: Set mid-S1 sometime after Hero. Cordy has the visions, Wes has just joined the group and New Year’s Day hits with a bang. The human population is in chaos and the demon world is taking advantage of it. Cordy is deluged with visions almost constantly due to the increase in violence in both the demon and human worlds.
Wes and Angel are going nuts trying to save the helpless but at the same time they’re both worried and scared about the damage all the visions are having on Cordy. Add in the search for food, trying to keep warm (even in LA it gets cold in the winter), and the fact that Angel’s blood supply begins to dry up and things get dicey. You can add in a struggling and besieged Kate if you like that character. I, of course, would LOVE a build-up of closeness between C/A with eventual smut, but if you can’t work that in at least the promise of romance.
NOTES: I’ve sped a few events along to fit in with the story. Also, water isn’t a problem. Not true to RL I know, but this is fiction so bear with me!