Summary: Mercy reveals a little more about her boss's plan; meanwhile, Cordelia has another disturbing dream.

Author's Note: I've had several requests to continue this story; therefore, I'm going to make an effort to complete it. Thanks to all who've emailed me these past few months.

Disclaimer: Nightwing is owned by DC Comics and Time/Warner; Angel and company are owned by Joss Whedon and 20th Century Fox; this is an original story that does not intend to infringe on their copyright. Constructive feedback is welcome!

Copyright December 2002

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Nightwing/Angel: Shadow Dancing

By Syl Francis

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Bludhaven: Rohtul's Shipping Company

Secret Underground Sub-basement

[Friday 0710hrs EST]

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The two men in black stood motionless, their expressions hidden behind dark glasses. Neither spoke unless addressed directly, and then only in monosyllables.

Creepy, MacElvany shivered, suddenly cold. Come to think of it, he'd been freezing almost since the two had walked in the doors. Did they have something to do with it? He shivered almost uncontrollably. He'd never been face to face with a pair of stealth demons before. Or any sort of demons for that matter.

Except Miss Harmony, but she doesn't really count, he thought. She's really nice and pretty. Well...except when she's not, he amended feeling slightly confused. I sure hope Mr. Loo-thor knows what he's doing.

Glancing over at Mercy, MacElvany could see that she wasn't too pleased, either. But then, nothing ever pleases Miss Mercy. He shivered again.

"What are your names?" Mercy asked.

"Monahan." "Murphy." They replied in unison and in identical monotones.

"Do you know why you were sent here?" Mercy asked. To her surprise, this time the two men exchanged unreadable glances, and then as one, nodded.

"Yes," said Monahan.

"Yes," echoed Murphy.

"Were you told you'd receive your instructions once you rendezvoused with your contact?"

The two again exchanged glances before replying, and then nodded.

"Yes." Monahan.

"Yes." Murphy.

"Good," Mercy answered with a smile. "Were you ordered to strictly obey my commands and no one else's--unless I specifically ordered you to do so?" She waited impatiently as they went through their Mutt and Jeff routine.

"Yes."

"Yes."

"Then the first thing I want you to do is find Lindsey McDonald and his vampire girlfriend, Harmony Kendall, and bring them here. Do you know who they are?"

The demons again went through their tedious ritual before answering. As one they turned to her and replied, "Yes."

"Good, because the second thing I want you to do is find Chief Redhorne and kill him. Can you do that?"

As one, Monahan and Murray answered, "Yes."

"No, wait...bring Redhorne here, instead," Mercy amended. "Might as well have the whole gang in one place." She looked at them expectantly, waiting for their choreographed dance routine. Instead, the two demons nodded, wordlessly acknowledging the change in orders.

"Excellent," Mercy said. When they continued to just stand without moving, she added. "You have your orders. Get going."

Nodding, Monahan muttered, "Get--"

"--Going!" finished Murray, also nodding. Then, in perfect synch, they turned on their right heel and headed towards the exit.

"Wait!" MacElvany called. The two demons ignored him and walked out. The little fat man stood nervously, his arms held out, uselessly imploring. "M-Miss M-Mercy," he stuttered. "Y-You f-forgot to tell 'em to listen to me!"

"Did I?" Mercy asked dismissively. She turned to the large windows that overlooked a vast, subterranean white room. Below, figures in bulky decon-suits worked steadily over a complex network of bioengineering systems, monitoring any slight changes in the room's environment.

More importantly, they were checking for any possible changes in the life-sign readings of the multiple cryogenic containers that neatly stood in rows and columns as far as the eye could see. Touching the window before her, Mercy stood back and waited as it transformed itself into a large monitoring screen.

Each of the cryogenic containers' precious embryonic material began to flash before her. As she studied the monitors for any changes to the life-sign readings, Mercy maintained her outer cool. However, she unwillingly shuddered inside, for the grotesque, inhuman monsters that were even now being brought to term were never meant to exist.

When one particularly vile creature appeared before them, Mercy heard MacElvany gag involuntarily. Shuddering inwardly, Mercy shut down the giant-sized monitor, showing no outward sign of her own inner disgust. Instantly, the live-sized pictures of the developing embryos were replaced by the more antiseptic white room below them.

Taking a moment to get herself under control, Mercy finally looked down at the steadily bubbling liquid, which protectively surrounded the new batch of DNA-altered Merodach demon/Kryptonian clones. Thinking how each of those monsters was in some way related to her boss's arch-nemesis, Mercy smiled in satisfaction.

Now that Nightwing had destroyed the small batch of cloned demons created at MediTech, he'd assume that he'd stopped whatever diabolical plan had been intended before it'd had a chance to be fully launched.

Which is exactly what we want him to believe. Leave it to Mr. Luthor to plan to the smallest detail, she thought. And as she'd said earlier, to pick his battlefields carefully.

Metropolis had been out of the question, of course, because of the presence of his archenemy, Superman. And Gotham City had Batman--perhaps not a meta-human, but certainly a formidable enemy who'd come close to bringing Luthor to his knees.

But Bludhaven? The place was a filthy pigsty--a breeding ground for murder and corruption, where mysterious disappearances were commonplace and the police mostly looked the other way.

No self-respecting superhero would ever claim it as his or her city. Which made it an excellent choice for their purposes.

And while Nightwing might have been trained by the Batman, she mused silently, he is no Batman.

They'd planted a couple vampire-style murders to attract the local media, and as expected, the young hero so anxious to make a name for himself--to move out of the shadow of his mentor--eagerly jumped into the fray.

She grinned, an ugly, merciless grin.

So we let him 'accidentally' discover the cryogenic canisters at MediTech and destroy them! Thus, saving the world yet again.

She thought of the Dark Knight and how he'd prevented LexCorp from buying out Gotham City following No Man's Land. Defeating Batman's young protégé--perhaps even killing him--would be a doubly sweet revenge. A mental picture of a grieving Batman holding a dead Nightwing in his arms flashed before her, bringing a warm glow of triumph.

So easily duped. Not even a challenge really. And all for nothing...a mere distraction to camouflage our real operation. And while the young squire battles against windmills, we are allowed to work in complete secrecy and isolation.

Smugly, Mercy walked over to a complex communications system that lined three-quarters of the viewing area. Confidently, she opened a secured satellite channel and spoke.

"Everything's going according to plan." She glanced down at the cryogenic containers, her eyes straying to the one in particular that had made MacElvany so ill. "And Mommy's almost ready to give birth to her firstborn."

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Bludhaven: the Corporate Offices of MediTech

Section 9: Special Projects Unit

[Friday 0720hrs EST]

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"I think now's a good time for the 'let's get out of here' routine!" Nightwing suggested.

"Do you have any weapons?" Angel asked instead. "A Merodach's eye is his Achilles' heel. Take out the eye and you take out the demon."

Nodding, Nightwing smiled confidently and held out his escrima sticks, twirling them expertly. He flashed Angel his patented daredevil grin and exclaimed, "He's toast, pal!"

"That's it?" Angel asked. "Those are your demon-fighting weapons?! Those chopsticks?"

"Never leave home without 'em," Nightwing replied smugly.

Angel sighed. "Great. Terrific."

"And what about you, 'Dr. Fate?'" Nightwing asked sarcastically. "What was that magic light show supposed to do? Strike fear in good ol' Cyclops over there?"

The Merodach responded with a few well-placed, corridor-shaking hammer blows to the doors. Arms crossed, Nightwing gave Angel his best Bat-glare. His voice taking an uncharacteristic falsetto, added, "Ooh...He's so scared."

At Nightwing's words, Angel became pensive. He rubbed the back of his head in mild bewilderment. "I don't understand it," he murmured. "Braxta's controlling spell...it should've worked. I mean, I know my Sumerian's a little rusty, but I could've sworn I'd translated it correctly--?"

"Yeah, well. We don't have time to discuss it right now!" Nightwing jerked his thumb at the raving ogre, still pounding on the doors and screeching with increasing ferocity. "We gotta find a way to stop this thing."

As they searched the immediate area for any means to contain the creature Nightwing stopped suddenly, listening. It seemed as if the creature's howl had changed, going up in scale and volume.

"That's funny," he muttered. "It sounds almost as if--?"

With a single, powerful blow, the monster brought down the double doors in a spectacular display of iridescent shards and out-of-control heat beams. All the while it screamed, its shriek a cry of--

"--Pain!" Nightwing shouted. "He's in pain!" The monster flailed and struck out blindly, its screams of agony unabated. Nightwing leaped and dodged heat beams with effort, the wound he'd received earlier throbbing painfully along the ribcage. Going airborne, he spun and threw his escrima sticks, aiming straight at the creature's sole, Cyclops eye.

Not unexpectedly, the Merodach's heat vision disintegrated both before they reached their target. Nightwing grimaced.

"Okay, monster. Now you've done it," he muttered. "Those were my favorites."

"Favorites?" Angel gasped. He'd been lending his own considerable speed and strength to the fight and was now bent over, catching his breath.

"My escrima sticks," Nightwing explained. "Those were my fav--Look out!" Nightwing shoved Angel out of the way just as the creature's out-of-control heat vision burned a hole in the ceiling and floor supports directly above and below them.

As he rolled out of harm's way, Nightwing picked up a pair of glass fragments that were the approximate size of his sticks. Coming to his feet in a single, smooth motion, he tested them for balance.

Imperfect. Of course.

Eyes narrowed dangerously, Nightwing looked up at the monster, towering above him, and began circling it. The prey had now become the predator.

"You zapped my sticks. Nobody touches my sticks. Even Batman doesn't touch my sticks. Now, I'm mad."

With that Nightwing leaped, spun in midair and kicked out, his heel connecting with the back of the creature's head. Screeching, the Merodach tried turning in its excruciatingly slow way, clumsily striking out at the smaller, more agile hero again...and again.

To no avail.

Twirling the glass shards expertly in his hands, Nightwing counterattacked. Despite his injury, he easily evaded the demon's clumsy reach, performing an aerial ballet with a finesse that seemed to defy the laws of gravity. Striking out with the sharp fragments, the young hero was surprised that this time, his rapid attack brought more than just an angry, confused roar from the creature. This time, the demon cried out in pain.

Gracefully alighting a safe distance away, Nightwing held the substitute weapons up to the light. Moving them back and forth, he studied how they shimmered in a soft, emerald glow.

It can't be...he thought. Suddenly excited, he called out. "Angel! The glass--! It's--!" At that moment, the creature clumsily struck out, catching Nightwing on his injured side, slamming him against the wall. Blacking out momentarily, Nightwing gasped in pain and slid to the floor, clutching his side.

Blearily, he wondered what he'd been about to say. Looking down at the glass fragment that he still held, he groggily concentrated, trying to remember. "Angel..." He spoke barely above a murmur.

Instantly, Angel was at his side. "Nightwing, are you okay?" Examining the younger hero's injuries, Angel cringed involuntarily. How had Nightwing been able to continue his acrobatic moves, he wondered? However, he didn't have time to speculate further, because the creature's continued frenzied roars and shrieks warned him it was time to go.

"We're getting out of here now." Angel urged Nightwing to his feet, offering support as he'd done earlier.

Struggling to remain conscious, Nightwing tried to apprise Angel of his discovery--that he knew how to stop the creature. However, try as he might, for some reason, he couldn't seem to make his mouth work. Refusing to give into the descending darkness, he finally managed to mumble, "Glass..."

"What?" Angel paused, unsure whether Nightwing had spoken.

"Glass..." This time he heard it, the barest whisper just audible over the monster's din. Angel looked over his shoulder. The monster was still roaring his cries and wildly flashing his heat vision. And yet, there was something terribly strange that Angel couldn't quite put his finger on...?

Suddenly, he had it. The Merodach demon--why hadn't it actually come after them?

For the first time, Angel observed that the creature was still standing in the middle of the broken shards of the glass doors, screaming in rage and pain. For the past several minutes, it had neither advanced nor retreated from that spot.

It's almost as if it's either too frightened or unable to move.

Another blast from the creature's heat vision reminded Angel that he was wasting time, and he again turned to go. However, a firm grip on his wrist stopped him. Nightwing was trying to speak, but Angel shouted above the din. "We've got to get out of here! There's nothing else we can do!"

Shaking his head, Nightwing held up one of the shards, and then pointed at the creature. Angel's eyes followed. The hybrid demon was still bellowing its pain and anger while standing over the same spot.

Why is it just standing there, screaming? Angel wondered again.

Looking down at the Merodach's feet, Angel saw that it kept weakly kicking out at the broken glass. On further study, he saw a green tinge beginning to spread up the hybrid demon's legs.

"What is that?" he wondered aloud. An idea suddenly taking form, he took the shard that Nightwing held out. As he stared at it, he clinically observed how the light caught the broken crystal in a strange green glow.

"Of course..." Angel whispered. "Is this what you're trying to tell me?"

Nightwing nodded, relieved. "Kryptonite..."

The next instant, they were both knocked to their feet. Looking up, the two dark heroes saw that the demon was growing ever more insane with agony and fury. As they watched, the creature slammed his powerful fists against the walls and ceiling, melting anything that happened to be in the way of his heat vision.

Realizing that the Merodach demon was in excruciating pain, Angel felt unexpectedly sorry for the ignorant creature.

"The doors..." Nightwing whispered. "Those were the failsafe!" He pointed at the glass shards and then at the demon's eye, his expression almost regretful. "It's the only way. We have to--"

Angel nodded.

Helping Nightwing down to a sitting position against the wall, Angel took a firm grip on the glass piece he held. Standing to his full height, he waited. The creature continued its wild bombardment of the entire corridor with its heat vision. Finally, after Angel believed that there wasn't going to be anything left of the building to condemn, the creature turned its baleful eye on him.

Without hesitation, Angel drew back and threw the sharply pointed glass fragment. Within the space of a heartbeat, the Kryptonite-laced shard flew straight and true towards the creature's eye.

The Merodach automatically targeted it, but because of the shard's lead-base, the demon's heat beams were bent harmlessly away. The next instant, the shard was firmly imbedded in the creature's single red eye. The hybrid monster immediately began flailing wildly, its shrieks the tortured squeals of an injured animal.

Nightwing felt strangely touched by the creature's agonized cries, which were echoing up and down the hallways of MediTech. Whatever the monster was, it wasn't responsible for being here and for what had been done to it. Perhaps it was a soulless demon, a spawn of darkness whose only purpose was to destroy. But it was a living creature. And it was in pain.

Taking a deep and calming breath, Nightwing closed his eyes and quietly found his center. He blocked out the loud screeches, the pain at his side, and the darkness that called to him. Raising his gauntleted hand, he pressed a hidden switch, releasing a titanium-tipped grappler aimed at the creature's eye.

The arrow-shaped grappler struck the exposed end of the Kryptonite shard, which jutted out of the injured eye, and instantaneously rammed it deep into the creature's brain. Thankfully putting it out of its misery.

Feeling a sense of peace wash through him, Nightwing looked up as the Merodach demon fell, its helpless cries finally stilled. Only then did he allow himself the luxury of closing his eyes.

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Bludhaven: Location Unknown

[Friday 1000hrs EST]

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Cordelia screams. The pain explodes in her head, threatening to overwhelm her, but she can neither stop it nor the quick-cut images that flash before her...

A large, one-eyed demon clumsily backhands Nightwing in mid-somersault, catching him unawares. The Dark Squire falls, unconscious. In a clumsy, shuffling gait, the demon walks towards the still form, grabs him by the wrist and easily picks him up. He dangles Nightwing before him like a rag doll. Roaring wildly, the creature's gaping maw exposes its sharp fangs.

"No-ooo-oo!" The ragged cry is torn from the throat of a familiar figure in a flowing black overcoat as he runs towards the creature in a futile attempt to stop it.

"Angel..." she whispers, shocked by his unexpected appearance.

Growling and slavering in a hungry frenzy, the monster encloses the young hero's head within its massive jaws, and with a sickening crunch, snaps them shut. Its mouth grisly reddened by its fresh kill, the crazed demon is unexpectedly transformed. Flashing Angel a wickedly gleaming, devil-may-care grin, it tosses the headless remains aside, and then turns and faces the Dark Champion.

Moving with a grace and athleticism at odds with its hunched over, brutish shape, the demon leaps, spins and kicks out, connecting against Angel's midriff, sending him flying backwards. Before Angel can recover, the demon targets him with its single eye and catches him unawares with its sizzling heat beam, igniting him in flames. Angel disappears in a cloud of dust and ashes...

"No...!" Cordelia's strangled cry registers barely above a whisper.

Her mind screams, echoing the pain in her soul, rivaling the agony of the migraine that accompanies her vision. The next instant, the monster--no, there are more than one, she realizes, and they're not monsters--are they?

They're two men, dressed in dark suits, holding Harmony and Lindsey captive. The next instant, the two are tossed into the arena with the one-eyed demon. Cordelia barely notes that the demon is once again a hunched over brute, before the two prisoners are horribly mutilated, their screams stifled never having a chance to release them...

Cordelia's eyes snapped open. Groaning from exhaustion and pain, she wearily closed them again. 

I might have known...find a demon, dig deep enough, and voila--Wolfram and Hart!

The violent visions were gone, but the beautiful Seer was left with the usual unspeakable migraine. Instinctively, Cordelia realized that these visions might be slowly killing her and that each one came at a tremendously high price. But that was a problem for another day. She had to find a way to stop the horrible carnage she'd just witnessed.

I might've known that Lindsey would be behind this, she fumed. Or, rather, Wolfram and Hart--just your typical demon-spawning law firm. But when did Angel become involved? Is he here in Bludhaven already?

She smiled suddenly.

He followed me? He was worried about me? How sweet...

Images of Buffy and Darla appeared before her. Cordelia's smile faded as suddenly as it appeared.

Oh, duh! As if Angel could ever care about anyone who isn't blonde and petite. Which just proves that even dead, men are still idiots. He's probably just here to remind me that I'm fired and should go home. To warn me that the case is too dangerous and that I might get hurt!

Cordelia looked around her prison, and again tested her bonds.

Okay, so maybe it is a little dangerous. But it's my choice--not his. Again, seeing Angel being burned to death, she struggled against her bonds with increased vehemence. I have to warn him! He might be an idiot, but he's my idiot! I mean...he's my friend.

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Somewhere over the Midwest

[Friday 1030hrs EST/0930hrs CST]

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Gunn gave the pretty flight attendant his most charming smile. Her answering twinkle gave him all the encouragement he needed. Her nametag identified her as 'Lori.'

"Hey, Lori...May I call you, 'Lori'?" Not waiting for an answer, he hurried on. "My friend and I are going to be staying in Bludhaven for a few days. I don't suppose that you and I could--?"

Lori's apologetic smile instantly dashed his hopes.

"I'm sorry. We'll only be laying over in Bludhaven for a couple of hours, then we're continuing to Metropolis. Would you care for a drink and a snack?"

"Oh." Disappointed, Gunn accepted a soft drink and small packet of roasted peanuts. As she continued down the aisle, smiling and conversing politely with the other passengers while dispensing drinks and snacks, he wistfully followed her with his eyes.

"Mmm...What's this?"

Gunn turned to Wesley who was deeply engrossed in his copy of Braxta's spell. "What's what, Wes?"

"This can't be right..." Wesley muttered, his brow wrinkled in concentration. "It's all wrong..."

"What's all wrong, bro?" Gunn asked patiently. He'd learned that when addressing either Angel or Wesley, it usually took three or four tries before anyone could break through whatever one or the other might be brooding over.

Gunn grinned tolerantly as Wesley continued to mumble to himself.

"It doesn't make any sense--?"

"Wesley, if you don't tell me what's wrong, I may have to dump this drink on your lap."

"That's nice, Gunn..."

Shaking his head, Gunn rolled his eyes and snatched the copy of Braxta's spell from Wesley's hands.

"Hey! What are you doing?" Wesley protested. "I was translating that!"

"No kidding?" Gunn retorted. "And here I thought you were giving me a headache."

"What? Gunn what are you talking about? And give that back to me. I'm not finished, yet."

"I know that, Wes, but it's the only way I could get your attention." Gunn returned the ancient parchment. "So what were you muttering about just now?"

Wesley sighed wearily, and removing his glasses, pinched the bridge of his nose. "It's the spell," he said, shaking his head, shrugging in frustration. "It's useless. I could no more control a demon with it, than a stage magician can conjure up a rabbit."

"I don't get it. Angel said that Lilah--"

"Yes, I know. That she used it to control the two stealth demons that are currently on their way to Bludhaven. If they're not there already, that is. But she couldn't have. At least not with this spell."

"Could you have made a mistake?" Gunn asked. Wesley gave him a withering look in response. "Okay, okay...no offense intended," Gunn said quickly. "But it seems unlikely that Lilah would've just had a fake copy of the spell sitting on her shelf, waiting for Angel to come and grab it."

At Gunn's words, Wesley's eyes suddenly lit with an idea. "Gunn, you're a genius! Of course! How could I be so stupid? It was right before me all the time."

"What? What was right before you? What'd I say?"

"A fake copy," Wesley answered. Gunn gave him a blank look. "Don't you see?" Wesley asked, his tone implying that the answer was obvious. Chagrinned, Gunn shook his head. "It's an old transcriber trick used in order to prevent their most potent spells from being stolen."

"Come on, Wes," Gunn complained. "Can you explain it in plain English before we land?"

Grinning apologetically, Wesley tried again. "Transcriber demons are a common target for those who wish to steal their documents without bothering to properly compensate them. In order to prevent this from happening, the scribes often translate their spells incorrectly--either deleting, adding, or simply changing the text of the spell."

"You mean Lilah was cheated?" Gunn asked, mildly surprised. "Huh, never figured her to be easily duped."

"No." Wesley shook his head. "She paid the scribe for the spell. So hers was a fair transaction."

"But, you just said the spell doesn't work," Gunn protested.

"No, Braxta's spell does work. It's the copy of the spell that's wrong." Before Gunn could protest further, Wesley continued. "While the written copy has been altered, as a legitimate buyer, Lilah was undoubtedly given the key to unlock the true spell." Holding up the rolled parchment, he added, "Braxta's spell lies encoded somewhere in the text of this copy."

"That's a good thing, right?" Gunn asked doubtfully.

His shoulders drooping, Wesley added a bit dispiritedly, "Yes, I suppose it is. Now, all I have to do is find the key."

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Bludhaven: Location Unknown

[Friday 1030hrs EST]

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"Hey! What's with all the noise? Some people are trying to sleep here!" Looking quite sleepy, Harmony glared crossly from the doorway. "Cordy, don't you know that no one can hear you down here? We're like...five floors straight down! You might as well just lie back and get some rest. My minion will be waking soon and--"

"I need to go to the bathroom!" Cordelia snapped. "Look, I had several cups of coffee this morning--before you brought me here--and now my bladder is ready to explode!"

"Sorry, you'll just have to hold it. Don't worry. It's only about another six hours or so--"

"Harmony Kendall! If you don't release me right now and let me go to the bathroom, I'll tell everyone about that time in the fifth grade you tried to get Warren to kiss you--!"

"Oh, you wouldn't! Cordelia, you promised you'd never tell! You swore on Jason Priestley's autographed picture and everything!"

Cordelia winced inwardly at this reminder of their mutual pre-teen crush on the star of Beverly Hills 90210. Shrugging, she gave the flustered vampire her best smirk.

"I crossed my fingers, so my promise doesn't count."

"Oh! Oh, you--! Cordelia Chase, you are such a bi--!"

"Uh-uh-uh...!" Cordelia interrupted. "Watch your language, Harmony. Being evil doesn't mean having to lower yourself to the gutter."

Head bowed, Harmony sat on the edge of Cordelia's bunk. "You just don't understand what it's like. Never being able to lie on the beach anymore and just soak up the sun. Or have anymore Sunday afternoon picnics in the park. Or even just being able to look in the mirror and see if something looks right on me."

Taking in Harmony's revealing leather outfit, Cordelia mentally rolled her eyes. Harmony never could dress! Sighing, she remembered having to accompany Harmony to make sure she didn't buy some dorky outfit that made their entire clique look bad by association. But now that Harmony had to dress herself, and worse, didn't have a reflection--disaster!

Someone call the fashion police! Cordelia pleaded. Harmony's outfit was a childish attempt at the dominatrix look. And her make-up...! Puh-leese! A Walmart version of Goth. Cordelia was almost willing to become a vampire just to make sure that Harmony didn't terrorize her victims with her horrible fashion sense.

Smiling sadly, Harmony's eyes took on a faraway look. "Remember how we used to try on each other's clothes? How we could spend hours talking about Jason Priestley and Christian Slater--?"

"Please, don't remind me! I can't even stomach the idea of having had a crush on those two!"

"Oh, I thought they were the coolest!" Harmony said, her eyes lighting at the memory. "And remember how we'd give each other manicures and try out new hairstyles...?" She looked down suddenly. "Everything's changed now. I'm a vampire. I'm evil." She turned to Cordelia. "I know I did some mean things in my life, Cordy, but I never really--" She stopped, shrugging.

"Look, Harmony...we were both pretty obnoxious as teenagers. But that doesn't mean that we can't change. I mean look at me...I'm helping Angel fight evil. Who'd ever believe that I'd care about anything except the next Fall's fashions? But, with these visions I get now, I know that I can do some good."

"Yeah...it must be nice. To be able to help others, I mean. Me, I'm just a total loser at this evil stuff. Buffy felt so sorry for me that she didn't even bother to kill me. She figured I'd end up tripping and staking myself by accident or something." Harmony sighed. "Being evil is just so hard! I mean...I have think and do stuff like plan ahead."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. Having to think! That's so unfair!" Cordelia's ironic tone escaped Harmony.

"Tell me about it! That's why I'm so happy Lindsey's helping me. I'm supposed to collect some more minions so that--" She caught herself. "But I'm not supposed to tell anyone about that."

"Oh, that's okay, Harmony. I mean, what can I do? I'm tied up here. And besides..." Cordelia smiled, crossing her fingers again. "I give you my word that I won't tell anyone."

"Promise?"

"Cross my heart."

****

End of Part 10