Blessed Relief

Summary: Spike visits L.A., and winds up working with Cordelia in a matter that brings them closer together than either of them would have wanted. . .

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for violence and themes.

Time Frame: Summer, post fourth season BTVS and first season Angel.

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Dedication: To Amanda, on the occasion of her birthday.


"Angel Investigations. We help the hopeless." Cordelia's voice was crisp as she answered the business line on her phone. She had been aimlessly clicking through the deeply boring programs on cable and dealing with Phantom Dennis' mischievous mood (he had taken to hiding her shoes and lipstick, and it was getting old VERY fast), and was glad for the interruption.

"Cordelia. . .how are you?" The calm, educated tones of Giles came over the line and caused her to smile softly. Unmentionable incidents with toadstones aside, she had always been rather fond of the former Watcher. . .not that she would ever let him know it. She replied, "Doing all right, I suppose. . .is the world coming to an end?"

There was a pause on the other end of the line, and Cordelia smiled as she pictured the annoyed expression on Giles' face as he replied, "No, but I have some news for you. Willow has discovered a ritual that could alleviate some of the attendant discomfort that apparently is inherently associated with your precognitive abilities."

Cordelia smiled more broadly, but knew that Giles would be disappointed if she denied him the chance to explain it to her in small words. She paused, then commented acidly, "Ah, Giles. . .could I have that again, please. . .and in English?"

An exasperated (yet, Cordelia thought, secretly satisfied) sigh came from the other end of the line, and Giles stated bluntly, "It will enchant an amulet that will make those visions of yours less painful."

Cordelia laughed in genuine delight and replied, "That's great, Giles. . .so what do I need to do?"

"We already have most of the elements for the ritual here in Sunnydale, but there is one element missing. . .the amulet itself." Giles' voice was grim, making it clear that this would not be a simple task.

"So where is this amulet thingie? Tibet? Brazil? Monaco?" Cordelia named three places at random, hoping that her relief would not involve an expedition to somewhere unpleasant.

There was another pause, and Giles replied flatly: "Newport Beach."

Cordelia blinked incredulously and replied, "You're kidding." Newport Beach, California was about sixty miles from Cordelia's apartment and was one of the more exclusive communities in Orange County. . .not the place that one would expect to find some demonic artifact. She shook her head and continued, "Well. . .at least it's in a nice neighborhood. . .so, what, I need to go down and pick it up?"

"It's a little more complicated than that, Cordelia. . .the amulet is in the possession of a demon named Juwara, who dwells in an abandoned church near one of the less pricey residential areas." Giles seemed to be reading from something, apparently from some notes that someone (probably Willow) had handed him. "To make the ritual work properly, Juwara must be killed and you personally must remove the amulet from his corpse."

Cordelia's face twisted in disgust, and she commented, "Excuse me, but ewww. Do I have to kill the Jumanji thingie myself, too?"

Giles sighed and replied, "That's Juwara, Cordelia, and no. . .but you can only have one champion at your side to fight and kill the demon; otherwise, the ritual will fail. Is Angel available?"

Cordelia sighed and responded, 'No. . .he and Wesley are out tracking some pack of slime demons. . .they could be gone for days." She brightened and asked, "What about Buffy? She's good at killing demons and things. . ."

She could hear the smile in his voice as he replied, "Yes, she certainly is. . .but, unfortunately, she's off in Iowa with Riley for a few days, and the ritual has to be performed before sunrise the day after tomorrow. . .I'd be glad to volunteer, of course, but Juwara is rumored to be formidable. I'm afraid that I'm probably not up to killing him, and I can't recruit further help, such as Xander. . .I'm sorry, Cordelia."

Cordelia frowned and responded, "Oh well, bad timing and all that. . .you'll probably figure out someth-" An evil smile appeared on her face, and she laughed.

Giles made a confused noise from the other end of the line, and Cordelia commented, "Giles, I just had a really good idea how to get my amulet away from one nasty demon. . ." She spent the next sixty seconds explaining her idea, and the next ten minutes overcoming Giles' pointed objections. However, in the end, he bowed to her reasoning and hung up, and Cordelia settled down to wait, dozing off in her seat while Phantom Dennis gently pulled a light blanket over her.

* * * * *

The doorbell rang, then rang again insistently. Cordelia started out of her sleep and glanced at the clock: 4:15 AM. She smiled coldly and walked to the door, unlocked it, and pulled it open.

Spike stood there, wearing his usual basic black and leather. He looked deeply irritated, but said nothing. Cordelia smiled again and commented, "Why, Spike. . .what a pleasant surprise. . .it's not every day someone comes by who's threatened to kill me. What should I do. . .? Oh, I know. . .come in, Spike." She turned her back disdainfully on him and walked back into the apartment, knowing that he was following her, fuming. She settled down on the couch and pointed at a chair, where he sat, glaring at her. Cordelia smiled radiantly at him, then purred, "Spike, do you know why you're here?"

Spike glared at her for a moment longer, then replied, "The bloody unemployed librarian came by my crypt and threw me the keys to a rental car and gave me your address. . .didn't tell me why."

Cordelia nodded and asked innocently, "Why, Spike. . .why would you let Giles order you around like that?" Spike's jaw set and he looked away pointedly as Cordelia laughed and continued, "Oh, that's right. . .you teamed up with that wannabe Frankenstein monster and tricked Buffy and the others into fighting with each other and nearly got them all killed. Of course, you switched sides at the last minute in time to save your worthless hide. . .but they're still mighty pissed at you. . .doing a favor for Giles might make it a bit easier to keep the blood coming without problems. . .so here you are."

Spike looked back at her, and didn't bother to disguise his anger as he snapped, "All right, enough! What's the dirty little job I have to do for you. . .need a babysitter? Want your car waxed? What annoying, degrading thing do I have to do to keep all of you do-gooders off of my back for a while?"

Cordelia looked gravely at him and replied, "You get to kill a demon."

Spike blinked, then smiled cautiously, asking pointedly, "What's the catch?"

Cordelia repeated what Giles had told her, including the deadline imposed by the requirements of the ritual. By the time she had finished, Spike was nodding and commented, "I ran across this Juwara wanker a while back. . .nasty temper. We had a bit of a tussle and he ran off. . .hadn't heard he had come to these parts." The vampire looked at Cordelia and nodded, elaborating, "All right, I'll kill your big, bad demon for you, and you can tell your buddy Rupert that I was helpful. Deal?"

Cordelia thought for a moment, then nodded: "Deal." She nodded at the couch and suggested, "I'm going to bed. . .you can crash here. . .I've put up heavy curtains for Angel's sake, so you don't need to worry about getting that all over burnt look."

Spike smirked at her as she got up to head to her bedroom. She was wearing a sleeveless top and shorts, not like the usual fashion ensemble he was used to seeing her in. He had to admit, she was quite a looker. . .not that that was going to make this job any less degrading. . .other than the fun of killing an old adversary, of course. You had to take your fun where you can find it, and Spike was, at heart, a pragmatist. He settled on the couch and quickly fell asleep.

* * * * *

"All right, Spike. . .rise and shine."

Spike opened his eyes and saw Cordelia standing next to the couch, looking down at him. He sat up, blinked, and took in her changed appearance. She had tied her hair into a tight bun, fully revealing a rather attractive neck. The sleeveless top and shorts had been replaced by a two piece black garment that covered most of her body. She wore leather gloves and comfortable shoes with good soles. A sheathed knife hung from her belt, along with a fanny pack. Spike whistled and commented, "You look like that Lara Croft bird from the commercials, luv."

Cordelia snickered, "Oh, please. . .it's not as if I'd wear something nice for something like this just to get demon guts all over it. . ." She frowned and looked pointedly at Spike, elaborating, "Besides, you evil types always like to have some loser types around you to tell you how wonderful you are, and I might have to deal with them while you're killing that Jumama guy."

Spike raised an eyebrow and replied, "You're going to deal with them? Fighting demons isn't your kind of work, princess."

Cordelia looked calmly at him and replied, "It's been a tough year. . .I've picked up a few tricks along the way. Besides, to tone these damned headaches down, I'm willing to risk getting my head ripped off." She indicated the door and said, "Let's go."

They got into Angel's car, with Cordelia insisting on driving, and they made good time getting to Newport Beach. Spike relaxed, watching the scenery whiz by in the darkness. At length, he looked back at Cordelia, and considered, not for the first time, how she reminded him of Dru. The hair, the eyes, the graceful build (though Dru had become painfully frail during her illness) all strongly set his thoughts back to his lost love, and he was hard pressed to keep his expression neutral as he watched the young woman drive with a frown on her face. Even this whole thing with the link to the Powers that Be. . .Spike had never understood the source of Dru's visions, but they had tormented her, both in life and unlife. . .even if that bastard Angelus hadn't broken her mind, the torment that the visions caused her certainly would have. But Cordelia seemed to be more irritated by her power than anything, and the prospect of making them less uncomfortable clearly was motivating her to take some rather unhealthy risks.

Spike had heard a lot about the events that had transpired in Sunnydale in his absence, including some involving Cordelia. He had been impressed at her bluff of Lyle Gorch that had saved Buffy, Giles, and herself. . .he had survived an inconclusive encounter with the outlaw brother vampires, and knew that they were no pushovers, though they were deeply stupid. He had also heard about her injury suffered the night he left Sunnydale back in late '98. . .he had had a moment of dark amusement at the anguish that he had inflicted on Xander, but once again, he had been impressed with how Cordelia had dealt with a major crisis; clearly, she had moved on. She had also done a good job of helping to outmaneuver him with the help of that guy Doyle and Wolf Boy. . .this one had some steel, no question about it. Dru was like that sometimes, in her more lucid moments, but usually she was rather prone to fits of weeping and withdrawal. Which, perversely, always appealed to the protective instincts that he was otherwise not willing to admit he possessed, but at times it had worn on him. He wondered at times whether the fit of insanity that had seen him with Harmony had been an unknowing attempt to recapture that sense of protective affection that he had felt for Dru. . .if that had been it, it had failed catastrophically.

They pulled to a stop within sight of the church, and got out of the car. The building in question was a plain brick structure that looked as if it had been constructed in the fifties, and-except for a broken stained glass window-was relatively intact. Spike glanced up and noted the full moon, commenting, "A lot of that light should come in through the windows. . .you won't be completely in the dark. . .but keep an eye on the shadows."

Cordelia nodded, then abruptly seemed to go into spasms, holding her head with both hands as if she were in extreme pain. Reflexively, Spike moved over and grabbed her, lowering her to the ground and holding her until she stopped twitching. She was still for a moment, and Spike found himself asking, "You all right, luv?"

Cordelia came back to full awareness, realizing that she was being held by a very strong pair of arms. She took a moment to enjoy the experience (after all, this one was unlikely to impregnate her or even-thanks to the chip-impale her on any construction debris) then opened her eyes and replied, "Fine, thanks. . .I could do without one of those for a while now." She stood up and brushed herself off, then was preparing to enter the church when Spike touched her arm. She turned and asked pointedly, "What?"

Spike gestured and commented, "You just went into a fit in front of me, Cordelia. . .then you get up and brush it off like nothing happened. . .what was the bloody vision about, anyway?"

Cordelia looked at him, and after a moment replied, "Someone's in trouble, but it won't happen for a week or so. . .Angel can deal with it when he gets back."

Spike snorted. Cordelia was a poor liar, and Spike was clearly getting the sense she was lying to him. He shook his head and commented sardonically, "So you get the headaches and the big poof gets to play hero. . .doesn't seem fair somehow."

Cordelia locked eyes with him and snapped, "Spike, I know that manipulating friends to go for each other's throats is your idea of a fun time, but mostly it just pisses me off. Now, are we here to kill a demon, or listen to you shoot your mouth off?" She turned again and stalked into the church, and Spike, shaking his head in annoyance, followed her.

They stood in the foyer of the church, which had been stripped of anything of value. Straight ahead were the double doors that led to the pews. Cordelia was reaching for one of the door handles when Spike stopped her. He pointed up, and in the moonlight Cordelia saw tripwires attached to the doors. She nodded and stepped back. Spike stepped outside and picked a large rock out of the remains of the garden, then heaved it at the doors from twenty feet away. The doors were smashed off of their hinges, and there were twin "fwhip" noises as arrows crisscrossed in front of where the wreckage lay. Smiling with satisfaction, Spike stepped forward, with Cordelia following with a mildly chagrined look on her face.

They entered the main part of the church, and they could both see the rows of empty pews leading forward, and the empty podium. Cordelia frowned and looked puzzled, and seemed to be about to say something when Spike paused briefly, then sprinted forward. There was a brief flash, and he vanished from view. Cordelia cursed and began moving forward cautiously when, suddenly, she heard the sounds of a fight coming from what appeared to be empty space. She moved to the point where Spike had vanished, then took a step forward.

The flash appeared again, after which she saw Spike beating up another vampire; apparently, the empty church they had seen was an image, which had been defeated by Spike's vampiric senses. She whistled and tossed Spike a stake: he caught it in mid air and delivered the coup de grace. As the vampire burst into dust, a bellow echoed through the church, "WHO DARES DISTURB ME?"

A seven foot tall blue demon with long talons strode out of what had been the minister's office and glared at the intruders. A necklace with a ruby the size of a small grape hung around its neck, and Cordelia thought irrelevantly about how good it would look with her black evening gown.

Spike turned to the angry demon and called out, "That would be me. . .it's been a long time since I've run into you, Juwara. . .though the sight of your wrinkled blue ass receding in the distance is a memorable one, I must admit."

The demon scowled at him and replied, "I remember you. . .this time, it will be me with the memorable experience. . .killing you slowly and painfully." Juwara charged, and Spike stepped back, fending off the initial onslaught, while Cordelia reached into her fanny pack and carefully pulled out several items.

The demon had reach on Spike, not to mention razor sharp claws, and the blond vampire took a couple of rakes early on that did some substantial damage to his trademark jacket. Annoyed, Spike began bobbing and weaving, causing the next few attempted rakes to miss. Juwara overextended on an attempt to attack low, and Spike scored with an uppercut, stunning the huge creature temporarily. Spike pressed his advantage, throwing several combinations to the stomach and throwing a vicious kick at the right knee, causing a loud crack. The demon dropped to one knee, howling, and Spike moved around him, dodging the claws and getting it in a headlock. Grinning, he commented, "I've picked up a few tricks in the last hundred years." He gave a quick, brutal twist, and Juwara's neck snapped like a twig. As the corpse hit the ground, he concluded, "You haven't."

Feeling relaxed, Spike turned back to Cordelia, commenting, "All right, get the damned amulet and let's get out-" He saw motion and saw that Cordelia was hurling an object in his general direction. His sharp eyes spotted it in mid-air and he recognized it as a vial of holy water, which would shatter on impact with any reasonably hard surface, sending holy water spraying in a wide area. His eyes widened, but he instantly realized that the vial would not strike him: it was headed for the empty, open doorway behind his left shoulder. Puzzled, he turned and saw a vampire, stake in hand, rushing through the doorway in an attempt to strike at his exposed back, only to have the vial strike it in the chest and shatter.

Spike took a mild splash on the left hand, which burned like hell but did no serious damage, while the vampire stumbled forward and fell into a heap, screaming with pain from the burns to its face and chest. As Spike stared, Cordelia walked over, picked up the stake that the creature had dropped, and staked it, causing it to vanish in a cloud of dust. She then stepped forward and took the necklace from Juwara's corpse, after which she called out, "Good idea. . .let's go."

She had started to walk away when Spike whispered, "You knew. . .that's what your damned vision was about. You knew that bloody vamp was going to stake me. . .why didn't you say anything to me?"

Cordelia shrugged and replied, "I saw him coming up behind you just after you killed the demon in the vision. . .if I had told you, it might have changed things and the demon might have gotten you, instead. . .don't you ever watch 'Star Trek'. . .duh!"

Spike frowned and nodded, "All right. . .I guess you've got a point. . .but next time, just yell, all right? I hate bloody holy water burns. . .they take forever to heal." Grumbling, he followed Cordelia outside, and they drove off into the night.

* * * * *

Cordelia called out, "Night, Giles. . .I'll give you a call in a couple of weeks." She walked out of the front of Giles' building and walked to Angel's car. She started when she saw the figure slip from the shadows, then relaxed when she recognized Spike. She raised an eyebrow and asked, "What are you still doing around? I thought you'd be out on the town, or chowing down on that blood Giles scored for you."

Spike smirked, then replied, "After all of the crap we went through to get that bloody amulet, I wanted to find out if the ritual worked."

Cordelia shrugged and pulled the chain and ruby out from under her top. The stone seemed to glow faintly in the darkness as she explained, "No way to know until I get another one. . .and no way to know how much help it will be if it does work. . .oh well, either way it was worth a shot. . .and it is really nice as an accessory."

Spike looked at the blood red stone as it rested between her breasts and murmured, "It certainly is."

Cordelia ignored the comment and got into the car. She looked over at Spike with an oddly appraising stare for a few seconds, then shook her head distractedly and drove off. Spike watched the car disappear into the distance, then shook his own head and began the walk back to his crypt, where a great deal of blood and very little company awaited him.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired