Pairings: Angel/Wesley, Spike/Xander, Dalton(ofc)/Riley, Fred/Soshie(ofc)<
Summary: Cordelia is awake, but what a mess she has to deal with now. Lindsey and Wesley are Angel's slaves (one happily, and one not so happily), Angel is feeding on humans, Fred is sleeping with a demon woman, and her whole family has lost their minds.
Warnings: Sexual slavery; but there's no non-con here; bondage; general dirty-wrong. If you're easily squicked, this isn't the series for you and hasn't been since the beginning.
Cordelia stared out through the barred windows as the sun sank behind the squat buildings across the alley. This part of town seemed abandoned except for the odd demon and one or two dock workers who seemed to be walking as fast as they could to get from point A to point B. She may have slept in that magical coma for months, but she was so tired that all she wanted to do was go back to sleep again. Her visions were gone. No matter how much she kept telling herself that it didn’t matter, she just couldn’t get herself to believe it. It was as though her life had been this opera, this larger than life drama with her two leading men: Angel and Groo. Only just when the story got interesting, it was over. It was as though the singer had come out on stage and sung her coda. The adventure was over, and now she was just Cordelia Chase—a woman too average to warrant an opera.
Her whole life she’d been avoiding average, and now she was right in the middle of it.
Cordelia looked around at the warehouse. This part of it was painted in outlandish swirls and streaks of color that looked more like a Gerhard Richter painting than Spike’s punk style, and demons walked under her fairly regularly, so maybe she wasn’t in the middle of average right now, but she herself was average. In Sunnydale, she’d been the most beautiful woman, but watching the Oden Tal cross below her, she didn’t even rate mildly attractive. She’d consider taking up a Xena costume, but with her luck and her lack of actual fighting skills, something would eat her.
The scaffolding shook, and Cordelia looked over to see Spike climbing with inhuman grace and speed. He landed on the top level and looked her up and down for a second. “Right then, you in a reasonable enough mood to talk without saying something that would force me to eat you?” he asked.
Glaring, she looked him up and down. “So now you’re into blaming the victim. You eat me, but it’s my fault for making you. Classy,” she said with more sarcasm than she’d meant to use. She was lucky that anyone wasn’t around to hear that or he really might eat her. Instead, he just quirked an eyebrow at her before she went back to staring out the windows. “Should you have windows in your lair?”
“Should you let Peaches run around in a soddin’ convertible?”
Cordelia shrugged. “It has a big trunk, and sometimes it feels really good to shove him in it.”
Spike laughed. “Good on you, luv. And to answer your question, the windows are spelled and I don’t normally come into this part of the warehouse. I didn’t know they’d turned it into a regular Pollock painting down there.”
“He did splatter work. That looks more like Richter.”
Spike sat so close that Cordelia could smell the leather and smoke. “Your boy is turning himself inside out thinking that he had no right to take your visions.”
Spike snorted. “You know better than that, luv. Stop playing at stupid; I have Peaches around if I want that.”
“Groo,” Cordelia said with a sigh. When she’d woken up and found out her visions were gone, she’d been beside herself with anger, and the look of horror on his face had grown deeper with every passing second. She knew he was upset, but she was too focused on her own loss to really care.
“Bloody right, Groo. He lost his challenge to Angel and swore to obey, but when Angel put him in a spot to take your visions without your permission… it’s tearing him apart because he’s your loyal servant. The worst part is that Peaches doesn’t even understand why Groo is so bloody touchy. I swear, trying to teach Angel is like pounding nails into steel.” Spike gave a grim smile. “I can do it, but it’s fucking hard work and it leaves a right mess behind.”
Cordelia frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m trying to teach Angel to stop living with his head firmly planted up his oversized arse.”
“Right. Like teaching him to start taking slaves. Maybe you aren’t the best role model here, Spike.”
“So, I should have left Lindsey McDonald free to keep torturing you lot?” Spike demanded, his voice sharp, and Cordelia finally gave him her full attention. He was getting a little too cranky, and she liked all her blood on the inside.
“If the alternative is slavery, we can deal with him.”
“He’s a slave either way, luv.”
“So, Riley was telling the truth about Lindsey enslaving himself to Wolfram and Hart?”
Spike gave a tight smile, the kind that made his lips pull together and wrinkles appear at the corners of his eyes. “Good on you, pet. Don’t trust everything you hear, but to answer your question, yes. Of course the moron keeps saying it was all a misunderstanding.”
“Yeah, he would.” Cordelia remembered when he’d come to them asking for help. He’d been sincere enough about not wanting to participate in killing kids, but he’d never felt bad about the adults he’d helped to kill. His morality was very limited, and he treated the world like something that could be negotiated down to a number of bullet points. “So, Wesley really is okay with the slavery?”
“I’d be more likely to use the word ecstatic. He finally found a way to make sure he doesn’t get left again. Angel let him pick the spell, and he picked one that means he’ll die if Angel ever abandons him, and we both know that with Angel’s guilt complex, that isn’t going to happen.”
Cordelia nodded. That did make sense. Wesley’s insecurities had insecurities. It was one of the reasons she’d had so much fun playing with him in Sunnydale, and that probably didn’t make her the nicest person on the face of the earth. “Fred?” she asked, realizing she hadn’t seen her yet. Given Fred’s background on a slave world, Cordelia was suddenly worried about how she was handling this little universe Spike had created.
“She’s fine. She’s training up to be a fine technomage, and apparently she has some talent with the green magics. She just had the good sense to stay out of this mess until it got sorted. She’s with her little gal pal.”
“Her what?” Cordelia could feel her anxiety rise as she realized she had no idea what Spike was talking about. She tried to keep up with the comings and goings of everyone in the Hyperion, but Fred was not one for making friends with any random little gal pal. And from Spike’s salacious expression, Fred not only had a friend, but she had taken it a little beyond just friendship.
Spike shrugged and confirmed Cordelia’s suspicions. “She’s sleeping with one of the Oden Tal, a woman named Soshie.”
“Do you put gay in the water? First Xander and now Fred.” Cordelia might not have anything against gay, but she had a hell of a lot against anyone who went and changed without giving her time to mentally adjust. She did not appreciate change—not unless it came with a charge card and a handsome man hanging on her every word.
“If you want, I could fuck you to confirm your heterosexuality,” Spike offered with an even more salacious expression. Cordelia let her cold glare answer for her. With a snort, Spike dropped the act. “You’re a hard one to place, Cordelia Chase. I think Groo got it more right than most.”
“Groo? What? Because he knows I’m pissed about losing my visions?”
“He’s a right mess at the thought of displeasing you. Angel plays at being the head of the clan—he talks big and swaggers bigger—but he’s not the one to keep all the pieces in play.”
Cordelia leaned back and really studied Spike. “What are you talking about?” Spike studied her, his head cocked to one side until Cordelia got suspicious. “Mister, if you are doing that sniff thing, you’re about to lose all ability to smell at all.”
Spike’s hand darted out and caught her by the neck before she’d finished her last word. Cordelia scrambled at Spike’s wrist and wished like hell she actually had the stake she’d threatened to put in Angel, but she couldn’t do anything as Spike leaned closer, his fingers painfully tight even if they weren’t cutting off all her air.
“You can say that to Peaches, luv, but one thing has changed while you were asleep—Peaches and his court all know they answer to me. If you go forgetting that, the others are going to follow your lead, and I won’t have you undo the work I’ve put into trying to get this lot sorted. Understand?” He tightened his fingers just enough for Cordelia to have trouble answering.
“Yeah,” she managed to press out. Immediately, Spike’s fingers were gone. She rubbed the bruising skin and watched him suspiciously. “So you’re basically saying we all belong to you?”
“Yep,” Spike said without even trying to sugarcoat it. Considering that they were sitting in the middle of a demon lair, Cordelia actually appreciated the honesty. She might like manipulating others, but she sure as hell didn’t appreciate it when people went and manipulated her when she was helpless and coma-ridden.
“Great. So, how does this work? I mean, are we going back to LA or am I going to spend the next several decades sitting here looking out on the ugliest bit of street in Sunnydale?”
Spike’s body dropped all the tense lines and he leaned back against the metal rail that made a primitive back to the bench. “As soon as everything is sorted, you lot are going back. Actually,” he said in a distracted tone, “getting your brain fixed was the last bit to sort. Lindsey is under control, Wesley isn’t on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Fred’s trained up so she doesn’t go flinging magic around willy-nilly, and Groo is a good addition to the fighting crew. I still say you need to do some recruiting—some good fighters maybe some lower level demons to tend the lair and more humans so Angel can feed. He’s got my stable so worn down that Dalton and I are both back to hunting. He always was a greedy bloke. But you lot are going to have to fix those problems on your own. I can’t run your clan for you.”
“More humans… Angel’s feeding from humans?” Cordelia’s back went straight.
“Bloody hell yes. It isn’t natural—animals’ blood from a bag. But he has enough control now that he doesn’t kill them. If he wants to stay in top fighting form, he’ll need human blood. And if he’s going to go back to LA and be anything more than some pathetic excuse for a demon hiding out in an old hotel, he’s going to need to fight a lot. He’ll need you and Groo or he’ll be dust a week into this.”
“He’ll be dust? Spike, what the hell have you gotten us into? What exactly do you think we’re going to do when we go back to LA?”
“Help the hopeless, isn’t that your lot?” Spike cocked his head to the side.
“Yes, but helping the hopeless is sounding a lot more dangerous now. Why would Angel be dust? Why would we need more fighters?”
Spike cocked his head to the side and pursed his lips as he seemed to consider something.
“If you don’t start talking, someone is getting holy water in his booze,” she warned. Spike’s pursed lips twitched into a near grin before Spike reached out and caught Cordelia by the back of the neck. This time he didn’t hold on hard and Cordelia didn’t even try to pull back. She knew full well that threatening Spike would lead to more intimidation, but she wouldn’t be manipulated by a fashion cast-off from the seventies. She might be killed by one, but she wouldn’t be intimidated or manipulated.
“Just remember, luv, what’s Angel’s is mine, and I won’t be challenged.”
“Oh please, like I could challenge you. Human here,” Cordelia pointed out.
“Not so sure, some days,” Spike answered, but his hand dropped to her shoulder and he relaxed like they were two old friends just sitting on the bleachers. It was almost like high school except for the fact that Spike was a demon and she was in his lair. “If I told you where there was a whole mess of humans, a vampire whore-house where humans like Riley are kept chained in filth and high on Rapture, what would you do?”
“Pass out stakes and send a bunch of demons back to hell,” Cordelia said without pause.
Spike nodded. “And if I said that Angel’s known the whole time where to find these houses?”
Immediately, Cordelia shook her head. No, Angel wouldn’t turn a blind eye to that. He wouldn’t. Unfortunately, her gut coiled in fear as she realized he just might. “If you’re lying,” Cordelia threatened, her voice strained. She couldn’t even find the right ending for that threat.
“Don’t have to, luv. You know full well that Peaches wants the easy fix. The lug didn’t know how to deal with humans when he was one, so he sure doesn’t have a clue now. So he left humans ta suffer, and he left Rapture suck houses running in his territory.”
Cordelia could feel her stomach roll at the thought of those people and their suffering. She had the visions; why hadn’t the Powers ever sent them a warning about those houses? Did the Powers really want people to suffer and die in their own filth? “Why?” she whispered.
Misunderstanding her, Spike answered the part Cordelia already understood. “If he’d saved the humans, he would have had to deal with them. Some will be like Riley—they won’t ever be able to go free again. And if he shuts down one house, the vamps will just go to the other Rapture houses, and those buggers will snatch up more humans to fill the stables. He doesn’t see a way out.”
She didn’t need that part explained; Angel wasn’t particularly hard to understand. However, she still didn’t understand why the Power That Be had never send her a vision so they could save those people. Despite the fact that Cordelia felt off-balance, she pushed those thoughts aside and focused on the present. “So, what does need to happen to shut those places down?” Cordelia asked. She suspected she wasn’t going to like the answer, but at least Spike would be honest. He might not be right and he might be a demon with a really screwed up world-view, but he’d be honest.
Spike sucked a breath through his teeth and studied her for a second. “Peaches stakes every vampire he finds. It don’t matter if they’re in a feeding only suckhouse with free humans or a Rapture house or on the street, they get the same treatment. That means that low-level vamps won’t come to him with intel for fear of getting staked and the nasty buggers run free. The first thing Angel needs to do is stop indiscriminately staking every vamp he meets.”
Cordelia narrowed her eyes. “So, to fight vamps he needs to stop fighting vamps?” she demanded.
Instead of answering immediately, Spike stared out at the street. “Luv, if I sent you walking the street down to that club with the wretched music you lot always liked when Buffy was alive, you’d be safe.” He made a face. “Well, safer than you would have been back then, anyway. The vampires in this town don’t go grabbing random chits off the street.”
“If you tell me you don’t kill people, I’m going to call you a liar.”
Spike gave her a wicked grin. “Oh, I kill, pet. I’m not infected with Angel’s ridiculous quest to help people. But I don’t have to go feeding on the helpless. If I want to hunt, I’ll pick some rough dockworker who can put up a fight. I’ll pick prey that’s worth my time, and any vampire who can’t control himself is going to face a slow and painful death. Vampires who play by my rules are safe in my court. Angel needs to make it clear that vamps who follow his rules will be safe in his territory. They’ll help him keep an eye on his territory. Then he needs to find the gits who aren’t, and he needs to torture the unlife out of them so that everyone knows there are consequences.”
“Angel? Torture? Spike, that is not going to happen.”
Silence hung between them as Spike stared out the windows for an uncomfortably long time. “No, left on his own, he’ll leave Rapture houses to torture humans. Worse, every once in a while he’ll get his arse in gear, take out one house, and then leave the other houses to grab more humans and make more minions. Face it, pet, Peaches can’t do this without help.”
“Right. So he needs more fighters. I’ll put an ad in the paper,” Cordelia said sarcastically. She had a feeling Gunn was not going to be thrilled with the new Angel and company.
“He needs you.”
Cordelia looked over at Spike and frowned. “I’m not a fighter, Spike.”
Spike pulled one leg up and braced the heel of his boot against the bench. “Did you ever meet Darla?”
“The psycho bitch who turned Angel?” Maybe it was her recent coma, but Cordelia was not tracking this conversation all that well.
“That’s the one. She was a right bitch—more than once she tossed Angel to the wolves while she ran for the hills. Still, he bloody followed her like a puppy.”
“Thank you for the random history lesson?” She turned the statement into a question and stared at Spike as she waited for him to say something that made sense.
“I’m starting to think you’re just annoyin’ me on purpose, ducks.”
Cordelia looked over, and Spike did look more cranky than usual, but she hadn’t even said anything offensive.
Spike sighed. “Darla never was the fighter. When she showed up here, she thought she could get the court to turn against me by talking about her years with old Heinrich. However, when that didn’t work and she had to face me, she didn’t even last five minutes. Xander could have taken her.”
“But….” Cordelia frowned. Darla had been the leader of the fearsome four, and Cordelia always figured with vampires that meant she was the strongest.
“Angel will always look like the head of the clan. He did when he ran with Darla. He threw his weight around and acted the big man while Darla twisted him around her finger. She might not have been as strong as him, but she knew how to play him. That’s why he never was the one to really run the show. Good thing, too. Angel or Angelus… he wants the easy fix. He wants to throw his fists around and then be done with it. He’s a great second-in-command, but he’s not one who wants to make the hard decisions, and he never has been. It’s not in his nature.”
That didn’t make sense. Yeah, Angel was big on shoving his head in the sand, but not Angelus. Angelus was all about his big plans. She’d been around to see that first hand. “Spike, he’s the one who wanted to play with Buffy when the soul went south.”
“Yeah, and look how well that turned out,” Spike said with a pretty disgusted tone. “He learned that game from Darla. There was a bloke named Holtz—a vampire hunter. Angel was all for just killing him, but Darla had them hunt down his family and drove him ‘round the twist. But when it came right down to it, Angel never did play the game well. If he did, he would have destroyed Buffy before she had a chance to shove his soul back in. It was the same with Drusilla. He didn’t understand her well enough to know how much was too much until it was too late. Face it, pet. Angel or Angelus—he wants to be the one up front getting the attention and throwing his weight around. That doesn’t mean that he can lead a clan.”
Cordelia sucked in a fast breath. “You can’t be suggesting—” She stopped and stared at Spike, not even sure how to finish that thought because if she finished it and she was wrong, he was so going to eat her for even having the thought.
“I reckon Darla’s in hell screaming her frustration right now, what with how you’ve taken her place.” Spike looked amused at that.
“But I’m human.”
“Don’t make a bit of difference, luv. Power is about who can call the shots. When I came down to L.A., Peaches ordered you to stay clear of me, didn’t he?”
“So?” Cordelia asked. Spike was right.
“So, you feel free to disobey him any time you don’t like what he says.”
“Because I’m not a vampire, Spike.”
“But you notice that Angel is a right mess when he thinks he’s going to have to cross you, and Groo is near beside himself at the thought. Wesley and Fred are both avoiding the whole issue and Lindsey…” Spike made a face. “That git is enjoying watching the clan suffer. Angel better take a firmer hold on that boy or you lot are going to have more trouble. But as much as you feel free to tell the rest of them to sod off, they clearly don’t feel like they can cross you without taking their lives in their hands. That’s power.”
“You can’t be suggesting— But I never—” Cordelia stopped. Spike was suggesting that she was the head of the clan, and that was just too ridiculous to even think about, but the very absurdity was making it hard for her to figure out how to explain the many ways that Spike was stupid.
“Right then, it’s your job to make sure Angel doesn’t go off the rails. If he gets that fat head of his shoved high enough up his backside that you can’t pull it out, I expect you to call me. If you don’t, then you and I are going to have a conversation about your leadership.” Spike suddenly stood up and looked down at her. “And trust me luv, neither one of us wants to have that particular conversation, so get your head together and start bloody leading before Angel can do any more damage.” Spike turned and started toward the stair at the end of the scaffolding.
“But I’m not the head of anything,” Cordelia objected. “I’m the seer. I was the seer, anyway.”
Spike stopped and looked over his shoulder at her for a second. “Pet, you’re the only one who’s even asked what you’re going to have to do when you go back to L.A. The others are good at their jobs, but it’s not their job to go thinking too much about how this all works. Angel may want to think he’s in charge, but you’re about the only one who can lead this pathetic crew. If you don’t, Angel’s going to end up in chains at my feet sooner or later, so you go thinking on that.” Without even giving Cordelia a chance to gather her thoughts or her words, Spike was practically throwing himself down the stairs, the metal shivering and rattling under his boots.
God she hated men. She hated men who ripped up reality and didn’t even bother to buy her a dozen roses to make up for it. Cordelia leaned forward and rested her face in her hands as she tried to sort through entirely too many new ideas. Clearly she could never again afford to go into a coma because the rest of them were not to be trusted. They couldn’t even go a few weeks without getting tangled in their own stupidity. And now she was left trying to sort the whole mess back out. Angel was so buying her a whole wardrobe full of Ann Demeulemeester and Michael Kors after this.
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