A/N: Oh noes! An update! Sorry it took so long. I've been mostly posting anime fanfiction on ff.net. (Same penname if you like Ranma 1/2 fanfic.) While I intend to updates not to be quite this far apart anymore, I will only be posting this fanfic for now, probably until it's finished and then move on to another. I hope everyone likes the update! Thanks for the reviews, everybody!
It had taken Angel all of two minutes to fully collapse. Willow watched dispassionately as Faith moved to catch both the falling vampire and the glass that slipped from his hand. The Slayer released a soft “oof” when his dead weight fully registered on her smaller body. She looked to Willow, who moved forward to take the glass.
They would need to get rid of the evidence, after all. Would it be better to just take the glass or thoroughly clean it instead? Decisions, decisions…
“What do you think? The bedroom?” Faith asked as she got the feel of Angel’s weight more under control.
Willow nodded, biting her lower lip. “Make it look like he just collapsed, though. Maybe by the time Buffy checks on him, he won’t be able to talk very well… or at least, won’t want to anyway.” Glass firmly in hand and the decision made, the redhead walked briskly to the kitchen to wash the glass as thoroughly as she was capable.
Maybe too many things were happening at once. Even stepping out of the supernatural bubble of the Ascension and her personal escapades of being informed about her true heritage, there was still the fact that she’d recently been confirmed as the valedictorian, something Snyder hadn’t seemed very overjoyed to tell her about, and the near-constant Percy tutorials. She smirked slightly at the thought of the athlete – if not for Vamp Willow’s presence a couple months back, she was quite sure he would have already gone tattling to the principal about her recent lack of support.
It was draining, all of it was, and adding this subterfuge into the middle of this very stressful time in her life was likely not helping. The result was a very disinterested and ultimately not-herself Willow. As long as there was some emotion, she felt she was okay and not slipping away but this feeling of nothingness was new and unnerving.
It took her until she was drying the glass with a cloth that she finally pinned the head of what exactly was wrong with her. Even as she reached up to put the glass back into its proper place, she heard herself laugh. It was a twisted, slightly hysterical sound but it felt better to get it out of her system.
“You okay, Red?”
Willow turned to look at Faith. “My give-a-damn’s busted,” she managed around a giggle.
In response, the Slayer marched up to the redhead and put the back of her hand against her forehead. “No fever,” she mused aloud.
Willow batted at Faith’s hand, grinning like a maniac. “I just…” She took a deep breath and started again, knowing that what she was about to say sounded silly when it was still in her head. “I just needed to laugh, I guess. There’s just so much… stuff, you know?”
Her brow slightly knitted together, Faith opened her mouth to say something but, as fate would have it, Willow was not meant to find out what that something was. There was a thrum of Faith’s pager vibrating hard against her side. Tension filled Willow’s body again – only one person used that number and usually for only one reason.
Mayor Wilkins needed the Slayer to kill again.
With a deep sigh, Willow fished into her pocket for her cell phone. Faith eyed it warily but the redhead rolled her eyes. “Call him and tell him you’re on your way. I’m going to check on Angel and make sure everything’s copacetic.”
The Slayer nodded decisively and watched Willow trail into Angel’s bedroom before punching in the correct numbers for the Mayor’s direct line in his office.
Maneuvering into a place that both she and not-Willow considered to be no man’s land despite the situation, Willow peered into Angel’s bedroom, noting with amusement that Faith had dumped him unceremoniously on the bed facedown. “Guess she’s still mad at him,” she murmured to herself as she moved to heave the bigger man onto his back.
She examined him with a critical eye, part of her brain consulting the medical dictionary that was imbedded in her mind and another part comparing his symptoms to what he’d been like in the other memories. At first, it worried her that he was already unconscious – it had taken a couple days for him to fade like this when shot with an arrow. However, she had been assured by a hedgewitch with a penchant for the arcane that severely diluted Interfectoris would weaken a vampire for days but was not fatal. Whatever the reason, it moved through his system more quickly this go-round. It made Willow wonder idly if a strong enough vampire could potentially survive a full dose directly into the bloodstream.
Of course, the vampire would likely have to be as old as Kakistos had been, so old that the demonic persona couldn’t be hidden.
Shaking herself of the idle thoughts, she continued her check of Angel’s condition. Mild sweating, labored breathing, slight pained expression… He was in pain and exhibiting signs of a human with a high fever. It was a little odd but mostly the same as what had occurred in the other reality with a fortunate skip over the hours of delusions where absolutely everyone he saw was Buffy.
“Red?” Faith called from the hallway.
With a decisive nod, Willow turned away from the vampire, satisfied that he now looked less thrown and more having fallen onto the bed. She stepped out and looked at the dark-haired Slayer, who immediately handed the phone back. “He wouldn’t tell me over the phone.”
“Coming to the house after?” the redhead asked softly.
Faith nodded. “Of course. I’m sure it’s not something that has to be done tonight.”
They both headed out of the head but split at the road as they were headed in different directions. Faith maneuvered to the center of town toward the city hall while Willow headed toward the nice residential part of town – not the super-nice mansion-y neighborhood where Cordelia lived but the middle-class Sunnydale suburbia. She had one more part of her idea to implement before she could finally rest from all the plans and schemes and devil’s deals for a while.
She came up on 1630 Revello Drive quickly and with no trouble. Oh, sure, she could feel demons’ eyes on her from the shadows but underworld gossip moved quickly in this town. The redheaded witch was not to be touched if you didn’t want your innards fried, though the grapevine was a little vague on whether it would be the Mayor or Willow herself that would be performing the frying.
Willow still knew enough of Buffy’s schedule to know she was out patrolling already. She and Faith hadn’t even headed to Angel’s until sunset and it had to have been close to an hour since that time. With the ups and downs that the Slayer’s relationship with the vampire tended to have, she wasn’t exactly sure if the blonde went there every night still. After all, she had been doing too much boat-rocking of her own to accurately know such an intimate detail.
She walked up to the door and knocked politely, waiting unassumingly on the front porch. Joyce soon opened the door and flashed a smile, though it soon turned apologetic when she realized who it was. “Willow, I’m sorry.” The redhead’s gut clenched for a moment – had Buffy told her mother what she thought was going on? “Buffy’s already gone out.”
With a sigh, the redhead mentally smacked herself. Of course, Buffy hadn’t told Joyce anything. The habit of telling her mother as little as possible was still too deeply ingrained. “Oh, I know, Mrs. Summers. I was just out with Faith and—”
“Oh! How is Faith?” The older woman’s voice was completely congenial and Willow couldn’t note any signs of guile or derision. Oh, that was harsh – Buffy hadn’t told her own mother about Faith being evil? Of course, the fact that she actually wasn’t anything of the sort was completely beside the point. Those kinds of omissions could actually put Joyce in danger.
Willow beamed a half-smile at her, trying to tone down her normal fake grin. “She’s good. Anyway, we were near the mansion and went to see Angel.” She openly cringed, emoting what she would have felt if she hadn’t been the one to feed the poison to the vampire. “He was laid out, almost comatose-like. I think he might be sick.”
Joyce arched an eyebrow and smirked, though the redhead could see something almost like dark glee in the expression. “Vampires get sick?”
Willow shrugged and stepped away from the door. “I guess. I would’ve tracked down Buffy myself but my parents wanted me home kind of early.”
The woman nodded. “I’ll be sure to tell her.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Summers. Have a good night.”
Cordelia Chase watched her manager lock up the formalwear shop, giving her the evil eye until she turned around. By that time, she had resumed her bland, I’m-a-model-employee expression so she wouldn’t lose the job. They nodded at each other and parted ways immediately. Cordelia was pretty sure that the manager hated her because she used to be rich and it was obvious this was her first job ever.
But, damn it, she was trying!
Before her mind could venture further down the hole that was her father’s tax evasion and their subsequent downfall, she heard the loud thrum of her phone vibrating in her purse. The cell phone was one of the few splurges that this job paid for. With almost everything else she owned having been impounded or frozen or repossessed, she felt rather protective of the things that she could say she earned.
A glance at the screen caused her to frown. “Willow?” she murmured to herself. “What does she want?” She immediately flipped the phone open and muttered a terse greeting. “Yeah?”
“Hello to you too, Cordy,” the redhead replied in a jaunty tone.
“You sound… chipper.” The cheerleader made it very clear that she didn’t find that adjective to be a positive one.
“Yes, how horrible of me,” Willow drawled sarcastically. “I figured it would be a good time to invite you to the house.”
“Why now?” Cordelia meant in the overall time that they had known each other but the answer she got was much more specific.
“Because I know the place where you work is closed now. I thought you’d be off work by now.”
The brunette’s eyes widened comically. “How did you know about that?” she hissed into the phone venomously.
Willow laughed, injecting fluffy humor into the sound so that Cordelia didn’t take it as mocking. “Faith told me where she saw you today. There’s another reason but it’s a lot more incredible and hardly worth mentioning.”
Cordelia harrumphed softly. “I thought you were in D.C.?” She lilted the statement into a question as her feet began to mark a path to the Rosenberg household, though she wasn’t completely aware that she was doing it.
“Came back early.” The redhead sighed. “The visit was a lot more exhausting than I thought it would be.”
“And Daddy Marine?”
“He’s actually approachable. It’s weird. We bonded over a boat. Well, that and a vamp attack.”
“WHAT?!” Cordelia shrieked loudly at quite a high pitch.
“I think my magic attracted one. Or the fledges there are phenomenally stupid. It’s good. He’s totally inner circle now. It took some… explaining but seeing a vamp go poof in front of you tends to make a believer out of you.” The redhead took a breath. “So, you coming?”
Cordelia came back to her surroundings to realize she was already well on her way to the suburban housing area of Sunnydale. “Apparently. But still, why ask now?”
“A little guilt,” Willow admitted, “but mostly because I could use all the help I can get.”
“With what? Is it Buffy-related? You know I never listen when she talks. It’s like white noise and static. Nothing she says makes sense anyway.”
“Well, it’s apocalypse-related, not so much Buffy-related. I wanted to tell you the truth about what’s going on with Faith.”
“Wait!” Cordelia frowned and picked the memory out of her brain. “I thought Faith was evil.”
“Yeah, well, not so much. You see, it’s like this…” Willow talked while Cordelia walked, informing the generally popular brunette of the current situation with as much detail as she could manage. As the conversation went on, Cordelia managed a real smile, the first real smile that wasn’t directed as Wesley in months. (Although, the fact that Wesley was part of the Secret Scooby Gang was definitely a plus.)
She found that she didn’t care that she would be dealing with Xander or that she was still supposed to be angry with Willow for the boyfriend-stealing thing or that the redhead in question was extremely anxious about something to do with half-formed plans. What mattered now was that this situation proved that, no matter how much she acted the part, Cry-Buffy wasn’t nearly as superior as she thought she was.