A/N: Okay, so...it's been about five months since I updated this particular story. Yeah. I'm sorry about that. It's been really, really busy, and I guess this story just sort of fell by the wayside. However, I promise that I'll update this story more often (as often as I can in the future!)
I'd like to thank SpeedDemon315, RabidReject, and The Brat Princess for their reviews!
Disclaimer: Don't own Angel. That still belongs to Joss Whedon, the lucky bastard.
"So one day, he found her crying
Coiled up on the dirty ground
Her prince finally came to save her
And the rest she can figure out
But it was a trick
And the clock struck twelve
So make sure to build your home
Brick by boring brick
Or the wolf's gonna blow it down
Keep your feet on the ground
When your head's in the clouds
Well go get your shovel
And we'll dig a deep hole
To bury the castle, bury the castle
Well go get your shovel
And let's dig a deep hole
To bury the castle, bury the castle."
-"Brick by Boring Brick" by Paramore
Chapter Six: Six Weeks Past Due
Six weeks passed without anything noteworthy.
And to Morrigan, this was not a good thing. By nature, she couldn't resist chaos. It almost amused her to see humans running about like chickens with their heads cut off. But more than that, it seemed to give her a sense of peace-watching people lose their minds in chaos while knowing that, in her little world, everything was going just swimmingly.
But it wasn't just the lack of madness in Los Angeles that disturbed her-there was something that disturbed her even more.
Doyle, Cordelia, Lindsey, and Eve had not failed to notice this, to take note of her shortened temper. And they all knew the very source of Morrigan's frustrations, too…
"This insubordination is vexing me to no end," she complained to the four loyal devotees, whom she had called into her office for the point of venting to. "In all my years in the business of necromancy, this is"-She paused.-"Quite unprecedented."
"How terribly rude of her, to behave in such a way," Eve stated disapprovingly.
"You know what would have happened if I had acted the same way she's been acting while I was still at Wolfram and Hart?" Lindsey inquired with a rueful smile. "They would have chopped off my other hand."
The necromancer's sapphire eyes came to rest on Cordelia. "You did fill her in on her expected duties under my fealty, did you not?"
"Every last detail, to a t," Cordelia responded with a firm nod.
"Including the expectation of weekly check-ins and reports of progress, as well as prompt responses to any mental contact and obedience of all commands the first time they're given?"
"And did you mention the consequences that befall those who don't listen?"
"I gave her enough gory details to get your message across."
She leaned back in her chair, crossing one leg over the other and raising a finger to rest against her mouth in thought. "Then she's either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid."
"So what do we do?" Doyle questioned.
There was a long moment of silence before Morrigan finally answered. "Cordelia, I'm sending you out to deliver a warning to our little rebel. She's got one last saving grace, and then"-She narrowed her eyes with a nefarious smirk.-"It's game over."
"Come on, Angel, I really need you to help me with this."
The aforementioned vampire eyed the camera clutched in Fred's hands with suspicion. "And how do I know this film is only going to capture my likeness, not do something else?"
"Like what? Unless she's more of a genius than I originally thought, I doubt she fit a wooden stake or sunlight into the bloody camera," Spike stated cheekily.
"Hey, I have to ask these things."
"Trust me, Angel, it's safe," Wesley promised, coming up behind Fred and wrapping his arms around her waist. "I watched her create the film and adapt the camera myself."
"More than watched-he helped me create the film and modify the camera!" she gushed brightly, leaning back into her lover's arms and exchanging a quick kiss with him.
Angel heaved a sigh, sounding for all the world as if they'd asked him to build the pyramids single-handedly. "All right, fine. I'll do it."
"Good!" Fred chirped. "Now, take off your shirts, both of you."
"What?" Angel yelped.
Spike chuckled, peeling his black T-shirt from his body and yanking it over his head with no hesitations. "Thought you'd never ask."
"Come on, Angel," Fred pleaded. "Just take your shirt off."
"Why?" he protested. "You're taking pictures. Why do I need to remove my shirt for that?"
"Because I want to test the camera with broad expanses of vampire skin. Just to make sure it really works."
"Sure that isn't just an excuse to see us without our shirts on?" Spike snickered, raising a brow, a wicked, teasing grin on his face. Wesley frowned, not amused.
"Don't press you luck, Spike."
"Anyways," the blonde vampire continued, oblivious to Wesley, "stop crying and take your bloody shirt off, Captain Forehead!"
"I don't know…"
Illyria, who had been passing behind him, reached out and snagged the back of his shirt, giving a forceful tug. The seams ripped in a cacophony of threads snapping and cloth tearing, and the back of the black sweater came away in her hands. The front of the sweater, now unsupported, drifted lazily to the floor. With a surprised yelp, Angel quickly crossed his arms over his bare chest.
She blinked owlishly at him. "Fred asked you to remove your shirt. I was merely helping you comply."
"I didn't ask for your assistance!"
"Yes, but you weren't obeying Fred, when you agreed to do what she asked. Now, you are obeying Fred." She stared blankly at him for a long minute. "I don't see what the problem is."
That being said, she strolled off, stopping once she'd passed Fred and Wesley and observing the scene from a distance.
"Come on, Angel," the physicist cajoled gently. "Just a few? Please?"
"All right." Begrudgingly, he uncrossed his arms. "Fine."
"Oh, come on, Angel, why so shy all of a sudden?" Nina asked, strolling in with a grin on her face that, appropriately enough, could be described as wolfish. "You never have any problem taking your shirt off around me. Or your pants, for that matter."
"Ah, so Captain Forehead is a bit bolder in the bedroom!" Spike goaded, his wicked grin intensifying. "And here now, I thought he'd be even more boring in the sack than Percy over here." He jerked a thumb at Wesley, who frowned.
"I resent that."
"Don't worry, Wes-you're anything but boring behind closed doors," Fred promised, before turning back to her two bickering subjects. "Now, are you two ready?"
"I've been ready for ages!" the British vampire exclaimed, pointing indignantly at Angel, who had shoved his hands in the pockets of his pants. "It's the prude over here who's holding everything up!"
"Spike, shut up before I shut you up for good," the aforementioned vampire growled.
"What are you going to do? Dust me?"
"Don't tempt me. We have plenty of wooden stakes."
"You'd have to catch me first, old man."
"Being older than you means I'm faster than you, idiot. Stronger, too."
"The hell it bloody does!"
"With age comes speed and strength in vampires, you should know this by now."
"Bullocks! Who told you that? Stephenie Meyers? We know how much that old bag knows about-"
"ENOUGH!" Fred suddenly bellowed, astonishingly loud given her small size. Both vampires immediately stopped bickering, instead staring at her in astonishment. Neither could ever remember her losing her temper, shouting-raising her voice a bit, yes, but losing her temper and hollering wasn't Fred's forte.
She narrowed her eyes at them. "Can't you two give it a rest for a minute? I swear, it's ridiculous how much you two fight! I just need both of you to act like you like each other long enough for me to take a few simple pictures. Can you do that?"
Angel nodded mutely.
"Yes, ma'am," Spike replied, eyebrows raised in surprise.
"Good!" And instantly, Fred's cheerful, bubbly demeanor was back; she raised the camera. "Say cheese!"
"Cheese..?" both vampires echoed, giving slightly nervous smiles. Fred hit the button, capturing the likeness of both of them on film. She took several more pictures of her suddenly-hesitant subjects, before lowering the camera.
"All right, let's see how these turned out! I'll be right back!" she promised, before scurrying off in the direction of an empty room, which had had a wall removed to add more space, and had been converted into Fred's science lab. It wasn't quite as grand as the lab at Wolfram and Hart, but she'd still gushed over it, hugged Nina and Illyria, and kissed all the boys (even sullen old Angel) on the cheek as if they'd provided her the scientist's version of Heaven.
"Well, that was certainly interesting," Wesley commented lightly, watching her go.
"Bloody hell!" Spike swore, pulling his shirt back on, before glaring at the Brit. "What did you put in her coffee this morning? She's never acted like this!"
"That was strange," Nina murmured. "One hell of a mood swing."
"Yeah, from pissed to obnoxiously cheery in three seconds flat," the British vampire grumbled. "Don't get me wrong, I like her and all, but I may have to take some action if that becomes a permanent fixture." He cast a glance at Wesley. "And you're not gonna like what I do, Percy."
"You best not hurt her!" Wesley snapped, glaring at Spike.
"I wonder," Nina continued, though her words went unnoticed by most.
"What? You wonder what?" Angel asked, turning to her.
She shook her head. "It's nothing. Don't worry about it."
Brow furrowed in concentration, Fred laid the photo negatives into the solution, to develop them. They would need to soak in the chemicals for a few hours, and wouldn't be ready right away, but she couldn't help but feel this batch may have turned out good. Finally, after weeks of a scientist's closest friend, disappointment, today might be the day she would get decent results.
Leaving the photos to develop, she stepped out of the closet-turned-darkroom, closing the door…only to receive a very nasty surprise. Cordelia stood behind the door, arms folded across her chest, her face sober, vaguely angry.
"Oh-hello, Cordie," she greeted nervously, putting a hand to her chest to try to still her rushing heart.
"Winifred," she answered coldly. "You've been a terrible girl, you know that, right?"
Her comrade nodded solemnly. "You're supposed to report to our lady every week, remember?"
For a moment, she only frowned, confused, but Cordelia's words soon set off alarms of reckoning in her mind. Her eyes widened in mild terror. "Oh, no."
"You're six weeks past due, Winifred," Cordelia scolded, shaking her head with a slight noise of scorn. "Our lady is not pleased."
"Tell her I'll come-today," the physicist pleaded, a note of desperation in her voice. "Matter of fact, I'll come with you. Right now. I've got time."
"That's a wise plan, Winifred." Perching herself on the windowsill of an open window she'd presumably come in through, Cordelia thrust her bronze legs out, watching over her shoulder as Fred locked the door, to keep out anyone who might come looking for her. "After all, our lady gave you everything you have now, Winifred. Without her, you'd have nothing. You'd be nothing."
She turned her head away, staring ahead at the asphalt and brick alley that lay before her, her face suddenly weary. "We all would."
A/N: In case you were wondering, no, I couldn't resist the jibe against Stephenie Meyers. I really couldn't.