Title: Right of Possession
Summary: Unbeknownst to the others (incl Buffy) Angel is back from hell. His intention to leave Sunnydale (after honoring a bargain that got him out of hell) just as secretly is compromised, leaving him with a moral dilemma. WARNING: If you are hoping for an Angel with finer feelings and morals, this fic isn’t for you. His moral ambiguity through out this fic may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Spoilers: BtVS, Season three, (Post Hell,)
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt created the characters in the Angelverse. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: GTCA. Anyone else, please ask first.
Notes: This is the result of a challenge put forward myself, that ended up with several Authors (shoutout especially to Cydnestorm & Impress) putting forward ideas (in other words, I write it, and other DW members take part by suggesting material to include.
Thanks/Dedication:to Lysa, who agreed to Beta the fic for me (yay!) and to all DW members who’s ‘interactive’ suggestions have made their way into RoP. *hugs*
Feedback:would be yummy icing on the cake.
Although the moon was at its zenith its pale rays barely penetrated the dense woods that both predator and prey threaded stealthily through. Neither relied on its illumination to see. After twenty minutes of tracking two particular demons, Angel was confident that they hadn’t picked up on his presence.
Not so the night before when their roles had abruptly been reversed. One he could have handled; two were a force to be reckoned with. So far, tonight was going as planned, and a small satisfied smile curled his lips when finally he’d picked up on two distinct trails. They’d separated. From what knowledge he had of their hunting habits, Angel knew it wouldn’t be long before the distance between them would be enough for him to make his move.
Satisfaction fled on hearing voices breaking through the relative silence and he cursed virulently when the distinctive sound of fighting followed quickly after. Picking up his pace, he followed the sounds of the struggle.
Angel’s nostrils flared as the scents of the interlopers reached him, scowling heavily as recognition hit. Reaching the skirmish he used the cloak offered by the surrounding darkness to remain hidden where he could easily observe the ongoing battle. Irritation flared at the possibility that their interference would cause him to lose his prey.
Life for their little group had certainly changed in the past four months. Once implausible relationships had shifted into more complicated ones, and then shifted again. Friendships were tested, love was gained and lost.
Buffy could remember a time she and Cordelia were more alike than she cared to admit, and their unexpected alliance painfully embellished that fact. Before her fateful calling had reared its ugly head, she too enjoyed the simpler things in life: popularity, vanity…indifference to those around her. And like Cordelia, falling for the wrong guy had knocked her world off its axis.
Their personal lives had all gone to hell in a handbasket. Thoughts of hell quickly reminded Buffy of two names that still caused conflicting emotions: Angel and Angelus.
She swallowed hard and forcibly pushed thoughts of the vampire out of her mind. Or was it vampires? It wasn’t really her Angel that had done those evil things. Buffy held onto the concept despite knowing better. Hopeless love refusing to die, she supposed, a dangerous mindset when preparing for slayage. So she turned her mind to the latest developments that were still of a personal nature, but was kinda glad that this time at least her heart wasn’t so intimately invested.
Finding out that Xander and Willow had a ‘thing’ going on— behind Cordelia’s back no less— had been a major surprise to Buffy. That almost fatal fall taken when fleeing after catching them together— to say she was amazed that Cordelia was actually back and helping out several weeks down the line was an understatement.
After taking a quick peek at Cordelia’s profile, her features unreadable, Buffy sighed under her breath and climbed out of the car. Part of her wished the older girl had stayed away. The atmosphere in Cordelia’s car had been more oppressive than it had been at the library, and Buffy couldn’t recall the last time Willow, who’d huddled in the back seat, had regressed into the shy persona of the girl she first met within minutes of leaving the school grounds.
Guilt: another not so subtle supposition.
Buffy had loved despite the intuitive warnings of a slayer and a woman. And in her pursuit of this doomed, great love she had risked the lives of her friends and the innocents she was charged with protecting. Even now this sat heavily on her slim shoulders. Shaking her head in an attempt to clear it failed miserably as ‘what ifs’ filled her mind yet again.
“Um, can we walk to patrol next time?” The timid, quivery voice had Buffy turning on her heel in surprise. Mainly due to the fact that she was so deeply into her thoughts she’d not even heard Willow approach. Distractions, tonight of all nights, would be dangerous.
Willow’s face reflecting the deep unease she’d felt at being in such close proximity to Cordelia confirmed Buffy’s theory. Guilt shadowed eyes that furtively watched as Cordelia climbed out of the car moments later. Buffy sighed again. Maybe that was why she felt so antsy tonight. Nothing at all to do with the demony lecture Giles gravely impressed upon them earlier.
Well, maybe a little.
For a moment, Buffy rethought the wisdom of bringing her friends along. Granted, some time had passed since the accident, and her biggest Big Bad to date was now out of the picture, but she hadn’t failed to notice that Cordelia occasionally favored her side, especially after patrol. Giles’ earlier and repetitive warnings about what she was about to face tonight, also had her wondering if she’d made the wrong call agreeing to let Cordelia be ‘Bait Girl’.
With a heavy sigh, Buffy hooked her arm in Willow’s and both turned away to begin a slow trek across the grass towards the patch of trees. As they neared the dense line of trees along the offbeat road on the outskirts of town, they stopped and waited for the other two to catch up.
“Oh, boy,” Willow’s softly muttered words caught Buffy’s attention and she looked back to see that Xander still hovered by the car, obviously waiting for Cordelia to lock the doors. Even from this distance she could see the tentative yet hopeful expression on his face.
Cordelia spotted her ex-squeeze-slash-rat-bastard-cheat standing right behind her. “Hover much?” she hissed through thinned lips while locking the car door. Turning abruptly, she stalked around the hood before allowing Xander time to think of a reply.
As soon as they left the roadside, she cursed under her breath when the fine heels of her Italian boots instantly sunk into the soft grass. Probably not the best decision she’d made tonight. Make that the third, she corrected herself wryly. The first had been turning up at the library for the fourth night in a row and second, offering to be Bait Girl. The boots she could deal with.
As she stared straight ahead her eyes, that landed on Buffy and Willow watching from the distance, narrowed angrily. They were probably afraid for ‘poor’ Xander’s safety because he was alone with her. They’d gotten this far with the Harris family jewels intact, hadn’t they?
Conscious of him dogging her heels, Cordelia quickened her pace putting most of her weight on the soles of her feet to keep heel sinkage to a minimum. Rolling her eyes after hearing him clear his throat for the tenth time, Cordelia swiveled round to face him, one hand settling on her hip. His deer caught in the headlights expression was the only thing worth looking at, she thought with a sharp bitterness that just wouldn’t quit.
Before Xander could get over his surprise at the sudden confrontation of fiery hazel eyes pinning him to the spot, Cordelia opened her mouth and informed him icily, “If this is you trying to apologize again, save it.”
He persevered; the rehearsed apology so far not fully given chance to recite on the tip of his tongue, but she forestalled him with a sharply raised hand then jabbed her finger in a hard poke to his chest.
“I may be here with you losers, but this isn’t your get out of jail free card, so get that thought out of your dumb ass head now.” Her lips curled, showing clearly the displeasure she felt in even looking at him, but after a breath, she continued on.
“Unless it is of the ‘watch out for the sharp claws’ variety, do NOT talk to me.” Finished she turned her back on him.
Her spine stiffened at his hesitant response and without turning back warned frostily, “The talking portion of the night with me is now over.” Satisfied with the thick silence that followed, she continued walking.
As they entered the cover of the trees, Xander sighed thickly before moving ahead to flank Buffy’s other side. Cordelia eyed their backs, a scowl curling her lips. Typical. Five seconds of attempting to make everything right between them and he gives up like the spineless rat he is, then does the expected- runs straight to the other girl he’d always put before her too.
Letting out a sharp breath, Cordelia cursed herself virulently for her contrary thinking. One thing she knew for certain: it was over. But that didn’t stop her wanting at least a shred of her self-respect back. Never would it have occurred to her the possibility that she, Cordelia Chase, would become the laughing stock of the entire school- and it was all their fault.
Which brought her back to the question that had bugged her for the last hour: Why the hell am I here again? She bit back a resigned sigh. Oh that’s right, helping the hopeless. Only Cordelia wasn’t quite sure why helping the hopeless was becoming so important to her.
As she watched them stride ahead through the clearing just beyond the trees, The Three Musketeers came to Cordelia’s mind, and as she thought of who fitted each of those characters, her footsteps gradually slowed until a growing gap separated them.
…Realizing suddenly that being alone in a dark woody place was definitely not of the good, Cordelia quickened her pace, but just three hasty steps into the clearing and pain exploded down her left side. The air whooshed out of her lungs before she even hit the ground, only half aware of Buffy’s yell of alarm– and then the heavy weight that pinned her abruptly disappeared.
Rolling onto her side with a pained groan, Cordelia looked up dazedly to see the slayer doing what she did best: delivering a roundhouse kick to what must have been, in her opinion the ugliest demon they’d had the misfortune to come across. Wincing, She muttered ‘oh, crap’ as Buffy rebounded like a rag doll when her foot connected with its broad chest. The demon hadn’t even budged at the impact.
Renewed fear flooded through her quickly as it crossed her mind that she was way to close for comfort. The sight of razor sharp talons lifting in an arc only to luckily miss their aim when Buffy dodged back sent Cordelia scrambling frantically to her knees.
A whoosh sounded out above her head a little too closely for her liking causing her to forget about rising. Instead, she literally crawled out of the way until her hand thankfully connected with the solid bark of a tree. Glancing behind her and confident that there was a big enough gap from the tussling figures, she climbed shakily to her feet. Almost instantly her ankle gave way, wrenching the tendons painfully and her pain-filled eyes dropped to investigate.
Great! She cursed angrily under her breath on finding that one of the heels of her new Italian boots had snapped like a twig. Another whooshing sound pulled her attention away from the annoying discovery and she was just in time to see a bolt sink into the demon’s sinewy neck.
Noticing another protruding from its shoulder, Cordelia looked around and saw Xander holding up a reloaded crossbow, obviously waiting for another clear shot. Willow stood a few feet to his right, her face deathly pale and eyes impossibly wide with fear. She clutched a small cloth sack close to her chest, and Cordelia recalled that it had some kind of sucking-of-demon-strength mojo inside.
Giles had taken great pains to warn the little witch that the powder had to be used carefully; apparently having the same effect on a Slayer as their quarry. Cordelia hoped to God that Willow stopped visibly shaking enough to get it right when the time came. Otherwise a broken heel would be way down on her list of major disasters.
On seeing that Buffy’s constant attack was finally having an effect on the demon, Cordelia risked looking away to assess the damage to her boot, and then proceeded to go over her options. There weren’t many: remove them both or break the other heel off. The latter thought didn’t go down well. Three hundred and eighty dollars down the drain, jeeze!
Deciding they might be salvageable- considering they were one of a kind, she bent down to unzip them. As she was about to remove the second boot a loud thud sounded a little too close for comfort and her head jerked up, eyes widening at the sight of Buffy sprawled on her back only feet away from her. Before she could think to move, Buffy had sprung back to her feet agilely and took off after the now-fleeing demon.
Cordelia’s mouth gaped in disbelief as both Xander and Willow chased after her without once looking back until the trees and inky blackness veiling them swallowed them up.