The Last Day
Drusilla was bellowing.
Well, nothing new there.
“Good god,” Darla drawled as she crossed the room to join Angelus on the settee, rolling her eyes. “I could’ve sworn we asked Lindsey to make a muzzle for her. Did we not, my dearest?”
There was a long, disinterested pause before he glanced up. “I can’t imagine why you’re surprised,” he retorted. “Lindsey’s pretty good at ignoring our requests. He slips up again, I guess we’re just gonna have to kill him.”
She snickered. “That’s your solution to everything.”
“Works, doesn’t it?”
“Oh, lighten up. You’re just pissy because Lindsey grew a pair.”
“No. That I’d respect.” Angelus bounded to his feet the next instant, eyes blazing. “What makes me pissy, sweetheart, is the fact that we’re sitting back and letting them call the shots. I can’t remember when being evil became so goddamn technical.”
“He threatened to call the Senior Partners, didn’t he?”
“Subhuman lawyers. Sounds a bit redundant to me.”
Darla grinned nastily. “No, lover. Just means that there’s something else out there that you’d fail to kill.”
He rolled his eyes. “And we’re on this again.”
“I don’t see why it’s necessary to keep her. I never have, but, what the hell? If this didn’t get her out of your system, nothing would. But god, Angelus, she’s boring, and she’s used up the last of her batteries.” She glowered at him. “Better to kill her and have it over with. You know I love it when you obsess, but this is…annoying.”
Angelus shook his head. “You don’t get it. You never get it. You think it was bad for you, having that squirming, nasty little what’s-her-name locked inside you. Keeping you from being who you really are? You don’t know the half of it, honey. You were never in love with one of them.”
Darla narrowed her eyes and planted her hands on her hips. “I don’t see what this has to do with not killing her now.”
“I’m not finished with her yet.”
“Honey, you get any more finished, and there’s not gonna be anything left.”
There was a snicker. “Don’t tell me you feel sorry for her.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Torture the bitch, see what I care. But she’s growing on my nerves.”
“By hanging there?”
“By distracting you.” Darla shook her head in disgust. “Same time different network. It doesn’t matter whose skin you’re wearing, does it? Little mousy Buffy still gets to you. She’s still all you can think about.”
Angelus glared at her. “What I do to her is between me and…well, me. I’m owed that fucking much. Besides, sweetheart, it’s fun. And it’s my business.”
“You kill her, and you can stop worrying about Spike.”
“I’m not worried about Spike. You think I don’t see what he’s doing?”
“I think that your head has been up your ass too long to see anything at all.” Darla cocked her head. “Maybe the big bad Angelus has gone soft over the years.”
“Soft?” he repeated. “Because I won’t kill her? She’s begging for death. With every little whimper, little moan, she begs me to kill her. It’d be the humane thing to do, and you know how I feel about that.”
“So, what, you’re just gonna let her live forever?”
“It’s not like she’s going anywhere anytime soon.”
“Not at the rate you’re going. Who knows, Angelus? Maybe the Slayer will even outlive you.”
The moans from the neighboring room were becoming louder and more difficult to ignore. Darla sighed with a dramatic roll of her eyes. “This entire deal has gone to hell,” she said. “Wasn’t the entire reason we allowed Spike to join our fun to keep your lunatic whore preoccupied?”
“That was your idea.”
“Don’t remind me.” Darla’s eyes narrowed. “He’s still in love with her.”
“With Buffy? Well, yeah, Princess. Welcome to the conversation. He’s never stopped being in love with her, which would be really funny if it didn’t piss me off.” Angelus shook his head in disgust. “You’d think after a hundred plus years, he’d’ve learned something. Namely that it takes more than a few parlor tricks to make me look the other way.”
“Of course, Sweetpea,” she replied, curling into his side. “It takes the entire parlor.”
“It amazes me that he’s survived this long. Just goes to show what blind luck will do for you.”
“Just kill him,” Darla said. “Hell, we’d be doing the world a favor.”
Angelus cocked his head. “No. I’m not going to kill Spike. Not yet, anyway. He’s no danger to us. There’s no way he can get her out. Right now, he’s serving a cause. An annoying cause, but it is rather funny to watch.”
“What is it with you and not killing all of a sudden?”
“Darla,” he berated softly. “How could you forget after so many years? I’m wounded. Really. It stings.” He placed a hand on his chest. “It’s not the kill. It’s never the kill. The kill is just the reward at the end of the maze. Letting them live gives them hope. And you know how funny hope can be.”
Finally, he managed to get her to smile. The smile of a believer, and for many, it was the last thing they saw. “Oh yes,” she chided. “Tragically so.”
That could have been it, and likely would have been had Drusilla’s bellowing not extended the confines of her room. The next minute, the insane vampire burst into their private chamber, eyes wide and hands clutching at her head.
“Oh look, sweetie,” Darla drawled. “We have a visitor.”
“Now, now. Play nice.”
A smirk crossed her face. “Never.”
Angelus entertained blew her a kiss before returning his attention to his wailing childe. “Dru, honey?” he asked very slowly. “What is it?”
“Colors,” she moaned. “So much color.”
Darla flopped onto the bed, rolling her eyes. “Don’t tell me she’s been watching The Wizard of Oz again.”
Dru, shivering, sank to her knees and began rocking herself back and forth. “He’s swimming, Daddy. Swimming. But he won’t take his lollipop. He won’t even give it a lick. All he thinks of is her.” Her hands went to her head again. “Ohhhh…he’s angry. My boy. Naughty. Vile. Shhh. Don’t tell or he won’t get any crumpets. It’s a secret, you see. A dark, dark secret.”
In his centuries of experience, Drusilla was perhaps the only being in creation that had ever earned more than a second of patience from Angelus. It wasn’t always so, of course. On occasion, he became too irritated with her and gave up, but more often he was fascinated. Always fascinated. Second sight was one of those things that drew his interest. “It’s Spike,” he said. “What’s happened? What do you see?”
“He’s coming,” Dru replied. “He and that filthy beast. He’s coming for her.” Her eyes fixed on Darla, who was still luxuriously reclined on the bed. “The other comes for grandmum. Wants to rip her heart out, he does.”
That earned an arched brow. “Someone’s coming for me?” Darla inquired.
“Dirty little demon hunter. Smells of daffodils. Oh, he is not happy with you.”
“Demon hunter?” Darla tilted her head, thought, then smiled. “Could it be? Oh, this is delightful!” The next instant, she bounded to her feet and practically skipped to her lover. “Angelus,” she said. “There’s a friend I’d like you to meet. May I have the pleasure of introducing you two when he arrives?”
Angelus arched a cool brow. “A friend?”
“Friends, bitter enemies. Is there a difference?”
“Who is it?”
“Zachary Wright. Little boy who’s been hunting me since…well, a long time. Well before you saw fit to kill me for your precious Buffy.” She grinned. “Do you remember the maid in Italy? The woman with her little whelp of a child? She thought she was going to be persecuted for having a baby out of wedlock.”
Angelus considered for a moment, then a slow smile crossed his lips. “Ah, yes. I nailed her to a wall and hung the bastard child by her entrails if memory serves. The little girl was a treat. A little feisty, but a good fight always makes them tastier.”
“Mmmm…it was perfect,” Darla cooed. “Anyway, I did the same thing to dear Zack’s wife.”
“Did you, now?”
“Naturally. He pissed me.”
“A crime to be sure. How so?”
“I offered him an eternity at my side. He turned it down.” Darla shrugged. “He would’ve been perfect, too. He had such raw potential. But he wouldn’t leave that female of his. That…human. So I had her taken care of, hoping he’d come around. He didn’t.”
Angelus tsked and shook his head. “Ain’t it always the way? And I suppose you’re the one to thank for his vocation?”
“What can I say? I leave an impression. I know he chased me as far as California. He and his little brat daughter. He might’ve even been in Sunnydale when you…stuck it to me.” She drew Angelus down for a rough, bloody kiss before breaking away with a cackle. “I tell you, he was a nasty bastard. Vengeance changes people. He was brutal. Killing demons as he went along. I was never there, of course, but oh, I heard. He would’ve made such a delightful addition to the family.” A pause, and her eyes narrowed. “Of course, you could never stand the competition.”
Angelus nipped at her lips. “Only where you’re concerned, baby.”
“He’s coming for you now,” Drusilla told her, rising slowly to her feet. “Coming for you alongside my William. They’re angry little wasps. Oh!” She held up a hand, was still a long minute, then fell into a desolate pout. “Humph. Bad dog.”
“What is it?” Angelus demanded.
“There’s someone else,” she replied. “Someone who is not my dearest. Someone who seeks to disrupt our happy home. Mmmm…what a great big hammer he has. He’s going to break the Slayer free.” She drew in a deep breath, her eyes wide with horror. “Oh, Daddy, don’t let him break the Slayer free! Don’t let him—”
“Someone’s coming to free her?” That was ridiculous. No one had access to her bindings besides him.
Darla blinked, confused. “What about Lindsey?”
Angelus threw her a dark look. “Your boy’s Christian conscience must be getting the better of him. Only he has the resources, or the motivation, to look into alternative means to get Buffy out. To help Spike get her out. He’s been acting way too…”
“No. Oh no. He’s too clever to act suspicious when there’s reason to be so.” Angelus shook his head. “Guess this means I’ll have to kill him after all.”
Darla shrugged. “Guess so.”
“But first, to some untended business. As funny as Spike’s crush on Buffy is, I’m going to make sure there’s nothing for him to find.”
“You’re gonna do it? Kill her?”
A chuckle rumbled through him. “You make it sound so casual. Kill doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m going to do to her. I’m going to make her bleed so much that he tastes it. I’m going to make sure he screams for her well before he finds whatever’s left.”
Darla frowned. “What prompted this change of heart? By all means, I don’t want to discourage you, but it does seem rather…sudden.”
“Things change. The boy forgets who he’s dealing with.” Angelus grinned and crooked his finger at Darla, who giggled and threw herself into his arms.
“He needs a reminder,” Angelus said, raking a hand up her back. “And I’m going to give it to him. Loud and clear.”
It was morning in Los Angeles.
“Ugh,” Cordelia groaned as she descended the stairs, rubbing her head. “I didn’t even know a 5 AM existed. How is this possible?”
“You’re thinking about the 5 AM at night,” Wright explained. “It’s a difficult transition, I know. Had to make it myself before I started with the demon hunting gig.”
She smiled sleepily, attempted unsuccessfully to muffle a yawn as she collapsed into a lobby sofa. “Well, you gotta hand it to those visions,” she said. “They sure are…timely. When did Spike say he was coming by?”
“He didn’t specify. Only that it’d be morning and early. Who knows? For a vampire, that might be three o’clock in the afternoon.”
A scowl befell her face. “Oh, it better not be. I didn’t just not go back to bed for no reason.” She yawned again. “You think Nikki minded going with the guys to hunt out that…Oeuf demon? Is that how you say it?”
He smiled. “No. Oeuf is French for egg. What you saw was definitely not an egg.”
“You know French?”
“I know oeuf, only because of something my cousin told me once. ‘Why do the French only have one egg for breakfast?’” He didn’t even bother to wait for her guess. “‘Because one is an oeuf.’”
Cordy stared at him until he fidgeted. “Anyway,” he continued, “what you saw was a Uvryri.”
“How did I mix that up with oeuf?”
Wright shrugged, grinning at her. “Because you’re Cordelia,” he answered simply. “You’re special like that.”
For all the blood that spoiled his hands—demon or not—he looked almost angelic that moment. It stirred something within her that scared the shit out of her, but the more she resisted, the harder the pull became.
Special. She was special to him.
Well, obviously. They were, for all accounts, strangers, yet they had shared so much. And not just body fluids, though after her ill-fated one-nighter the year before, that was a big deal. Cordelia had never given much thought to a serious relationship. Laughably, the only guy she’d been with for any amount of time was Xander Harris, and look at how that had turned out.
Betrayal. Heartache. Over Xander. Needless to say, it had made her a little gunshy when it came to relationships. Throw in a cosmic demon pregnancy after a one night stand and she’d been ready to swear off men altogether.
The feelings she was having for Zachary Wright, however, were serious. Very serious. And they had been there from the beginning. From the way she responded to him physically to how much she enjoyed sparring with him verbally. Somehow it had become serious. And here she was. Here they were. Feeling all these…feelings. These feelings that went way beyond the physical.
And naturally, being an agent for the Powers That Be, said feelings were very off in their timing.
Cordelia realized then that the air between them had grown silent, and that Zack was staring at her, his eyes telling her he knew where her thoughts had been. Damn, this was bad timing. She didn’t know if good timing was a thing anymore. Especially since Zack was still mourning the loss of his wife and child.
But he cared for her. She saw how deeply he cared for her, and it blew her away. Even her parents hadn’t looked at her like that. Wes and Gunn loved her, Angel too—when he wasn’t evil—but there was something completely different in how Zack looked at her.
The way he was looking at her now.
“Cordy,” he murmured, and then he was nearing, his eyes hot like they had been last night, and Cordelia swallowed, terrified and exhilarated and loving him and hating him all at once.
Then he was so close his scent flooded her nostrils, the heat of his skin rising to warm hers. She tilted her head up to him and closed her eyes as he dipped to take her mouth.
Except he didn’t kiss her. The Hyperion’s entry doors swung open, shattering the quiet and reminding her where she was.
“Mornin’ all,” Spike said, strolling inward. “I come bearin’ doughnuts.”
Cordelia and Zack looked at each other for a second longer, and away on the same. “Ohh, what kind?” she asked, leaning over the back of the couch.
Spike flashed a grin. “Krispy Kreme. Can’t go wrong.” As if to demonstrate, he indulged in a hearty bite and rolled his eyes back dramatically. “Mmm, mmm. I tell you, it’s an orgy in my mouth.”
Cordelia snickered and pulled a syrupy sample out for herself.
Wright arched a brow. “Can vamps taste?”
“Contrary to popular belief, damn straight. Everythin’ enhances when you become a vampire, mate, even your sense of taste.” He took another bite, eyes twinkling. There was definitely something about him this morning that made whatever the oncoming hours had in store seem less suicide-mission-y and more errand-y.
He knew they were getting Buffy back.
Spike turned to Cordelia as though anticipating her question. “Angel never eats because he’s a wanker who believes that humanly food is off limits. Believe me, back in the day, he’d sample a little bit of everything. Only grew to be a such a bloody bad sport about it when he got himself all souled up.”
Wright snorted and snagged up a doughnut. “You seem to be in a freakishly cheery mood this morning.”
Spike bounced a little on his heels. “What can I say, mate? I’m wired and ready to go.”
Cordelia’s gaze narrowed suspiciously. “How much coffee have you had?”
“A pot when I woke up, a pot after I showered, and I’m pretty sure I downed another between getting you ungrateful sods breakfast and managin’ to get here without bursting into flames.”
“Thanks,” they singsonged in response.
Cordelia shook her head. “I don’t suppose it’d do any good to tell you that that much coffee isn’t—”
“Good for me?” Spike quirked an eyebrow. “Love, I live on a liquid diet. If I was gonna start remarking on all the things that would be unhealthy for a human bloke, I’d look to the smoking first off.”
“Ah, but it is much easier to separate a man from his caffeine than from his nicotine.”
Wright looked at her as though she were insane. “Wanna bet?”
She wisely decided to ignore him. It was the most civil thing to do. “So,” she said to Spike, slapping his hand as he tried to snatch the last chocolate doughnut before she could stake her claim. “What’s the game plan?”
He scowled at her but continued anyway, supporting his weight on the back of a chair and crossing his arms. “I called Lindsey back last night,” he said. “After you two lovebirds scampered off. Everything is set. All we gotta do is show up.” He turned to Wright. “He’ll meet us before we get into the dangerous rot. Then it’s just a matter of how quick you can pull all your fancy James Bond moves. Lindsey activates the backup, I get Buffy down and we skeddadle.”
A long beat settled through the lobby.
“I don’t mean to put a damper on anything,” Cordelia said slowly. “But…the simple plans always have a catch. A dangerous catch.”
“I know.” The light that had been in Spike’s eyes faded a bit—enough to reinforce that he knew exactly what he was doing. What he was risking. “This is our best bet…her best bet. We’ve waited too long for anything else. And I’m not gonna let another day go by without doing…something other than what I’ve been doing.” A pause, and then his face crumpled. But he did not weep, and for whatever reason, that shook her more than tears would have. “I have to get her out, love. I just…I have to.”
Cordelia pursed her lips, covering his sugarcoated hand with her own. “It’s all right,” she murmured. “By tonight, she’ll be snuggling with you. And by tomorrow, Zack and I’ll make you pay for making fun of us when we were…well, for being us.”
One part of an us. She liked that.
Wright grinned and slapped Spike on the shoulder. “Listen to her, man,” he encouraged. “She’s a smart cookie and a seer to top all. We’ll get her out.”
“No, you won’t.”
The intrusion of the voice was so sudden that everyone jumped. Cordelia twisted to see Rosalie standing on the second-floor landing, her small hands grasping the rails. She was as white as a sheet.
“Sweetie,” her father said cautiously. “Rosalie, what is it?”
But she wasn’t looking at him; her small, eerily knowledgeable eyes were centered on Spike.
“They know,” she said. “They know, and she is going to die.”