Forever, That's The Whole Point

Chapter 42

Chapter 42

Willow was sitting in front of the lit fireplace. She had a mortar and pestle on the hearth and her ingredients were laid out. Cordelia, Oz, and Xander were standing behind her. As Willow recited the spell, she threw each item she mentioned into the fire. "To light the aura of the new, skin of snake and chrysalis too. To indicate the fresh reborn, tumbleweed and rosebush thorn. An egg that means the life to come. Take this, oh spirit, and my spell is done." As Willow finished the spell recitation, an orange haze emanated from the fireplace. Everyone in the room wrinkled up their noses and started coughing.

"Oh, good God, what is that smell?" Xander asked, covering his nose and mouth.

"I'm fairly sure that's the smell of a hardboiled egg being thrown into a fire." Cordelia said, squeezing her nostrils together and covering her mouth.

Willow covered her mouth and nose with her hand. "The smell will lead us to the potential."

"Or some poor soul who ate too many chimichangas." Xander said.

"She'll also be lit with a brilliant aura."

The orange haze from the fire had gathered in the center of the room, making a mass of glowing light. Willow, Oz, Cordelia, and Xander were standing in a circle almost and the light was moving around in the middle of their circle.

"Is it supposed to be shimmying all over like that?" Cordelia asked.

"I don't know. I don't think so." Willow said.

"So you messed up the spell again. At least it smells, you know, other-worldly."

"I suck. I'm sorry, you guys, I…. Maybe we could figure something out on the computer?"

"Good call." Oz said.

"I'm gonna open the door and let this place air out." Cordelia said, waving at the air in front of her as she walked to the front door.

"Don't worry, Will." Oz said. "It's really no big."

"I just…. I was sure that it was gonna work." Willow said. Suddenly, the mass of light congealed and formed into a solid beam and headed straight for "Cordelia!" The light hit Cordelia with such a force that it picked her up and pinned her to the door. The light went straight into her, then she dropped to the ground, her chest still glowing orange. Somewhat disoriented, Cordelia looked at Willow, Xander, and Oz with wide eyes. "I think it worked."

"Cordy…." Xander went to her side and helped her up.

"Are you ok?" Willow asked.

"What the hell!?" Cordelia cried. "Y-you did it wrong!"

"I did it right."

"Wow, she…. you're a potential." Xander said, looking at Cordelia. "You could be the next Slayer."

"I don't think so." Cordelia said, pushing away from Xander.

"This is huge. We have to think about this."

"I can't think about this because I am NOT a potential Slayer! No way, no how!"

"A Slayer." Willow said. "Makes sense, I guess. I mean, you could always put up a good fight."

"I don't fight! I scream and run away! I will not become a freak like Buffy!"

"She's not a freak." Xander said.

"You can't really fight this, Cordelia." Willow said. "Neither can Buffy…. I mean, Aurelia. It's pre-destined."

"I don't care. This is all Buffy's fault!"

"How!?" Xander asked.

"She told me to be here tonight!"

"You offered to help." Willow said.

"Because you all told me it was the end of the world!"

"It is."

"God! What did I do that's so wrong to deserve this?"

"Want a list?" Willow asked cheerily. "Oh! Aurelia gets to train you."

"Oh! Aurelia gets to train Cor…." Xander started laughing hysterically.

"What's so funny?" Cordelia asked.

"Aurelia gets to train you." Xander laughed. "You're soooo in for it!"

"Please. I could handle it."

"You'd have to train with all the other potentials. In the basement." Willow said.

"And you'd have to be seen with us again." Xander added. "In school."

"Oh god…."

"Right, and we also have to protect you from the, uh, eyeless guys, the ones with the sharp, sharp knives." Willow said.

"Bringers." Xander said.

"What are you people talking about?" Cordelia asked.

"These guys called Bringers are hunting down and killing potentials."

"Oh my god! What if they saw the spell?"

"Saw the spell? Did you not hear what we said? They can't even see flashcards. Big ones."

"We did a big orange powerful spell. What if they sensed it? What if they're on their way? I've got to get out of here!" Cordelia opened the door and bolted to her car. The others tried to catch her, but she was squealing tires by the time they got to the sidewalk.

"Huh. She really does scream and run." Oz said.

Aurelia and Cassius led the potentials into Willy's demon bar. The place was dimly lit and filled with disgusting-looking patrons that could never be mistaken for humans. As they walked in, some of the patrons turned to look at them as the young girls gawked at what they were seeing.

"This is a bar." Rona said.

"Best damn field trip I ever took." Kennedy said.

"Look, they're all…." Molly trailed off.

"They're demons!" Vi cried. "It's a demon bar. It's like a gay bar, only with demons."

One of the patrons at the bar stood and greeted Cassius. In appearance, this demon was reminiscent of a walrus with smaller teeth and long droopy warts dangling from its face. "Angelus! Long time. Nice of you to bring snacks."

"Touch them and you lose all of your parts." Cassius growled. The demon walked away.

"I didn't like him." Vi said.

"Nice job of blending in, girls."

"We're a bunch of 15 year olds in a demon bar." Rona said. "How much blending did you think we were gonna do?"

"It's all right." Aurelia said. "Usually if you come to a place like this, you want to be seen. You want to scare someone, or make contact…."

"Or have a strong drink?" Molly asked.

"Not usually."

"You don't drink?" Kennedy asked.

"Not in this lifetime. I'm still not old enough."

"Do they card?" Vi asked.

"No, go ahead." The girls walked up to the bar. "Down all the yak urine shots or pigs blood spritzers you like."

"Gross." Vi said as the girls backed away from the bar.

"If I come here, it's because I've got to pry some information out of something large, scary, drunk, and with a room full of friends who don't care much for the Slayer. Remember that. Not a being in here wouldn't be glad to rip your throat out."

"Angel? How've ya been?" A demon asked, walking up to him.

"Clem." Cassius smiled. "I've been doing ok. You?"

"He's ripping out his throat right now." Kennedy said under her breath.

"I see you and Buffy are doing ok."

"Yeah. Hey, Clem, can I talk to you for a second over here?" Cassius and Clem stepped away from the group and he whispered something in Clem's ear.

"You guys know him?" Vi asked Aurelia.

"Angel knows him." Aurelia said.

"Ok, everyone. These are the girls." Cassius said.

"Howdy." Clem said. "So, you girls are gonna deal with demons, huh? Just lemme tell you this." Clem leaned in as if to whisper something to them and the girls crowded around, following suit and leaning in. Then Clem did something with his face that made the girls scream and jump back with fright.

"I could use a shot of that yak urine right about now." Vi said.

Cordelia was walking down the street alone, arms crossed and looking at the ground. She heard someone approaching down the sidewalk and looked up. It was Amanda walking toward her. "Great." Cordelia rolled her eyes. "What do you want?"

"Hey, Cordelia. I saw you walking by yourself and thought I'd say hey." She paused. "Hey."

"Uh huh."

"Well, have a good walk. I guess I'll see you Monday morning?" Cordelia rolled her eyes at the girl and kept walking. "Are you all right?"

"Sure. Just walking." Cordelia turned to look at the choir geek and saw a bloody gash above Amanda's eye. "Are you all right? You've got a thing."

Amanda touched her head. "I guess I…. I had a bit of a…. It's been a bizarre night."

"What happened? Who did that to you?"

"Uh, nobody…. exactly. I don't think you'd exactly believe me."

"Oh please."

"Ok….. I-I was at school late because of, you know, Swing Choir, and I tore my sweater, you know, the striped ones we wear. So I went to Home Sciences to sew it up. And by the time I was finished, the place was empty, so it was all echoy and lonely. And then there was this guy…. or thing. And it was…. it scratched me, and I kinda dodged it, and it kinda hit its head."

"What kind of thing?"

"I don't know. It was messed up. In the face. Round here abouts." Amanda ran her finger between her brows and down the bridge of her nose.

"And when it scratched at you, did it…. was it scratching with its teeth?"

"Is it real? Was it really a vampire? I bet you think I'm crazy."

"I can't believe I'm saying this…." Cordelia sighed. "I believe you."

"Well, cool. The thing is, after it hit its head, I kinda freaked out. I trapped it in a room, and it's still there, and now I don't know what to do. I was thinking of getting Buffy."

"You know something about Buffy?"

"Well, I've heard people talking. A lot of 'em think she's some kind of high-functioning schizophrenic. But I also heard that maybe…. like, maybe she could help with this kind of thing. Do you think we should go get her?"

"No." Cordelia stood up straighter. "I'll take this one."

Holding up a flashlight and looking around, Aurelia and Cassius led the potentials inside a crypt. "A vampire is an animal." Aurelia said. "Sometimes they run in packs, sometimes alone. Who can tell us where we are?"

"It's a nest." Rona said.

"How can you tell?" Aurelia asked.

"Only a vamp could live like this." Kennedy said.

"Some, yes." Cassius said. "As a group, we're not known for our tasteful decor, but in all fairness to the race, this place is seriously lacking in style."

"Thank you." Aurelia said sarcastically.

"I was merely saying…."

She sighed. "He has a point. Vampires can live anywhere. Any way they want. Taste, fashions, living conditions…. they can vary. The animal inside is always the same."

"Where do you live?" Molly asked Cassius.

"Um…. A mansion on Crawford." Cassius said.

"If you want to stay alive," Aurelia said. "You have to spot and identify a nest on site. Look around, all of you. Look for signs that just last night maybe a dozen, two dozen vampires were right where we're standing. Go ahead." The girls reluctantly broke up and started looking around the crypt.

"This is fun." Cassius said.

"It's not supposed to be."

"I was being sarcastic."

Aurelia looked over to see the girls had gathered around, inspecting something on the floor. "Buffy, I think we found something." Rona called/

"It's a body." Molly said.

Aurelia walked over and knelt to take a look. She pulled on its shoulder and let it go. "It's not a body. It's leftovers." The body started to move, then growled as it looked back over its shoulder at Aurelia. It was a vampire now. Everyone backed away, getting behind Aurelia as Aurelia backed up. She pulled out a stake and faced off with the vampire. "No one's safe. Not here, not ever. See this guy?"

"B-but he was dead a minute ago." Kennedy said.

"That was a minute ago. Now…." Aurelia punched him in the face. "He's the enemy." The vampire lunged at her from across the room. She kicked the vampire away and it rolled across the floor. She walked slowly after him, still with stake in hand, talking to the girls. "You can't think too much. Reacting is better. It could be the difference between staying alive and being dead." She punched the vampire and dropped the stake on the floor. They fought hand-to-hand and Kennedy wanted to go to Aurelia's aid and join the fight, but Cassius held her back. "The question is never 'what do you think,' it's always 'what do you know?' You've got to know it. If you don't, if you make one mistake…. It takes just one vampire to kill you. So you've got to know you can take him. Know your environment. Know what's around you, and know how to use it. In the hands of a Slayer, everything is a potential weapon. If you know how to see it. When you're fighting, you have to know yourself, your brain, your body. Know how to stay calm, centered. Every move is important, every blow has got to be part of your plan because you make that one mistake, and it's over. You're not the Slayer. You're not a potential. You're dead. What do you know? Right now, the only thing you know for sure is you've got me." Aurelia dropped the stake and walked out of the crypt. She and Cassius closed the doors, shutting the potentials inside with the vampire. To their surprise, Xander was running up to them when they turned around.

Xander spotted Cordelia and Amanda talking. He climbed halfway up the stairs and called below him. "Aurelia, up here." Aurelia and Cassius followed Xander up the stairs toward Cordelia and Amanda. As the Bringers came toward Amanda, she used the flagpole as a staff, knocking them down and defending herself quite well. Cordelia managed to stay out of the way and avoid the crossfire. As Amanda knocked the Bringers down, Aurelia and Cassius went after them on the stairs.

Aurelia stabbed a Bringer with his own knife and then threw the knife to Cassius. "Here!" He stabbed another Bringer with the knife. A vampire was suddenly there too, fighting Amanda. She defended herself admirably with the flagpole before ultimately pinning the vampire against the wall and staking him with it. Aurelia walked upstairs to the last Bringer that was still alive and broke his neck.

Amanda turned to her, confused and perturbed. "Ok. One minute I'm in Swing Choir, and the next…. What the hell's going on? A vampire attacked me. So I go to your house, and when I get there, this orange cloud hits me."

"She was at the doorway." Cordelia said to Xander as he checked on her.

"And I don't know if you're into the drugs, but that's not my deal, all right. That cloud hit me, and I got a little dizzy and discombobulated."

"It was Willow's spell. She's the potential slayer." Cordelia said to Aurelia.

Rona, Amanda, and Kennedy were sitting on the couch in Aurelia's living room, talking with Molly, who was on a chair, and Vi who was kneeling on the floor, near the coffee table. Together they formed a circle around Amanda in the middle of the couch.

"I'm sure the vampire thought we were like, what, four helpless girls." Rona said. "And then Vi…. Vi actually yells, 'We're just four helpless girls.'"

"That was part of my plan." Vi said. Kennedy rolled her eyes playfully at Vi.

"When it all started going down, it was like we knew what we were doing. For real."

"Yeah, like when you dodged that first attack, and then cracked him across the jaw." Molly said.

"Aw, no, no, no, no, no. See, I wouldn't have been able to do that if you hadn't've pulled his legs out."

"I hurt his arm." Vi said. "Yep. And an arm can be as lethal as a mouth."

Molly looked at Kennedy. "When you staked him, seriously, the rush was like…."

Kennedy nodded and looked at Amanda. "So you took one out solo?"

"Yeah, what was that like?" Molly asked.

"I don't know. I mean, when I saw the vampire, vamp…."

"Vampire's good too." Kennedy said.

"Cool. Yeah, when that vampire attacked me, I felt this kind of charge, you know?"

"Like you realize in one instant that your whole life is different."

"Exactly. It's that rush you're talking about."

Aurelia walked into the room. "Hey, would you all like to head downstairs? Get our newest arrival up to speed?" The girls all stood and followed Aurelia out of the room.

Xander spotted Cordelia standing on the front porch looking at Aurelia's neighborhood. He walked out and she looked over at him. "What's up?" She asked.

"Aw, I'm just thinking about the girls." Xander said. "It's a harsh gig, being a potential. Just being picked out of a crowd, danger, destiny, plus if you act now, death."

"They can handle it."

"Yeah. They're special, no doubt. The amazing thing is, not one of them will ever know, not even Buffy."

"Know what?"

"How much harder it is for the rest of us."

"No way. They've got…."

"Three years, Cordy. Working with the Slayer. Seeing my friends get more and more powerful. Willow's a witch. I could fit Oz in my shaving kit, but come a full moon, he has a wolfy mojo not to be messed with. Powerful. All of them. And I'm the guy who fixes the windows."

"Well, you had that…."

"What?"

Cordelia sighed. "You had that sexy army training for a while, and the windows really did need fixing."

"I saw what you did last night."

"Yeah, I…. I guess I kinda went a little crazy when I thought I was the Slayer."

"Yup. You thought you were all special. Miss Sunnydale 1999. And the minute you found out you weren't, you handed the crown to Amanda without a moment's pause. You gave her your power."

Cordelia shrugged. "The power wasn't mine."

"They'll never know how tough it is, Cordy, to be the one who isn't chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody's watching me. I saw you last night. I see you working here today when you don't have to be. You're not special. You're extraordinary." He smiled at her and Cordelia smiled back.

She reached out and took his hand. "Maybe that's your power."

"What?"

"Seeing. Knowing."

"Maybe it is. Maybe I should get a cape."

"A cape is good."

"Yeah." Xander stared at his ex for a moment longer and then headed back in the house. Cordelia took a moment to gather herself together, never letting a tear drop. She breathed deeply, then followed Xander back inside to work on the books at the table in Aurelia's dining room.

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