CHAPTER 36: A PLACE CALLED HOME
Two weeks later Buffy and Angel opened the doors and walked into the Hyperion together for the first time.
It had been two hectic weeks, to say in the least. At first, Giles, Xander and Willow had been more than a little displeased with the thought of Buffy leaving – to live with Angel no less, but they were sensible enough not to speak much of their concern.
They understood how miserable Buffy would be in Sunnydale. She would inevitably become the female version of Angel – ensouled vampire living in the mansion, not able to participate in any daytime activities, cut off from her friends.
In vain they had all tried to come up with things for her to do when she told them that she didn't think there was much left for her in Sunnydale. Willow had offered to tutor Buffy, allowing her to continue the college classes she wanted to from home. Buffy had asked her for what purpose, something the witch couldn't really answer.
Xander har said that he was sure he could come up with some work for her at his construction site. He could tell his foreman that she was freakish and unsociable and only wanted to work at night. Of course, that had led to Anya commenting, saying that Buffy actually was unsociable and freakish, and the discussion had ended somewhere around there.
Giles had even offered her to stay with him and help out at the Magic Box. After that Buffy had simply tired of it; the "it" that she called the "Prying Buffy off of Angel and making her unhappy"-campaign. Maybe that wasn't how her friends wanted her to take it, but it was how it felt.
She had already explained that this was how it was going to be, at least right now. Angel was going back to his life in Los Angeles. She was going with him. End of story.
Xander had even presented her with the old "the Slayer can't leave Sunnydale"-monologue that she had tired of years ago. She wasn't the Slayer anymore, not officially. The only official Slayer was currently residing at Stockton; Northern California's Women Facility. Besides, if things really got tough... if the apocalypse came, again, she and Angel could always drive to Sunnydale in less than two hours.
The Council had yet to make another appearance. Angel didn't dare to hope that his little threat had actually held them at bay this long, so he suspected that they were planning something. Unfortunately there was no way of knowing, but Angel guessed that when the Council made their move, they would be painfully aware of it.
"It's huge!" Buffy said as she walked down the stairs into the lobby. Angel smiled at her almost childlike fascination.
"Well, if you think this is huge… There are four more floors with rooms, a basement, an enormous garage and at least a few wings that I haven't even had time to visit. Plenty of things to do if you want to stay inside all day, but it has sewer access as well so you can get around in the daytime. Buffy nodded, turning as she walked down the stairs.
"How could you afford this? I know your agency has done pretty good, but…"
"Well, I haven't actually bought it yet. For now we're leasing it for 6 months with an opportunity to buy," Angel said.
"Don't ask him why he doesn't buy it, because he won't answer it," Cordelia said as she came walking from Angel's office. "He could afford it, he has money," she continued. "He helped a bank robber to hide her haul here back in the 50s. When he came back here the money was still there."
Buffy frowned and looked at Angel.
"You took the money? The stolen money?" Cordelia frowned.
"Oh please. I believe the nickname was Scourge of Europe, not Moralizer of America. Right?" Angel glared at her.
"It's a long story, and Cordelia only knows a small part of it, so don't listen to what she's saying. I'll tell you the whole story later."
"Why later? Maybe I want to hear it too?" Cordelia said. Angel glared at her. "Oh bliss, Mr. Broody Pants is back," she sighed. "Hark, all! Hail to the black hole of boring despair."
"Cordelia, don't you have some – filing to take care of?" Angel said, holding back a sigh, just to get her out of there.
"Filing? We haven't had any cases for like, ever, and even if we did, I do my work at my own pace." She put her hands on her hips defiantly. Buffy watched the bickering between the two with almost amused fascination.
"You know, there are several boss versus employer no-no's," Angel said, a slight smirk tugging at his lips. "Deciding for yourself when you should work without permission to do so is one of them." Cordelia snorted. "So how about we pretend that I'm still your boss?"
"Aren't there a few boss-no-no's too? Like not trying to eat your employees, in fact not trying to kill them horribly in any way for instance?" Cordelia sneered.
"And then how about we pretend that you no longer have a boss?" Angel smirked. Cordelia glared at him for a second.
"Yeah? Let's see the big fat hero get his redemption going without the vision-girl. How are you gonna solve that, huh?"
Angel didn't actually smile, but Cordelia could see that he was at least a little amused.
Buffy studied Angel and Cordelia interact. It was amazing, such a big difference from when they were both living in Sunnydale. At first Cordelia had been interested in Angel simply because she thought he was a good looking older guy – but that had kind of got nipped in the bud when she realized that he only had eyes for Buffy. And there was the vampire thing too, of course…
When hehad lost his soul the first time, Cordelia had been as worried for her own life just like anybody else. Perhaps she expressed it a little bit differently though. Buffy remembered how fixated she had been on Angel having an invitation to her car… She actually drove around with garlic and crosses in it for months.
When Angel had come back from hell, Cordelia hadn't been having much contact with him at all. They had met in the library a few times and probably seen each other at the prom, sure, but definitely no one-on-one time. Cordelia, just as all of Buffy's friends had been afraid that one thing would lead to another and that Angel would loose his soul again. Then they had both left and obviously they had grown very close to each other after they met up in L.A.
Buffy almost felt a little jealous. Angel had obviously grown so much since he lived in Sunnydale, and she hadn't been there to see it. Cordelia was the one that had witnessed it closest. Buffy just hoped that, now that she was here, she would grow into the group without too much trouble. Surely her friends back in Sunnydale were not the only ones to have doubts concerning her and Angel and the fact that she was going to be living with him now. She couldn't see anything less than a lobotomy cure Cordelia of all her Angel-and-Buffy-together-worry.
"What are you thinking about?" Angel asked softly. She smiled at him.
"Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about what it is going to be like to live here with you. Having this big place, all to ourselves…"
"Don't forget that Wesley, Gunn and I work here too. Working here means that we're here a lot. I can assure you that you will be monitored. If things progress towards groining, we will step in with a cold shower and possibly violence," Cordelia warned from her desk. "Otherwise our agency might have to change its name to 'All Fangy and Grr' and I have said it before – the last thing I want is to show up at the office and find out I'm working for a homicidal monster." Angel and Buffy simply smiled at each other.
"Come on," Angel said. "I'll show you our room." When their footsteps had disappeared up the stairs, Cordelia shook her head.
"Why do I even bother? Why do I speak when no one listens? 'Forbidden love of all time'; yeah, this is gonna go well."
"Are we actually going to pay Buffy? 'Cause honestly, has she done anything else than distracting the boss lately?" Cordelia complained.
Buffy had been living in the hotel for just over two weeks, and between jobs and slaying sprees in town, she and Angel were spending dangerously much time together upstairs, in their room. While Cordelia didn't actually know what they were doing, she could imagine. Why couldn't they at least get separate rooms? On separate floors? For the good of the world. And her nerves. Not like there wasn't more than enough rooms to go around.
"You should leave them alone, Cordelia. They have been through so much, they deserve a little time to themselves." Wesley said calmly from his desk.
"No. Oh no. Those two plus time alone equals badness, as in world in peril badness." Wesley looked at her, frowning.
"You're worried about the curse?"
"Duh! But, Smarty Pants, it's curs-ES now, remember?"
"Cordelia, I have the utmost confidence that neither Buffy nor Angel would do anything to risk the curse, or curses for that matter, being broken."
"You can 'utmost confidence' me all you want. You weren't around the first time this happened – and you didn't see how lingering and close they were afterwards. They don't learn their lesson easily, I tell you." Cordelia insisted.
"No matter what you say, I have faith in Angel." Wesley stated.
"That's cute," Cordelia snorted. "Well, if Angelus comes strolling down those stairs and rips your head off, don't come running to me."
"It's a deal," Wesley replied dryly.
"You're like a dead fish, do you know that? It's like 'flop, flop, floppy-flop, gently down the stream. Merely, merely, merely, merely - life as a trout is a dream," Cordelia mocked. Wesley glared at her.
"This coming from you?"
"What's that supposed to mean? I'll have you know, I've always been independent and self-confident."
"Oh, is that right? I think you've gotten one word wrong there; it's not self-confident as much as self-centred." Cordelia crossed her arms over her chest.
"This is rich, coming from Mr. Council-whipped-drooling-all-over-your-face-kisser," Cordelia said triumphantly. She smirked at Wesley's expression. "Yeah, didn't think I'd remembered that, did ya?"
"What are you two doing?" Angel asked from his position next to Buffy, coming down the stairs. The vampire was clearly annoyed. Cordelia realized that he and Buffy had probably heard her and Wesley from upstairs. They tended to get a little on the loud side – plus the acoustics were great in the lobby. Well, she couldn't help it that Angel and Buffy had ears like bats.
"Angel, hi! We were just… having a nice discussion." Angel glared at them.
"No, you weren't."
"Well, our discussions tend to go on for about five seconds. After that it's strictly name calling and hair pulling," Wesley cut in.
"Right," Angel said with a short nod. He obviously didn't have the energy do discuss Cordelia and Wesley's debate methods. He went through the lobby and got his coat from his office.
"We're going out," he stated as he and Buffy walked towards the door.
Cordelia watched them, feeling a sting of annoyance in the back of her head. Fine, Mr. and Mrs. Broody Immortal, go out all night and leave us with all the paperwork.
But the sting grew stronger... bigger... numbing her whole head. The room was starting to spin around, and she saw herself drop the folder she was holding in her hands when she fell to her knees, letting out a painful scream.
"Angel, wait!" Wesley shouted as he kneeled beside Cordelia, supporting her. "Vision!" Angel quickly turned and came back down the stairs. Their recent spat forgotten, Wesley held Cordelia steady, supporting her throughout the vision.
"Cordy, what do you see?"
Through the pain that Cordelia was sure must physically rupture something in her head, she saw a tall and skinny creature with stubby legs and finlike arms. She saw a sewer tunnel… Exactly the same sewer tunnel Angel had been in when he got hit by Toth. It was months ago now, but she wouldn't forget that in the first place.
"It's the Bucah," Cordelia panted, her hands shaking when she reached them up to massage her temples. "The same one as last time... and it's in the same place." Wesley helped Cordelia to the couch and disappeared to fetch her some water and aspirin.
"The sewer tunnel? Or the motel?"
"Yeah, it's in the..." She winced as another wave of pain shot through her head and a few more pictures became clear. "Oh god, it's gonna get someone. A girl. Hurry!"
Angel and Buffy quickly made their way to the door, and Cordelia sat still for a few seconds before Wesley came back with the pain killers.
"Here," he offered. She smiled faintly as she swallowed the pills with a gulp of water, already knowing that simple aspirin wouldn't help against the pain. She closed her eyes and winced as a few more images from the vision became clear.
"Ahh... Oh, no, Wesley."
"Cordy, what is it?"
"Something's gonna happen down there, in the tunnel."
"What? Are they going to be too late to save the girl?"
"No… there is something else down there in the sewers." Wesley frowned.
"What is it? Can you see it?" Cordelia tried to shake her head but quickly ceased the movement when it caused the pain to overwhelm her again.
"No... I can't see it... but it's... it's bad." Wesley nodded gravely.
"I'll try to reach them," he said, disappearing into the office to try and call Angel. When Cordelia was sure he was gone and couldn't see what she was doing, she walked slowly over to the counter and pulled her handbag out of a drawer.
She reached into it and pulled out her bottle of Seltrax. It wasn't anything she had any intention of telling anyone, but if she wanted to be able to function the hours after a vision, she needed her sweet migraine medicine.
Angel had an eerie feeling of déjà vu when he sped up; driving down the same road he had when he was chasing the Bucah the last time. This time he wouldn't go to the motel last like time though, Cordelia had seen the Bucah in the sewers so that's where they were heading. He frowned. She had said it was in the sewer, hadn't she?
"Didn't Cordelia say that the demon was in sewers?" Angel said, suddenly uncertain what she had actually answered to that question.
"I think..." Buffy fell silent. "She didn't really answer that, I think. Is she always that out of it when she has a vision?" Angel looked away, painfully aware that the visions - the visions she was enduring for his sake, his mission and redemption - was probably doing more damage to his friend than she would really let on. But she wouldn't talk about it - and quite frankly, he hadn't exactly been there for her a lot the last few months, now had he?
"They're hard on her," he murmured. Buffy nodded quickly, understanding that the subject was a sensitive one. She realized that she knew very little about everything that had been going on in Angel's life during his first year in Los Angeles. All she had ever cared about was yelling at him and blaming him when he did something that she didn't like. Like when he saved her from the pissed of Indian-guys... and Faith.
Things she should have cared about, when she was claiming to care about him so much, she had only heard recently from Cordelia and Wesley when they were in Sunnydale. Like when Angel's good friend Doyle died and gave Cordelia the visions for instance.
"Maybe you should call them and ask, just to be sure," she said softly. He glanced at her.
"I didn't bring my phone." Buffy shook her head.
"Great. Well, we'll just have to guess then, won't we."
Angel stopped the car, getting out and taking in the surroundings. This was where it all started... all the madness that was the fall of year 2000. Would he ever stop thinking about what would have happened if he hadn't followed the Bucah into the sewer? What if he had gone home instead...
"So this is the place... where it happened? Where Toth shot you?" Buffy wondered, interrupting his thoughts.
"Yeah, down in the tunnels. Here's the manhole where I went down."
When they were down in the sewer tunnel, they had no idea how to continue. Angel couldn't pick up the Bucah's scent and there was no visible trail of it in the reeking, thick much that covered the tunnels.
"This was hard enough when I was hot on its trail," Angel muttered. "It has finlike arms and moves through these tunnels very smoothly and easily." Buffy nodded.
"We'll split up," Buffy stated firmly.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Angel asked, uncertain.
"Angel, you heard what Cordelia said. It's going to get someone, so we need to find it quickly. Splitting up is the best way. Don't worry about me. Don't forget that I've been tracking big scaries through miles and miles of sewer for years."
"Yeah, okay. Just… yell if you need me."
"Oh please. Slayer turned vampire – they don't come stronger than me. I can take on one little fishy creature," she smirked.
Buffy smiled. "Will do."
Buffy and Angel went in opposite directions. Buffy skulked silently through the tunnels for several minutes before she could see anything of interest at all. Suddenly, a movement further down the tunnel made her stop. She concentrated on whatever was moving in front of her. It looked like what Angel had described. Kind of a short, stubby thing. She followed it. Well, this wasn't so hard. Maybe Angel had exaggerated.
Unfortunately the creature soon realized it was being followed and broke into a run. Now Buffy understood what Angel had meant about it being really fast in the tunnels. Its arms allowed it to almost swim through the muck. Buffy could only splash on at a slow walking pace.
She was becoming really frustrated when she saw that the Bucah took a left into another tunnel with almost no muck, there she would have the upper hand. However, when she turned left, it was no one there. The tunnel was empty. She stopped and looked around, seizing her own breathing to hear better.
Where did it go?
Suddenly, something approached Buffy from behind. Her senses had time to catch the fact that something was sneaking up on her, but she didn't have time to react. Before she could even turn to defend herself she felt a jolt, like an electric shock. She was sent crashing into the tunnel wall, feeling really dazed, the world flickering dark before her eyes.
Had she hit her head? Realizing that she would be mightily screwed if the thing that attacked her tried to finish her off while she was down, she decided this just may be a good time to take Angel up on that "yell if you need me" proposal.
"Angel!" she croaked, her voice weak and strained. When she could focus her gaze enough to see straight, whatever gave her the shock had already left. Buffy heard splashing as Angel came running through the tunnel.
"Buffy? Are you okay?" He kneeled down beside her, worry clear in his eyes. She attempted a reassuring smile, but it came out more as a pained grimace.
"Yeah… ooh, maybe not… I don't know. Something slammed me into the wall."
"Who? What happened?"
"It was like a jolt or something. More like getting struck by lightening," she muttered.
"The Bucah did it?"
"I don't know. I guess so, it went in here and when I got here it was gone." Buffy slowly raised herself from the ground with Angel's help.
"Well, we don't know that much about them," he mused, hoping that it was onlt the Bucah that had presented them with a few hidden powers. Because if it wasn't... what did that mean? That they had another enemy out there, somewhere. "Maybe it has some other power than swimming quickly through muck."
"Yeah. Anyway, it's gone now…" Buffy said, clearly disappointed.
"I'm afraid so, yeah. We can follow this tunnel to the end, see if we can pick up its scent. Don't think there's any other choice really." Buffy made a grimace.
"Right." Buffy and Angel walked down the tunnel, him supporting her slightly.
A good while after they had left, a figure appeared just where Buffy had been lying. A figure that looked just like her… right down to the last lock of blonde hair. She stirred, felt the back of her head and opened her eyes. Her green, cold and piercing eyes.
Buffy sat up and cocked her head, adjusting to the surroundings.
"Well, this is... interesting," she said to herself, smirking evilly.
TO BE CONTINUED
A/N: That's it, good folks. Well, actually it's not. I will begin to post the second part shortly. Don't forget to review if you want me to hurry up. :-)