Chapter 16: Kiss
To Ride a Pale Horse
by Athenewolfe and WeyrWolfen
Chapter Sixteen: Kiss
Author’s Note: Please pay attention to the dates. Most of chapter 15 took place on January 30th, whereas most of this chapter is taking place on February 5th. We now have two betas again, so thank you as always to Spikeslovebite and to our new beta Eowyn!
Christie and Andrew by Edgehead73Wolfram and Hart, Los Angeles
Thursday, February 5, 2004
The Wolfram and Hart file on William the Bloody was not as extensive as the one on Angelus. That wasn't to say that it wasn't extensive, only that Spike hadn't caused the firm as much direct trouble as his grandsire. Lindsey had read the file cover to cover three times when he had first cultivated Eve as a contact.
Of course, she was much more than a contact now. Years later and he still wasn't following Holland Manners’ advice on healthy, interpersonal relationships.
At least the perks were good.
Lindsey quirked a wry smile at the thought, rubbing at the red mark on his neck where the liaison to the senior partners had bitten him hard enough to draw blood. Eve was many things, but let no one say that she wasn't a tiger in bed.
Deciding that a fourth read-through of the file really wasn't going to add anything new, he leaned back in his chair and rotated slowly behind the desk to observe his surroundings. It was beyond ironic that he had managed to get his old office back. Apparently, after he’d left, the next three residents had experienced accidents of their own, culminating with some poor bastard who worked for the burial reacquisition department being liquefied.
Was it really any wonder that the other employees were starting to think the room itself was cursed somehow, especially with Eve dropping hints in the right ears?
As much as he felt his decision to leave Wolfram and Hart had been the right one, as much antipathy as he felt for the organization that had played so many dangerous games with his life, something about this office still felt like home.
He swivelled back to face the door when he heard a soft knock. "Come in," he drawled, wondering who it was. Eve never knocked. Neither did Spike. Which left…
Dawn Summers poked her head into his office. "Any new gossip on the apocalypse front?"
He shook his head, watching her with hooded eyes. The Slayer's baby sister had been hanging around him more and more lately, and it didn't take a genius to figure out why. It wasn't that having an attractive young woman throwing herself at him wasn't amusing; it was a good sop to the ego and an even better trigger for Eve's jealous streak, but Lindsey was no one's fool.
Dawn was off limits.
In the current situation, the only kind of guy who wouldn't end up on the very pointy end of a very sharp stake would be some brand of asexual bodhisattva. Or a eunuch. Buffy, not to mention Spike, would skin anyone else, and his rapport with that pair was strained enough.
He needed to spend his time building bridges, not bridging age gaps that could have landed him in jail a scant few months before.
Granted, she wasn't hard on the eyes, and the way she breezily rattled through such varied topics as remote decapitation techniques and the Council team's various and sundry romantic liaisons was vaguely cute in small doses.
Very small doses.
And since Eve wasn't even here to see this entertaining little tableau, Lindsey decided to cut the girl short.
"Dawn, I hate to interrupt, but I was actually about to leave for a meeting." He put on his best appease-the-client smile and continued, "Maybe we could continue this later?"
First rule of being a lawyer in a morally ambiguous firm with demonic connections: always have an escape route planned. He had in fact been planning to visit Angel's pet former watcher with some information about Wolfram and Hart's offsite cryogenics storage facility. Of course, Mr. Wyndham-Price didn't know that yet, but what Dawn didn't know wouldn't hurt her.
Unfortunately, she seemed to have missed the hint and was now talking about the runes on the metal shielding downstairs and staring fixatedly at his mouth.
Enough was enough, and he wasn’t about to get his balls in a sling when some stray slayer reported back to her boss that he had been closeted with Dawn for an exorbitant amount of time.
He stood and sauntered around his desk, honeyed smile still fixed on his face. The girl's chatter finally faltered when he slid his hand onto the small of her back with the intention of gently steering her towards the door.
Warning flags went off in his head as Dawn turned to look up at him. He started to gesture again towards the door, but suddenly the girl was kissing him – pretty enthusiastically, truth be told – and for a moment, all he could think was, 'She tastes like raspberries.'
Of course, that was rapidly followed by, 'Spike is going to kill me,'
and, just like that, Lindsey was pushing her firmly back, perversely thankful for the extra strength the enchantments etched into his skin gave him. If nothing else, the girl was tenacious.
He could feel the color draining from his face, but the gentle smile never wavered. Too much time working at Wolfram and Hart – where faltering in front of certain clients could literally get you eaten – had ingrained that response into him.
"Dawn," he said in his best conciliatory tone of voice. "I'm very sorry, but tempting as this is, we just can't do this."
She pouted, obviously trying for sultry, but landing somewhere closer to petulant. "Why not?" Because I'm interested in women with a bit more experience on them.
Okay, that really wouldn't do. Because you're too young.
That sounded too wishy-washy. Because your older sister and her vampiric boyfriend would cut off my testicles and hang them above your door as a warning to every other man in the building.
Too much honesty in that one.
These potential responses streamed through his mind before he finally settled on one. "Well, for one, I think that Eve might object."
Success. Dawn scowled fiercely, but he could tell from her expression that her anger wasn't aimed at him. The girl was obviously thinking some rather violent thoughts about the woman who shared his bed, but Lindsey wasn't too concerned. Dawn could blissfully loathe Eve, blaming the woman for her foiled crush, and as for Eve herself, well, she could certainly take care of herself in this regard.
After that, he couldn't whisk Dawn out of the room fast enough. Protected from her moon eyes and half-formed arguments behind the shield of his oh-so-evil girlfriend, he was able to shuffle her into the hallway without any more awkward incidents. He'd owe Eve for this one, especially if the girl tried to make trouble because of this, but really, what else could he have done?
Safely behind lock and key again, Lindsey walked back to his desk and dropped heavily into his chair. He let out a long, steady breath, replaying the last few moments in his mind from every angle. Something like this definitely had the potential to come back and bite him on the ass later, but he thought that he had made it through relatively unscathed, all things considered.
The fact that he had let the incident happen at all was what really bothered him.
Lindsey wiped a hand across his mouth and wasn’t surprised to see pink lip gloss on his fingers for the effort. One thing was sure, though. Dawn's schoolgirl crush had just elevated from amusing diversion to potential time bomb.
Since returning to the vipers' nest, he’d been trying to get back into the swing of the twisting, dangerous dance that was Wolfram and Hart's internal politics. The addition of the surviving dregs of the Council of Watchers, not to mention Angel's merry band, had made the waters just that much more deadly. Still, he was clearly rustier than he had thought. He'd just have to be more careful in the future.
If he was going to make it out of this firm alive a second time, his ass needed to be iron-clad.
Willow carefully laid out all the supplies she would needed to create a portal. A chalice, a knife, some herbs, and a shiny, helpful trinket. It would take a lot of magic, and she wasn't sure she would be able to pull it off. Sure, she could easily do one portal and send everyone to Los Angeles, but she didn't want to go. Not there.
Her world was destroyed. It wasn't so much that Kennedy was dead, but how she’d died. How everything went down. Rio was in flames, burning down around them as zombies ripped their way through the country, devouring everyone and everything in sight.
Vampires, humans, demons… slayers. And her own lover was to blame. Her own lover.
Mariana had been the first to find Kennedy.
Willow later watched it – and rewatched it – on the security camera; the cocking of Mariana's head as if she’d heard something… perhaps a low moan, or maybe a furtive noise in a closet that should have been empty.
She’d approached the closet, weapon readied, and opened the door. The fault was in her hesitation. She didn’t see a threat, didn’t recognize the girl as a zombie. She only saw Kennedy – her sister slayer, her friend, the only slayer in Brazil who had survived the battle with the First – the de facto
Mariana hesitated, and in that split second, Kennedy was all over her, ripping out her throat and devouring her flesh like a deranged lover. The screams would have been horrible, but the video was silent. The colors would have been hypnotizing – dark red blood on white walls, bright blue sweater that Willow had bought Kennedy just the week before – but the video was only in black and white. Upgrading that had been on Willow’s never-ending list of projects since they opened the Rio office.
So Willow watched in silence and grayscale as the zombie wearing Kennedy’s face must have heard another sound and turned her vacant, blood-smeared face to see – Julia.
She watched as Kennedy went after Julia. Looked on as Mariana twitched in her death throes, as she bled out, and as she staggered to her feet once more. Attacking yet another girl who had answered the siren call of Slayer screams. On and on it went, an endless miasma of blood and gore and groans interspersed with the screams of the dying...
It was supposed to be a rescue. Instead, it was a massacre.
There were survivors. Graham and Riley had been helping her go through the Initiative files at her house. Christina and Jessica had been doing a day patrol of the cemeteries and had taken Alex and Victor. Stacy, Laura, Ana, and Diego had run out to grab lunch. When they returned with their food, all they could do was turn and flee again.
Five Watchers, three Slayers, and one witch, along with two Initiative refugees were all that remained of a compound that used to house thirty-five.
The eleven of them had relocated to Willow’s warded apartment. They tried to turn the apartment complex into a safe haven, tried to rescue as many as they could.
It was futile.
They didn’t have a screening center and they couldn’t find a viable way to determine who was or wasn’t infected. Too many people tried to come in. Too many people said they were fine. Too many people lied.
The apartment complex turned out to be a really bad idea.
So now there were ten of them. They lost five of the original group and gained four survivors – four people that Stacy had rescued at the cost of her own life.
They couldn’t stay in Rio. It wasn’t their town anymore.
She couldn’t go to Los Angeles, though. Willow would open the portal. She would send Riley and Graham with the Initiative files. Send the survivors to safety – to Angel, to Buffy.
But she couldn’t go. Couldn’t see their accusing faces. Couldn’t answer the questions.How could she not know?
How could she have slept next to Kennedy for days and not realized her own lover was slowly becoming a flesh-eating zombie?
But the one that haunted her most of all… How could she not fall apart?
How could she be more upset over the deaths of her Slayers than the death of her lover?
She had nearly destroyed the world for Tara… How could she not be falling apart for Kennedy?
No. She couldn’t take the chance that going through the portal would damage the magical supplies, and she couldn’t risk going to Los Angeles and being stuck. She would send the survivors to Wolfram and Hart and stay in Rio long enough to rest, but then…
She had to get to Africa. She had to find Xander.
Her entire world was falling apart, and yet… she wasn’t.
Wolfram and Hart, Los Angeles
Angel watched Cordy pace back and forth. He had long ago quit trying to argue with her, to reason with her. She was force of nature. Uncontrollable.
She was magnificent.
He had forgotten how good it was to have her on the team, how good it was to have her on his side, supporting him, keeping him calm and grounded. He admired her, how true she was to herself, how she made him want to be a better man.
It was one of the reasons he couldn't understand her problem. He wasn't in love with Buffy. He couldn't be.
It was just …. Spike. Angel knew Buffy couldn't trust Spike.
Spike was evil. Okay, maybe not evil, evil. Maybe just a pain in the ass kind of evil, but evil nonetheless. And it was just such an obvious ploy.
Spike had always wanted what Angel had. Always. So Spike had to be trying to steal his girl in an attempt to get his grand-sire’s attentions, much like a petulant child would, or else he was plotting some other devious scheme. He wasn’t entirely sure of Spike’s end game, just that it had to be a game. He only wished Buffy would see that point.
Spike had to be evil … because if he wasn’t then Angel had really and truly lost Buffy. If he wasn’t then Spike had managed to change his very nature without a soul, had managed to love Buffy as both a demon and a man. One thing Angel and Angelus could not do.
Spike had to evil.
It hurt too much to think otherwise.
His thoughts were returned to the present argument when a sharp pain hit him. Cordelia looks beautiful when she throws things.
He moved to protect himself, and then everything became confused. He had been ducking and smiling, trying to not let his amusement show. It wasn’t like glass paperweights could actually hurt him anyway.
The next thing he knew, he was holding Cordy. Kissing her. Feeling her body pressed against his, trying desperately to remember why this was a bad idea.
Trying to convince her that he wasn’t thinking of Buffy. Trying to convince himself.
To: < Council_listserve@council.uk.com >
From: < email@example.com >
Subject: Emergency retreat and regrouping
Date: Friday, 30 January 2004
Attention all Slayers, Watchers, and Field Personnel,
Please note that an immediate retreat and regrouping is in effect for all members of the Watchers Council. Please do not attempt to fight these creatures identified as zombies until you receive further instructions. Any authority instructing you to fight these creatures should be ignored until official notification has been received.
We have sustained heavy losses this week. I regret to inform you that the head of the Council, Rupert Giles, was killed during the London evacuation, along with scores of Slayers, Watchers, and auxiliary personnel. At this time, we do not have an accurate account of our death toll.
The Council, including the Senior Slayer, Buffy Summers, and all survivors from the Council headquarters have been evacuated to Los Angeles. We are attempting to formulate a plan of action and will send out details as soon as they are available. Our primary goals should be to regroup and recover. As such, please fortify yourself in a safe location and send an email regarding where you are located and how many survivors are in your unit.
Although the creatures seem to be killed by destroying the brain, please avoid engaging them in battle unless absolutely necessary. Be safe. Don’t die.
35 km west of central London
Monday, 2 February 2004
Deborah stared at the email. Well…emails. There were quite a few, most of them from confused people asking for orders, research, and evacuation. At least, it was that way until last Friday.
She wanted to breathe a sigh of relief. It seemed the Council was back up and running. She had no clue who this RK Sterling was, but at least someone somewhere was taking charge.
It also seemed from the amount of emails in her inbox that someone was making an effort to filter the listserve so that only relevant emails were sent out. Before Friday, there were twenty to thirty panicked queries a day, now there were only one or two informative emails a day.
Either that, or everyone outside of the evacuated offices was already dead.
She really hoped that it was the former.
Deborah really didn't know what to expect, not anymore. She was so tired of living like a refugee in downtown Slough. It had been over a week since she had seen a police vehicle or a copper. At least of the living variety.
She was used to troubling and adversarial situations - she was a gym slip mother with a boyfriend who had disappeared years ago and a ridiculously overbearing Polish mother. She had managed to survive her lower and upper sixth form at the local Catholic school while living at home and trying to block out the never-ending sermons of her teachers, her priest, and her family.
She’d been tired and beaten down. All she’d ever heard was how she could do no right and was surely going to hell. Back then, she denied her feelings and threw herself into everything that was supposed to be ‘right.’ Into school, into pursuing a relationship with a boy, and like everything else she’d tried, it had turned into a disaster.
The boy left her pregnant and alone, and her feelings had never wavered. She hadn't been ‘cured,’ she was just better at hiding it.
But none of that mattered to her. Not now. Not as long as she could do right by her daughter. She would survive anything life threw at her.
Her relief at the email was short-lived, and she felt a wave of anger sweep over her. Be safe. Don’t die.
Why couldn't they have sent out this email before the evacuation? They’d obviously had enough notice since they’d made it to safety.
She thought the Council was supposed to be better then this. She thought they said Slayers were the first concern. That the Slayers were important.
They were forgotten.
It wasn't as if she was surprised. She was used to be being ignored, of being in the wrong. But, damn it, they deserved better.
Her Slayer deserved better.
After six years of living at home, after daily reminders of how she was a failure, after loving someone from afar, after finding out that nightmares walked the streets and demons could wear friendly faces, her life changed. Allison.
Her best friend from school, her secret crush. The only one who understood what her life was like, the only one who stood by her when the whispers started. Allison changed one night and suddenly became an outcast herself.
Thrown out of her home and cast out of her parish, Allison had been branded as evil by those who couldn't – wouldn't – accept the truth.
That she had a calling. A purpose.
One morning, Allison woke up to a voice, an echo, asking if she was ready to be strong. And she was. Stronger than normal, faster than normal, and evil was attracted to her. It compelled her to fight, to protect.
As a reward for saving lives in her neighborhood, she was kicked out of her home.
Deborah took her in. Well, she snuck Allison in and out of her bedroom window, hiding her from the prying eyes of her mother. The routine lasted three weeks.
Then, one afternoon, they were discovered. Deborah’s mother threw them both out for being ‘evil perversions of nature’ while claiming that her granddaughter, Callie, would be raised to believe her mother was dead.
They’d both been desperate and unsure of what to do. Neither had the faintest idea of where to go or how they were going to survive when they were tracked down by a stranger named Rona.
Rona explained that Allison was a Slayer and that the Council could help them.
The Council would always help them.
It was a dream come true, someone who knew about the evil that lurked in the shadows, someone who understood, someone who wanted to help.
The Council’s lawyers set them up in an apartment, gave them paperwork that outlined their research and security work for the Council, and accompanied both of them to her mum’s house to pick up Callie. Allison was then assigned the outer London patrol while Deborah worked part-time in an administrative position at the Council and attended classes at the Watchers Academy.
She hadn't needed to work at the admin job, but her pride wouldn't accept a stipend until she was a fully trained Watcher and could earn her pay.
A sob welled up in her throat. She had to finish typing this email. They had to know what happened.
Her anger faded as sorrow swept through her. She had to be strong. The only thing that mattered now was her daughter.
From everything she’d read, the old Council would be proud. A Watcher for a few months and she’d already gotten her Slayer killed.
Perhaps the new Council would be proud, too. Her best friend killed.
What happened to the Council that would always be there? That wouldn't abandon their charges? That would always protect the Slayers with support, research, information… Her lover.
What happened to ‘the Slayer would never have to fight alone?’
Now the Council was gone, apparently blown up, if rumor was to be believed, and this RK Sterling wanted to know about survivors.
A short bark that could be strangled laughter or an aborted sob broke free.
How many people would have access to the Internet? Power was going down all over town, most likely all over the country. The only reason she had access was because she’d remembered the computer lab at her daughter's school. Be safe. Don't die.
She couldn't take it. She broke down and started to cry, her arms holding onto her daughter for dear life.
If only she had gotten this email sooner. If only Allison had known to destroy the brain. If only….
She would survive. She would take care of her daughter.
She had lost Allison.
She couldn't, she wouldn't, lose her daughter.
It didn't matter if the world was ending; hers already had.
Wolfram and Hart, Los Angeles
Wednesday, February 4, 2004
Why? Oh why, oh why had Andrew suggested this particular movie?
Why had she agreed to watch it?
Oh, yeah…maybe because they were celebrating the fact that they’d finally convinced Buffy to let the other slayers train with Wolfram and Hart's security team. Swords and stakes were fine for vampires and all, but when you got right down to it, nothing killed a zombie like a well-aimed bullet.
Still, what had she been thinking?
"The needs of the many outweigh…" a dying Spock rasped.
"The needs of the few," Kirk continued.
"Or the one…"
There was a lump in Christie's throat. This scene had always gotten to her, but it packed an even bigger wallop after she’d been called. As a slayer, she had to fight, maybe even die, for the needs of the many.
Plus, it was Spock. And okay, he came back in the next movie, but this scene always hit her like a sucker punch to the gut.
At least she wasn't crying.
"Live long and prosper…"
The Wrath of Khan rolled on, Spock pressing his hands against the glass wall, a last wish for those he was about to leave behind.
A sniffle broke her rapt attention.
She snuck a look at Andrew across the wide expanse of the popcorn bowl. He looked misty-eyed, as enthralled with the scene as she had been. As if feeling her eyes on him, he turned and looked at her, a watery half-smile on his lips.
"Vulcans would make pretty awesome vampyr slayers," he said abruptly, dragging a buttery hand across his nose.Oh, my God!
Christie's breath caught. He got it. He really
"You think maybe this is our Kobayashi Maru?" he asked, wide eyed.
A no-win test. Yes, maybe, but Christie wasn't about to say that. "Kirk found a way," she said instead.
That earned a quirked smile. "Yeah, but he cheated."
"No, he 'changed the conditions of the test,'" Christie quoted automatically, instinctively.
Andrew leaned his head against the back of the couch, his smile more relaxed, but his brow furrowed in deep concentration. "I don't think we'll be able to reprogram a zombie. There's not much there to tinker with, behavior-wise."
"We'll find a way," Christie responded, projecting as much confidence into her voice as she could. If she could convince him, maybe she'd be able to convince herself.
He leaned a little towards her. "You really think so?"
He was close; Christie felt her heart thump alarmingly in her chest. "Yeah," she said breathlessly.
He was so close. And he was smiling at her with so much faith. And his eyes were watery. And Spock was dying. And…oh, hell, why not?
Christie suddenly leaned forward, catching Andrew's lips with her own.
He tasted like salt and buttered popcorn.
It was perfect.
Thursday, February 5, 2004
Nina paced back and forth, her temper rising.
Why shouldn't she be angry? Why shouldn't she be pissed off beyond belief at the entire world? If you listed all the problems she was having, it was enough to make anyone lash out in a fit of fury.
She just wanted a normal life. One that was simple. Where she could go to school, graduate, and either make it big in the art world or, failing that, teach art at the local elementary school. Yet here she was, trapped in an office building while the world crumbled around her. Trapped in luxury when she wanted to be out there, stretching her legs, running free.
But if she followed those instincts, she would be running for her life from the zombies roaming the streets.
Still… It might be better than sharing this tiny suite with her sister and her niece. Jill treated her like more of a monster than she did the demon family who was occupying the same space. It wasn't fair.
To make matters worse, when Angel had sent the pick-up crew to rescue them, she had been convinced it meant something. That perhaps the feelings she harbored for him were returned. That those glances they shared weren’t simply a figment of her imagination. And besides, if her lycanthropic senses were to be trusted, it seemed that he was returning her affections.
But, no… from the moment she’d arrived, she’d been basically ignored. Angel had stopped by her suite only once to check on her, and even then, he was accompanied by Cordy. Every time Nina saw him, the leggy brunette was standing by his side. Talking to the other members of Angel's team didn't seem to help much. All they could talk about was Cordy's mysterious return from a coma and how wonderful it was to have her back.
Yeah, wonderful…but it was breaking Nina’s heart.
She refused to feel sorry for Cordy. Not after seeing the heartbroken expression on her face last week. Not after hearing the rumors that Angel was secretly – or not so secretly – in love with Buffy, and not after walking in on a kiss that seemed part desperation mixed with longing on Cordy's part.
She refused to feel sorry for Cordy, because even if Angel was still in love with Buffy, at least Cordy had some part of him; Nina only had a vague promise of what might have been.
So, yeah, Nina had good reason to be pissy, but to top it all off, the stupid guard refused to give her an extra ration of red meat, and she knew Angel had promised to take care of it. When the guard made those comments about how she could get the extra rations, it took all of her control not to shift right then and there. He worked for Wolfram and Hart, for crying out loud! Didn't they know not to harass a werewolf on the day before the full moon?
Also, it was that time of the month again and her temper was raging. She was shaking with fury, desperately trying to calm herself down with those half-assed meditation techniques she had pretended to learn from Angel. It wasn't her fault she had been too captivated by his bare chest to pay full attention to the moves, was it?
She was a werewolf, for God’s sake! She had … urges … and mood swings, and cravings for raw meat. The only benefit she saw to the whole deal was that her cycle was synched to the wolf's. Only having her period once a year was a nice benefit, although she’d wondered irreverently if she would crave chocolate with the raw beef.
And sex. A lot of passionate, mind-blowing pre- and post-lunar cycle sex.
Of course, that brought her back to why she was pissed off in the first place. That kiss, the death of all her hopes and dreams while she was trapped in this hell of Angel's making.
When she’d gone to talk to Angel about the rations – again! – Cordy was there – again! – kissing him, and he was kissing her back. They were damned near devouring each other.
It was as if her world ended.
Once again, Nina’s wolf struggled to be free.
Authors Note: Gym slip mother is British slang for a young girl who is still in school who has a child.