"Tess." The sound of his mocking voice came from behind as she flew through the headstones. Her heart beat in her chest like a scared rabbit. The moon peeked through the clouds in the night sky, giving the graveyard an eery glow.
Tripping over a marker that had been hiding under the damp grass, Tess felt the air get knocked from her chest. The stake she'd been holding onto like a lifeline flew out of her hand. Chancing a look in the direction it went, Tess calculated the chance of getting to it before being caught.
About the same chance as Xander becoming a vegetarian.
Telling herself to get the hell off her ass and keep running, she scrambled to her feet again. If she could just make it to the library, where Giles and Buffy were getting in some extra training she'd be fine. With the other Slayer at her side, he would have no other choice than to back off.
She refused to die. Refused to allow Angelus end her life like Ms Calender.
Hearing him just feet away, Tess knew there were only two options. She could either stand her ground. Take on one of the worlds most dangerous and disturbed vampires by herself. One who had the nerve to ware her friend's face like a mask. Or run for her life.
Fight or flight.
Well she stupid, nor had she been born yesterday. Taking off like a bolt, the exit coming in view, Tess vaulted another headstone. Just when she'd thought she'd cleared it, a force from behind knocked her down.
Thrashing around like a caught fish, she heard his mocking laughter. It sent a red hot anger pumping through her veins, making her fight him all that much more.
"Tess." Clucking his tongue at her like a parent would to a misbehaving child, Angelus had her pinned into the wet earth. Gripping her wrist painfully, to the point she was sure she'd hear bone cracking, Tess had no other choice then to let him pull them out wide. "I am deeply offended."
Tears in her eyes, from pain and mounting fear. "Just do it asshole."
"Do what?" Angelus asked innocently before placing his mouth near her ear. "Kill you? Turn you? Screw you?"
Knowing he was going to drag this out. Play with her until he grew bored and killed her. Tess wouldn't give him the satisfaction of answering him. Turning her head in the other direction, she found it ironic when her eyes rested on Jenny Calender's grave stone.
Feeling his mouth suckle on her neck, Tess tried to buck him off. She could accept death. But to be turned into a soulless monster she hunted every night was not something she could take. It was any Slayers worst nightmare.
Her reaction brought a chuckle from her assailant. Feeling his tongue snake it's way from her collarbone to her ear, she renewed her efforts.
"Now where was I?" Feeling him pull back, she tried one more time to buck him off her. "Oh that's right. I'm deeply offended. I had planned for our little cat and mouse game to last longer than this. Guess they don't make Slayers like they used to."
He moved again, this time no matter how hard she fought against him, he seceded in flipping her over on her back before pinning her down again. Seeing his face looming over hers, Tess felt hatred like she'd never known before.
She hated Angel for being so stupid and losing his soul in the first place. How old was he? She would've thought a few hundred years would teach him to stop thinking with the head in his pants. It didn't matter that he hadn't known by sleeping with Buffy he would endanger them all. The fact he'd done it was enough to make her spitting mad.
She despised Jenny Calender for not telling them. For sitting back and allowing things to get as far as they did. It made her feel guilty for a few beats of a second. But she felt she'd deserved what she got for her betrayal. They had all trusted her.
Tess felt hatred for Buffy too. It didn't matter if her anger was rational or not. But she'd first lost Angel to her fellow Slayer, then had to find out he'd paid the ultimate price to be with the blonde. Now she was acting like she was the only one who'd lost him. No, right now she didn't feel bad for being upset with Buffy. She was going to die, or worse.
"See Tess. This is why I need to have you." Smirking down at her, he tightened his hold on her wrists, making her scream in agony. "You have so much wasted passion burning inside you. Why Soulboy poked around with Muffy is beyond me. Such a coldfish." Making a distaste face, he looked back at her again. "But don't worry, she'll pay. How 'bout we make her your first victim?"
"I'd rather die." Spitting at him, Tess snarled when his eyes flashed golden in anger. Letting go of her hands so he could bury them in her knotted hair, he twisted her strands until she saw stars.
"You say that now you little bitch. But once I bed you then tame you, you'll think differently. You'll be begging to please me. Tess, you're going to be my best creation."
"I won't be your whore." Lifting her hands and latching onto his arms, Tess tried to remember the words to the chant Jenny had been trying to teach her and Willow months ago. Her hands grew warmer, until the smell of burning flesh assaulted her nose.
With a dark curse, Angelus was rolling off her and onto his feet. While she had the chance, she fought to stand on trembling legs. Her eyes glued on Angelus's movements. She refused to waste an opportunity like this. When she could move she took a few steps back.
"I forgot about that witchy crap." Growling, Angelus narrowed his eyes. "Won't happen again."
Knowing he'd be fully recovered soon, Tess spun on her heel and started running again. This time where the exit had been was an edge of a forest. Clearing the first line of trees she saw a light in the distance.
Hearing Angelus thundering from behind, had her speeding up. Drawing closer to the light she felt a strong, secure arm come out from nowhere and pull her off her feet.
"Elizabeth." The soothing voice was familiar. "Shh."
Looking up into the bluest eyes she'd ever seen, Tess felt the woods and world melt away. The man looked down at her with concern, his eyes full of emotion. This time her instincts told her she was safe. The man holding onto her wouldn't hurt her.
"You're safe." His voice made her relax fully against the hard planes of his body. Feeling his hand stroking her hair, she wished they could stay like that. But she knew if they didn't start moving, they were as good as dead.
"We need to get to the light." Struggling against his embrace, Tess begged with him. "He's coming. We're not safe."
"I'm not going to let anything happen to you."
"Well isn't this sweet?" Angelus's face appeared out of the shadows, his upper lip curled back. With lightening fast reflexes his hands wrapped around the other man's throat and gave a harsh twist.
Watching helpless as the blue eyed man fell to the ground, Tess felt a scream tear from her throat.
Jumping from the nightmare, Tess tumbled from the couch while everyone in the room were torn from a sound sleep.
"Tess?" Cool hands touched her shoulder, making her yelp and pull away.
Angel stared down at the girl on the floor and saw the fear shimmering in her eyes. He could see the instinct to lash out at him there. It had been awhile since he'd witnessed the look, but it still cut him like a knife.
"You had the dream again." He stated in a calm voice. But his expression showed the pain he felt tearing at his mended soul.
"I - God Angel I am so sorry." Pushing her hair out of her face, Tess looked around at the people who were standing frozen around the room. Mattresses, that had been found in a few vacant rooms were scattered through out the loft.
"Did you dream about the night Angelus took you?" Buffy crouched down near by, careful to stay out of distance. Knowing from experience it took a few minutes to calm the emotions Slayer dreams could bring.
"Yeah." Licking at her lips, Tess looked down. Feeling horrible for the anger she felt toward her friend, she couldn't bring herself to look up. "But with a different ending."
"You yelled Jason." From her corner in the room, Cordelia moved closer.
Not liking the feeling that she was in the hot seat, Tess shrugged. "I don't remember."
"Yes, well, perhaps we should let Tess get some fresh air. Cordelia could you take her to the rooftop while we straighten up?" Giles gave Cordelia a measured look.
"Sure." Shrugging, Cordelia went over to where she put her shoes the night before. "It's a little too crowded in here anyways."
Welcoming the chase to escape the knowing glances, Tess beat her friend to the door. When they were gone, everyone eyed one another.
"Apparently Elizabeth is trying to merge again." Clearing his throat, Giles reached down to pick up the questionable blanket he'd used the night before and started folding it.
"How long is it going to take?" Sitting down on the couch Tess had recently vacated, Buffy looked up to her mentor for answers.
"There's no telling." Was all he could supply. "Mr. McDonald, do you know of any spells that may increase the process?"
Frowning, Lindsey didn't know how he felt about being pulled into this group's conversation again. Last night he'd felt uneasy with the simple banter. Not familiar with protocol on serious matters, he looked over at Angel and saw he was waiting for him to answer.
"Not that I know of." He answered shortly. "But I also never thought I'd still be here after the first spell was done." No one looked insulted by his honesty, nor were there any snide comments.
"I'm not sure we should push it." Stepping into the conversation with a soft voice, Willow blushed. "Maybe this is one of those things that nature needs to take care of."
"I think Mrs. Rosenberg may be correct." Wesley said. "Too much magic may complicate things."
"I don't know." Buffy said slowly. "Last night was a close call. What happens if we were surrounded by the baddies?"
"Tess may just have to sit this one out." Gunn shrugged.
Xander laughed. "Tess, sit out. That's funny."
"Tess isn't the benched kind of gal." Buffy smiled at the idea.
"Then we need to make sure that either Buffy or I are around her." Angel said.
"Fine." Agreeing, Giles took a look around the room. "There's something else that's been on my mind. Perhaps a few of us should head home. The last thing we need is to leave the Hellmouth or the Agency unattended."
This brought up a roar of disapproval. But Giles held up his hands. "Hold up."
Waiting until everyone quieted down, he finished what he was saying. "With all of us here it's overkill. We can't let our guard down back home."
"I understand where you're coming from," Wesley offered in a hesitant tone. "But perhaps what we need right now is overkill. It'll get us all home quicker this way."
"What bookman said." Gunn folded his arms over his chest. "I'm not leaving Angel's side."
"Well we're not leaving." Xander glowered.
"Perhaps if we reorganize." Seeing that Giles was relenting, Wesley approached him cautiously. Still remembering years before when he'd made an ass of himself in front of the other man, he didn't want to repeat past events. "Find some sort of structure."
"Go on." Giles said thoughtfully.
"Well we all have our talents. And we're used to doing things differently now that we're not all together. We just need to regroup. For example, Willow's proficient on the computer and excels with magic. We get her to start gathering all the information we can about the town and the players we have so far. She can start putting wards on the building."
Seeing that no one was rebuffing him, Wesley hurried on. "Gunn and Xander can get the layout of the town. From what I recall, Xander's Halloween stint as a soldier has left an imprint. Mix that with Gunn's street smarts they'd be perfect match for the job."
"What about you?" Giles raised a brow.
Nervous again, Wesley fidgeted. "If you wouldn't mind terribly, I would like to assist you in your training of Tess and Buffy. I know I didn't do a good show of it last time."
Giles looked over at his Slayer and saw her hesitation. Buffy had never cared for the other Watcher, but at the same time he hadn't really tried to convince her to give Wesley a fair chance. "I believe that'd be fine."
"What about him?" Gunn nodded to Lindsey.
"He and Cordelia are people persons." Angel answered quickly, and with no room for argument. "When they want to be. We need information that can't be found on the internet."
Feeling the hairs on the back of his neck rise, Lindsey narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Angel. "Meaning?"
"The talk around town." Angel shrugged. "Small towns are gossip mills. I bet we'll get more information from the word on the street."
"Why me?" Lindsey questioned.
"Because like it or not McDonald, you're part of this now." Holding out his arms, Angel indicated he meant part of the group of people surrounding him. "You said yourself you'd planned on leaving. But you didn't. Don't you wonder why?"
"Whatever." Not able to come up with any other reply, Lindsey grabbed his duffle and headed to the bathroom.
"Well that went well." Gunn muttered. "You sure about this? He's stabbed us in the back before."
Standing silent, Angel looked in the direction Lindsey had gone. "Something tells me he's on a different road now. And if he isn't, he doesn't stand a chance against Cordelia."
"The town doesn't look too bad in daylight." Leaning against the railing, Cordelia looked over the harbor.
"Everything looks better in the daylight." Wrapping her arms around herself, Tess felt a chill go through her. "I feel stupid."
"Why?" Cordelia asked. "Because you had a nightmare we all still have?"
Feeling wretched, Tess sighed. "I hurt Angel's feelings."
"He's a big boy." Waiving her hand in the air, something that just screamed Cordelia, Tess felt eased that some things didn't change. "I know I haven't had the chance to say anything, what with everyone hovering around you, but I missed you."
Okay, some things apparently did change. "Cordy, are you feeling okay?"
"Yeah." Frowning Cordelia looked puzzled. "Why."
"Well, you sound . . . nice. Less bitchy."
"We've always been friends." Cordelia answered open mouthed.
"I know. But we've been up here and you haven't complained once. Haven't insulted or torn anyone to shreds. Are you possessed?"
"People change." Looking uncomfortable, Cordelia went to looking out at the water again.
"I think I like this Cordelia." Touching her friend on the shoulder. "Had I known my body had been injected with someone else's personality I'm sure I would've missed you too."
"Well of course . . ." Putting a hand to her head, Cordelia's knees buckled. "Oh, not now!"
"Cordy?" Reacting, Tess threw her arms around her friend before she crashed to the ground.
Gritting her teeth, Cordelia let out a forced breath and struggled to speak. "Get Angel."
"The suns out." Past panicked, Tess struggled to get Cordelia's thrashing body to the stairway. "Hold on Cordy."