Season of Solace. 109

109:     The Kitchen, Crawford Street Mansion, Central Sunnydale

The smug bastard had actually offered to cook for them. So what if it was his house. Xander had been quick to remind Angel, “You’re a vampire, not a fry cook. What do you know about it?”

“A good deal more than you,” Angel’s growl gave him shudders, but Xander had not given up his space in front of the stove. He had been assigned to put away the food and make dinner, so that was exactly what he was doing.

Efforts to make grilled cheese sandwiches had not gotten very far. First, there was the fun of finding the frying pan. Then there was the trick of turning on the stove. It was not the kind where you turned the knob and the heat just came on. He got the idea that it was not even electric. When he turned it there was a strange odor coming from it.

“It’s a gas stove,” explained Angel who pulled a box of matches out of drawer. “You have to light the pilot light first.”

“I knew that,” Xander snapped, but stepped back to let the vampire do it. Watching carefully to make sure that he could do it again, he saw the way the flaming match nearly licked the tip of Angel’s finger as he held it against the burner. A blue flame flickered to life burning too high. Angel blew out the match and rubbed his fingers as if he had enjoyed the heat against his skin.

Angel turned the knob down a couple of notches to a low flame, telling Xander how to moderate the heat. Then he had left the kitchen to go check on the others. Whose lame idea was it to put him in charge of the food? Oh, yeah. Xander had to blame himself for that one.

The Watchers were busy organizing their library of research materials while the two Slayers were doing the heavy lifting. Cordelia and Willow stuck to organizing bedding and the sleeping quarters. Dead Boy had his nose into everything.

When they all stopped working long enough to eat their sandwiches and chips, he had not bothered to drink the blood Xander saw in the refrigerator. Nor did Angel bother to try the bite of grilled cheese goodness that Cordy offered him. Sourly, Xander recalled that he had not been so reluctant that time with the fruit smoothie, slurping at her straw like he did not have blood cooties.

That was before Xander knew there was something going on between Dead Boy and Cordy. Well, before his suspicions were confirmed. If there was any lingering doubt about what happened up in that bedroom last night, the discussion about their room assignments nailed it.

Willow looked fidgety when Angel started to talk about his plan for their sleeping arrangements. She had been helping Cordy with dusting and the doling out of the sheets. It was hard enough to imagine Cordelia Chase with a duster—unless that image came with a French Maid’s uniform, and then it was surprisingly easy, but watching her play hostess was downright disturbing.

“This is a large house,” Angel had started out. “There are too many ways for enemies to get in. We should split up the strong fighters between the three floors.”

By strong fighters, he meant the Slayers and himself. Xander was not going to try to argue that one. He knew his capabilities and that was good enough for him. He did his part in a fight even if that did not involve super strength, vampire speed or any fancy karate-judo-kickboxing moves.

“I’m on the second floor, so I suggest Buffy and Faith take the first and third.” Angel explained about the housekeeper’s suite down the hall not too far from the kitchen. The third floor room might seem remote, but they needed a presence up there for anyone who might try to climb in from the roof.

Faith volunteered to take the third floor. “What can I say? I like to be on top.” She had been looking at him when she said that and Xander really hoped his instant reaction to the images in his head was not obvious to anyone else.

“That leaves me on the bottom,” quipped Buffy as she okayed the decision unaware that her words also set off naughty sparklers in his thoughts involving a Slayer sandwich.

It was not really a surprise that Angel would put Buffy as far away from him as they could get. Having the ex love of your life sleeping nearby was not exactly a comforting thought, Xander realized.

“There are a couple of good rooms on the second level,” Angel had gone on to tell them. He did not look too pleased about it, but told Giles and Wesley that they could choose between them.

Apparently, they were located on either side of the master suite. Giles thought that to be, “A fine idea.”

Buffy casually inquired, “What about the rest of the guys?”

She even managed to ask it without looking at Cordelia, but even Xander knew that was the hot topic of the day. No one actually asked the question, but everyone wanted to know the answer. Where was Cordelia going to sleep? Xander quickly came up with some ideas he could live with. Maybe she would share with Faith. That might be fun. He could approve of bed sharing between those two any day. Hell, he would even approve of them having a hot lesbian affair if it meant Angel would be keeping his hands off Cordy.

Unfortunately, his ex was not likely to go for fulfilling that particular male fantasy. Cordelia did not keep them in suspense. She knew exactly what Buffy had meant and gave her the answer she expected. “I’m staying with Angel.”

Buffy’s mouth tightened, but she said nothing. Neither did he, although Xander called himself ten kinds of coward for keeping his mouth shut. He gritted his teeth as Cordy stepped closer to the vampire, their shoulders brushing close together, but otherwise not touching.

“That’s rather inappropriate,” the new Watcher spoke up when no one else did. He had gone up a notch in Xander’s book. “You might be eighteen, but Angel is a vampire.”

Silently cheering him on, Xander waited for Cordelia to chew him up and spit him out again. Which she did. Ouch. He doubted Wesley would try that again. Giles looked a little pained for his colleague as if he had already tried that and forgotten to warn him off.

They would all have to live with the fact that Cordy had made her choice. It sucked, but there was nothing that Xander could do about it. He could only hope that having Giles and Wesley on either side of the bedroom would act as a deterrent to activities that did not involve sleep.

“I thought Xander & I could stay near you, Buffy,” Willow piped in trying to divert the uncomfortable vibes from the couple in the center of the room. “We’ve still got our sleeping bags. And it’ll be fun, don’t you think?”

A smile wavered as Buffy chirped, “Fun. Sure. Loads to be had.”

Since the girls volunteered for kitchen cleanup duties, Xander decided to take Spike’s car back before it got too dark. Willow offered to go with him, but he suggested that she stick around for Buffy’s sake. She agreed, but gave him a look that told him she got the hint that he just wanted to be alone for a while.

When Dead Boy found out that he had not returned the car this morning as ordered, he was not exactly pleased. Xander figured Spike would not need it during the daytime. To a teenage boy, any car was better than no car at all, even when an evil bloodsucking maniac vampire owned it. One errand had led to another and suddenly it was late.

Angel had suggested he just keep it until morning, but he had promised to bring it back. He did not want Cordy to owe Spike anything. It might have been Angel who borrowed it in the first place, but it was done to get Cor to safety.

Now the light of day had faded from the sky. Orange turned to grey turned to black. He drove toward the west end of town with his mind on his ex-girlfriend. Having had the big hate for Angel from early on, watching Buffy give her heart to a guy who was definitely not worth it, and everything they’d gone through with Angelus, it was hell seeing Cordelia in love with him now.

What the heck was it with Sunnydale girls? Okay, so it was true he had mucked it up with Cordy. That was his fault. He could not blame her for breaking up with him. And he was lucky that she was sort of a friend—the word had never strictly applied to them. Honestly, he did want Cordelia to be happy, but did it have to be Dead Boy?

Nearing the edge of town, Xander got his thoughts into gear reviewing his plan. It was simple, really. Park the car. Leave the keys in the ignition. Run like hell.

Just because Spike had been talked into loaning his DeSoto to Bossy Vamp did not mean he would overlook the fact that a human was returning it later than expected. Spike might just decide to think of this as Sunnydale’s version of Meals on Wheels. That was something Xander did not want to consider.

The factory was now dead ahead. Xander gulped. He could see light streaming from inside the old brick building. Paint covered the windows making it impossible to see inside. Not that he was going to get that close. Heading for the parking area, he saw a sleek black car parked out front. Slowing down to get a closer look, the tires made an unmistakable crunch against the pebble covered parking area.

Spike had a visitor, someone who was obviously not into leaving his car in a gross state where it stunk of old beer and cigarettes. The BMW gleamed in the moonlight reflecting the sky above and the outline of the factory.

Concluding that Dead Boy had probably been right about waiting until morning to drop the car off, Xander kept driving. He did not like the look of that car. Not here in the old warehouse area by the docks. It was more out of place here than he was. He turned the car around slowly hoping that the noise was not going to attract attention.

Just as he was picking up speed, a figure darted across his path. All he saw was the flash of a lithe figure and a flowing gown come to a stop directly in front of the car. Xander slammed on the brakes and the DeSoto slid to a halt. Breathing heavily from the shock, he watched the woman walk forward, her eyes meeting his through the windshield.

His gaze followed hers as she walked around, opened up the passenger door and slid inside. Still staring, Xander could not seem to break away from her dark piercing eyes. “I know you,” her dulcet tones sounded soothing to his ears. He could listen forever.

“I’m Xander.”

Drusilla patted him on the cheek. “Of course you are, my pet. Now be a good boy and take me to my Angel. We must arrange a rescue.”

“Spike?” Somewhere in the back of his mind, Xander wondered why he was having a conversation with a vampire, especially this one. But he could not seem to make the effort to try to get away.

Settling her skirts tidily around her, Dru told him, “No, not my Spike. That nasty little blonde has her claws where they don’t belong. She wants what she can’t have, so he will have to play with her for a while.”

“Play?” Xander turned to look at her briefly as he took his foot off the brake. If Spike was playing what was that screaming he heard coming from inside the warehouse? It seemed imperative that he do as Dru asked and take her to Angel. “It’s not safe to stay. We should go.”

Drusilla nodded, “To my Angel.”

“Yes, to Angel,” he repeated dutifully and stepped on the gas pedal peeling out of the parking lot as fast as he could go. Halfway down the street, Xander asked, “Who is it that needs rescuing?” He did not give a flip about Spike, but he worried that someone else had gotten caught up in this. Maybe Drusilla had been rescuing other potential sacrifices like Cordelia.

“Miss Edith,” Drusilla told him deadly serious. “She’s in grave danger and I want her back. My Angel will rescue her. Or you will, won’t you, my pet?”

Scene 110

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