Chapter 1 – Reaching Out

Cordelia Chase used to be the teenage dream. She had looks, money, boys, social status, she had everything. Now she had been reduced to nothing, beyond nothing really. All because of one boy. Man. Person. Vampire. It didn’t matter anymore, all that mattered was that her life had gone from a dream to a nightmare.

It was the early hours of the day, the sun still hadn’t broken free to cross the horizon yet and all she knew was the haze of sex and pain that made up her nights. Drusilla had decided that it was her job as the “older sister” to make sure that when “daddy” got back everything was ready for him. She was convinced that now that the curse had been broken once and the loophole was out in the open it was only a matter of time before it was broken again. The way she would giggle when she talked about it made it clear that now that she knew the loophole she was going to make sure the curse broke again, and again, and as often as possible until it was gone completely. She wanted her vampire daddy back and nothing and no one would stop her. It was clear that Spike didn’t agree with her, but it was just as clear that he knew better than to say anything against daddy. 

All of this certainty culminated in a new routine for the Sunnydale High head cheerleader. Nights of debauchery and “training” lead easily into early mornings or lazy sex. Her days started now just before sun up at four a.m. which gave them nearly two hours together before the pull of sleep made all the vampires too sluggish to continue. She was learning the ins and outs of every kind of sex act, or at least the ones that Drusilla deemed necessary for her to know. The climax of each lesson was always a dual feeding with her and Spike on either side of her neck sending heat coursing through her body before they all slumped over into a pile and slept until nearly noon.

Today was different though, today she had a goal in mind and nothing and no one was going to stop her. She needed some new scarves or necklaces. Something stylish to help her cover the evidence of her new lifestyle so she was up with the sun and ready by eight to head out to the mall. The early shopper got the best selection after all. She was down the stairs and to the door before Drusilla’s dreamy voice pulled her back.

“Naughty kitten trying to run away and play all alone. Hissssss. Take this one with you, but hurry back. I want my pony ride today.” In the vampiress’ arms was Harmony, her tight hold on the other girl’s breast making her whimper and mewl. While it was true that Dru and Spike did spend a large amount of time with her keeping her in shape for Angelus their preferred playmate was Harmony. She wasn’t sure what it was about the other girl that attracted the two so much, but they had made their desires very clear from the beginning. Cordelia was their kitten but Harmony was Dru’s pony and she liked to go for her rides every day.

Harmony for her part was clearly entranced. While she had begged and pleaded in the beginning to be let go and for everything to please stop those pleas had ended quickly. Of the seven girls that had been scooped up for the housewarming party they were the only two left and something about that had broken all resistance in Harmony. The bodies of the other girls had been disposed of and from the gossip around town hadn’t been found yet.

Seeing the blatant pleading in the other girl’s eyes she shrugged and motioned for her to come with. If Dru was willing to let her come along, who was she to argue. A little time away from this house of horrors would do them both some good.

“Sure, come along Harm we’re going to the mall.” Heck, maybe Harmony would have the good sense to just go home and hide instead of coming back. She doubted it though, the blonde had never had the good sense to do anything she should without first being told to do it. Even then it was a toss up if she would do it right or not. The last thing they both needed was for Harmony to run and get caught, she would point the finger at Cordelia for sure and get them both in trouble. So not worth the drama.

The ride down town was done in complete silence. There was really nothing for the two of them to say to each other, not anymore. School would be back in session in a little over a week and as it was neither of them knew if they would be allowed to attend or if they would spend the rest of their lives stuck in the Chase family home. As a small nod to the friends they used to be Cordelia sifted through the racks at a slower pace than she normally would, giving them both a little time out among the masses. It was halfway through the ninth store when there was another break in the routine.

“Cordelia.” Turning back towards the monotone male voice calling her name she met Oz’s green eyes and tried to hold back the burning tears in her own. Oz.

“Oz?” She hadn’t seen the other boy in days, not since she’d saved him from Angelus at the school. He’d come by the house a few times but she wasn’t allowed to answer the door. Seeing him now, here, was more than just a surprise. Oz never shopped at the mall, he preferred the vintage shops down the strip. He’d once told her that owning things that had already lived a full life with someone else made him feel closer to humanity since his little furry transformations began.

“Hey. I figured if I staked this place out long enough I’d catch you. Not even a genuine apocalypse can keep Cordelia Chase out of the mall.”  He was here for her? Why?

He was shifting a bit, not enough to be called a twitch on anyone else but this was Oz. Any movement was significant for him. He wasn’t comfortable, but she couldn’t tell why yet. Was it just being in the mall or had something happened?

“Oz.” Anyone else would have called her out for repeating herself and said she was a lame brain or something. Not the king of zen though, he was all about going with the flow.

“Cordelia.” There was something about hearing her name in his non judgmental monotone that grounded her in a way that nothing else had in a long time. Closing her eyes she let herself revel in the feeling, she knew it wouldn’t last. It never did.

“Why were you looking for me?” It had been so long since anyone had cared enough to actually put in effort into finding her for any good reason. Or at least it seemed that way. As the days dragged on it got harder and harder to keep everything straight in her head about what was real and what was just… not.

“Several reasons really. You never answered the door when I came by and I wanted to make sure you were doing okay. That and I wanted to know if you’d seen Giles lately, he hasn’t been answering either.”

“Giles?” She hadn’t really thought about him since everything sort of wrapped up for her. She remembered his lectures and their “training” sessions together in the library but after everything it just seemed safer to avoid him. She had been lying to him after all and now he knew it.

“Yeah. I thought maybe he would answer for you even if he’s shutting the rest of us out. Buffy disappeared after the fight and everyone has kind of just drifted you know.” Drifting was the word for it wasn’t it. None of them were running for the hills like they should. They were all just kind of stuck, suspended here waiting for something to come along and make them move again. Waiting for someone really.

What he didn’t say was that Buffy wasn’t the only one who disappeared, Angel had too. She might just love him for not bringing that part up. Thinking about it for a minute she figured it wouldn’t really hurt anything to swing by and check on the tweed loving rascal. If anyone understood things falling apart out of nowhere it would be her.

Besides if she refused to give Harmony a ride back to her house maybe the dumb blonde would take the hint and run for cover. She doubted it though.

Rupert Giles was not a man known for being overly emotional. Even during his angst fueled rebellion in his late teens and early twenties the only true emotion that he had let run wild with him had been his anger, and it had been slow to build even then. Now though as he sat in his lonely little apartment his grief was a near living thing, an all encompassing abyss set to swallow him whole. He knew he needed to do something to try and claw his way back out of it again but he could not find the strength, he had failed everyone else why not himself as well.

His slayer was run off to parts unknown with no one the wiser about when or even if she would be returning leaving the hellmouth essentially unguarded. He had begun to see her true nature over the past few weeks, her entitlement and drive to gain whatever it was that she thought would make her life a happier one but he had been unprepared for this. 

To shirk her duties so completely and without any form of warning after the battle they had all gone through was a depth he had not thought she would ever sink to. Not that she would see it that way. Oh, no he was sure that she would tell him that what she was doing now was just a well deserved break after a long fight. That her running off with Angel was only the happily ever after that she had worked so hard for. She would give no thought to the rest of them and what they deserved he was sure. What about what he was owed? What about his rest? Or the others whose lives had been irrevocably shattered by the actions of her black knight in tarnished armour. She had no right to simply take the man out of their reach and leave them all to flounder in the aftermath. No right at all.

He knew he was being harsh and lashing out at her for not being there when he needed her, but her actions felt like the worst kind of betrayal. He had always been there for her whenever she needed him, be it for advice or simply a strong shoulder to lean against and in his darkest hour he was left alone. 

Without Buffy.

Without Jenny.

He knew that was the crux of his current problems, the thought he refused to even think if he could avoid it. His anger at Buffy, while real and even justified, was nowhere near the level he was building it up to be; he was just more comfortable with the anger than with his grief. He had lost people before, friends and relatives, people he had known for years upon years but nothing like this. Jenny had been the first person he’d lost that he had truly loved and every day since he was given the news by Xander Harris of all people he had been trying and failing to avoid the one thought that would bring together the disjointed mess in his mind. The one thought he daren’t think even now.

No, now was not the time for thinking, now was the time for drinking.

He had just managed to tip a generous amount of whiskey into his glass, only losing a respectable amount to the desk when there was a knock on his door. Who could it be? Everyone knew to leave him alone, he had ignored countless attempts to get him to open the door and this one would be no different. Only this one was different. While the others, Oz if he remembered right, would simply knock a time or two and maybe shout through the door that they were worried this one was insistent.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Enough!

Lurching up he stumbled towards the door prepared to give the unfortunate soul on the other side whatfore only to be stunned into silence by the brightness of the sun stinging his eyes. Oh blast. He had forgotten it was daylight again, he had all of his curtains drawn and was wholly unprepared for the attack on his senses.

“Geeze Giles, you look like hell.” He knew that voice he knew he knew that voice, he just couldn’t place it past the pounding in his head.

“Whoever you are, just go away.” If he could get them away from his door he could go back inside and immerse himself in the cooling darkness again. Where he belonged.

“Whoever I am? Do you need new glasses or something? Wait, where are your glasses? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without them before. I gotta say without them you could totally rock the older hottie look, though not in those clothes. I didn’t know you even owned clothes that ragged. Then again I didn’t know you owned anything other than tweed. This is definitely a step down from the tweed, and I never thought I would ever say that. Congratulations on bringing me to a new low.” About halfway through the verbal assault his eyes cleared enough to make out his guest.


He had failed her most of all, she had been in the clutches of a monster for weeks and he had not seen it. In his fervor to protect her he had sent her deeper into the mouth of madness and they had nearly lost her. If it had been anyone else at his door he would have shut them out, but he could not do that to her, not after everything. Out of them all she was the one with the true grievance against them all, him in particular and if she was here to speak her mind he could do no less than hear her words. 

Stumbling back into the darkness of his apartment he left the door open for her to follow behind him, knowing the vivacious young woman as he did he was sure she would. Nothing stopped Cordelia Chase from doing as she pleased, especially not social protocols. She was not one to stand on any kind of ceremony. He wanted to reach for his bottle, to continue to drown his sorrows in the burning heat of his favorite liquor, but he would not do her the disservice of giving her any less than all of his attention.

“Why aren’t you answering your door? Oz was totally flipping out about it.” He heard both the accusation and the anxiety she tried to hide, her armour was back in place and as tightly clamped down as it was in the beginning. He deserved it, he supposed, what little rapport he had managed to gain with her during their near daily sessions in the library could not possibly survive the strain of his neglect of her safety. Still she came to see him and deep down beyond the haze of drunken melancholy that touched him beyond words.

“I have been allowing myself to wallow.” When dealing with this particular charge directness was always best, she did not believe in tact and polite waffling.

“I can see that, eww and smell it. Are you done yet?” He wanted to snap at her, to rage against the careless nature of her words, but her eyes said everything she did not. She was worried for him, yes, but she was also deeply hurt. She needed him and what she was really asking was if he would be there for her now. He felt so old and withered in that moment it drove him off his feet, it was a miracle he landed in the chair at his desk rather than the floor. It all seemed so impossible, the enormity of what was being asked of him, to move on. 

Could he? Dare he? He knew as any person of his age did that moving on did not necessarily mean letting go. That life did not pause when grief and emotion became too much to bear, if anything that was when the walls closed in tighter. The easy path would be to take his anger out on her and drive her off, back into the world where he no longer felt he belonged. The easy path was filled with the promise of oblivion and a safe haven far from all life’s thorny decisions and tearing consequences. He had never taken the easy path in his life, and he would not start now.

While his slayer may have declared her independence and abandoned her post, there were other young ones still here that did need him. He would not shirk his duties to them. He ignored the little voice in the back of his mind that whispered that this wasn’t what he really wanted. That what he truly desired was to finally lay his arms down and rest at last, to be with Jenny again. This might not be what he planned for or what he wanted, but it could become something to hold on to in the end. In turn he could be someone for Cordelia to cling to as well, the dark circles under her eyes told him that this was for both of them and far from pity. This he could accept.

“Yes I believe I am.” They both ignored the slur of his words. 

“Good. I was hoping we could do that whole story time thing again, if you have the time.” 

“I believe I can fit you in my schedule.” Yes, he could help her find her way again and maybe stumble across his own path back to salvation in the process. She was trapped in a hall of mirrors with Angelus on one side and Angel on the other. Maybe it would do them both some good to try to sort out which was which. He would never forgive Angelus for the death of Jenny, but he knew Buffy well and he knew that while she was currently gone she would be back and trailing behind her would be him. He needed to be ready to see him again, they both did. 

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