What happened to Cordy and Buffy the Summer after Graduation? Prequel to ‘Making the Quota’. Pairings:
None at present Disclaimer:
I don’t own Buffy the Vampire Slayer Notes:
This is set between the third and fourth seasons of BtVS. Many thanks to my ever-patient beta and sounding-board Vidicon Near Riverside Cemetery, Sunnydale, California – 1st July 1999
Trying to ignore the pain of what she suspected was several broken ribs and a fractured wrist, Buffy lay curled up inside the mouth of a drainpipe, desperately hoping that the undergrowth over its mouth would keep her concealed. She thanked her lucky stars that she was reasonably well acquainted with this area and had previously discovered this potential hiding place. Drusilla and her minions were scouring the area around the cemetery, intent on finding their quarry and had split into two groups. One consisted of the vampiress and her two surviving vampire followers, the other of the three remaining B’Trak Demons. Bruised and battered from head to foot, with no weapons other than a switchblade – even Mister Pointy having been left at the scene of the fight - the Slayer was under no illusions that she’d have a ghost of a chance against either group.
Peering out through the thick bushes into the darkness and pouring rain, Buffy could see that the B’Traks seemed to be widening their search away from her position, while Drusilla’s group appeared to have already left the cemetery area, as she’d last seen them heading for the gate. She’d definitely taken a risk by doubling back on her pursuers, but exhausted and hurting, it had been her only chance. Otherwise, and without a hiding place, they’d eventually run her to ground. Of course, if they found her here, she wouldn’t even be able to flee.
Slayer healing or not, Buffy was also painfully aware, in the most literal sense, that she needed help soon. Given an opportunity to rest, experience told her that her injuries would probably have largely healed by the next morning or, at most, the day after. But right now, she wasn’t in a position to rest, nor could she run any great distance. She was feeling somewhat light-headed, it hurt to breathe, and she’d already vomited several times. The B’Traks had been closer at that point and she was only glad they didn’t seem to have as good a sense of smell as a vampire. While Buffy couldn’t see properly in this dark and damp pipe, she was also pretty sure that she’d thrown up blood the last time. In this condition, even if she managed to evade Drusilla and her gruesome goons, the first fledgling she met would make short work of her.
Buffy briefly wondered if this was how most Slayers met their end. Alone, injured and facing impossible odds. She angrily shook her head, wincing at the pain caused by the movement, and sternly told herself that she wasn’t dead yet. Then she took stock of her options. Heading out into the cemetery clearly wasn’t an option, Buffy decided, as she couldn’t be sure if Drusilla and company had really left the area. Even if she did manage to reach a road, calling for help wasn’t an option, as the cellphone she’d purchased with her first paycheck had been smashed to pieces by a B’Traks’ kick. A few feet away, a metal grating blocked further progress up the pipe, which led who-knew-where into the demonic underbelly of Sunnydale.
Probably right into a vampire’s lair, given her luck tonight, Buffy told herself dourly. Still, despite her injuries, the grating didn’t appear to be very substantial, and she could probably kick it out of the way. At this moment, that appeared to be the only option she had.
Twisting herself around with some difficulty, the pipe being small even for someone of her size and the inside slippery with mud and a few inches of rank-smelling water in the bottom of it, Buffy kicked out at the rusty grating. It was more secure than it looked, certainly given her weakened condition, and three blows were needed to remove the obstacle. Each blow sent a wave of pain through her battered body, but she gritted her teeth and carried on.
Somewhere in the darkness, Buffy could hear the skittering of rats’ feet. She’d heard the sound often enough in the course of Slaying and was past thinking of the rodents as anything but gross and annoying. It was what else she might meet that worried her. The Slayer mentally shrugged and decided that anything lurking down here couldn’t be very big, as even she had to crawl on all fours, trying not to put too much weight on the broken wrist. It was the same one Angelus had broken the previous year and Buffy vaguely wondered if Slayers could suffer from arthritis in later life. If she’d even have a later life to look forward to, she reminded herself, crawling and slithering into the darkness, and trying not to think about the ruined clothes.
The skittering was getting closer, Buffy noticed rather nervously, as she blindly made her way along the pipe, trying not to think about the provenance of the slime under her hands and knees. There were a lot of rats ahead and she hoped they weren’t too hungry. And that they were actually rats, as the echo and her Slayer hearing seemed to make their claws sound a lot larger. Or she hoped so, at any rate. Crawling through this filthy tunnel was unpleasant enough, without having to share it with anything supernatural, or even natural, with designs on her tender flesh. And that was without even thinking about the possibility of a small vampire pursuing her, or lurking up ahead.
All at once, Buffy’s stomach was seized by an agonising cramp and once more she doubled up and vomited, this time from an almost empty stomach. There was definitely blood, too, as this time her mouth was filled with the metallic taste. Trying not to think about serious internal bleeding and major organ damage, she reluctantly resigned herself to a hospital visit, assuming she survived that long. And damn, she still hated hospitals, especially the Sunnydale variety.
In the meantime, Buffy forced herself to continue on her way, crawling through a horrible mixture of dirty water, mud, rat droppings and worse, with every movement increasingly painful. In the total darkness of the pipe even Slayer vision was useless, leaving only smell, which was worse than useless in this stinking hole, hearing that was distorted by echoes, and touch. Buffy was used to fear – it never quite went away when she was patrolling - but groping around blindly and utterly vulnerable to attack undeniably brought on a different level of anxiety. She wasn’t claustrophobic, but she could easily see how some people might suffer from that phobia. Suddenly, some of Giles’ blindfold exercises didn’t seem so useless after all.
Buffy had been crawling for about fifteen minutes, when she suddenly found herself being rained upon. Glancing up, blinking against even what little light struck her face while her eyes adjusted much quicker than a normal human’s, she noticed a metal grill and the warm reflection of Sunnydale’s streetlamps reflecting off the low cloud. Ahead of her, the pipe stretched onwards into pitch darkness, leading to points unknown. There could be some nasty lurking above, too, of course, but on balance it was probably the best option.
Pushing aside the heavy iron grating and pulling herself up, Buffy emerged in what seemed to be a badly overgrown, walled garden. It was still pouring rain and a drenched and muddy Buffy decided she needed somewhere dry, where she could figure out her next move. A next move that ideally involved finding a payphone to call her mother, then making her reluctant way to the ER. Calling home was a priority, as she was several hours overdue and her mother – and probably Cordelia – would both be at the panic stage by now.
A wooden shed in the corner of the garden offered at least temporary shelter, half hidden amongst a tangle of branches and thorns, though the door seemed to be clear. It was padlocked, but a quick twist with her good hand sufficed to snap off the lock and Buffy stepped inside, half bent around her broken ribs.
As her Slayer vision adjusted to the darkness, she made out the vague outlines of a sofa, a table, and even a TV set. There was a bare light-bulb in a fitting on the ceiling and a few moment’s search found a light switch. Buffy closed the door behind her, not wishing to attract attention, and turned it on, noting a VCR and a collection of tapes, plus a few rather lurid calendars on the wall. It was probably some guy’s hidden refuge, she decided, though her Slayer’s enhanced sense of smell indicated that no human had been there recently. On the other hand, something had, but she didn’t recognise it. Certainly not a vampire or any species of demon she’d ever encountered.
Buffy sat down on the old and somewhat worn sofa, noticed a relatively clean towel on the floor, and dried her hair and wiped off as much of the dirt from her clothing as she could. The she sat back and rested for a few minutes. Her eyes were feeling increasingly heavy, however, and she knew if she stayed off her feet for much longer, she’d probably fall asleep. It was, Buffy decided, time to move. Once she’d found her way out of the garden – and it occurred to her that there hadn’t been any obvious exits – then she could orient herself properly.
With a groan, she pulled herself to her feet, then stopped dead in her tracks, drawing her switchblade. Someone, or something, was opening the door. 1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale, California – 1st July 1999
Joyce Summers hated clocks, or at least hated them when her daughter was out after dark, fighting the demonic denizens of the Hellmouth. Every minute seemed to drag for an hour and she found herself constantly watching the hands creep around the dial, with a glacial slowness. There were times she wished she’d remained in blissful ignorance of Buffy’s ostensible ‘Calling’. On the other hand, if anything did ever happen to her daughter in the course of Slaying, Joyce would at least have some idea of her fate, rather than forever wondering if she’d run away. And that was the coldest of comfort for any mother.
Tonight, the clocks were at their most torturous. Buffy was late returning from her patrol, over two hours now, and her mother’s imagination was running riot. Occasionally patrols ran over time, but not the routine variety, and generally not for this long.
Cordelia was also increasingly restive, which further concerned Joyce, given her young guest’s much greater experience of the supernatural.
“She’s never this late, Joyce. Not unless it’s with the whole gang, chasing the Big Bad Du Jour,” Cordelia fretted, feeling a strong urge to be doing something, anything, rather than just sitting waiting.
“Doesn’t Drusilla count as an – uh – Big Bad?” Joyce grimaced, trying not to fear the worst after what she’d already heard about the insane vampiress.
Cordelia chewed her lip. “Yeah, but Buffy knows her pretty well as an enemy. She wouldn’t do anything dumb, not without back-up.”
Or she hoped so, at any rate. She knew Buffy could be rash and occasionally overconfident, especially when encountering new enemies, but Drusilla – together with Spike and Angelus – were on a different level. Buffy would be wary against any of them and if Drusilla was operating with help, then she’d be doubly cautious.
“Are you sure? I mean Buffy’s quite headstrong at times…” Joyce pointed out.
“Had our fingers burned by Angelus’ old gang more than once, Joyce. Buffy knows what she’s up against,” Cordelia tried to sound more confident than she felt.
But she was also painfully aware that the nightlife in Sunnydale was unpredictable and there were more dangers than Drusilla lurking out there. While Buffy was more than a match for multiple fledglings, which was the standard level of vampire opposition right now, any vampire could still get lucky.
“She could be lying injured somewhere…” Joyce’s voice trailed away, unwilling to even think about the worst case scenario just yet.
Cordelia didn’t respond to that one. She was far from an expert on Slayers and their healing powers – hell, once Giles had admitted that even he didn’t know a great deal about how their bodies and powers worked at a fundamental level – but any injury that completely immobilised Buffy would be beyond serious. And would leave her wide open to attack by any passing nasty, no matter how weak.
The alternatives weren’t any more appealing. Buffy might well be dead already, or might be in the process of being horribly tortured at the hands of some vampire or demon. In the latter case, Cordelia thought sombrely, she might very well be better off dead. Having reached the point where she could now consider Buffy as a friend, a different sort of friend from any she’d previously had, she dreaded finding her body lying drained and mutilated, in some dark alley.
“I’ll call her again…” Joyce reached for the phone.
She’d already tried Buffy’s cellphone, a critical piece of equipment the latter had only recently bought. For her part, Cordelia had been ambivalent about trying to call the Slayer mid-patrol, given that she might be stalking something, or hiding from it. The previous two attempts had failed to connect, but Cordelia also knew that Sunnydale cellphone coverage could be patchy, especially some of the places Buffy regularly hunted.
“Nothing again,” Joyce exhaled, replacing the handset.
“I’ll get my bike and go take a look,” Cordelia rose to her feet.
Chances were she wouldn’t see anything, as most of Buffy’s patrol activities tended towards dark alleyways, cemeteries and abandoned buildings, but there was still a chance and it sure beat doing nothing, she told herself.
“Not alone, you certainly won’t!” Joyce told her sharply.
“I’m so not planning to enter for the Sunnydale Golden Stake Competition,” Cordelia assured her. “Just going to take a look around town.”
“We’ll both go, young lady. And we’ll take my car, rather than that awful motorcycle of yours,” Joyce decided.
Firstly, she didn’t want to worry about Cordelia’s safety as well as Buffy’s. Secondly, given her guest’s recent enthusiasm for learning to fight, Joyce wasn’t wholly certain that she could resist going after the first vampire she spotted, despite a lack of training. Thirdly, much more helpless clock-watching might just drive her as insane as Drusilla.
As an aside, every vampire for miles around would hear the old motorcycle. The smoke problem might have been fixed, but not the appalling noise it made. Besides, Joyce wasn’t entirely convinced of its reliability, if they had to escape from some vampire or other monster.
“Hey! That’s my wheels you’re talking about!” Cordelia protested. The old motorcycle, with all the horsepower of a sewing machine, might not be much compared to her convertible – and God she missed that car – but it was still her bike.
“Yes dear. And I don’t think Evel Knievel has anything to worry about,” Joyce returned smoothly.
“What if Buffy comes home when we’re both out?” Cordelia temporised, sure that Buffy wouldn’t approve of her mother putting herself at risk.
In fact, the Slayer would probably kick her butt, for not stopping her mother, Cordelia decided. As if she could do actually do anything. Buffy apparently inherited much of her stubborn streak from her mother.
“Then I’ll skin her alive for being late and not calling,” Joyce replied with asperity. “Now go and fetch some weapons from Buffy’s trunk.”
A few minutes later, Cordelia deposited an assorted pile of weaponry in the middle of the floor, including two of the rather pathetic Council-issue crossbows, a short sword, a mace and a double-headed axe, plus several bottles of holy water and sundry stakes and large wooden crosses.
“That’s as much shooty and pointy as I could carry, but you don’t know how to use them,” she pointed out.
Joyce folded her arms. “Didn’t stop me from hitting Spike with a fire-axe, did it?”
“He didn’t see you coming,” Cordelia replied dryly. “So you might not want to pick a fight… And at least try using the sharp edge if you do. You know… The dangerous end?”
“I wasn’t hiding in a closet, giving Willow a headache. So less of your sass, young lady. I can probably point and shoot a crossbow, if I have to,” Joyce pursed her lips.
“Let’s hope we don’t have to. Buffy’s probably just totally lost in that dusty moment, having way too much fun staking vamps, to notice the time,” Cordelia tried to sound slightly upbeat, though she didn’t really believe it. Near Riverside Cemetery, Sunnydale, California – 1st July 1999
Drusilla stamped her foot in frustration. The nasty little Slayer seemed to have eluded her minions, both the B’Traks and her surviving vampires, despite her exquisitely planned ambush.
“I want my present!” She growled at the nearest vampire, who took several steps backwards. “The stars and the cards said I could have her. And I want to hear her lovely scream.”
One of the B’Traks, also keeping its distance from the insane vampiress, made a noise like bubbling water. Neither of the fledgling vampires could understand it, but clearly Drusilla did.
“You can’t find her anywhere? But that isn’t very polite at all… You were meant to keep charge of the guest book, to stop anyone leaving the party. Especially before the dancing. And now Miss Edith will be most upset,” Drusilla pouted, the big demon taking an extra precautionary step away.
Not that he couldn’t deal with any vampire, the B’Trak tried to convince himself, but this one was different.
Drusilla glared at her entourage and examined her fingernails. “Bring me the Slayer and there’ll be sugar and candy and cream cake treats for everyone. Come back without her and all the little bones will go snick, snick, snap…”
The vampiress suddenly grabbed her head for a moment, then spun around, voice rising to a high pitched wail, as she started to tear at her clothes. “No good! No good! A horrible green place that hurts us…”
The vision had only been a quick flash of a part of Sunnydale she not only didn’t know existed, but also didn’t feel right for vampires. Maybe not for B’Traks, either. It was green and living and wholesome, an oasis of horrible goodness, where she couldn’t go. She couldn’t quite see properly, but Buffy Summers clearly wasn’t going to fall into her waiting hands tonight. And she’d expected her to fall into her hands, like a ripe piece of fruit, rich Slayer blood as red and sweet as cherry juice.
Drusilla forced herself to calm down, as always by thinking of herself in Spike’s strong arms. Maybe she couldn’t get the Slayer tonight and her fun might be spoiled for the evening, but there were others who hated the little blonde just as much. If her plans didn’t work out, if the cards and the stars continued to tell fibs and Miss Edith and her sisters continued to keep their secrets, then perhaps she would turn to the others. Buffy’s Hiding Place, Near Riverside Cemetery, Sunnydale, California – 1st July 1999
“Don’t come any closer! I’m warning you…” Buffy growled at the new arrival, at a loss for appropriate puns or other funnies in her current condition.
“Hey, no need to be so aggressive, girl. This is my pad you’re invading and I’m not gonna hurt you,” the creature replied in calm tones.
It was definitely a demon, Buffy decided. Her demon-sensing capabilities weren’t always very effective for non-vampire species. This one definitely had a whiff of demon, but it felt quite different.
“Oh great, a Shar-Pei Demon,” she muttered, the blade in her hand not relaxing for a moment, her eyes narrowing. “Haven’t we met somewhere before? And so not a pick-up line, by the way.”
The demon was one of the more human-looking types, aside from its facial features. Two floppy pig-like ears grew out of each side of a normal-sized head, with an incredibly wrinkled face from which the skin sagged in veritable handfuls.
The demon nodded nonchalantly. “I’ve seen you in Willie’s. I’m one of his regulars, but we’ve never talked. You’re that Slayer, ain’t you? They call me Clem. And can you put that sticker away?”
“Not ‘til I find out if you’re planning on sucking my brains out, or something gross,” Buffy responded, trying to fight off the increasing feeling of light-headedness and the leaden legs that barely held her up.
“I’m one of the good guys. Thought you knew that, seeing as how you don’t bother me and my friends,” Clem replied.
Buffy processed that for a moment. She was well aware that there were good, or at least neutral demon species in Sunnydale, types that didn’t prey on the human population and just wanted to get on with their lives. Willie had pointed out a few in his bar and Giles had also mentioned the fact, though he’d been somewhat ambivalent about the Council’s position. The Slayer had made her own position quite clear to her Watcher, however. If it didn’t harm people, then live and let live was her motto. Besides, she had no wish to add to an already formidable list of enemies in the town.
“What sorta demon are you?” Buffy asked rather bluntly.
“A Loose-skinned Demon,” Clem asked.
The Slayer raised an eyebrow, which both hurt and seemed to take an inordinate amount of energy. “I know what you look like, but what sort of demon?”
“That’s what they call us. Guess some demonologist wasn’t too original. And why don’t you sit down, before you fall down, girl?” the demon suggested, watching as she wobbled slightly.
Clearly she’d come off worst in some encounter tonight, both from her general appearance and the fact that she was apparently hiding out in his shed.
Buffy looked hard at him for a moment, but knew she couldn’t currently fight off a first-grader with a toy gun. She slowly lowered herself back onto the sofa.
“No tricks,” she warned, somewhat unconvincingly, wincing as another wave of pain went through her body.
“I can do one with a rabbit and a hat. And a few card tricks. Or the one with a vampire in a box and some swords,” Clem risked a joke.
His voice grew serious. “Someone chasin’ you, girl?”
“Maybe,” the Slayer replied cagily. “And it’s ‘Buffy’, not ‘girl’.”
She didn’t want to give too much away, in case the apparently friendly demon wasn’t. Still, she had a gut feeling – one that wasn’t down to being kicked in the belly by a B’Trak or throwing up until there was nothing left to puke – that Clem was on the level.
“You’re safe here ‘til daylight, Buffy, if you need a place to hide up for the night. I got other places I can go,” the demon offered.
“It’s a shed. How safe can it be?” Buffy asked.
Clem shrugged. “Anything evil – and I think that means humans as well as demons – don’t like this place. Used to be lot of areas like this in Sunnydale – leafy spots, gardens and parks – that weren’t all put here by the Mayor. Oasis-like places where the Hellmouth didn’t quite reach and where someone, or various someones, had done their best to saturate the area with good magic. It’s pretty uncomfortable for the bad guys, but this is one of the last. Maybe the last. Old lady who owned the garden died five years ago – natural causes – and maybe she was a witch. Or maybe not… Anyhow, I like the quiet, so I moved in here.”
He sighed. “But I think it’s weakening. Not gonna last many years longer…”
Buffy filed that piece of information away for future reference, unsure if it was just local demon legend, or if it actually had some basis in truth. Maybe Giles, or his books, could provide a few answers when returned from Sunnydale.
Just then, her guts started churning again and she doubled over, heaving on an empty stomach.
“I just got that rug,” Clem told her, staring at a small puddle at the Slayer’s feet. “And that’s blood, Buffy. I think you need the hospital.”
“Sorry about the rug. And I’m open to suggestions about the hospital. We’re on the other side of town from Sunnydale Memorial, if my navigation’s right. Might not be, ‘cause kinda confused by the getting here part…” Buffy wiped her mouth on a sleeve.
“And with Drusilla on my tail…” she began, then immediately cursed herself for giving the demon more information than he needed. Clearly she wasn’t thinking straight, probably a result of a B’Trak trying to kick a hole in her skull.
“Drusilla? You pick ‘em, Buffy,” Clem worriedly shook his wrinkly head. “But you sure as Hell can’t walk there. Wouldn’t get ten yards…”
He rubbed whatever passed for a chin. “I could put you in the trunk of my car…”
“The trunk?” Buffy asked.
“Well, there’s things in this town that might not like it if I was seen helping the Slayer. And I’m not just talkin’ about Drusilla,” the demon explained.
“The trunk it is, then,” Buffy sighed, hoping that he wouldn’t deliver her straight into the hands of some nasty. But she had no other option. This shed might not be in as safe a location as Clem seemed to think. And there was also the little fact that she seemed to have been hurt worse than normal and her Slayer healing hadn’t yet kicked in.
A few minutes later, wrapped in a thick blanket provided by the solicitous demon, Buffy was looking askance at his car, a battered Volkswagen Beetle. “There isn’t a trunk. There’s an engine in there, and I might be small, but I don’t fold up like an itty-bitty – uh – foldy-up-thing.”
Her quipping was definitely sub-par tonight, the Slayer considered morosely.
“Trunk’s at the front. You should be able to squeeze in there, beside the spare wheel. Like one of those itty-bitty-foldy-up-things,” Clem suggested with a chuckle, popping the not-a-hood at the front of the car.
“Slayer-in-the-Trunk. The latest must-have motoring accessory…” Buffy said weakly, painfully contorting an already sore body and hoping she was doing the right thing, as Clem closed the lid of the trunk. Joyce’s Car, Sunnydale, California – 2nd July 1999
As was normal, especially on a rainy weekday, there were few people on Sunnydale’s streets just after midnight. The locals might, for the most part, be afflicted by Sunnydale Syndrome in not noticing what was going on under their very noses, but a subconscious instinct for self-preservation nevertheless seemed to operate in many cases.
“I’ll bet those creeps are vamps,” Cordelia growled, watching as two individuals disappeared into a disreputable-looking alley.
She couldn’t be sure, not being a Slayer and therefore lacking the in-built radar system, but like Buffy, she also paid close attention to other factors. Such as clothes that hadn’t been in fashion for years. There was also something about their movements that raised her suspicions.
“Guess I can’t go wash them down with holy water, just to make sure,” Cordelia sighed, almost disappointed, one hand resting on a loaded crossbow on her lap.
“I’d really rather you didn’t,” Joyce agreed, grimacing and making a mental note not to stop at the next red light, if she could get away with it.
“Would you even know how to shoot that?” she asked absently, glancing briefly at the crossbow.
“Probably way better than you might think, Joyce,” Cordelia replied, enigmatically, as the rain continued to stream down the windshield.
In point of fact, she could shoot very well indeed with a variety of firearms, something she preferred to keep to herself because it just didn’t fit what was left of her image, and also because it was her father who’d forced her into shooting when she was younger. On the basis of that experience, however, Cordelia was also pretty sure that a crossbow wouldn’t be a problem.
When confronted by vampires, most people had a single impulse, deeply ingrained in their psyche from time immemorial. Namely, to scream and run fast in the opposite direction. A couple of years of fighting with the Scooby Gang, even a vampire notch or two on her belt, still hadn’t totally removed that basic instinct from Cordelia. Tonight, however, she was somewhat surprised to find that she was actually spoiling for a fight, especially if Buffy had been hurt. Maybe hurt she repeated firmly to herself, but not dead. And not hurt too badly, so she could tear verbally into the blonde without feeling bad about it.
Joyce, meanwhile, was rapidly losing control, as with every minute they drove and didn’t find Buffy the chances became slimmer that she was alright and her hope dwindled. She thumped a hand down on the steering wheel and came as close to full-on profanity as she ever did.
“Damn it! Where is she?” She shook her head in despair.
Joyce was fully aware of Buffy’s patrol plans for the evening. Ever since she’d found out about her daughter being the Slayer, and believed it this time, Joyce had insisted that Buffy always leave her intended patrol route at home. By now they’d already driven around Riverside Cemetery, or at least as close as they could get in the car. Cordelia had suggested that she could quickly check the area on foot, but Joyce had insisted that it was too dangerous.
As it was, both were beginning to realise that this was probably a hopeless errand. While Sunnydale was hardly a vast metropolis, cruising its streets in a car in the vain hope of seeing something also wasn’t the best way of searching for someone. But even if the omnipresent vampires weren’t a lethal danger, the town was also big enough that a thorough search on foot would have been beyond two people in one night.
“If Buffy was in trouble, she knows places to hide,” Cordelia suggested, not sure if her friend did actually have any useable bolt-holes. Right now, she just wanted to give Joyce some hope.
“And she could have been killed before she reached one of them…” Joyce replied, blinking back tears.
“We don’t know that…” Cordelia began.
“We don’t know anything!” Joyce sniffed, then paused. “Should we call the police?”
Cordelia shook her head. “Sunnydale’s finest? They don’t like dragging their fat butts out of the station at night. Doubt if they’d search before daylight.”
At that moment, Joyce’s cellphone rang. Cordelia grabbed it off the dashboard, noting that it was the size of a small brick and much older than the one she’d previously owned.
Ignoring all notions of safe driving, Joyce then promptly snatched it from her hand. She didn’t recognise the number on the screen, but answered it anyway.
“Mrs Summers? This is Dr Arthur at Sunnydale Memorial Hospital. Your daughter gave us this number…” a voice began.
“Is my daughter there? Is she okay?” Joyce interrupted breathlessly.
“It would appear that she’s been mugged, Mrs Summers. A few broken bones and some bruising, but she should be alright. We’ll want to keep her with us overnight, however-” Arthur replied in his best ‘sooth the relatives’ tone.
“I’m on my way!” Joyce interrupted him firmly, then rang off, performing an abrupt U-turn in the middle of the street and ignoring the horn blasts from two other cars.
Cordelia gripped the dashboard and held on for dear life, wondering if Buffy’s driving style might be caused by heredity, as much as by her being a Slayer.
Joyce relaxed slightly once she had the car on the correct heading and drove towards Sunnydale Memorial at a speed just slow enough not to get pulled over.
She exhaled and turned to Cordelia. “They say she was mugged… Broken bones and bruising.”
Cordelia reluctantly let go of the dashboard. “ ‘Mugged’ by vampires, Joyce. The local low-life wouldn’t have a chance against Slay Girl. But at least she’s still alive and kicking,” Cordelia replied with tangible relief.
She hoped Joyce would think it was only about Buffy and not about living through that manoeuvre as well. Joyce didn’t seem bothered at all.
She was betting it had been Drusilla and her crew, rather than the rather pathetic fledglings that predominated in Sunnydale’s vampire population right now. Cordelia knew she couldn’t really help Buffy against such a formidable enemy, but she could at least help plan a safer way to take down the insane vampire bitch. Suddenly, she was feeling immensely protective about her new friend, though she’d never, ever admit as much. Protective and downright vengeful, actually. The Initiative Headquarters, Beneath UC Sunnydale, Sunnydale, California – 2nd July 1999
Professor Walsh removed her surgical mask, peeled off the bloody disposable gloves and splashed some cold water over her face. Surgery could be a warm business, with the bright overhead lights and the heat from the surrounding machinery. Also a rather tiring one, she noted, rubbing the small of her back, which was aching after an extended session leaning over an operating table. She glanced at the clock and was surprised to see that it was past midnight, long past the time when she should have been out of the complex. This had been an interesting session, nevertheless, even if the so-called Professor John – now known as Subject 1HM – had screamed like a stuck pig throughout. It was, she mused, just as well that this ultra-classified section of the Initiative complex was so well sound-proofed, though that hadn’t helped her ears very much.
“A useful session?” Angleman asked, looking forward to running his own experiments on their most interesting human subject the following day.
Walsh nodded. “Our nerve stimulation and regeneration procedures are definitely showing some promise, as you’ll see for yourself tomorrow. We should be able to gather a great deal of useful data from this subject, especially in the areas of cybernetic control and enhancement. Though you might want to disable his vocal cords before proceeding any further…”
Angelman chuckled, having had much the same experience with one of Professor John’s mercenary accomplices. That particular individual was, however, most likely to be earmarked for spare parts after a few more experimental sessions.
“I have a few ideas,” he confirmed. “But for the moment, surveillance has picked up something that ought to interest you.”
“I’ll join you in the control room shortly, after I’ve changed and showered, and feel a little more human,” Walsh told her subordinate.
Half-an-hour later, the Professor was studying a series of CCTV images. They weren’t as clear as normal, given the torrential rain tonight, but she could still easily identify one of the most fascinating specimens of the supernatural to have passed through Sunnydale.
“What we have here, Francis, is not just your average V-type HST. This is Subject D – known as Drusilla - closely linked with Subject A, otherwise known as Angelus, or Angel, in the wider community. The latter, of course, closely linked with the Slayer. But Subject D is a particularly interesting example of her type, exhibiting a wide range of extreme psychological phenomena,” Walsh noted, watching as the vampiress and two thoroughly average V-types met up with a trio of formidable HST Type B-3.
“We think Subject Summers only barely escaped from this one tonight,” Angleman explained. “It would be very unfortunate for our plans if she was to be killed before we could make contact…”
“Given the nature of her role, we can’t watch Summers’ back all the time. However, while the Capture Programme is still six weeks from activation, I think we should take the opportunity to seize Subject D. I would be very interested to find out how far her psychological conditions are connected to her V-type infection,” Walsh replied.
While she was perfectly at home in an operating room, the Professor’s first love was still psychology, and Drusilla promised to be a fascinating study.
“A few of these B-3 Type HSTs might also be of some interest, especially in terms of their potential for biotech development. It may be possible to replicate and improve that bone-based armour,” she mused aloud.
“Anyone in mind for the capture mission?” Angleman asked.
Walsh considered that for a moment. “I’d normally send Riley and his team for something like this, but he’s currently on leave. Just pick one of the other teams – any team should do, as we aren’t dealing with the ultra-classified projects or any human targets that might affect the more morally squeamish.”
“With Subject D’s reputation, maybe we should double up the Capture Team,” Angleman proposed.
“Nonsense,” Walsh retorted. “Any of our teams ought to be able to cope with a simple V-type HST, regardless of its reputation. Just make sure that we deal with her and the B-3s separately, as I’d rather avoid a pitched battle.” Sunnydale Memorial Hospital, Sunnydale, California – 2nd July 1999
Killing Der Kindestod might have reduced much of Buffy’s hospital phobia – according to Willow, it was apparently called nosocomephobia – but she still didn’t like them. Especially Sunnydale Memorial Hospital, which not only had a reputation for incompetence, but it also stood to reason that a hospital, built on a Hellmouth, and which had probably seen all manner of bizarre supernatural injuries and deaths, might just have the odd nasty hanging around. Even if one Der Kindestod was dead, there might be have been more than one of them and considering her luck and the atmosphere of Sunnydale Memorial, it might just be hanging around, the Slayer reminded herself nervously.
At least she’d been treated well tonight. They’d easily swallowed the mugging story and besides, she had actually been mugged. Just by a gang of big-ass demons, not the local criminal set. It would, perhaps, be harder to explain where all the bruises had gone by the next morning, not to mention the rapid-healing bones, but past experience suggested that Sunnydale Syndrome also meant that people ignored her own particular mystically-powered abilities much of the time.
One of the nurses had, admittedly, looked disturbingly Nurse Ratched-like. Not only that, she had man-hands. Buffy was acutely aware of that, because the aforesaid nurse had insisted on scrubbing her raw, after asking if she’d been mugged in a piggery. Nevertheless, the woman had been kind enough after she told her she had to flee into a ditch with a sewage drain to flee her muggers and had to hide in an outflow. And she knew the city well enough to be able to say where the ditch was. And if the Sunnydale PD checked it during daylight hours –and Buffy doubted if they’d take the trouble - the rain was heavy enough to have erased any tracks she might have made, had she really dived into it.
At least her mother wouldn’t be on her case, or not too much, at any rate. Buffy knew she hadn’t taken any more risks than normal on a patrol. After staking the newborn, Drusilla’s ambush had been completely unforeseen, and if the B’Traks hadn’t been present, she’d probably have dusted the whole vampire pack, maybe even staked Dru and avenged Kendra.
Now, though, she’d have to come up with a plan to take down both the insane vampiress and her pack of demonic enforcers, and pretty much single-handed. Cordelia might have some ideas in the planning stage, though she’d never exactly been notable for that back in Sunnydale High, but Buffy was painfully aware – the emphasis on painfully, every time she moved right now – that she’d have to actually carry it through on her own. Certainly, Cordelia couldn’t help this time, not without the rest of the gang along. And even then, none of them could handle Drusilla’s powers of thrall, or the sheer physical power of a B’Trak, or even a vampire older than a few years. Buffy decided she’d need to be sneaky about this one, as there was no way in Hell she was going toe to toe with three of those demons again, but at the moment, her head hurt too much to concoct something suitably tricky. She just hoped Drusilla wouldn’t decide to come visit the sick.
She sighed and reached out for the glass of water on her bedside locker, wincing as her muscles and bones protested. Just then, the door burst open and her mother rushed inside. Buffy knocked the glass over in shock, her earlier thoughts of enemies making her tense and wary.
“Thank God you’re okay, honey!” In the heat of the moment, Joyce gave her injured daughter a somewhat tighter hug than she’d intended.
“Ooowww! Well, I was okay, mom…” Buffy yelped.
Joyce hurriedly relaxed her grip and her hand went to her mouth. “Oh, I’m sorry, Buffy. We were just so worried…”
“I told her you’d be totally fine, Slay Girl,” Cordelia piped up.
“No big deal, mom. Three busted ribs – two on the left, one on the right – and a broken arm. He said there was probably some internal bruising and… Well, pretty sure you can see the rest of the black and blue,” the Slayer replied wryly.
Buffy did look as though she’d gone several rounds with a steamroller, her mother realised. Both eyes were black, her cheeks were bruised, and her lips were swollen. Bruises also extended down each arm and there were no doubt plenty more on the parts of her body hidden by the bedclothes. Some of the bruises looked like very large hands had made them.
“Doc wants to keep me in overnight, just to make sure. But I’ve had the whole package – x-rays and stuff. They’re even treating me for shock…” a disgruntled Slayer pointed to the IV line in her hand. “I mean, do I sound like I’m in shock? Can’t you just tell the quack that I’m okay and then take me home? All these busted bones will be fixed by this time tomorrow, next day at the most. And the bruises? You know they’ll be gone by morning.”
Joyce shook her head firmly. “If the doctor says they’d prefer to keep you in for observation, then we’ll follow his advice.”
“And since when do the horse-doctors in this place know how to treat anyone? Let alone a Slayer,” Buffy grunted dismissively.
“D’you know how gross you look right now?” Cordelia growled. “You could play an evil clown in a D-movie without make-up!”
Even if her tone didn’t indicate her worry, she was concerned about her friend. Cordelia just found it difficult to summon the empathic voice, so she settled for a little snark. Besides, she was rather annoyed at Buffy for getting herself hurt. And making her worry, because Cordelia Chase did not do worry. Even when she did.
“We had this conversation when I had the flu,” Buffy shot back. “But I’m sure you’re gonna tell me, anyways.”
“Darn right! Whatever it was did a real number on you, Slay Girl. So what happened?” Cordelia told her flatly.
Buffy quickly checked the door to make sure there were no lurking doctors or nurses. “Dru and a bunch of B’Trak Demons happened, Cordy. It was all going pretty well. I did the dusty on a fledgling, then got myself jumped by six of Dru’s pet vamps. Staked four of them and would’ve dusted the rest, but then Dru arrived with four of these B’Trak Demons – big and pretty mean they are, , big green, armoured all over, fists like five pound hams – and tap-danced on yours truly. I killed one and managed to get away. A demon called Clem brought me here in his car and you know the rest…”
Joyce and Cordelia both did a double-take, before the former found her voice. “A demon drove you to the hospital?”
“Sure you weren’t hit on the head, Buffy?” Cordelia put in, raising an eyebrow.
“This one’s a good guy. Told you not all of them were bad, Cordy,” the Slayer explained. “I was hiding in his shed when he found me.”
“Why didn’t you call?” Joyce was still trying to get her head around the idea of a good demon.
“’Cause my phone wasn’t as well made as I am. It didn’t survive the fight,” Buffy pouted, the effect exacerbated by already swollen lips. “And I just bought it! Not that it would’ve worked in the drainpipe, where I had to do my disappearing act…”
“The nurse said that your clothes had to be thrown away,” Joyce said.
Buffy winced. “Dammit, and they weren’t half bad for patrol clothes.”
“Language, honey,” Joyce said automatically. “She said that there wasn’t all that much blood, that they looked more like you’d been for a dip in a sewer.”
“Not far off the mark,” Buffy admitted, screwing up her face in distaste. “And all they had to give me was this totally unfashionable gown-thing.”
“Unfashionable so doesn’t cover it,” Cordelia agreed.
Joyce sighed and shook her head. “Listen to the pair of you! Buffy’s sartorial issues are currently the least of her problems. Can you sit with her for a bit, Cordelia? I’ve a few things to ask that doctor.”
“Sure. That’ll give me time to ask Buffy a few things…” Cordelia replied, a glint in her eyes.
She waited until Joyce was out of the way, then the growl returned. “What the Hell did you think you were doing?”
“My job,” Buffy responded defensively. “I kinda remember someone saying it could get dangerous…”
“There’s dangerous and there’s suicidal. And you really are blonde, aren’t you! ‘Cause who else would take on Drusilla, plus half-a-dozen vamps, plus four big-ass demons?” Cordelia pointed out.
The Slayer’s swollen eyes narrowed. “I didn’t take them on deliberately, Cordy. They ambushed me and I had nowhere to run. Sometimes, fighting’s the only option.”
Cordelia felt she was losing the argument, which wouldn’t do at all. If there was an argument, of course. But she was pretty sure she wanted one, because one of the things that made her mad was her friends putting themselves – whether deliberately or accidentally – in danger.
“Yeah, well… Shows you need someone to watch your back,” she folded her arms.
Buffy chuckled sardonically – a full laugh hurt too much. “Someone like you? Hate to bust your bubble, Cordy, but if you – or anyone else from the gang – had been around tonight, they probably wouldn’t have walked away. And that means I probably wouldn’t have either, because I wouldn’t leave any of you behind, least of all with a couple of B’Trak.”
“An extra pair of eyes might’ve made the difference between being the ambusher or the ambushee… Or a chance to get the Hell outa there,” Cordelia retorted.
She put on her version of a resolve face, which she always thought was rather more forbidding than the patented Willow Rosenberg version. “I want you to train me much harder, Slay Girl. Not just to fight off muggers, but to help you with the patrolling, at least as much as I can. I know there’s all that crap about the Slayer fighting alone. I’m also not as stupid as you look – it’s pretty clear you’ve got mixed feelings about having the gang along, in case someone gets hurt or killed.”
“I’d rather I was hurt or killed than any of the gang, Cordy,” Buffy replied softly.
She also had a suspicion that she wouldn’t win this argument. Few people ever did against Cordelia, once she’d made her mind up. There was, the Slayer had to admit, a certain logic in her words. For one thing, Cordelia was currently better trained and fitter than any of the Scoobies had ever been, with the possible exception of Giles. And he’d recently admitted that he was past his prime when it came to combat skills.
On the other hand, patrolling with the whole team was one thing – they could look out for each other – but even a well-trained Cordelia was only one normal human, and Buffy wasn’t sure if she’d be an asset or a liability at this stage. It was something she’d have to consider. But not at far too late or far too early in the morning, when she was lying in a hospital bed, in pain and increasingly tired.
“You know I’m right,” Cordelia pressed.
“Maybe, maybe not. We’ll talk about it later, when I’m a bit less of the broken-up Slayer,” Buffy replied firmly.
Outside the rain was still pouring down in un-Californian streams, rattling the window on occasion as the wind whipped it. Inside, the only noise in the room was Buffy’s slightly pained breathing. Joyce was reading, or pretending to read, a very old knitting magazine she’d taken from one of the waiting rooms. The magazine was on her lap and her other hand was on the bed, gently clutching Buffy’s. Joyce glanced up every few seconds and Cordelia was sure that she’d been reading that article on knitting a jumper for twenty minutes.
Then Cordelia’s stomach loudly protested the fact that it was late, it had been a long time since dinner, and that she was a growing girl with a healthy appetite.
Joyce smiled as she blushed. “Well, that sounds familiar.”
Cordelia glared at Buffy, then at Joyce, not sure how to react.
Joyce carefully removed her hand from under Buffy’s and rose, stretching. “I’ll see if I can get us something. I could do with some coffee.”
Cordelia was about to open her mouth and say she’d come along to get her own, but Joyce shook her head and the brunette stayed silent. Even the few bucks she’d save letting Joyce buy her snacks would be welcome later. Joyce left and Cordelia sat watching Buffy as the blonde frowned, then whimpered, her hand searching for something.
She put her own hand on the blonde’s and Buffy frowned, then relaxed and smiled, just a little, in her sleep. Cordelia would have snorted if she hadn’t been afraid Buffy would wake up and break her hand. The vaunted Slayer awareness wasn’t quite so apparent tonight, she noted. Probably Buffy thought she was her mother.
Cordelia looked up as Joyce handed her a cup of coffee and a Snickers bar from the vending machine. In the early hours of the morning, Sunnydale Memorial had absolutely nothing else to offer in the way of food and drink.
“Is she still asleep?” Joyce asked, taking the seat next to Cordelia, ignoring the rain still streaming down the windows and glass doors and bouncing off the paving stones outside.
Both were resolved to stay here, at Buffy’s side in Sunnydale Memorial, until at least daybreak. The doctor had been oddly willing to allow them to stay with Buffy, even if visiting hours were long over.
A bag full of assorted weapons lay under Cordelia’s chair and while neither of them had any confidence in their ability to beat off an attack by Drusilla and her minions, both were determined that they’d try, if pushed to it. The chances were that the vampiress didn’t actually know Buffy was in the hospital, effectively defenceless. Last time the Slayer had been in that position, it had taken Angelus a full twenty-four hours to find out. Drusilla herself, while not entirely risk averse, most likely wouldn’t try her luck in a hospital with plenty of duty police officers, security guards and orderlies. Even Angelus had balked at that last time and while Drusilla was insane, she wasn’t stupid.
Nor would the B’Traks want to make an appearance in such a public setting. Doing so would be completely contrary to the behaviour of most Sunnydale demons and the B’Trak were very clearly not human. So obviously even Sunnydale Syndrome might not work for everyone. Still, even one of Drusilla’s remaining fledglings could probably take Buffy in her current condition. If she saw it coming and had enough weaponry, however, Cordelia reckoned she might just about have an even chance.
“Sleeping like a baby. Which beats the heck out of me… Anytime I’ve been in life-threatening danger – which is dozens of times since meeting Buffy – I can’t sleep a wink. Like I’ve been mainlining caffeine,” Cordelia offered even as she gently withdrew her hand from Buffy’s to sip her coffee. Buffy turned minutely, her face turning towards where her mother had spoken.
“All except for that and that just creeps me out,” Cordelia muttered.
Joyce nodded. “I don’t know much – or anything really - about how her powers work, but Buffy seems to be able to get over the adrenalin rush pretty quickly. And maybe this deep sleep is part of the healing package. And for all her power, she still seeks comfort.”
She winced at the thought of the injuries so casually inflicted on her daughter by Drusilla’s demons. Buffy might be eighteen, but it was still a mother’s job to protect her as far as possible. But she couldn’t. All she could do was be there when her little girl was wounded and offer what small comfort she could, and be glad she was still allowed to.
Cordelia saw the look of pain crossing her face and after a moment’s hesitation, tentatively laid a reassuring hand on Joyce’s arm. “At least she has the healing mojo, Joyce. Back to normal and kicking vampire butt inside two days, probably. But if that had been any of us? Our bodies can’t handle a fraction of that kind of pounding. We’d either be permanent residents in that graveyard, or we’d be spending weeks in the body and fender shop, with more than a few broken ribs.”
“Doesn’t stop any of you watching over Buffy when she needs someone,” Joyce offered, having started to put two and two together on a particular incident.
Cordelia nodded. “Yeah, Xander stuck his neck out last time Buffy was here and Angelus came calling…”
She recalled jealously accusing Xander of being more interested in watching Buffy’s butt than her back, though Cordelia’s then-boyfriend had tried to mollify her by suggesting that her own butt was much nicer. That, of course, went without saying, Cordelia almost grinned to herself.
“I know all about that,” Buffy’s mother replied. “Giles told me what happened. I’m talking about Homecoming. When Buffy and Giles were lying unconscious on the floor, at the mercy of a vampire…”
She looked searchingly at Cordelia, who was trying to avoid her eyes. “I hate to think about it, but they both should have been dead. And there was only one other person there, wasn’t there, young lady?”
“I… Uh…” For once, Cordelia was lost for words. She’d never told Buffy what really happened that night, presuming that the Slayer had already figured it out. And looking back, it had been an act of dumb desperation, as much as bravery.
“Tell me how you did it,” Joyce insisted, with her best ‘mom’ tones.
“I told this in-bred vamp – Gorch, I think his name was – that I was Faith. Remember that the vamp who organised the hunt mistook me for her? Threatened to kick his ass and must’ve been pretty convincing, but I was still shaking in my shoes,” Cordelia admitted.
“But you stood your ground, with no one else around to help,” Joyce noted. “Knowing that if he called your bluff, you wouldn’t stand a chance…”
“The vamp wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box. I could’ve run,” Cordelia temporised. “And he might have stopped to finish off Buffy and Giles, instead of chasing me.”
She also knew that she wouldn’t have run. Though her relationship with Buffy had been at a pretty low ebb at that time, being chased together through the woods had forced them together. Besides, Cordelia liked to think she’d never knowingly leave anyone to a vampire. Though she had to admit that if it had been Willow on the floor at that point, and not Buffy, she might have been tempted.
“Or he could just as easily have snapped your pretty neck,” Joyce cringed at the thought of what might have been. “It was a totally reckless move on your part - and I’m so glad you did it! But why didn’t you tell Buffy?”
Cordelia shrugged. “Just didn’t seem right. And I felt kinda stupid afterwards, even if it did work…”
Selfless actions weren’t something that sat easily with her, or certainly hadn’t back in High School. Unselfish acts simply didn’t sit well with the cynical view of the world in general, and individual people in particular, that her parents had constantly force-fed her.
“It worked and you saved my daughter! And probably yourself as well! That’s not foolish in my book,” Joyce replied heatedly, even if her voice was still soft so as not to disturb her daughter.
Cordelia tried to look as if it was all in a day’s work, but she couldn’t help but feel a little pleased at the praise, if also uncomfortable.
The next moment, she’d swept Cordelia into a tight hug, tight enough that the younger woman wondered if Joyce had some Slayer in her, and just held her for a few minutes. Cordelia was more than slightly startled. Hugs had never been a part of her childhood, with the exception of her grandparents - who’d died when she was just old enough to remember them – her nanny, and Uncle Bob on the rare occasions she saw him, before he too had died.
It was, however, a nice feeling she noted. A feeling she could definitely get used to, even if she felt slightly awkward right now. After all, she didn’t know Joyce all that well, Cordelia reminded herself. After a moment, she decided just to relax and enjoy the display of affection.
“If there’s anything I can ever do…” Joyce said, eventually releasing Cordelia but continuing to rest an arm around her shoulders.
“You’ve already done plenty,” Cordelia replied quickly. “A roof over the head of the homeless bag-lady…”
“Doesn’t count. I’d have done that anyway,” Joyce replied. “Saving my daughter’s life is worth a great deal more.”
Cordelia grimaced inwardly. There was a time when she’d eagerly have had as many people as possible beholden to her. Not these days, when she was learning to balance independence, with graciously accepting a hand-up.
“I was there and I did it. Just like Buffy has to. No need for any more,” she responded quickly and uncomfortably.
“We’ll discuss that – and a few other things - later, young lady,” Joyce told her, sitting back down and sipping her coffee.
Cordelia wondered why the older Summers woman’s words made her uncomfortable. As if Joyce knew, or guessed something. But right now, even if Joyce had been extremely generous to her, Cordelia was still extremely reluctant to admit the extent of the changes to her life. Judy’s Crypt, Sunnydale, California – 2nd July 1999
Quite how a vampire could feel so cold, wet and miserable, Judy wasn’t sure. Like all vampires, her body had a naturally low temperature, without such annoying details as circulation to worry about. And some didn’t seem affected by extreme of temperatures, or at least not by those that were lower than a vampire’s ignition point. Yet here she was, shivering under a blanket, and not quite able to feel her feet properly.
“I’m hungry,” Harmony complained, from beneath her own blanket.
“Can’t help that, Baby Doll. All the Ready Meals were tucked up at home, out of the rain. We don’t always manage to catch something for dinner,” her Sire replied, also feeling sorely in need of a nibble.
Certainly those on the fringes of vampire society, like Judy, who had a well-developed sense of self-preservation, weren’t always willing to risk tangling with the stronger members of the species just for the sake of a quick kill or feed. Some might regard such an attitude as cowardly and rather pathetic – and vampires tended to be, with a few exceptions, rather vainglorious – but Judy aimed to hang onto her unlife as long as possible in the dangerous environment that was Sunnydale. Even if she and Baby Doll really did look pretty pitiful right now.
It had been a fruitless search, with the streets pretty much free of the type of unwary single humans that were the type of easy pickings Judy tended to go for, even if was a Friday night, or now early Saturday morning. Those groups they had seen, scuttling for cover from the driving rain, were just too big. Especially with her inexperienced Childe along for the hunt, thought admittedly Baby Doll was learning the hunting craft and starting to enjoy the kill, too. Though even a moderately alert and well-trained normal human would most likely still be able to fend her off, given the ‘petulant cheerleader’ style of fighting. Harmony’s fighting skills were dire and tended more towards hair-pulling than a killing blow, her Sire reflected.
Judy had reluctantly been preparing to call it a night, when one – or perhaps several - of those dangers she was always warning Harmony about had materialised, prowling around unnervingly close. Their proximity had forced Judy and her Childe to hide under a bush for several uncomfortable hours, all the time getting wetter, colder and more miserable. But at least they were still alive, in a vampire’s sense of the word.
As if reading her mind, Harmony turned to her in typical confusion. “Why were we hiding from those other vampires and those big, ugly demons? I mean, they were led by that woman vamp, who didn’t seem all that dangerous. And she didn’t seem scared of the others, either.”
Judy laughed without a trace of humour. “That was Drusilla, Baby Doll. One of the Whirlwind…”
“The Whirlwind?” Harmony stared at her blankly, which admittedly wasn’t an uncommon expression.
“You really need to work on your vampire history, and learn some things that might just stop you from getting dusted, or used as a renewable food supply, or whatever,” Judy replied, with forced patience.
At times, she thought to herself, it was as well that she’d been a trainee teacher in life. Some of that had obviously remained in whatever part of her psyche survived the human to vampire transition, else she’d have beaten her Childe black and blue by now out of frustration. Or have just dusted her. Harmony could be immensely irritating.
“There are things that eat us?” Harmony had thought that she was at the top of the food chain right now.
“Hell, yeah. We might be ‘dead’ in a limited mortal sense, but we’ve still got flesh and bone and blood. You’d make a nice little morsel for some demons out there… But I thought I’d told you all about the Whirlwind. I guess not. Or maybe it just went in one ear and out the other…” her Sire told her dryly.
“Huh?” Harmony didn’t even react to the mild insult and Judy wondered if she’d been quite so slow in life.
“Never mind,” Judy sighed. “The Whirlwind were a group of Master Vampires, Sired between the 16th and 19th centuries. Two guys – Angelus and William the Bloody, or Spike as he prefers. Two women – Darla and Drusilla. Darla was the oldest, Angelus the most twisted, Spike the most violent – just for the fun of it. And Drusilla is totally insane and a seer. As a group, they terrorised Europe in the 19th century – some of them before that. They killed nearly as many as Saint Vigeous, but kinda split up in the early part of this century. Darla’s supposed to be dead and Angelus was cursed with soul and fights for the other side now. Drusilla and Spike are – or were – lovers.”
Judy had seen Spike on at least one occasion and had to admit that while he didn’t fit her usual preference profile, she’d nevertheless be quite happy to bounce the bad boy’s bones. Certainly, she couldn’t see what he saw in crazy Drusilla.
Judy knew a great deal about the Whirlwind, enough to make her very leery of them, either as a group, or as deadly individuals. Two years previously, she’d shared a crypt with a rather older and more experienced vampiress, a very attractive one she recalled pensively, who’d known a great deal about the Sunnydale vampire and demon population. Elsa had shared everything she knew – and a great deal else besides, Judy thought wistfully – and it had contributed immensely to her own survival. Then one night, Elsa hadn’t come back. All Judy had been able to find out about her fate were various rumours. One suggested that she’d been staked by another vampire, another that she’d fallen foul of an angry Fyarl Demon, together with a few hints about something worse, perhaps linked to the Mayor and unholy sacrifices. Whatever had happened, Judy quickly became even more cautious than she’d been previously.
“So she’s a bit crazy. What’s the big problem?” Harmony didn’t sound impressed. She’d never been particularly good at history at school and didn’t see the point in starting now.
“Master Vampire, Baby Doll. Strong enough and fast enough to tear you apart. Has this thing where she likes to gouge the eyes out of her victims. If you aren’t any use to her, best to stay away, because she doesn’t suffer fools or failures. And you pretty much aren’t any use to anyone yet… She’d just pop those big blue eyes of yours right out of their sockets, and feed them to her birdies,” her Sire responded.
“Hey! I’ve got lots to offer…” Harmony protested, with a shudder at the image.
Judy snorted. “Certainly got lots to offer those B’Trak Demons. Hire themselves out as mercenaries for the right price and more than a match for most of us. They’ll kill anything for the right price. And they’ll screw anything, with or without a pulse. A pretty little thing like you? They’d use you – every hole, every painful and perverted act you can imagine happening in your worst nightmares, and hey, you’re a vampire and can take a lot more than a human - until you begged them to stake you. Then they’d just use you some more, ‘til they got bored. Then they’d throw you aside until they felt like doing it all over again, or they’d think up something new you’d never imagined.”
Her Childe squeaked slightly at that, eyes widening rather fearfully.
“Makes it worth getting frozen and soaked, doesn’t it!” Judy smiled mirthlessly, as Harmony shivered and looked nervously around the damp, cold crypt, as though there were a gang of B’Traks hiding in the shadows and just waiting to grab and assault her.
Baby Doll was still so mortal in many ways, her Sire thought. So vulnerable and really hers for the taking. But Judy still didn’t really want to force herself on her Childe. She’d rather the fledgling felt a reciprocal attraction, though nothing seemed to be happening in that direction for the moment.
In a remarkably human-like move, the older vampiress wrapped an arm around Harmony’s shoulders. It wasn’t as if they could share body heat – and what she wouldn’t give for a fireplace and a pile of blazing logs right now – but the youngster still sometimes needed a little comfort. Even if vampires weren’t supposed to lower themselves to such weak, emotion-led considerations.