The bruises were fading, but Spike’s resentment had only strengthened with each moment he lay on his side, intent on soothing his dark princess.
Relief that Dru had finally settled hadn’t lasted long. Even now as he gently stroked her silken hair, she whispered his name with reverence and want lacing every syllable. Resentment quickly turned to rage. Fair enough, Angelus was her sire and it was the way it went with their kind, but burning jealousy had always been an issue even from the beginning.
He wanted to fill every part of her, leaving no room for anyone else- especially that son of a bitch.
Seeing those crushing hands around Dru’s throat, an expression of rage twisting Angelus’ normally impassive features still haunted him. Whether the intent was to end her existence, Spike wasn’t entirely sure. But he just could not stand back to wait and see.
Although fear and rage had driven him, Spike still kept his wits enough not to jump to his feet, instead ramming his wheelchair into the back of Angelus’ legs.
It was enough of a distraction to turn the attention to him, which is what Spike had hoped for. Concentrating on keeping his legs lax took the edge off the pain as he had the unholy crap out beaten out of him. Dru, for once had the sense to stay back, rubbing the forming bruises on her pale face and throat.
Spike wasn’t sure even now if the darkened eyes watching had expressed concern or devilish delight at the sight of her childer bloodied and half conscious.
After such a long familial relationship, Spike wasn’t unused to Angelus’ brutal reminders of his dominance over both himself and Drusilla. But this was different. In the past, his Sire had meted out punishment with the same air as an authoritarian father would chastise his recalcitrant child. Spike couldn’t deny feeling unsettled at the shocking lack of control he’d witnessed.
Although unclear as to what could have set off Angelus, Spike would have confidently bet his most prized kitten that it had something to do with the new occupant that surprisingly had been left to her own devices for most of the day.
If anger with his new toy was behind the reason for Angelus’ display of unrestrained violence, he doubted the chit would still be in the land of the living. His blond head cocked to the side; the muted sound of clinking glass catching his attention. His sire had since opted to occupy his time with a bottle of brandy in the study.
Was it possible that a mere human girl had managed to do what no other human- or demon, for that matter had ever accomplished? Twist Angelus’ insides so badly that he could only find equilibrium at the bottom of a liquor bottle?
Any other time, Spike would have laughed his head off at the very notion. But the sense of disquiet that was fermenting in his gut left no place for even the slightest glimmer of humor. Plus he was less than interested in the so-called love life of the vicious bastard.
Unless it affected them …
She couldn’t recall if she’d slept. It didn’t feel like she had, Cordelia thought numbly as she rubbed gritty eyes. Every bone in her body ached, and for a moment she wondered if Angelus had anything to do with it. The thought had wide eyes checking out first the bed and then the shadowed room.
He wasn’t there, and she couldn’t remember him leaving. The bedroom was blanketed in silence and it unsettled her. Trying to recall when she’d last been aware of his presence took too much brain power, which was at a premium after spending so long going over and over how it was all her fault Xander was dead- of how, at one stage, she wished she was too.
If only she’d kept her big mouth shut. If only Xander hadn’t been Macho-brave guy. If only Buffy hadn’t been ill. If only she hadn’t been kidnapped. Cordelia sighed brokenly. Way too many If Only’s. Foresight was something she could only wish wasn’t always in short supply.
Huddled in the middle of the bed, clutching the silk sheet to her chest, Cordelia attempted to clear her head and weigh her options. No chance of that; fitful sleep combined with too much stress and fear was a hard taskmaster. But sitting in bed doing nothing but fret wasn’t going to get her anywhere- plus action might give her at least a modicum of clarity.
Holding tightly onto the sheet, Cordelia cautiously sat up and slid her legs over until her feet hung over the side of the soft mattress. Searching the floor for her clothes ended up being a wasted effort. Although not really expecting to find them, she still grimaced when they were nowhere to be seen. After spending God Knows how long naked as a jay bird, her nerves were shot and the need for the superficial protection of her clothes was high.
Her eyes lit upon a maroon silk shirt draped over a chair in a corner of the room. Cordelia bit her lip, undecided. It was better than a sheet, she supposed, but her hesitation was more to do with psycho vamp. Would Angelus get mad if she dressed? The pain from his earlier punishment might have faded, but the memory of it was still fresh in her mind. The insane thought that he might go too far next time and kill her made up her mind. Right at this moment, a small part of her wanted to be put out of her misery.
As she walked over to the chair and grabbed the shirt, it didn’t even cross her mind that there was something seriously wrong with her to even consider being a quitter.
Once put on and the buttons closed up to her neck, she relaxed a little. The sleeves hung low, and she had to roll them up several times before her hands appeared. The hem came to her knees, and for the first time in her short life, she disregarded fashion faux pas, just grateful it covered her up.
After smoothing down the soft material, Cordelia took a deep breath and this time, took real notice of her surroundings. Approaching the heavy blue velvet drapes, she gave into the urge to open them. Losing all track of time wasn’t helping in the effort to find her center.
Pulling them apart, a sigh of resignation blew out of her mouth. What would have been a picture window giving a panoramic view had been boarded up, and from the looks of the shiny new nail heads and pristine wood, it had obviously been done as soon as Angelus had moved in. Not even a sliver of light could be seen, but even so, something inside was telling her it was daylight.
The yearning for sunlight was strong. Maybe it was true what they said about lack of light. It depressed the hell outta you. What was it called? she wondered absently. “S.A.D.” That was pretty much a given right now.
She didn’t bother checking the bathroom; it was windowless. The recollection slid in as soon as her eyes had glanced at the half open door- although surprised she remembered anything beyond having to bathe under the perverted eyes of Angelus. The main door caught her gaze, which became pensive, instantly giving up any thoughts of even trying the handle. As her eyes lowered in resignation, something placed on the floor to the side of it caught her attention.
Her tummy rumbled belatedly when realizing it was a large tray with a neat display of Twinkies, cellophane-wrapped bread rolls and a multi-pack of soda cans. There was enough food there to last at least a day or two, she noted – unless you happened to be Xander Harris; then the contents would suffice as a snack.
A sharp pain ballooned her in the chest at the stray thought. Any glimmer of appetite instantly fled and she almost stumbled in her haste to back away from the tray; the horrific memory of hours before had her eyes darting around the room looking for the box.
Thankfully there was no sign of it, and with a shuttered breath, Cordelia headed back to the bed, climbing under the sheet and huddled against the headboard trying desperately not to cry.
Rubbing slightly trembling hands over his weary face, Rupert Giles thought of how old he felt right this second.
He didn’t know which one was worse.
What had begun as a pretty frenetic day, putting everything they had into their continued search for Cordelia Chase had only become worse as the light faded and night took hold once again.
None had really slept since the night before last. A night now imprinted into everyone’s memory: Buffy’s sudden collapse, Angelus capturing Cordelia.
Illness did not often strike Slayers, but a severe case of influenza had crippled Buffy, and she was subsequently rushed to hospital. It seemed demons followed wherever she went, unfortunately, and the night was spent ridding the children’s ward of a creature that literally sucked the life out of its young patients. It wasn’t until this morning that their attention could turn to the missing brunette, and he’d hoped to God it wasn’t already too late.
Willow arrived first, laptop tucked under a thin arm, her wide mouth tight; eyes so large and shadowed they almost swallowed her small face. Giles had already collected every available newspaper and was already perusing them when she’d quietly entered the library.
School had yet to open its doors to students and teachers alike, and he was glad of the temporary reprieve. Buffy turned up midmorning more like her old self, but even she looked drained; her eyes dull.
Still perusing the pile of newspapers, Giles half listened as Buffy explained that she’d signed herself out, and then went on to ask the whereabouts of Xander.
Hearing Giles’ absent reply that he’d dropped him home straight from the hospital, Buffy rose from the table she’d been sitting on informing them of her decision to go over as she headed for the door. A strangled gasp had halted her in her tracks, her head turning reflexively towards Giles who’d been staring fixedly at the opened page before him.
The mutilated body of an unidentified young woman had been found in an alley off State Street, behind the Espresso Pump. Giles had found an article, surprisingly small. But then, Sunnydale was filled to the brim with unpleasant findings. Yet one more wasn’t going to make headline news.
The article was brief and details were pending. Frustration filled the tense atmosphere at the lack of resolve – until a quivering hand lifted. Giles didn’t even hesitate at Willow’s offer to hack into the Coroner’s Office of Records.
Never doubting her ability to do so, all three hovered around the laptop as the file on the unfortunate girl came up. Willow’s quavering voice read out the details while Buffy and Giles stood frozen to the spot.
The city coroner had wasted no time in performing the autopsy and filing a report. A brief summary laid it all out in exacting detail, but Willow skimmed to the description of the victim.
“Caucasian female approximately 17 to 19 years of age, 5’7”, brunette/long brown hair, hazel eyes …” Pausing long enough to glance up and catch Buffy’s darkening eyes before dipping her head to continue reading.
“OmiGod!” a horrified gasp tore from Willow’s throat her dilated eyes blinking rapidly. After swallowing audibly, she continued on in a quavering voice. “Primary cause of death: Severe neck trauma. Broken 2nd and 3rd cervical vertebrae. Secondary findings…”
A choked sob behind Buffy had three pairs of devastated eyes turning towards the sound.
Xander Harris, looking worse for wear in rumpled clothes stood in the open doorway of the library. It didn’t take geniuses to realize he’d been searching a particular graveyard pretty thoroughly.
Willow relinquished her seat to Giles who slid into it without a word spoken between them. She’d clasped Xander’s hand as he moved over to stand right behind Giles and urged him to continue, his dark eyes had been wet as he stared at the screen.
As his eyes skimmed the rest of the details, Buffy leaned forward, slightly trembling hands placed flat on the wooden surface separating them.
“Read it out. We need to hear this” she’d added determinedly when their eyes met across the table. With a choked sigh, Giles reluctantly acquiesced.
“Both the stratum licidum and stratum corneum – skin layers,” Giles briefly added for the benefit of the others before continuing; his voice by now deliberately emotionless as he read on. “-had been removed from the victim’s face. Smooth edges indicate the use of a fine edge or surgical instrument. Same instrument used to cut an inverted cross into left shoulder: 3”x2”…”
The last line of information had stirred a distant memory causing Giles to pause. Reminding himself to delve deeper afterwards, he doggedly continued.
“Tongue and teeth removed. Deep serrated wound to the left jugular region. Torso intact. Skin mottled with multiple bruises along the torso, hips and thighs. Clear evidence of rape: anal trauma, semen found…”
More details followed in precise medical terms describing her gory death. The mouse cursor hovered over a link reading: Photographic Evidence.
Giles leaned back in his office chair, swallowing the lump that had formed along with the still-recent memories of the day. The clothes had been recognized by the others as the ones Cordelia had been wearing that night.
The addition of a small silver heart pendant had caused Xander to blanch and turn away, his body heaving silently. As Willow reached out to comfort him, Buffy had numbly explained that it was identical to a gift he’d bought Cordelia on Valentines Day.
Shortly after the teenagers left for the night, it had hit Giles why the information of the cross had rung warning bells.
In the nineteenth century The Watchers diaries had recorded Angelus’ habit of leaving a gory ‘calling card’ in the form of an inverted cross carved into his victims’ skin.
The recollection had left him with barely a doubt that the young woman was indeed Cordelia.
Giles wondered how much more it would take for him to either crumple under the pressure … or just give in to the urge to run and not look back.
Then he laughed; an ugly sound that fractured the heavy silence around him.
Three teenagers had earlier shown the strength that he was sadly lacking now, and he had the nerve to even consider his own feelings.
So many loved ones.
Many, strangers to him, but nevertheless mourned by others.
And although Buffy had his heartfelt sympathy for her own loss, Giles was unable to feel anything but hatred for Angel … Angelus. and wanted nothing other than to put him in the ground.
“It’s a big rock. I can’t wait to tell my friends. They don’t have a rock this big.” Sarcasm dripped from Spike’s tongue even as mild surprise raised a dark brow. Thinking the older vampire was still intent on getting through their plentiful supply of alcohol, he was taken aback on finding him instead contemplating a large stone obelisk that was now set in front of the Great Hall’s enormous fireplace.
The fact that Drusilla hovered close, a smile of manic pleasure curling the corners of mouth, soon darkened his sharp features. She’d earlier said that ‘something special’ was arriving soon, but as Dru loved the finer things in life, deliveries, large and small were a regular occurrence. He hadn’t even stirred from his sprawl on their bed when he’d heard sounds of heavy movement.
Without bothering to turn round, Angelus responded. “You never did learn your history, did you?” He circled the obelisk, passing two fledgling vampires who flanked it, before facing the bleached blonde.
“Let’s have a lesson, then.” Leaning back in his chair, Spike feigned boredom – The bad feeling that had finally brought him out of his and Dru’s rooms grew at both the smug expression on Angelus’ face and the vibes coming off the heavy stone. It was obvious the bastard had been planning something, and he hoped he was finally going to be put in the picture- especially if Dru was involved.
“Acathla the demon came forth to swallow the world. He was killed by a virtuous knight who pierced the demon’s heart before he could draw a breath to perform the act. Acathla turned to stone, as demons sometimes do, and was buried” Angelus paused, his dark head dipping for a moment before catching Spike’s eyes, a twisted smile on his pale face.
“Where neither man nor demon would want to look—unless of course they were putting up low-rent housing.” He looked over to the two fledglings and nodded his head abruptly.
Reaching up with crowbars, they dug into the sides until it creaked. Then the front of it crashed to the floor. Inside was a tall, horned, heavily built stone demon with a sword protruding from the right side of its chest.
Upon seeing him Drusilla moved forward a few steps and closed her eyes. She raised her hands to the sides of her head and began to sway back and forth. “He fills my head. I can’t hear anything else,” she whispered eerily.
This only intensified Spike’s bad feeling and he eyed the stone demon warily. This did not look good at all. “Let me guess. Someone pulls out the sword…” he began.
“Someone worthy,” Angelus interrupted.
“Mm, the demon wakes up, and I assume wackiness ensues,” he ended, anxiety now twisting his gut
“He will swallow the world.” Dru opened her eyes, her grin growing wider by the second. Lowering her arms, she giggled with crazed excitement as she watched her sire circle the stone demon.
“And every creature living on this planet will go to hell,” Angelus replied quietly, a cold smile touching his full mouth.
Sitting back in the winged leather chair he’d placed in the center of the room, Angelus leaned back his head and gazed at Acathla. But his thoughts were elsewhere.
Watching earlier the barely hidden resentment that reflected in Spike’s eyes as he realised Drusilla had been keeping secrets from him, should have given him at least a modicum of pleasure.
But it had passed over his head. As had the blond’s growing anger as Dru revealed that plans to unleash Acathla had been in the works for a couple of weeks.
Angelus had been too busy contemplating his faux pas the night before. His plans to awaken Acathla would now have to be delayed, and that pissed him off big time.
The quicker it was done, the less chance of the Slayer and her sidekicks finding out and attempting to thwart his plans to send mankind to Acathla’s hell dimension.
Pleasure filled him at the thought of seeing Buffy Summers’ devastated face as first she watched helplessly as her friends were sucked in and torn to pieces, and then suffered the same fate herself.
The icing on the cake would be her betrayed expression on seeing Cordelia Chase by his side.
That’s when she’d finally realise that the soul was indeed gone. His head abruptly tilted to the side; lips pursed in thought as a germ of an idea hit him. Rising lithely to his feet, Angelus headed out to the foyer, his eyes instantly turning towards the shadowed staircase.
As he stared up to the upper level, his gaze turned inwards and then an unpleasant smile twisted his lips as his initial idea developed and took form.
Maybe he wouldn’t have to delay his plans after all.