FLASHBACK – THE FARM (Earlier that same day)
The farm had once been a mental institution, later abandoned in favour of larger and better facilities elsewhere in the county; leaving the building empty, awaiting a decision by the Towns Council on what to do with it. The arrival of the Master had decided its fate, along with practically everything else.
In better times, everything had once been a pristine white, as if by reflecting purity it would help cleanse the confused minds of the mildly unstable or in some cases, criminally insane. Now time had dulled the sheen and grime finished the job in turning it a tobacco stained tan. Bare bulbs, the wattage too low for the task, filtered light down from the ceilings in regular splotches of yellow.
“What the fuck is this about, Parker? Are you trying to get us both killed?” hissed the lurking shadow as the Doctor skirted round the corner, trying not to look furtive in case he was seen. Once out of sight he didn’t waste time with pleasantries.
“It’s imperative I see her, Grogan. This time you must arrange it. Something’s happened that could upset all of our plans,” hissed the tired elderly figure of the Doctor. “I have news” he insisted with a forlorn look on his whiskered face. “I can hardly believe it” he exclaimed. “That we could get so close and then to lose it like that…” he shook his head and settled determined brown eyes on the other man.
“The girl is gone, I overheard some of them talking about it. She ran away- we must find her or..”. Grogan interrupted the frantic rush of speech, making desperate shushing motions with his hands. They both stood in strained silence as the heavy footsteps faded in another direction.
“Calm down before you get us both caught” He admonished harshly and then heaved a sigh. “I’ll talk to her and let you know, that’s the best I can offer”. Sweat popped out on his forehead, as anxiety heightened every second they lingered. Conversation was forbidden and if they were seen, an interrogation was sure to follow. It wasn’t like the vamps needed much excuse to pull out the pliers.
“Make it quick” demanded the still shaken Doctor, equally anxious to get moving. With a final look both men slipped off in different directions, carefully hugging the walls.
FLASHBACK – PHARMACY (Later on – same day)
The first thing to catch Doctor Parker’s eye on entering the pharmacy were the silver grey ones staring directly at him as he cautiously closed the door behind him.
Stricken with a sudden attack of nerves, the Doctor cleared his throat and looked away. No matter how hard he tried the strange tales of her mysterious origins came back to him the moment he set eyes on her, and of course the whispered and surely preposterous rumours of ‘paranormal’ abilities along with them. He cleared his throat for a second time and dragged his reluctant gaze back to her face.
“Thank you, for agreeing to meet with me” he started to say, only to be gently interrupted.
“You’re welcome Doctor. Now I hear you have some news for me”? The calm assured voice held a coaxing note of query, inviting him to speak freely.
Grogan, standing by his mixing table shot him a harried look. “Make it quick too, time is limited”. He shut up when she frowned at him in admonishment.
Doctor Parker, shuffled his feet and tried to get back on track, determined that as an educated and experienced man, he would not be overawed by superstitious rumblings. At times like these people always turn to magic for answers, he assured himself. He preferred to deal with reality- even a hellish one.
“The incident at the mysterious mansion I reported; the one about the vampires sheltering human girls, do you remember it”? Knowing he’d sounded like a pompous ass, he winced and waited for her to answer.
“Yes I do” she answered with a wry smile he didn’t pretend to understand. Her white hair was un-styled and hung straight to rounded shoulders, around a cheerfully rounded face. All in all she looked like anyone’s merry old grandma. Only not.
Regardless of that he ploughed on. “I believed that we could make use of the … vampire’s erm affection for the girl. I’d hoped so anyway. However, with her now gone” he lifted his palms helplessly towards the ceiling; frustration written all over his worn face. Remnants of a cheerful disposition still remained on his face and the rebellious curl of his red hair.
“If we wish to retrieve the situation; it is my firm opinion that we must locate this girl and” He stopped unable to voice the unpalatable idea of handing over any human to a vampire- but times where harsh. “Give her back”, she finished it for him and he nodded and flushed with shame.
The woman sighed and stood up, stretching her small frame as if to work out the kinks of old age and sitting too long on an uncomfortable stool. “We already have the girl,” she admitted baldly, seeming to swallow him whole with that direct silver flecked stare again.
Doctor Parker blinked in disbelief, and swallowed hard at what must surely come. “So does that mean she’s already been returned to him”? He whispered, as a sinking feeling dragged in his belly, despite his intention to campaign for just that. He couldn’t help but send up a prayer that the girl wasn’t harmed.
“No and nor will she be until the time is right. I’m arranging a meeting with this highly unusual vampire. In my opinion we have a far better hold over him with her in our possession. Than if we simply handed her over and hoped his affection for her, if he has any left, would sway him to our way of thinking”.
“And if he’s not interested and refuses”? The flummoxed Doctor asked. Even from the little he’d seen, he didn’t think the large and intimidating vampire he recalled would take kindly to blackmail. A shiver chased itself up his chilled spine.
“Then he never gets her back” was the inflexible reply. “Not that I think it will come to that. You were right Dr Parker; Cordelia’s relationship with this vampire presents us with an opportunity that we couldn’t have even dreamed of”.
BACK TO PRESENT – ANGEL
The ground came back sickeningly close to his face, rushing under his half squeezed shut eyes as he was literally dragged, hauled, and when he could manage to keep upright, marched towards the place he’d been headed towards earlier.
Wesley had known he was crazy to accept this mission. He might be reckless and desperate to prove himself but he wasn’t by any means stupid. Or so he’d believed at the time. Now he wasn’t so sure. Bloody fool! Always gets you doesn’t it? The need to prove Father and the Council wrong; well now look where it’s got you this time. In the hands of a crazed vampire.
He’d tried to speak several times only to find himself rushed faster, pulled harder until he was once again being dragged over the rough terrain. Bruised, bleeding and aching in every muscle he gave up and after what seemed like hours of silent self-beratement they came to some steps leading down to a large grey stoned building.
The steps down were a nightmare he would try to forget but soon enough he was shoved through some doors hard enough that he ended up sliding on his front over the stone tiled floor. Still sliding he turned his head and watched as two pairs of eyes, blue and green, passed before his face.
“Well that’s an entrance I haven’t seen in awhile,” said the blue-eyed face with a definite edge of amusement in the cockney voice.
Willow disentangled herself from Spike’s comforting embrace and sat up on the couch, her nervous gaze latching onto the hard face of Angel as he followed in the wake of the strange man. “Is he human”? She asked timidly.
“Yes” answered Angel shortly, dragging the hapless man upright. “Watcher’s Council too”.
Spike straightened from his slouch with a grin splitting his face “Wankers Council- you’re kidding me”?
The hopeful note in that elated voice wasn’t exactly reassuring to the shaken Englishman; now uselessly trying to straighten his clothes by yanking on the hem of his tattered shirt. Angel’s clamp on one shoulder wasn’t precisely helpful and he got a baleful glare for it.
“I am a former Watcher from the Watcher’s Council, yes” Wesley answered with as much dignity as he could muster under present circumstances. His careful enunciation of his title and workplace raised an embarrassed smile from a discomforted Willow.
“Sounds like a … important job. With all that erm watching, I mean” She stammered to a halt when three pairs if incredulous eyes swung in her direction. “Okay, shutting up now”.
“I came across him on his way here, according to him.” Angel paused and a mirthless smile pulled at his full lips. “He was coming to tell us about a girl. As you can imagine I was intrigued”.
“I bet you were” inserted Spike smoothly, standing up to stroll over with an identically cold smile. It was an old and familiar routine and he’d recognised it almost instantly. He should do- they’d done it enough times, pre-soul of course.
“Unfortunately he then decided to clam up. I was … upset”. Angel continued. As understatements go- that one ranked pretty high.
Spike was more than happy to revisit past times, especially when potential dinner was involved. “So how come you didn’t just squeeze it out of ‘im, then rip his lungs out. Not like you to be so … sharing”. Spike leaned in to leer at the strained, sweaty face with the glasses over fearful eyes. “Tell me something, mate. What is it with Poncey Watchers and glasses; something in the water”?
Wesley stared at Spike and tried not look like he wanted to be sick. He very definitely seemed to have made things worse for himself by refusing to speak of such delicate matters out in the open. If he’d had any doubts left of course. He gulped and leaned back as much as he could in that tight hold.
“I’m quite willing to explain myself now that we can’t be overheard” he offered, even he could hear the quaver in his voice and he stiffened his spine. “Like I said earlier, except some were just not willing to listen to reason” he tossed Angel a speaking glance.
‘”Yeah well reason and ‘im don’t mix most of the time. Never mind where this girl is concerned” retorted Spike with a sly look up at the unreasonable vampire in question. “So colour me not surprised”.
“Do we know for sure he’s talking about Cordelia”? Interjected Willow; concern for her friend overriding her nerves around the dark haired vampire now they had a lead.
“What other girl would he be coming to see me about”? Snapped back Angel with a swift snarling look at the redhead. “Keep out of it, you’ve done enough don’t you think”?
“Who’s Cordelia?” asked an upper crust English voice, drawing everyone’s attention back to him. Not exactly a good thing Wesley realised, noticing how both vampires looked ready to rip him apart. “I’m sorry but they never gave me a name” he threw it out in the hope it would increase his chances of survival, which looked pretty bleak right now.
“Who the hell are they“? Spike and Angel both growled the question at the exact same time. Wesley’s blue eyes jerked from one set of gleaming fangs to another and felt his blood freeze in his veins. He hadn’t even seen them make the change.
“My fellow resistance fighters” Wesley felt the hold on his shoulder slacken in shock and taking advantage of that he stepped back, then hurriedly carried on before it was noticed by either incredulous vampire.
“My mission was to run the demon gauntlet at all costs, locate the vampire known as Angel and deliver a message”. Wesley stood a little straighter with pride at achieving at least part of his goal. Now for the rest, he tried not to falter at having to say the word ‘girl’ again, considering the last time resulted in him being dragged half across the county. Mentally girding his loins, he ploughed on.
“That message being that there is news about a girl and that if he wants to know more, the vampire should arrive at a prescribed location at a given time”. It wasn’t much of a message to be killed over. But he hadn’t been thinking about that at the time.
The vampires, as different as night and day, flanked one another and advanced, making him retreat. His scuffed ragged boots hit the low step of the hearth and it was only a hard hand grabbing his shirtfront that prevented his rear from hitting the smouldering embers of the fire. “Thank you” he said politely.
“Where and when”? Asked Angel shortly, his dark ebony eyes pierced into Wesley as he released the already abused shirt.
“Mid-day tomorrow at the beach; there is a natural sea cave at one point at low tide. I’m told it has sewer access”. Wesley shrugged and lightly sidestepped from the heat of the fire on the seat of his pants.
“Who with”? Asked Spike with a disgruntled look at Angel for missing what he considered a pertinent point.
The Englishman stiffened even further at the question, making the blonde vampire want to check for a hidden stake up his arse.
“That I’m afraid is something you will have to wait to find out. I will not say even on pain of death,” Wesley informed them, his clipped accents tight with deep unshakeable resolve. Then with a deep indrawn breath and pursed lips, he raised his eyes to a spot over their heads and waited with puffed up self-importance for a violent response. In fact he was so busy being brave he missed the dual roll of eyes and suddenly found himself flung into a chair.
“Wait there and don’t move, Lancelot. If the martyr complex doesn’t get you killed first, running off will, clear enough”? Angel dismissed him the instant he’d finished speaking. “I’m going, Spike. So don’t waste your time with useless arguments”.
Spike opened and shut his mouth with a snarl.
It was the eleventh hour- literally being 11 am and they were still arguing. Wesley stretched and fidgeted in the chair, waking sleeping and blood deprived protesting muscles until he could move without screaming. Then patting his body and pockets in the hunt for his glasses, finally found them and put them on.
“I still say it’s a bloody trap and you’re a complete arsehole for walking into it,” snarled Spike whirling in a circle to keep the other vampire in sight.
Angel continued to ignore him and gathered numerous weapons onto the coffee table, his hard face pensive and absorbed. “If this was the Master I’d agree but why would a bunch of humans bother with me”?
“Cos they want something you stupid big, Puff”. Spike almost howled. For pity’s sake, he’d been trying to get through that thick stubborn head for hours now. To no avail much to his intense aggravation.
“I’m counting on it” Angels sober face came up to catch Spike with an inexorable look in his dark eyes. “If they want something that means I have something to trade”. He finished, sounding ominously certain of himself.
“And if it’s something you can’t give”? Spike sucked in a breath and thrust an arm triumphantly towards Willow who’d asked the red-hot question. “See even Red thinks this is a dumb idea and she loves the girl too”.
There was a stunned silence while the three of them stood frozen at what Spike had just dropped into the debate. “I never said I loved her” refuted Angel, his voice low and heavy with meaning.
“Bit bloody obvious init” Spike was having none of it. Eyes narrowed he returned the dark look his grandsire was giving him. Angel dropped his eyes first and ducking his head, returned to perusing the strewn table.
Spike grabbed him by the shoulder and hauled him round. “Hey…”
Watching them Willow had a brief flashback to the argument just before the Masters torture episode and her face went white. “Can you two not do this”? She burst out, drawing their attention. Her pleading gaze didn’t flinch from Angel’s for the first time since Cordelia had gone missing.
“It doesn’t matter what you say, this is dangerous and I know I’m on your doodoo list at the moment but… still I kinda like having you around so how about we not push each other around first, okay”?
Spike looked down at his boots, surprised to realise he was all but toe to toe with Angel, grinning ruefully he took a few steps back and shoving his hands in his pockets, shrugged. “Right you are then, Red. No fighting before the funeral”.
Angel was struggling with both her phrasing and a reluctance to soften towards the girl yet, so he simply shot her a bemused if not unfriendly glance. “There’s not going to be a funeral, Spike. I’m old enough and experienced enough to look out for myself”.
“Debateable”. Spike ‘oomphed’ when Willow came round and poked him in the side and this time Angel’s lips did twitch.
“Debatable or not I’m taking along some insurance” This time the smirk was full on, one hundred percent vampire wickedness, making Willow choke back a giggle at the oozing menace laced with ever so slightly malicious humour.
All eyes turned to the unhappy Wesley. “They give me any trouble I’ll snap his neck right in front of their eyes”.
Wesley couldn’t see a damn thing beyond about five foot in the damp murkiness of the sewers. Shivers wrought goose bumps all along his limbs as he walked, trying to keep up and hoping the exercise would warm him up. So much for Sunny California, he thought glumly, he’d spend most of his time since getting here trying to keep warm while underground.
“So, you never did explain what brought you over from that soggy little island”? The vampire’s deep timbre interrupted his hither and yon thoughts and brought him back to the present with an unwelcome jolt.
The poem about ‘green and pleasant lands’ floated through Wesley’s mind, but in the end he was too concerned about his own safety to worry about slurs on his homeland from a dead Irishman. He considered how much to say and ended up just blurting it out.
“The Council is in disarray. The last slayer was killed without an obvious replacement. So they spend all of their time and energy on trying to locate whomever is the current slayer and ignore what is happening in the world in the meantime” Leftover frustration echoed in his voice.
“Who knows maybe there was a finite number in the line of slayers but they won’t consider that. Oh no, that would mean their purpose in life would have to change and new methods found to tackle the demon problem and their constant everlasting bloody attacks on the world”.
Wesley stopped to draw breath after his vent and Angel simply carried on walking. He seemed to have started an overflow of information and who was he to shut him down- besides he was interested.
“I deciphered a prophecy about a vampire, old and powerful rising up and taking over a hellmouth, thus creating a demon heaven on earth. I took it to the leading Council Members but were they interested? No they damn well weren’t”. He could still see it now; standing before them, all fat and contented like tame house cats, only running around in circles without their favourite toy to play with.
“So finally after much consideration and at great personal loss I endeavoured to come here myself and at least *try* and do something to prevent it”.
“Yeah, so what happened”? Asked Angel, with only a trace of sarcasm.
“Hmm well…” The Englishman stumbled over the words, as embarrassment choked him momentarily. “Unfortunately I miscalculated the timescales and got here in time only to get caught with the townspeople”. Just another failure for his Father to crow over with his cigar and port brigade, he supposed.
“Prophecies can do that to you” agreed Angel ironically.
“Yes well, one shouldn’t let oneself be discouraged. I can still be of some use to these people in their time of need”. Wesley added, stoutly.
To the vampire he sounded as if he was trying to convince himself rather than his demon audience. You had to give him credit for good intentions he conceded with deep reluctance. Understandable, since giving a Watcher any kind of credit tended to go against the grain- being a vampire and all.
The tangy smell of sea salt wafted down the man-made tunnel making Angel’s senses prickle and focus on the distance. Despite himself his body raced with anticipation. “We’re nearly there” he advised in a low, tense tone; motioning for the Englishman to stay behind him. “Keep back and remember I can catch you before you get two baby steps, so think twice before you do something else doomed to fail”.
Wesley tossed him a look of dislike for the innuendo but did as ordered. “I’ll see my mission though, thank you all the same. So don’t worry about me”. Angel spared him a quick glance and noted how even the glasses seemed to sparkle with indignation.
“Let’s get this show on the road” Humans, more than one by the difference in scent, lay in wait ahead. He grinned and felt the adrenaline pump into his undead blood. Cordelia wasn’t there, he knew it for certain since he knew her scent better than anyone’s but still, he was enough of a predator to know when he was closing in.
He could feel it in the very deepest, darkest part of his being. Very soon he’d have her back and then her days of running where over. The silent vow reverberated inside him, like a roll of thunder in a storm tossed sky.