Bleeding from Yesterday
The day started on an early, almost serene note.
Naturally, this was cause for concern.
The phone refused to ring, the doors remained closed to new clients, and there had been no word from Spike in nearly thirty-six hours. At least, no word that was obvious. Wright had ventured to Caritas alongside Gunn half a dozen times to see if any word had come in, but the lines of communication remained quiet.
Cordelia shared a few tales of similar boredom with Wright over another nutritional McDonald’s breakfast, earning laughs here and there along with general bewilderment. It was different. After having been on the road for so long, following lead after lead of new information, hearing of people who spent entire days—and weeks, pending—without anything to go on seemed damn near impossible. Especially in a city like Los Angeles.
There were other things to discuss. She shared over coffee several interesting Buffy-related stories from Sunnydale. Her graduation, during which the entire senior class banded together to destroy a giant snake-shaped mayor. He heard of her adventures with someone named Xander Harris. He laughed when she told him about battling Buffy for Homecoming Queen. He provided false sympathy when she related the story of finding Xander and someone named Willow making out while being held Spike’s prisoner, and ignored the dirty smirk she gave him in turn. He even listened to the dull-as-dust stories involving the ‘Cordettes’ and their various extravaganzas.
“You’re still very young,” he observed.
“I turned twenty last month,” she retorted with a shrug. Then she became suspicious. “Why? How old are you?”
Wright smiled. “Well, I was married in college, was widowed three years after, and Rosie’s almost ten. You do the math.”
Cordelia made a face. “Have I mentioned that math wasn’t my best subject?”
“Only a thousand or so times.” There was a pause. “It’s considerable…the age difference.”
“What, give or take ten years?” She looked unimpressed. “Honey, Buffy and Angel were separated by centuries.”
He flashed a cheeky grin. “Oh, so now we’re star-crossed, too?”
“Don’t call them star-crossed. Spike’d have your head for that. Besides, I don’t think that applies when one of the aforementioned lovers is torturing the daylights out of the other.” She frowned and shook her head. “And hey—buddy—you’re the one who brought it up.”
“Just wanted to let you know, in case you couldn’t keep your hands off me.”
Cordelia stuck out her tongue. “Perv.”
Wright smirked. “Yup. Color me one dirty old man.”
“You’re not old. Well, not really.” She paused, considering. “Okay, so a little, considering. If you sit down and do a serious contrast and compare. But still. No big. Age wasn’t really a huge deal for me. Never was. I mean, hello. As I’ve said, Angel’s had a freakin’ bicentennial, and Spike’s gotta be way up there.”
“He’s a hundred and twenty seven,” Wright replied automatically. He ducked his head at the look she gave him in turn. “Sorry. I do my homework.”
“Obviously.” Cordelia snickered. “What? Did you not have some brainy friend to copy off of?”
“I did, but he was much too honest to let me cheat. Had to make the grades, myself.”
“You see, when you live on a Hellmouth, cheating doesn’t exactly strike as a deadly sin.” She shrugged. “Ah, well. Willow never really helped me, anyway. She was always more Buffy’s friend than mine.”
“You sound like you were a very different person in high school.”
“I was a total bitch in high school.”
Wright shrugged. “Knew me a few of them.”
“Well, at least I’ve grown enough as a person that I can admit that now.”
He grinned. “Yes you can.” There was a brief but complacent silence as they considered each other—then Zack jolted to a start and flashed a glance at his watch. “Ah, fuck. I gotta run. The boys and I are gonna swing by Caritas, then do a sweep of the territory the vamps covered last night.”
“You’re going by Caritas again?”
“Gotta at least try to keep the lines of communication open.” He was suddenly leaning over the check-in counter, scribbling something down on the first scrap of paper his fingers found. “I don’t like the idea of leaving you alone—”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Because of my spaz-fest last night? Really, I’m—”
“But seeing as I have no choice, here’s my pager number.” He glanced up, all tease from his eyes having vanished. “Don’t blow it off like that. A ‘spaz-fest’. It was more to me than that. It was more to you than that. Right?”
For moment, she just stared at him. Then she came back to herself with a hard nod. “Yeah…erm…yes. It was. I just…my defense mechanism is to make everything—”
“I know.” He smiled. “Mine, too.” Another brief minute of silence. “I mean it, Cordy. Page me if you have another fit.”
“Hey! It wasn’t—”
“And watch the girls for me. Don’t let Nikki give you any shit.”
Before she could register what happened, Zack had leaned far across the counter to give her a brief, however passionate kiss before he bolted across the lobby. It left her winded for seconds after he disappeared, and forced her down another spiral of self-analysis that she wasn’t sure she was ready for.
The silence, however, didn’t last long. Within five minutes, the entry doors swung open again. Cordelia plastered on a smile and peeked into the hallway, witty retort about pagers and obligation at the ready before she caught the face of the man in the lobby.
The lawyer from Wolfram and Hart—the very same she had come to loathe on principle—blinked at her dazedly before realizing he had been addressed. While they weren’t terribly acquainted, she knew him well enough to know something was seriously wrong.
“Cordelia,” he muttered. “I…I need help.”
Before falling in love with the Slayer, Spike wagered he had never spent more than five minutes in the course of his unlife worrying about anything or anyone. Everything had fallen at a general give-or-take level of acceptance. He couldn’t bear the thought of anything more. Even with the saga that was Drusilla, he hadn’t lost much sleep over it. Her infidelity, while it dug trenches, was just something he accepted. He had known that from the start—Angelus made very certain that he understood that while the insane vampire had chosen to sire William, her daddy would always be the preferred lover.
A century could do wonders to one’s perception. Angelus had only been with them for two decades before he got himself all souled up and rat-happy. From there, it had been easy street. Killing and fucking all the livelong day. Prague presented the first problem that he hadn’t been able to readily talk himself out of, but once they escaped, he hadn’t worried too much. True, he had spent his every waking minute hunting for the cure to his beloved’s ailment, but there wasn’t much worrying involved. Just tedious research and nonstop wanking, seeing as Drusilla was in no condition to address his sexual urges every time he got them.
Falling in love with Buffy had turned his world upside down in more than the obvious ways. For days, he had tormented himself with thoughts of her. Debated a couple times taking a drill to his head dig out thought altogether until it became abundantly clear that he was indeed in love with her. Helplessly so, and had been for a long bloody time—longer than he was comfortable admitting. Probably had been since the first time they’d tried and failed to kill each other.
After admitting his impossible feelings to himself—and similarly after surpassing the phase where he bumbled stupidly outside her house, debating and fighting the urge to storm in like a madman and demand she hand over his unlife, please—Spike had experienced something a century could not have prepared him for. All out concern. The knowledge that slayers were creatures of a limited lifespan. That she had already surpassed her due date. And yes, she was the best of the best. She was fucking poetry itself, but even that failed to comfort. So he watched her. And loved her, worried himself a little more dead each day that his own words would come to pass. That some grizzly night thing would have itself one good day, and she would be taken from him forever.
It astonished him how deeply his feelings ran. How strong his love had become after he’d accepted it. He had spent a century with Drusilla—a fucking century—and never come close to feeling this or anything like it. To experiencing the sensation of his heart swelling just from the look she’d given him when he’d touched her or the bittersweet taste of her mouth when they had kissed. It was impossible to compare, impossible to believe there had been existence before her. That he had lived without this mammoth love swallowing his insides. When her voice echoed her relief that he was there, that he was real, when nothing else could possibly ring as true.
Spike still wasn’t thoroughly convinced that she believed he’d actually been there. The idea that she could have dreamt of him coming at all confused him, though also served to infuse him with hope. But fuck, the pangs he felt now were unbloodybearable.
Angelus had made no mention of her yet, even when he thought he would. Even after he disappeared and reappeared hours later, Slayer smell rank on his clothing, he’d offered no explanation. He also didn’t comment on the scent Spike had left in her death chamber or his disappearance during their hunt.
But Spike had gone to lengths to cover himself. He’d showered thoroughly, fed off a few more townspeople without killing them, then proceeded to get himself thoroughly pissed at some low-ranking pub. There was no doubting that smell or the telling wobble in his stride.
But Buffy smelled of him. He knew that. She smelled of him and of her own arousal. He hadn’t had the courage to push her over that threshold, and perhaps it was for the best. A climax was certainly more telling on the nose.
At least, as was per his experience.
It was difficult business not staking Angelus outright when Spike saw him next. Knowing what he knew. Having felt her blood between his fingers, and knowing why it was there. Knowing who had made her bleed.
There were several truths to be reckoned with. His worrying was going to drive him out of his mind if his fury did not beat him to it. And there had to be a way to get access to Buffy’s manacles without attracting attention. Were it anyone else, Spike would bump into Angelus at random and snag the key the old-fashioned way. But it wasn’t anyone else, and there was no way the great billowing sod would fall for that. Didn’t bloody matter how good Spike was at petty theft. Didn’t matter that he had paid for more than his fair share of drinks without paying for them at all. Didn’t matter that Xander Harris had served as his steady income months long after Spike had moved to his crypt.
No. None of that mattered. Because this wasn’t some glorified carpenter. This was Angelus. And he would know.
He always fucking did.
There was only one option tight now. Spike had to return to the Hyperion and talk with the others. Let them know what he knew, what was happening to her. Demand resolution until they had an acceptable answer.
The happenings around Wolfram and Hart seemed to be on a very give and take basis. Angelus and Darla had spent most of the day basking and fucking and eating whatever they could find. On occasion, some lawyer bint named Lilah Morgan would send down an impressionable intern to be made into a hearty snack. Dru would come crawling into his lap and he’d have to entertain her until she got bored or distracted. And always his thoughts were on Buffy.
Time to go back to the Hyperion. Definitely. To the others.
They would get her out.
It amazed her still how quickly things could go from bad to worse.
Lindsey had been in the lobby for two minutes, disheveled and more than a little defeated, when the doors flew open once more and Kate Lockley had paraded inward. She wore an expression that could freeze Hell, though she’d looked more in the mood to raise it.
“I’m having trouble with this,” Lockley barked by way of greeting. “You want to know why?”
Cordelia frowned and fought the temptation to bang her head against the desk. “Because those shoes really don’t match your top?”
That didn’t seem to help. Lockley brushed passed a dumbfound Lindsey without tossing him a second glance and slammed what looked to be a police file on the front desk. “I’m having trouble with this, Ms. Chase. Twelve reports from different victims with distinguishing marks on their necks. Notice anything familiar?” She didn’t give her time to explain. “A man with Billy Idol hair and a British accent? You assured me that he was safe!”
“He is!” Cordelia snapped, leaping to her feet. “Or else those twelve would be dead and not filing police reports.”
“So you’re telling me that it’s all right that a loose vampire feeds on people as long as they don’t die. Let’s not count how much blood loss was sustained. How many hospital bills are piling on innocent victims without insurance.” She slammed her open palm against the counter. “These are still assault charges, Cordelia. Innocent people—”
“If I may intervene,” Lindsey volunteered. “The term innocent people is—”
“Shut up,” both women snapped.
“I’m afraid that’s impossible. My interest is piqued.” Lindsey glanced to Cordelia. “Spike? What’s your connection with Spike?”
“And that falls under the category of ‘questions I am least likely to answer,’” she retorted with an unpleasant smile. “Especially to the right-hand man of Evil Incorporated, who, by the by, kidnapped the Slayer.”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“You ought to know. I was the one who informed you of Angel’s transformation, wasn’t I?”
She frowned. “Yes. You were also the one who initiated said transformation.”
“I was never in favor of it. That was Holland’s idea.”
“And what a fantastic idea it was.”
“He’s dead now, if it’s any consolation.”
“Because of a party I let Angel break in on,” Lockley added. “If I had kept him in custody—”
“You and everyone else would have been killed,” Lindsey said. “Trust me, Detective, you don’t know Angelus half as well as you think you do. The books you’ve piled through? The facts you’ve memorized? Words on paper. That’s all they are. They can’t begin to measure up to what he is. What he’s done.” His voice quieted. “The things I’ve seen him do.”
“The things you’ve let him do, you mean,” Kate snapped.
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“Oh. Rich. Didn’t have a choice except to allow him to shed blood all over town. Do you have any idea how many people lost their lives last night?” Lockley turned her icy gaze back to Cordelia. “For every person that your friend didn’t kill last night, your boss killed double. That doesn’t account for the multiple reports that compile what Darla and Drusilla did with their… Do you have any conception of—”
“Your friend?” Lindsey demanded. “You put him there, didn’t you? Spike. There’s no other—”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
There was no way he was falling for that. Cordelia was an expert liar even if she wasn’t a keen actress, but the remark itself fell flat.
But Lindsey didn’t seem bothered. Rather, he was staring at her as though trying to see through her. “Yes you do,” he said softly. “I… God, I wish I’d known sooner.”
That was it. Cordelia’s eyes went wide. “What?” she demanded. “What did you do?”
“I haven’t done anything,” he said. “Not as of lately. But I did send a small group of mercenary vamps to take care of the problem. They’re dust, just so you know. He and some rogue killed every one, according to… I just wish I’d known.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Well, you know now. Live with it.”
“You don’t know what I’ve been putting myself through,” he snapped. “Watching…oh god. Watching what he’s done to her…”
“No, Angelus.” Lindsey started pacing, a trait that looked odd on him. “The things I’ve seen him do…because he’s bored. Because it’s fun. Because it’s her.” He shook his head. “I had a half mind to do something myself if I didn’t think it end up killing us both. It’s not…”
“You’ve been video monitoring everything that Angel does?” Kate asked softly.
“Does he know?”
Lindsey’s eyes widened. “Know? Are you kidding me? You really think I’d be standing here if he knew?” He sighed and shook his head. “If Spike is really—”
“He’s really,” Cordelia said. “Trust me.”
“I don’t have a choice but to.” He glanced to the ground, to Lockley, and to the ground again. “We’ll have to figure out some way to get her out of there. He has better access than I do, even if I don’t believe Angelus has told him about her yet. That she’s still alive.”
“So you don’t know if he’s found her yet?”
He shrugged. “I haven’t looked at last night’s tapes from the security feed. It didn’t seem necessary with all of them out on the town.”
“Murdering innocents,” Kate muttered under her breath.
Lindsey’s hands came up. “You want to try and stop them, Detective?” he asked. “Be my guest.”
“They’ll just kill you dead,” Cordelia agreed with a shrug.
Lockley glared at her. “Ms. Chase, with all due respect, there’s every possibility that I will be ‘killed dead’ every day on this job. That doesn’t change the description much, does it? I refuse to stand idly by while people are out there being maimed and murdered and god-knows-what-else. I don’t have time for this.”
“Neither do I,” Lindsey said. “Whatever you and yours are planning to do needs to be done quickly. Angel is…while he’s torturing her and loving it…he—”
Cordelia held up a hand. “Fine. Right. Whatever. Listen Lindsey, you came to us. All right? You want in, you’re gonna have to play by our rules. That means no staking my friends, especially when they’re there to help you. That also means no changing your mind once the deed is done, like some have done in the past. See if you can talk to Spike or something. I know for a fact that he’ll have more than one idea on how to get her out of there. The guy talks of nothing else.” She turned to Kate. “You. I don’t care what you do. Just stay out of our way.”
“Is your friend going to continue biting innocents?”
Lindsey coughed. Loudly.
Cordelia, in turn, offered a saccharine smile. “Hon,” she said. “It’s better than what Angelus would do. Remember that. And yes, he is, if it means getting the Slayer out. You don’t understand—Spike’s on a one-track street. Biting people means trust by crazy family means access to Slayer means saveage and hopefully much-deserved smoochies.”
“He’s really in love with her?” Lindsey asked, astonished.
“That’s none of your business, buddy. Just get back to Wolfram and Hart and see if you can dig up anything useful.” Cordelia sighed deeply and shook her head, gaze averting to the ground. “Just…do it, okay? Whatever’s going to be done needs to be in the now.”
Cordelia refused to concede defeat. It was in her nature. She reckoned she would be fighting until long after the battle had ended.
Either way, that did not stop or change what was already known.
“We’re running out of time.”