Mercenary Hearts 4

Part 4

University Library.

“From your description I have vague idea of the kind of demons you faced,” Giles spoke as he rose from his seat at one of the large study tables scattered around the vaulted library. “But I’ll need to double check. Hold on a moment,” he told them absently and headed off towards his office.

Buffy looked around with a slight frown on her face, until her eyes landed on Tara, who was still tucked away at a smaller, nearby table. “Where’s Cordelia?” she asked after a perfunctory smile and nod.

“She-she’s out with her parents- for dinner,” Tara replied, responding with a small smile of her own, which dried up instantly on seeing the resulting scowl on the blonde’s face.

While initially wondering why she would ask in the middle of a crisis, the scowl darkened as Buffy continued on. “Damn; we could really do with her tonight,” understanding dawned and Tara had to stop herself from rolling her eyes, Cordelia fashion. Giles, appeared carrying an old, tattered tome, and a newspaper

“Unfortunately I was wrong. The one I’d considered has the right coloring and build, but it also has a small curved horn atop his head.” Disappointment apparent his tone, and then asked. “Are you sure it didn’t..?” Buffy instantly shook her head. He sighed.

“One of them said something weird,” Xander suddenly recalled. “It called its happy helper a ‘Foggy Polkadot’ … or something like that. Oh, and ‘idiot’.” He definitely understood that word. The creep had let the cat out the bag that the girl was supposed to be a sacrifice. No wonder it freaked.

Giles eyebrows rose in confusion, and then asked “Foggy Polkadot? You didn’t mention polka dotted skin.”

“No polka dots to be found,” Buffy reassured him. “Um, maybe it was talking in its demony language.” she suggested. “And it was more like … Foggeyed be a Polkadot, idiot. I think.” then began to wonder if it really mattered. The only bit that was important was the word ‘Sacrifice’.

“It still makes no sense whatsoever”, Muttered Giles, stumped. With a slight shake his head, he added “I think it best that I remain here and do a little more research, while the rest of you go out on patrol.” Resuming his seat, he placed the book in front and the newspaper to one side.

“If I find anything relevant, I’ll call you- you have your cell, yes?” he asked, his already distracted gaze lifting briefly, in time to see Buffy pull it out of her back pocket and wave it at him. “Good. Make sure it’s turned on this time.” Buffy rolled her eyes before nodding.

“-And not smashed to smithereens,” he added pointedly, again looking up from the pages of cramped text.

“It’s not like I did it on purpose,” Buffy pouted. “I get thrown around a lot in this gig.”

Giles cocked his head to one side before replying; “If I recall, the last time you happened to break it, was whilst you were fighting over a slice of pizza with Xander.” A flush stained her cheeks even as the pout melted into a grimace.

Giles suddenly grabbed the newspaper. “Before you go,” his words halted their mass exodus. Opening it and laying it open on the table, he continued. “I recall seeing an article in here this morning which may have some relevance to the situation…”

***

“Sorry that we have to love and leave you, darling, but the flight from Sunnydale leaves for LAX in less than two hours. You know how airports are about passengers arriving at the last minute.” Mrs. Chase checked her watch even as she threw an apologetic smile towards her daughter in the back.

“No problem. I’m heading straight for a long bath anyway,” Cordy replied as she opened the rear door to climb out of her parent’s Jaguar. Her father reached over to pat her knee.

“Are you sure you can’t come along?” He asked, ignoring his wife’s reminder of the time. “It isn’t too late, sweetheart, I can arrange for a ticket to be held for you at the airport. You could meet us at our hotel tomorrow, or in a day or two?” Cordy shook her head; a wry smile tilted her mouth.

“Sorry, Daddy, but I have way too many assignments to even get away for a weekend,” she leaned into the car and dropped a grateful peck on his cheek. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Have fun, and don’t forget to bring me back a bottle of vintage wine, okay?” she gave his arm a playful squeeze, then leaned in to kiss the air next to her mother’s rouged cheek.

“You won’t be able to open it for another few years,” her mother reminded her with a regal lift of an arched brow, missing the sly wink and stifled smile father and daughter exchanged.

A minute later the car pulled off and Cordy couldn’t help but sigh longingly as she watched the taillights fade and vanish out of sight. With another heartfelt sigh and a pout that would have impressed Buffy Summers, she turned wearily towards the short flight of steps to her front door. She muttered an oath when the tinny strains of “Sour Girl” broke the silence.

Was a demon-free night off too much to ask? With an irritated scowl, Cordy reached into her purse. Extracting her cell she flipped it open. “What’s up?” The scowl deepened. “I’ll just go cha- riiiight.” She closed the phone with a snap and glared at it with venom.

“No time! You’re needed pronto!” her voice rising in an exaggeration of Buffy’s. Shoving the cell in her purse, she dug out her keys, and about turned before stalking towards the garage.

“I knew I should’ve gone to Baruch!”

****

The edge of Town, Sunnydale.

Cordy eyed the dense trees that lined the side of the highway with misgiving before frowning down at her attire: a floaty chiffon skirt and strappy silk top. She was grateful at least, for the incongruous looking tennis shoes she’d found in the trunk of her car.

Damn. “You could have at least let me change into something a little less ‘pet me, I’m available’”, she griped at Buffy, flicking a killing glare towards Xander at his snide comment that ‘available’ was something she was good at. There were long lists of valid reasons besides cheating, to dump him when she did.

“Look. They’re probably gonna try for another victim tonight,” Buffy replied; acidly adding “If they haven’t already- which is why we didn’t have time for you to go through your store-sized closet,” ignoring the angry arch of the brunette’s brow.

Why did Cordy get the feeling that she’d get the blame if it turned out they already had? What a bitch! Catching Tara’s eye, and the slight ‘let it go, it isn’t worth it’ shake of her head, she pushed out a calming breath; “Any idea where these big n scalies are gonna be?”

Buffy shook her head. “Nu-uh. But Giles said he’d read in the Tribune that some teens were frightened off from this area early yesterday evening.”

“But this is the hellmouth, Buff. Things like that happen all the time,” Xander piped up. Buffy flipped the stake she always seemed to have on demand; causing Tara to wonder if she also took it in the bath with her.

“That’s true Xan, but you heard what Giles said. The attackers were humongous, and ‘badly disfigured’- and it was still pretty light when it happened, which totally rules out the usual suspects.” Buffy reminded him. “So I reckon here is a good place to start.” She turned to Cordy; “These demons are after a girl, – and right now, you’re it” she added bluntly.

Cordy grit her teeth. Although things were less confrontational between them since the High school blew up, there still existed a not-so vague edge of bitch.  She noted way her tone markedly softened when answering her ex.

Personally, she felt that they deserved each other.  Not forgetting the fact that Xander had always put the bottled blonde ahead of her when he was her boyfriend. That was yet another reason on her list. And also the dawning realization that she wasn’t in love with him. Had she really ever been? Or simply reacting to his swimsuit-clad body at the time?  Hormones, plain and simple.

“There’s a small clearing just past those trees.” Buffy continued on, pulling her out of her thoughts. She pointed it out. “You head towards it. We’ll follow behind and watch your back.” She assured the brunette when seeing hesitation.

“What about my front?” Cordy muttered under her breath, turning away from the group and headed for the trees. Wondering, not for the first time, why she agreed to be permanent Bait Girl? “Sounds so *not* like a well-thought out plan” she whispered nervously to herself as the clearing came into sight. They were too far behind for her liking.

Buffy stride faltered briefly. Those were definitely tinglies. Normally, she only got them when vamps were in the vicinity. Oh well, two birds with one stake she thought with a slight shrug… and then a high-pitched yell filled the air.

She rushed on ahead, leaving the others trailing behind. Her attention focused on Cordy as she left the trees behind her. The brunette was struggling with a demon that looked identical to the ones earlier. She absently noted that She was doing pretty well with the staving – skidding suddenly to an abrupt halt.

“Well, crap!”

The others caught up and stopped too. There was more than one. A quick head count: 8 of them. All seemingly content to watch the spectacle of a human girl attempting to kick a divot into the one who’d grabbed her.

“A little help here!” The yelp shook Buffy out of her shock and she took a flying leap toward the struggling pair, landing on the demon’s back. The jolt caused the demon to lose his grip on Cordy, who instantly dropped to the grass and rolled to her feet.

The others spread out in a small semi-circle.

Oz lifted the crossbow he’d brought along and waited for a clear shot, and as soon as the demon faced him; Buffy still on its back; took aim and fired. Willow winced and ewwed under her breath at the sloopy, cracking sound made as the bolt jammed through its eye socket. The demon dropped like a stone. Buffy landed gracefully next to it, only pausing to give it a hard nudge with her booted foot before throwing Oz a quick grin.

And then all hell broke loose.

The death of the first demon seemed to act as a catalyst. The remaining demons had been just as surprised to see the Slayer and the others as they were and had frozen in their tracks- until their comrade hit the ground.

Cordy took a step forward, about to make her way over to Tara, who now stood alone.  She was holding onto a crossbow for her, and brandishing a short sword -but looking a little nervous about using it. Then Cordy’s arm was captured in a painful hold. The demon that’d grabbed her swung her round roughly but she used the impetus to kick high and ram her heel into its gut.

She grimaced when all that got her was a slight ooph. “I should’ve kept my kitten heels on.”

Hooking a foot around the back of one of its knees, she yanked hard, and then her mouth opened in a dismayed yelp when, instead of falling backwards, the demon, who still held her upper arm lurched towards her bringing them both down.

Pinned between it and the ground, she couldn’t avoid the large scaly palm that pressed down on her mouth and nose. No amount of heaving or kicking moved the great hulking beast. Game over. Just as stars started to appear in her vision, the weight of the hand -and demon abruptly vanished.

Only vaguely aware of a sharp snap sounding a few feet from her, Cordy sucked in much needed air. The sudden sensation of someone- or thing hovering over her caused her eyes to flicker open … and she found herself looking into a shadowed, human face… Dark, yet glittering eyes held a touch of leering appreciation as they flicked over her before lifting again to lock with her dilated gaze.

The gleam of white teeth flashed for a moment and she blinked, still a little dazed. “Nice panties,” a dark as velvet voice commented….

Part Five

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