Title: There’s No Such Thing As Vampires
Disclaimers: None of the characters of The Magnificent Seven or Angel: The Series are owned by me.
Notes: This story takes place sometime early in the second season of Angel, simply because the character of Fred doesn't interest me and I didn't want to write her. (She may grow on me, but for now)
"Where is my battle axe?"
"I put it away, where it belongs."
"Which is where?"
"Men," she snuffed in agitation. Why is it every time she got a moment to herself, it was taken away from her? She leaned over the counter, yelling across the lobby at him. "It's in the weapons cabinet, you dolt!" She returned to her desk, and the computer she'd left behind. Cordelia Chase, currently one-fourth of Angel Investigations, was searching for the perfect dress, and she didn't plan on any more interruptions until it was found. A few moments later, she shrieked in excitement when she reached Architeli's website and found the perfect dress -- on sale.
The Powers That Be had other plans for her.
The shriek of excitement quickly turned into a scream of pain as a vision ripped through her mind. She flew out of the chair toward the floor, but a pair of strong arms caught her, and she heard a soft voice in her ear.
"I've got you, I've got you." Angel's voice broke through the pain. "Cordy Cordy, what do you see?"
She blocked out the pain and spoke through her tears. "Two men in an alley on Forty-Eighth and Denker. A red demon with a long talon attacking them. We need to go, now." Cordelia stood up and grabbed her jacket.
Angel remained where he was, arms crossed. "You aren't going anywhere."
"I have to." She glared at him with resolve. "Gunn and Wesley are gone. Now stop mothering and help me up. Those innocents need help."
"Vin, get your ass in gear. We're late."
"We ain't late, Larabee. Josiah said eight o'clock."
"It's after seven and we still have a ways to walk."
"So we'll catch a cab. Big deal." As Vin Tanner turned to his best friend, he saw Larabee yanked into the shadows of an alley. Vin hadn't gotten a good look at the assailant, but he did look... red. "Chris!" he yelled, racing after his friend. He entered the alleyway and saw the blond struggling with the... whatever. Vin leaped into the fray, jumping on the thing's back. His lean frame did little to fend off the attack. With his legs, Tanner grasped the large foe around the waist and punched both powerful fists into his ears.
Chris wasn't idle in the battle, either, not allowing himself to be a victim. Surprised by the attack, he reacted instinctively, fighting all out for his release. Arms immobile in a firm grip, he attempted to kick his assailant -- no reaction. Feeling the grip tighten and unconsciousness near, Larabee made a last-ditch effort, throwing his head back, full-force. Happily, it coincided and combined with Tanner's ear punch, and created enough of an impact to loosen the attacker's hold. Chris pulled himself free.
Vin jumped off the attacker when he saw his friend released and ran to his side. Chris was bent over, coughing and trying to catch his breath. The longhaired agent helped his friend stand up and together they faced their enemy. Both men were momentarily stunned into silence when they looked upon the thing that they'd been fighting. Standing over six feet tall, the object of their scrutiny was entirely crimson with smooth skin and yellow eyes. As they watched, it stretched out its left hand and extended a long claw. Smiling slowly with a mouth full of sharp teeth, the beast stalked the two ATF agents. Pulling their guns out, the agents aimed at the monster, but were stopped before they fired.
Another player had joined the game.
A tall, dark-haired man, dressed entirely in black with a long trench coat, moved into the fight. Vin and Chris exchanged a look of 'Who is this guy?' To their utter shock, the newcomer had apparently brought his girlfriend. A beautiful brunette stood behind the man as he advanced upon the creature. Before the two agents could react, the tall man sprang at their attacker, deflecting his long claw with quick reflexes. There was give and take as the man battled the beast. Neither Vin nor Chris could get a clean shot with their weapons, so they remained tense, waiting on the side for a chance to strike.
Tanner saw an opening at the creature's back so, after quickly scanning the area, he put his gun away, picked up a piece of rebar from the ground, and slammed it into the back of the attacker. It responded with a fast backhand slash that threw Vin across the alley to smash against the brick wall. He crumpled to the cement and lay still.
Larabee watched in agony, cut off from his friend by the raging battle, but he saw the young woman race to Vin's side and attempt to rouse him. The blond's view was blocked by their rescuer as he yelled at the girl, "Cordy, axe!" Chris watched her pull an axe -- an axe! -- out of her large bag and toss it to the man, who proceeded to embed it into the red creature's skull. The impaled beast dropped like a stone and instantly melted into a puddle of ruby goo.
Holding his nose at the stench, Chris hurried over to his friend's side, in time to hear Vin groan and see him sit up, holding his hand against his chest. The girl was trying to get him to take his shirt off in order to look at his injury. Good luck, thought Chris, bemused at the sight and relieved to see his best friend was alive.
"You okay, pard?"
"Jest a scratch. Damn thing surprised me."
"You aren't the only one." He smiled at the young lady still trying to get his friend's shirt off. "My name is Chris; this here is Vin."
"Cordelia." She smiled back and tugged on Vin's shirt again. "Don't be shy, I do him all the time," she said, pointing at the man who'd saved them. At Vin's raised eyebrows, Cordelia realized what her statement sounded like. Blushing, she corrected, "I mean I fix him up all the time."
Chuckling, Larabee patted Vin's shoulder and moved over to where the dark-haired man stood over the remains of the creature.
"Hmm. Rankor demon, don't see many of those around anymore," the rescuer mused.
"They're incredibly stupid."
"That never stopped humans from thriving."
The man smiled wryly, acknowledging the statement.
"So who are you?" Chris asked.
"Thanks... who are you?"
"What was it that you called it?" Chris asked as he nodded at the remains.
"Uh-huh." Chris looked skeptical.
"How is he?" Angel called over to Cordelia. She was pressing Vin's bandana against his chest.
"He'll be okay."
"Vin?" Chris called over.
"I'm fine. Told ya, it's jest a scratch." Vin nodded at the wound and thanked the young lady who helped him. He stood up and moved to his friend's side, still holding the bandana on his injury. "We are gonna be late."
Larabee chuckled in release, coming down from the adrenalin high. "Josiah'll forgive us."
"Why don't you guys come back with us?" Cordelia asked, joining the men. "Your friend here could use some first aid, and it'll be much quicker than the hospital."
Vin was about to decline until the girl mentioned hospital. He decided to agree, hoping to stop his boss from insisting he go get checked out. "I'd rather git patched up by this beautiful darlin' than by some ol' scary nurse."
Lifting his eyebrows at Vin's easy assent, Chris agreed. He certainly wasn't looking forward to a long wait in an emergency room or the questions that would arise. More importantly, he wanted to find out what had just taken place. "All right, where's this place of yours?"
"You live here?"
Angel looked around. He'd found the Hyperion Hotel was the perfect headquarters for Angel Investigations, once they'd exorcised the Thesulac demon. "Yep."
"I live in an apartment, I just work here," Cordelia assured the two men.
"Nice... big," commented Vin.
"There's no place like home." Angel motioned for Cordy to patch up the injured guest.
"Why don't you come this way, Vin? I have a first aid kit in the bathroom." She led Tanner past the lounge and to the restroom beyond.
Chris watched his friend led away, still wary, and then requested a moment to phone his missing companion. "He'll be getting worried about us."
"Of course, I should have let you do it immediately. The phone and phone book are right over here," Angel said, showing Chris to the main desk of the lobby. "If you have any trouble, let me know."
"I'm sure I can handle a phone call," Chris remarked, just this side of sarcastic.
"Yeah, okay. I'll leave you alone then." Angel walked away muttering about 'ungrateful innocents.' He ran into Cordelia in the hallway. "What's going on?" he asked her.
"Shy Boy decided he didn't need an audience to bandage the wound." The young lady chuckled as she recalled the longhaired man's reluctance. "Why anyone that yummy looking wouldn't want to show himself off is beyond me. Scruffy... but yummy."
"Business, not pleasure," Angel reminded her.
Cordelia's hand waved through the air. "Blah, blah, blah. The PTB never said anything about not mixing them together." She glanced over at Chris on the phone. "I've got to say they're much better looking in person than in a vision."
"Room 318, please."
"Josiah, it's Chris."
"I've been waiting on you two. Did you get lost?" Chris heard the chuckle in the older man's voice.
"Not exactly. We were attacked on the way back to the hotel."
"Are you both all right?" All trace of laughter was gone, only concern could be heard.
"We're fine, just bruised and scratched, but we figure you should probably come here."
"Are you at the hospital?"
"I give up, Chris. Where is 'here'?"
"An old hotel, called the Hyperion."
"Care to explain?"
"It's a long story. Why don't you catch a cab over and we'll talk in person."
"I can't wait. I'll be there ASAP."
Vin stood in front of the bathroom mirror and took his shirt off. He looked at the scratch across his upper chest. It was pretty red, maybe it was getting infected. When he got back to the hotel room, he'd pour some alcohol over it. Surely Chris would give up some of his good whiskey for his friend's health. After rinsing his scratch with water, he opened his new friends' first aid kit and took out a gauze strip, intending to place it over his injury. After thinking about it, he changed his mind. Running his fingers over the gash, Vin decided that maybe it would be better if he let it air out. He put his shirt back on, ignoring the blood on the front, and turned to leave the bathroom. A wave of dizziness struck the sharpshooter, and he leaned against the wall to regain his equilibrium before heading back out to face the others.
"Josiah's on the way," Chris told the other agent when he got back from the bathroom.
"Good, good." Vin moved to where the trio was sitting down in the lounge area. He jumped up on top of a circular couch across from Cordelia, and glanced away when the beautiful girl sent him a blinding smile. "What's going on?" he asked Chris.
"Cordelia was just telling me that they help the helpless."
"The helpless what?"
Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Helpless people... hello."
"So you two go running all over L.A. rescuing people?"
"There are actually four of us. Gunn and Wesley are out right now."
"Gunn?" Chris glanced over at his friend with a questioning eyebrow raised.
"Wesley," Vin said in return with a shoulder shrug.
"Anyway," Cordelia impatiently drew the men's attention back to her, where it belonged, "I had a vision of the two of you fighting the demon so we went to lend a hand. Or in this case... an axe."
"I'm a seer; I get visions that tell me when people need help."
"Like Miss Cleo?" Now Chris was trying to keep from smirking.
Cordelia rolled her eyes again; she hated this part of the job. Maybe she could videotape her explanation so she wouldn't have to go through this every time. "Count yourself lucky we got there in time before it killed you."
"I am grateful," Chris admitted, "but do you expect me to believe that we fought and killed a demon?"
"Do you have another explanation?" Angel asked, joining the conversation. "Let me guess: someone on PCP or another drug. How many drug users do you know that melt when they're killed?"
Larabee didn't have an answer for that, but Cordelia could see he still didn't believe them. "Chris, denial. Denial, Chris." She motioned as if making introductions. "Oh, I see you've already met." The young lady merely grinned at the blond man's glare.
Vin listened in on the conversation, but didn't contribute. His wound was starting to itch and burn, so he surreptitiously rubbed the gash, wincing when it stung. His vision started to blur and he blinked a couple times to clear it. It didn't help. He felt as if he were watching his friend through a dirty window.
All heads turned as someone came through the front doors. Chris breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of his profiler, feeling more comfortable with more of his team around. Angel watched the large man enter his hotel, and flinched when he saw the man had a cross around his neck. Cordelia was surprised by the size of the man, but comforted by his kind eyes and bright smile. Vin Tanner's head turned with the rest of the group, but his eyes narrowed as he saw Josiah's approach. "Preacher," he quietly snarled.
Seeing the group gathered at the couch, Josiah Sanchez headed over to them. Angel made sure to keep Cordy between him and newly arrived man, just in case. Josiah was about to greet his friends when Vin jumped up and cursed.
"Keep the fuck away from me!"
The large man stopped, shocked by what his normally soft-spoken friend had shouted. Before anyone else could react, Vin made a break for the entrance. Angel's fast reflexes allowed him to grab onto the slender man before he was able to leave the building. Angel's grip didn't last long as he was flung across the room.
Vin twisted around and snarled at the group, displaying his pure white eyes, before he ran out of the doors. Larabee ran after, hoping to find out what was happening with his best friend, but Vin had disappeared into the Los Angeles night. Chris stalked back into the hotel lobby and asked, "What the hell just happened here?"
Cordy and Angel exchanged a glance. "Things can never be simple, can they?" he asked.
"I'll call Wes," she said, and Angel nodded. He turned to face the other men.
"She's getting some information," he supplied.
That did nothing to calm the ATF leader. He continued to pace around, grumbling, as Cordelia moved to the desk phone. She dialed her coworker's cell phone and moved away from the arguing men. Hearing Wesley's voice, she quickly described what'd happened over the past couple of hours.
"That doesn't sound good."
"It's just that Rankor demons carry diseases."
"You mean like herpes?" She wrinkled her nose.
"No, Cordelia, I mean like the spores of another demon, their seed... most likely Erundel, Dankubis, or Havlock. Which Rankors are more than willing to pass along to other species in order to share the reproduction duties."
"So how do we stop it?"
"I can't recall offhand, but I do know the book you could look in: The Demons of Damonoft."
"It is written in English, right?" At Wesley's affirmative she thanked him and hung up the phone, hurrying over to the book collection to find the one in question.
"What did he say?" Chris called out as he saw her scurry over to the bookshelves and pick out a book.
"Just a minute," Cordelia called back as she thumbed through the text. She found the topic she needed and found that Vin's opaque eyes would most certainly mean one specific demon. The pretty brunette took the book and walked over to the group. "He believes the Rankor demon was carrying the seed of another demon that has now invaded your friend. According to this it's a Dankubis demon." She held the book up for the men to see.
"Damn, I should've thought of that," Angel berated himself.
"There's no such thing as demons," snapped Chris.
"Try again." Angel faced the men and revealed what Cordelia called his 'grr face,' turning into his own demon -- a vampire. Chris and Josiah gasped in shock and the profiler crossed himself. The blond drew his gun, but couldn't fire because Cordelia ran over and stepped in front of Angel, between the two men. Josiah watched for a signal from Chris, while placing his hand on his own weapon.
"He's good, don't hurt him," Cordelia pleaded. In reality, she was more concerned about Angel hurting the agents, and besides, she didn't want to clean up the mess from another fight. "He's got a soul."
Larabee eyed the demon. "What are you?"
"Someone in search of redemption," Angel answered and pulled his human face back on.
"Worthy cause," Josiah stated.
Chris ignored the vampire and directed his comments to the girl. "There's no way that Vin could be possessed -- it's impossible!"
She laughed without mirth. "Then how do you explain what happened earlier?" Cordelia walked back over to where she'd dropped the book to continue her research.
"What did happen?" Josiah wanted to know.
As Chris told his friend about the fight and subsequent melting assailant, the ex-preacher listened intently. Once Larabee was finished, he commented, "Man can believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable whatever's left over must be the truth."
Cordelia finished her study of the ancient tome and sighed deeply. With the ATF guy's quick temper, she knew this was going to be a standoff. She thought, Well, best defense is a good offense. Moving quickly to stand in Chris' face, she asked, "Do you want to save your friend?"
"Of course." The blond's face showed his indignation at being asked such a thing.
"I found out how to get rid of the demon, but we have to work quickly. Vin'll be gone in five hours."
Chris vibrated with barely controlled agitation. "What do you mean 'gone'?"
"I mean he's possessed; the demon that has gotten into your friend will take over his body and your friend will be lost forever. It sucks, trust me," she told the men knowingly, since she had, in fact, been impregnated by a demon the previous year.
"What do we need to do?" Josiah asked while Chris stood alongside, trying to keep his anger in check.
"We have to kill him."
That was all Chris needed to hear. "Go to hell!"
Angle moved to his seer's defense, confronting the irate agent. "Going's the easy part -- it's getting back that takes some effort." The vampire looked the angry blond up and down. "But I think you know that, don't you?"
Sanchez had stood back long enough. He was worried about Vin, and just as worried for Chris if they didn't get their friend back. "How can we save him if we kill him?"
"That'll be the hard part," Cordelia conceded, "but I think I know a way. We just need to find him."
Chris was willing to try anything in order to save his best friend. "How are we going to find him in a city the size of Los Angeles?"
A smile began to spread across Angel's face. "I have an idea."
The man known as Vin Tanner stood in the shadows of the abandoned building. After leaving the hotel, he'd roamed the streets, looking for a place to hide away -- to complete the transformation. He watched the people pass by outside: fathers, mothers, sons, daughters. Vin saw the people, but he could no longer be one of them. He could feel himself changing, evolving the demon's power was flowing and he would be reborn anew.
"What is this place?" Chris asked, looking at a sign that read "Caritas."
"It's a bar... kinda," Cordelia hedged.
Angel pushed them along. "Just remember: be nice, no matter what."
Josiah chuckled, turning it into a cough at Larabee's 'look of death.' Cordy went through the door first, followed by Chris, Angel, and then Josiah. Once Chris walked through the door, he saw what appeared to be monsters in every corner of the place. He tried to back out, but Angel pushed him inside. Josiah followed, grasping his cross when he saw the patrons of the bar. Angel saw the ex-preacher's movement.
"You know those only work for vampires."
Josiah smiled at the gentle sarcasm and replied, "Faith works for anything."
Seeing the sincerity on the grey-haired man's face, Angel merely nodded. He watched as the Host spotted their group and rushed over to them, and put his arms around Cordelia. "Lambchop, how nice of you to come."
Spotting the demon's approach, Chris wondered where in the world this thing came from. It was bright green all over, with red eyes, and horns on his forehead, and was also wearing a very flashy suit -- leaning more toward the disco era than the new millennium. The big smile spread across its face did nothing to reassure the nervous blond.
Cordelia stepped forward, and introduced the newcomer as 'The Host.' "We really need your help," she told it... him.
"I'm so glad you could bring your friends to my humble home away from home. What fine specimens they are, too." One of the red eyes winked at the bemused ex-preacher. "Beefcake here," the Host nodded at Angel, "doesn't usually bring me presents. It's not like I expect a ring or anything, but a little consideration would be nice. And I see that you two use the same tailor." The Host waved at the strictly black clothing of both the vampire and the ATF leader.
Trying to interrupt the Host's steady flow of dialogue, Cordy quickly explained the situation. "The Host can read people's auras," she said in a sidelong remark to the two agents.
"Of course I'll do whatever I can to help further the cause. You know how it works," the gregarious demon told them before turning to walk away. He tossed back over his shoulder, "Oh, and don't order any of the Shvelkian Ale. I swear this latest batch will turn your insides out."
Josiah looked at the Angel Investigators and asked, "What does he mean 'you know how it works'?"
Angel tried to hide his smile, as he heard Cordelia say, "He can only read auras when they sing karaoke." The vampire remembered how he was forced to sing, so it was nice to see someone else suffer for a change, all in the name of good.
Josiah just smiled widely and swept his arm aside in an invitation to Chris toward the stage. The gravely-voiced profiler added, "You have the deepest connection with Vin, it makes sense that you would have a better chance."
"All this mystic bullshit is making me sick. How is this green guy going to know where Vin is?"
Angel saw the man's dilemma: wanting to save his friend, fear if he failed, and feeling powerless. There was just one way to cut to the chase. The vampire looked directly into the angry man's gaze and asked, "What are willing to do for your friend?"
Taken aback at the question, Chris looked around at the gathering of creatures and then at the stage. "Anything," he admitted. Cordy handed him a list of songs to choose from. After a long look, the agent in black picked one, and walked up onto the stage.
Josiah figured that Chris would choose either a country or classic rock song since that was what the ATF leader normally listened to. Thus, he was shocked when a hard rock rhythm started playing and Chris belted out an amazingly good rendition of Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation."
I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation
You're living in the past it's a new generation
The profiler realized that this wasn't the best situation, but he was delighted with the lyrics chosen by Chris, and with his remarkable singing ability. His boss looked ill at ease, but that didn't stop his voice from ringing clear.
An' I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation
Never said I wanted to improve my station
An' I'm only doin' good
When I'm havin' fun
An' I don't have to please no one
An' I don't give a damn
'Bout my bad reputation
The Host walked over to the table where the group sat. "Now this is more like it! You should invite this handsome boy to join your team. Would sure save everyone's ears when you people came for information." Angel rolled his eyes as Cordelia pointed at him.
I don't give a damn 'bout my bad reputation
You're living in the past
It's a new generation
An' I only feel good
When I got no pain
An' that's how I'm gonna stay
An' I don't give a damn
'Bout my bad reputation
Oh no, not me
Oh no, not me
Not me, not me
As soon as the song ended, Chris hurried off stage and over to the table. He sat beside the Host, whose hands were anxiously fluttering around. "Oh, my dear boy, with you spinning so many plates in the air you'll need a catcher's mitt to keep them from crashing down."
"Just tell me where Vin is."
"But I can help you with so much more." The green demon directed his next comment to the group. "I'm telling you, it's the quiet ones that are the scariest. I think this guy could teach you how to brood," he told Angel.
"Save the spiel for someone else." Chris was thinking there'd better be a reason he went through that horror. Singing on stage was turning out to be scarier than fighting demons.
"C'est la vie." The Host told them where their friend would be, and everyone got up to leave. "You will come back, won't you?" he called after the group. "Hmm, what a talent, and in such a package to boot," he muttered before heading to the bar to refresh his Sea Breeze.
The group drove up to the warehouse in Angel's black convertible, and parked. "Why would Vin be here?" Chris asked.
"Dankubis demons hate the heat, so he probably wants someplace cool," Angel replied.
"Why would a demon who hates the heat pick the Southern California to reside?" questioned Josiah.
"It's kind of like a vampire living in the sunniest city in America," Cordy responded while staring at Angel. The vampire of comment noticeably ignored her.
"Everyone know their role?" Angel asked in a whisper as they drew closer to the warehouse. Everyone nodded and Josiah raised his hand holding the tranquilizer gun. He'd gotten it from the close friend that he'd come to visit in L.A. Luckily, no questions were asked. Chris shook his head in incredulity. When Josiah asked for the weekend off two weeks ago, the leader had no idea what would be in store for them. The profiler wanted to visit a zoologist friend of his in L.A. and, since it was a slow time for the team, Vin and Chris decided to come along for a mini-vacation.
As they were getting ready back at the Hyperion earlier, the two agents discussed whether or not they should call the rest of the team. Both men decided it wouldn't be a good idea. For one thing their friends couldn't help -- precious few hours were left. "They probably wouldn't believe us, anyway," Chris commented. "I wouldn't if I weren't in the middle of it." So here they were, ready to rush in and save their friend from turning into a demon. Life certainly tended to throw a curveball or two.
Josiah's nudge brought Chris back to the present. He nodded his understanding: Chris was to go in first and try to lure Vin into the open. Hopefully Josiah would be able to get a clear shot at the possessed agent. Cordelia stayed near the car after much protest, but she knew that she couldn't do much, especially with Vin's superior demon-strength. She held a baseball bat, just in case. Angel moved around and climbed the side of the building to the roof, trying for a better position. Josiah moved silently behind Chris, keeping himself hidden as much as the big man could hide his large frame. Silently, Chris moved forward into the darkness of the warehouse's interior.
The demon within sensed someone near. He gazed from behind his cover, and saw the man entering his shelter. It was a familiar shape. Searching his new body's memories, he brought out a name: Chris. The demon smiled and moved from the safety of his hiding place. The friend would make an excellent first meal.
Chris had walked about a dozen feet into the building when he heard the scrape of wood against concrete. Turning in the direction of the sound, he saw a silhouette rise up from behind a box, white eyes glowing in the darkness. Swallowing his apprehension, Larabee moved closer, while trying to keep the line of sight clear for Josiah. "Vin," he called out, not surprised to hear his voice shake the smallest bit. "Vin, it's me."
No answer from the sharpshooter, but the eyes drifted closer, looking as if they were floating in the shadows. Chris tried again. "Vin, I want to help you... help you fight this thing."
A quiet chuckle sounded through the dark. "I do need you, Chris," came a raspy whisper.
The blond shivered at the lack of warmth in his friend's voice. No, he reminded himself, it wasn't his friend right now. He finally believed that. Larabee signaled the profiler to come closer, hoping that Josiah could get in a good shot. The demon in Vin's body was less than ten feet in front of him and he quickly dove out of the way, yelling, "Now!"
There was a slight hiss as the dart was shot through the air, and a cry echoed as it imbedded itself into the possessed sharpshooter. Chris smiled in relief, that turned quickly to dismay as Vin refused to fall. The enraged demon charged at the ATF leader as he rose from the floor. Chris tried to get out of the way, but Vin was too fast. The Dankubis demon seized Chris and hurled him into a pile of crates along the wall. Tanner started after his boss, when Angel jumped down from the rafters and snagged the wiry sharpshooter from behind. Vin grabbed Angel's arms and flung the vampire over his head into the crates and Larabee. Twisting around, the demon headed for the door, intent on escape, when Josiah shot another tranquilizer dart into him. Vin barely slowed down as he collided with the larger man, sending him crashing into the doorway.
Cordelia saw the scruffy agent coming at her, white eyes blazing. She tightened her hold on the bat, hoping she wouldn't have to hit the possessed man. Josiah managed to line up and fire another dart into the back of the escaping sharpshooter, finally bringing him down. Cordelia sighed in relief and lowered her bat, but kept a hold of it in case he wasn't unconscious. The seer walked up slowly to the fallen man as the other three hurried out of the warehouse.
"Is he out?" Cordy asked warily.
"I think so," Josiah replied. "We need to secure him."
Due the increased strength of their captive, the men chained Vin up, not knowing how long he'd stay out -- one dart was supposed to down a man for four hours. Since it had taken three to knock out the slight agent, they didn't know how long he would remain unconscious. They packed Vin into the backseat of the Plymouth and raced through town to a 24-hour gym. Trying to avoid attention, they sent Cordelia in first to distract interest at their entrance.
Chris and Josiah ran block as Angel carried the still-unconscious sharpshooter in. They worked their way back to the full-size sauna, kicking out the current occupants. Cordy walked in after them, dragging a chair to which they tied Vin. As everyone looked down at the chained prisoner, and Chris spoke up. "You guys wait outside; I'll take care of this."
Josiah nodded and extended a hand, which Chris clasped. "I wish you luck; I'll be praying for the safe return of our brother's spirit."
The three walked out of the sauna, locking the door from the outside, just in case the demon somehow managed to get loose. Cordelia walked over to the control panel and turned the temperature up to the highest setting.
In just moments, Chris could feel the dramatic increase in temperature in the room. He took off his overshirt and threw it onto a seat, remaining in his tee-shirt. The demon in Vin felt the heat as well and started to wake up. Once awareness arrived, he demanded to be released.
"You release my friend and I'll let you go," Chris offered.
The demon scoffed, "He's no longer your friend... he's my body." Pulling on the chains had no effect; they were unyielding. The Dankubis contemplated his options, searching through his chosen body for a method of escape.
Watching the useless struggles, Chris asked, "Starting to feel the heat? You know the saying -- if you can't stand the heat... get out!"
Demon Vin merely raised an eyebrow at the shouted command. Delving back into the body's memories, the demon found an interesting piece of information. "Are you feeling hot?" Chris ignored him. "Hot... just like your wife and child felt in that fire as their flesh burned from their bodies." Larabee's head snapped around and he eyed the demon, as if daring him to continue. The invitation was too good to resist for the Dankubis. "They screamed for you, but you didn't help. You let them die. You--"
Chris backhanded his captive, snapping his head back. "Shut up!" He regained his equilibrium, realizing what the demon was trying to do, and smirked. "You must be scared if you're resorting to those tactics." This time it was the demon that ignored the man. "I have to admit it is very hot in here. Maybe I should tell them to turn it up some more." Sweat was starting to run down both of their faces, and Chris could feel it dripping down his back. He checked his watch -- less than half an hour before Vin would be lost forever.
Angel, Cordelia, and Josiah remained as guards outside the sauna room, preventing anyone from going in. Their presence was soon noticed and a muscular employee of the gym came over to investigate the situation. As he saw the setting for the heated room, he became agitated. "You can't put the temperature up that high, it's dangerous!"
The dark-haired investigator smiled without humor. "You have no idea."
"That has to be turned down," the employee stated emphatically as he reached for the control dial. Angel's arm shot out and grabbed the gym worker's wrist. He tightened his grip just enough to draw the man's attention to his superior strength.
"I suggest that you leave that alone," he calmly stated.
Breaking free of the hold, the man rubbed his wrist, waved a finger at the group, and said, "I'm going to call the police."
Angel was about to teach a lesson in 'Why you never want to piss off a vampire,' when he was upstaged--
The large profiler grabbed the muscleman by his shirt and pulled him up close, fury evident in his pale blue eyes as he growled, "You do that, son, and those will be the last words you ever speak." Gulping in fear, the man nodded his understanding before being released to scurry away without a backward glance. Josiah resumed his position, arms crossed, and relaxed against the gym door.
Angel was in shock but impressed. "I thought you used to be a man of God."
"I was but I had a little trouble turning the other cheek," admitted Josiah with a smile. "So why this gym?"
"Oh, we stopped a Praetorian sacrifice here once," Cordelia said. "It seemed like a nice place."
"You know you're killing your friend."
"Yes," agreed Chris, "and I know Vin would rather die than have his body used for evil."
"I wouldn't be so sure," retorted the demon. "He surrendered to me, didn't he?"
"You're an infection... a disease. And if there's no cure, there's always euthanasia."
"I. Never. Bluff."
The demon paused for an inhalation, but was having trouble breathing. Chris watched as Vin started to cough and choke -- coarse, gasping breaths. That sound abruptly stopped as the sharpshooter pressed forward against the chains binding him and heaved. Emerging from his mouth was a white mucus-like substance. It gained form as it descended and reached the ground, appearing like a white slug about a foot long in length and half that in width. The slug slithered across the floor toward the door.
Reaching around behind his back, Chris brought a can of lighter fluid from his rear pocket and sprayed the demon-slug before setting it ablaze. It shrieked and squirmed trying to put itself out, but it did no good. With a final squawk the burned entity lay still. Larabee rushed to his best friend's side, checking to see if he was all right. Vin wasn't breathing. The blond yelled for Josiah's assistance and unchained Vin, tossing him down on the floor, and starting CPR.
Josiah unlocked the door at his leader's shout and raced in to help, throwing the chair out of the way. Angel followed, ducking the airborne chair, and stomping on the remains of the creature to ensure it was dead. Cordelia turned the temperature down, and joined the vampire watching the two agents attempt to revive their companion. Larabee breathed into his friend's mouth as Josiah did the chest compressions. Anxious moments passed without reaction from the longhaired man.
"Goddammit, Vin, you haven't gone through this to die now!" Chris yelled. "Wake up!" He continued his rescue breathing, waiting for a sign of life.
After a few tense sets of compressions, Vin coughed harshly and rolled onto his side, drawing life-giving air into his lungs. Once he got himself under control he returned to his back, cracking his blue eyes open to look at the men who saved his life. Before falling into unconsciousness, Vin whispered, "It's too fucking hot, can we get out o' here?"
On their way to the airport the next day, the three ATF agents stopped by Angel Investigations to say goodbye. They strode through the doors of the Hyperion. Cordelia smiled warmly and moved over to Vin, grabbing his chin and looking into his eyes. "Blue and beautiful," she said. "So much better." Her comments made the shy sharpshooter redden, and his teammates snickered at his embarrassment.
Vin subtly moved away from the brunette and said in a voice raspier than usual after his ordeal, "I want to thank both y'all. I can never repay ya."
Knowing Cordelia's penchant for nagging him when he didn't ask payment for rendered services, the vampire said, "As a matter of fact--"
"It was our pleasure," the young woman interrupted, ignoring Angel's look of surprise. "We're always here to lend a hand."
"If you're ever in Denver, look us up. Just leave the weirdos here." Chris held out his hand, in a form of a peace offering.
Angel returned the handshake, accepting what was offered. Vin and Josiah merely nodded their appreciation.
"Looks like you were right about faith," the vampire told Josiah.
"Faith and friendship," the profiler agreed, slapping Vin on the arm.
"Now you be careful," Cordelia added.
"Trust us, we will." Chris herded them out the door with a final wave.
Cordelia watched the men walk out of the hotel. "Man, am I going to miss having those guys around to look at."
The vampire pouted. "I'm not so bad looking myself."
"Yes, Angel, you're a beautiful example of the undead," Cordelia soothed, trying not to chuckle.
Angel leaned on the counter as he watched his seer. "So why didn't you want to ask them for money?"
"Professional courtesy," she answered seriously. "We aren't the only ones who help the helpless." Cordelia sat down at the computer and returned to her shopping. "And, by the way, you are so buying me this dress."
"This one." She pointed at the screen.
"Oh, okay then."