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The Sisterhood - Book One

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Black Thorn
The Sisterhood - Book One
A Buffyverse fanfic set around the end of seasons 5 and 2 respectively. Crosses over with the CW show Supernatural but knowledge of this show is unnecessary to read (and enjoy) the story.

Summary; At the end of Belonging, Cordelia ends up somewhere very different from Pylea.

Characters (in order of importance to the story); Original Character. Cordelia Chase. Angel. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. Charles Gunn. Lorne/The Host.

Pairings; None (as of yet).

Chapter One




She crouched down behind the rotted tree stump, her dirty fingernails grasping the blackened bark as her head peeked out to see her surroundings. There was no wind to pull at the leaves and no chirping of birds in the sky, instead it was eerily silent and that fact sent a shiver racing down her spine.

Wishing, not for the first time, that she could spontaneously grow eyes in the back of her head, she crossed two fingers and prayed that nothing would jump up from behind her. She felt she was decently enough hidden where she was, but also had to take into account the otherworldly senses of the beasts that made this land their home.

In the distance she heard a tree branch break and she scurried closer within her hiding place.

Her skin was tingling from the hours she had spent underwater earlier and her knees protested the crouched position she was in, but she refused to move. She could deal with discomfort, even outright pain, if it meant her staying alive just a little bit longer. She was already surprised that she hadn’t been killed long ago to begin with.

Another branch broke, this one not too far from where she was hiding, and she peeked out her head again to see if she could catch a glimpse of them, preferably before they saw her. All she caught were horns and ripped clothing, before she went back behind the large tree stump and tried to steady her panicked breathing.

Her right hand went down to the leaf covered ground and she wrapped her fingers around the weapon she had made long ago out of nothing but tree, carved stone and stripped bark used as rope to tie the first two parts together. She lifted it slightly, prepared to take a sudden swing if needed.

It wasn’t needed, however, as a sudden shout brought the creature’s attention away from the prey it had smelled and it ran quick-footed in the opposite direction of where she sat. Before she could breathe a sigh of relief however, she, too, heard the noise much closer.

It was a female voice crying out for help.

It only took two seconds of vacillating between it being a trap or not before she sprang into action and followed the creature’s path. Even if it was a female monster trying to lure her out, she would never forgive herself if she didn’t make sure. She had been in this literal hell hole for so long and had never come across another human being, but was still hopeful that others existed along with her here.

It took her a bit longer than she liked to reach the clearing where the yell had originated from, because her ingrown instincts had her hiding behind almost every tree she came across. It was difficult to do otherwise when she felt that running had been her entire life, or something close to it.

When she made it to the last of the trees before it opened up into the aforementioned clearing, she stopped, held her breath and watched in awe at the scene before her.

Instead of the girl - and she was sure it was a human at first glance - frightened of the creature and screaming in pain, she was fighting it off quite well, though of course she knew very little of battle techniques. Knowing her assistance was in fact not needed, she instead settled against the tree and took in the other girl.

She was clad in what appeared to be a full bodysuit of a fabric that hardly existed whole in this place; denim. It was a dark blue color, almost the same shade as the pants she had worn long ago when she first came here. The girl - woman, she decided, as she appeared older than herself - had mahogany brown hair cut short, just above her shoulders, and was wearing hoop earrings and other assorted jewelry. She definitely looked like a newcomer in this world.

Having been so focused watching the woman, a sound like a crack but louder than a branch breaking brought her eyes to the creature, who had fallen to the ground and was no longer moving. Realizing, belatedly, that the mystery woman had won the battle, she crept slowly out of her hiding place, eyes fixed on the winning champion of what was, in fact, a very short battle.

Shortly after abandoning the tree line she stepped on a branch - a lot of that went down in this eternal, unending forest - and the woman’s head whipped around, dark brown eyes focused on the petite girl she knew others saw. Her hands began to fidget and she worried her bottom lip, wondering why she had simply assumed that she could trust this stranger not to hurt her. For all she knew, she had been battling the creature for dominance over terrain and not because she was a good, human, woman.

That all went away when the brown eyes appeared to soften. “Hi, there,” she spoke, her voice like bells whistling through the nonexistent wind.

She cleared her throat and attempted a response, but hadn’t spoken beyond screams in so long that it came out rougher than it was supposed to. “Hello.”

A frown line appeared above the eyes of the woman and she slowly made her way closer on dangerously high heeled shoes. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Her concern was a river washing over her that came unexpected in this usually dark and evil place.

She let out a sigh and her whole body seemed to deflate, having decided, then and there, to put all of her trust in this mysterious woman. “Fine,” she croaked out, because technically it was true. It had been a while since she had last been spotted by the monsters of this world and even then she had successfully escaped their clutches.

The woman frowned. “You don’t seem fine, but I guess I’ll take your word for it. For now. Do you know where we are?” She looked away then, her eyes flying all over the seemingly innocuous clearing and surrounding forest.

She looked back quickly when there was a response to her question. “Hell.”

“You’re kidding, right?” But her own eyes betrayed the innocence of her words.

A long-forgotten move took her over - she believed it was called shrugging one’s shoulders - and she tried to speak a complete sentence that wouldn’t sound like a garbled mess. “I think it’s hell. There are…monsters. Everywhere.” It was her turn to let her eyes fly all over as if speaking the word itself would bring them all out, in full force.

The frown stayed on the woman’s face but did not grow larger. She did, however, walk closer until she was close enough to touch, though she didn’t quite go that far. “You mean like that one?” she asked, pointing one long nail - the color of peaches in the summer - towards the fallen body of the creature.

She nodded, deciding only to speak when needed so as not to overuse her vocal chords.

The woman turned back to look at her again. “I’ve seen plenty of that where I come from, so I doubt this is hell.” She paused and looked around for a few seconds. “Though I suppose it could be considered a form of hell, especially to those unfamiliar with…”

“With what?”

The woman looked at her, as if gauging how she would react. “With demons, sweetie.”

She was suitably shocked; upon her arrival to this place it had never occurred to her to use that word to describe the creatures she was surrounded with. Why, she couldn’t say.

“D-demons,” she spoke the word aloud herself, voice shaking. And not from disuse this time.

The woman looked sympathetic and as if she wanted to reach out and comfort her physically. She was glad that the decision was made not to, at this point she still only remembered being touched in ways intended to cause her agony and her eventual death.

She clenched her fists where they lay at her sides and kept her eyes on the ground below them, trying to wrap her head around this new phenomenon - while also wondering why this thought hadn’t occurred to her before. Now that it was pointed out to her, it felt obvious, but of course she remembered very little - if anything - of the world she originally came from, she wouldn’t even know if this was new information or not.

She brushed some hair away from her eyes and glanced back up at the woman. “Are there many demons w-where you come f-from?” Her voice was still shaky and rough, but it was easing the more she used it.

The woman looked cautious for some reason, before seemingly sighing with her whole body. “Yeah, I guess you could say that.” She was looking all around them, assessing the area, or maybe watching out for any more trouble coming their way. “I’m wondering if we don’t come from the same world, though,” she continued, glancing back at the younger girl with knowing eyes.

The girl’s brows furrowed and she wrapped arms around herself, as if a terrible cold had set in and settled around her bones. “Why do you say that?”

The woman seemed to almost reach out and lay a hand on the girl’s shoulder, before remembering herself halfway through the move. “Do you have a name?” she asked, changing gears for the moment.

The girl was so taken aback by the unexpected question that she had to consider the answer; no one had called her anything other than various words that meant prey for so very long, after all. “I think…” she said, trying to clear her throat of the roughness and emotions welling up. “Victoria. I think I’m called…Victoria.”

Nodding slowly, the woman fidgeted on her feet before throwing back her shoulders in determination. “Well, Victoria, it’s nice to meet you, despite the circumstances. I’m Cordelia.”

Victoria looked up at the dark brown eyes and felt an inner strength she wasn’t expecting, as she repeated her earlier question. “Why do you think we’re from the same world, Cordelia?”

Again, the woman sighed. “Your clothing,” she spoke, gesturing to the scraps of fabric barely covering the girl’s very pale skin. “Or what’s left of it. I recognize the design.” She thought about her high school days, where she was always on top of the latest fashion - not that it had changed that much in recent years - and put the girl’s tattered outfit as being from somewhere around 1996.

Which truthfully frightened Cordelia, as it spoke volumes of how long the poor girl had been stuck in this hellish place.

Victoria looked down over herself, frowning at the mud-covered jean shorts - that had not begun as shorts - and the shirt that just covered her now bra-less chest; she’d been forced to remove said bra a long time ago, to use parts of it as a weapon. Her frown deepened as she tried to remember what the color of her shirt was called.

Purple?

Cordelia’s voice brought her back to reality. “What do you remember about where you came from?”

Before Victoria could even attempt to answer the question, however, a frightful and shrill noise came from the nearby forest and there was no longer time for conversation. Cordelia grabbed the girl’s hand - the first touch that wasn’t demonic in a very long time - and pulled her toward the opposite side of the large, open field, hiding themselves behind the tree line as they watched.

Cordelia kept Victoria behind the large tree stump, one arm slung over her back to keep her in place and protect her, while she peered out from behind the bark at the demons that were now entering the field and discovering the body of the monster she had killed earlier.

She still didn’t entirely understand where it had come from, if she was being honest. Bravery had never been her strongest suit and she would have expected herself to run screaming in the other direction. Sure, she had been aware of this world for five years now, but she was nowhere near confident enough to take on such a creature without backup. But before she had even been able to consider being afraid, the demon had laid dead on the ground.

She’d have to try and figure out why later, for right now she and Victoria needed to get to safety. The girl had been here so long - had stayed alive for so long - that she had to know where a safe place might be for them to lay low. Or at least as safe as it got in this dreary, demon-filled hellhole.

Turning to Victoria, Cordelia put a finger over her lips and then tried to use her own version of sign language and mimicry to get the girl to understand what was happening. Thankfully she was dealing with a very intelligent girl and Victoria silently communicated back at Cordelia for her to follow. They took great care in where they stepped - too dangerous to snap any more branches below their feet - as they slowly wound in and out of the dense forest, keeping a constant eye and ear on the demons sniffing around their fallen comrade’s corpse.

Cordelia had no problem taking a page out of her new friend’s book, physically following in Victoria’s slightly tinier footsteps with her own heels and using what Angel had taught her to breathe very shallowly, in case these unfamiliar creatures had enhanced hearing like so many from back where she came.

She thought of what she left behind; of the vampire, Wesley, Gunn, even the Host. She wanted to be confident that they would find her, except for one problem. This didn’t look anything like the home dimension that the green demon and his cousin had discussed.

Where was she?



“Well, then find her!” he cried out in anger and desperation, toppling over the desk and breathing heavily, though he didn’t need to.

Wesley took one step back, but his face remained the same; the vampire had been unpredictable like this ever since Cordelia had disappeared so it came as no surprise to the former Watcher. “I’ve told you already, Angel, it isn’t that simple. There are an untold number of dimensions out there, looking for her would be like…”

The vampire growled and looked up at his friend with yellow-tinted eyes. “If you compare it to a needle in a haystack, so help me, Wes…”

“English has got a point,” Gunn spoke as he stepped in between the two men, keeping his eyes on the upset vampire. “But no one’s saying we’re giving up, either. We just need to face the facts; it’ll take a while.”

“Maybe not.”

All three sets of eyes turned to the green demon standing nervously in the doorway to the now destroyed office of the old hotel, shifting back and forth on his feet and trying not to look anyone in the eye. Before Angel could take one threatening step forward, Gunn lay a hand on his chest and gestured to Wesley to do the talking.

“What have you found, Lorne?” He itched to clean his glasses but tensions were running far too high at the moment.

Angel would do well to remember that he wasn’t the only one missing Cordelia.

The demon was still a good deal shook from their recent trip to Pylea - which had proved entirely fruitless as the Seer wasn’t there - and his latest visit with his friend didn’t bode well for any of them. This time he’d have to put his foot down a bit harder, if they tried to convince him to come along. “I got a possible location, it’s not 100% though.”

Wesley and Gunn shared a glance of meaning before the Brit spoke up again. “What did your…special friend say?”

Lorne sighed and ran a hand down his face, coming deeper into the room. He raised a fallen chair back up and took a heavy seat, before talking once more. “The place that Cordelia might be in…it’s not exactly the safest.” Before anyone could speak up, he raised an open palm. “Yes, I know Pylea was pretty dangerous, too, but this is different. This is…” he blew out a breath and bent over, resting elbows on his knees. “Darkness. Emptiness.” He looked up at them all. “Pure.”

Whether it was his age, his experiences, his intelligence, or perhaps a mixture of all three, Angel was the only one who immediately understood what Lorne was saying. He fell heavily back against the wall, letting out a much deeper breath than the green demon had just seconds earlier. He uttered one word only, but the room remained silent for quite some time after.

“Purgatory.”



Cordelia was doing her best not to wince out loud at the pain in her side; they’d been walking - carefully - for so long that her lungs were burning and she was questioning just how in shape she was, especially now that her days as a cheerleader were well and truly over. When she got back home, she was so joining a gym.

It didn’t help that Victoria didn’t seem to be even remotely out of breath, looking calmly over her shoulder every now and then to make sure they weren’t being followed. Rationally, she knew that the girl had been in this place much longer and was used to the constant running for her life, but Cordelia was very rarely accused of being rational, especially in situations that invited danger into her life.

Apparently feeling confident in being far enough away from the demons, the young girl spoke up for the first time since they’d escaped the field. “There’s a cave just around the corner, I’ve been staying there for a while.” Her voice was back to sounding like rocks scraping against each other and Cordelia winced in sympathy; it must feel even worse than it sounded.

Sure enough, after a few more minutes of walking they came to the mouth of a small cave, so tiny that they had to bend over to fit inside. As deep in as they could go, Cordelia took her instructions from the silent girl and sat down when Victoria did. She brushed her hands over her dirty jean-clad thighs, screwing up her face in disgust when it only made her hands more filthy after the fact.

“There’s a small stream over here, you can wash your hands.” Now that Victoria had remembered human speech, it seemed impossible to stop her from using it. It didn’t hurt that she was in good company for the first time in…she had a difficult time remembering, if she were being honest.

Cordelia gave the girl a grateful look and carefully crawled over to where she had been indicated, staring down at her own, dirty, reflection in the surface of the clear-blue water. There were dark smudges on her cheeks, forehead and nose, one of her earrings was missing and her mascara had run from sweat. Her hair looked like a bird's nest and she could feel a hysterical laugh building up. She forcefully pushed it down as she eradicated her reflection by sticking her hands in the water and giving them a quick scrub.

When she turned her back on the small stream and took a seat, she saw that her companion had all but curled into a ball, white-blue eyes staring at her every movement. This was the first sign Cordelia had seen, since meeting her, that the girl had been living in this world for far too long.

Remembering the question she had asked right before they’d run, she took a chance and repeated it. “What do you remember about where you came from?” She kept her eyes trained on the obviously overwhelmed and frightened girl, as if she was an animal poised to run at any, tiny movement.

Victoria stayed still, staring at her new friend - and savior - giving the question the thought that it deserved. Her head ached from attempts to recall her past and she winced against the pain, lifting a hand up against her warm forehead. “I-I’m not sure…”

“It’s okay,” Cordelia spoke, a soft tone she wasn’t entirely used to using. “Give yourself plenty of time. What about…the name of your hometown? A last name? Anything?”

The girl squinted her eyes as she looked inward for an answer; any answer. Images swirled through her mind’s eye but she couldn’t seem to grasp hold of any of them. Whenever she tried, it was a picture of this place that stood out; hiding in a wet hole as sniffing monsters hovered in the area, running as fast as she could from a snake-like creature, the stinging of sharp fangs in her side on the rare occasion that she didn’t escape fast enough.

But nothing from before this place…only feelings. Safety, warmth, a smell she couldn’t name. But no cold, hard facts.

Cordelia sensed this and swallowed her sigh. “It’s okay, Victoria. You know your name, that’s good enough for me. We can always figure out the rest later.”

Her head popped up and she tilted her head just a bit to the side. “Later?”

“Yeah, later. I’ve got people looking for me. It might take them a while, but they’ll come. And then you can return to my world with us.” She tried a smile, but it felt almost wrong at the moment.

Victoria still looked confused and then she got a look on her face that Cordelia would have called humor on anyone else. “But…there is no way out.” She shook her head. “Did you think I never searched?”

Truthfully she hadn’t considered this. But it made sense. Victoria had probably looked for a way out for a long time after she first wound up here - however that happened - before eventually succumbing to the world she was in, forced to run and hide and do what she could to stay alive. Cordelia felt like an idiot for making assumptions. “My friends…they have ways, Victoria, they’ll find a way. I promise.”

But the girl shook her head again. “Don’t do that,” she whispered.

“What?”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” And then she turned her back.

The conversation was well and truly over…for the moment.



Lorne was still sitting in the only chair that was in one piece, while Gunn had taken a seat on the floor and Wesley and Angel leaned against opposite walls. The quiet had ruled for a while, though no one knew quite how long it had been. No one had spoken a word since Angel informed them all of what Lorne had learned.

They desperately wanted to cling to the small chance that the demon’s friend had been wrong and Cordelia was not stuck somewhere with such a dangerous reputation; and that was just within the media of movies and books. There was no saying what the reality was actually like.

But they couldn’t just sit here; certainly not forever.

“What exactly do you know about this place, Angel?” Wesley spoke, making everyone jump a bit, including the vampire.

Angel sighed and leaned back fully against the wall, his eyes on the ceiling as he spoke. “Not much, but I’ve heard rumors. Apparently it’s the place that demons with souls go when they die. That is, their souls go there.”

Lorne was softly shaking his head and Wesley gestured for him to speak up. “Sorry to burst a bubble there, Angelcakes, but you’ve got a sour source.” He sighed deeply and slowly stood up, raking his eyes over all three of them; he’d been hoping never to have to bring this up. “The creatures you fight on a nightly basis are not, in fact, demons. The correct term would be monsters.”

All three were understandably confused. “What’s the difference?” Gunn asked, not being anything but curious in his inquiry.

“Oh, there’s a big difference, my chocolate eclair,” Lorne replied, a humorless grin on his face. “Pray you never meet an actual demon, they’re much worse than monsters.” Another sigh. “Anyway, to continue the earlier thought, Angel was halfway right. Purgatory is where the soul of monsters go when they die. It’s full of them…and in this place…it’s said that they have corporeal form.”

Everyone immediately finished what Lorne wasn’t saying in their minds, but it was Wesley who spoke up. “So, what you’re saying is…if Cordelia is, indeed, stuck there, she is…”

Angel continued for the stumped, shocked man. “Surrounded by monsters.” He turned abruptly to the horned demon…was he even a demon? “Can they be killed there? If they’re already dead?”

Lorne didn’t look confident. “That’s a very good question.”

Gunn really didn’t have the capacity to take this all in right now. He raised his open palms and closed his eyes for a moment. “Alright, moving on. How exactly are we supposed to get into this place?”

Everyone looked back at Lorne, who felt like he would never stop sighing. “All she gave me was a name. I can only guess that this person will have the answer to that one.” He reached for his iridescent blue coat and swung it around his back. “And maybe other answers, as well.”

The others quickly followed him, Angel the last one out. He looked over the destruction of the office that belonged to Wesley now and frowned. “Wherever you are,” he whispered, softly shutting his eyes. “Please be safe.”



“You have to remember to be careful, okay?” She brushed a hand through the auburn hair, staring deep into the white-blue eyes.

Victoria nodded her head. “I always am, mother, and you worry too much.” She gave a small smile as she turned away. She pushed the pack higher up on her shoulder and looked over her shoulder as she walked down the stony path. “I’ll be back in a couple of days.”

“I love you, Vicky!” her mother called out as she got in her car and started the engine.

She rolled down the window and leaned out with a smile. “I don’t know why, but thanks.”

Her mother’s laugh followed her down the driveway and out onto the main road.


Victoria sat up suddenly, surprising Cordelia enough that she fell halfway into the stream of water behind her. “Oomph,” she let out as the back of her jean-suit soaked through to the skin. A grimace on her face, she righted herself and sat back against the wall of earth behind her. “Do you always wake up like that?” she asked, brushing her back and not looking at the girl.

Who was being very quiet.

Cordelia finally looked up to see that Victoria was sitting still, almost like a statue, no breeze to even move her tangled hair around. She frowned and squinted her eyes, trying to figure out what was going on; did the girl sleepwalk? Her eyes were clouded over, but Cordelia had no experience with people who had that particular, subconscious, habit.

She rose from the ground as much as she could, half crawling over to the girl’s side and taking a seat beside her. Still not comfortable touching her too much, afraid to scare her off like a cornered animal, she leaned in close and whispered her name. “Victoria?”

The girl only blinked once before turning to face Cordelia, not seeming the least bit shocked at how close the woman was to her own face. “What is it?” she croaked out, though her voice sounded better after she had gotten a bit of rest.

Slowly Cordelia shook her head. “Are you okay? You were acting weird before.”

Victoria tried to remember what she’d been dreaming…but it was as out of her grasp as her memories seemed to be. “I think that I remembered…” she put a hand to her forehead, a habit she couldn’t recall having before. “It’s gone now.”

Cordelia sighed in sympathy with the young girl, feeling a need to reach out and rub one of her shoulders; she ignored this need. “Well, maybe it just means that it’ll take some time, right? It’s progress.”

Unless, of course, Victoria had been having dreams like this for a while and just hadn’t been aware, alone as she had been in this place until now. But Cordelia knew better than to mention that; she did have some tact, after all.

Victoria brushed some hair away from her eyes and turned to look at the other woman again. “Will your friends know where to find us?” She wasn’t suddenly feeling hopeful but wanted the conversation away from her missing memories.

“I’m sure they’ll have some way of letting me know they’re here. If not, we’ll just go out now and then and look. We’ll be careful, of course,” she tacked on at the end, when Victoria got a crazed look in her eyes, at the thought of going back out there.

Victoria looked down at her hands, covered in filth, leaves and earth. She softly rubbed at them, frowning as she subconsciously continued to try and recall that dream. There had been something about it; a warmth she wasn’t used to. Nightmares were what she knew, but this was new.

There was also a smell she couldn’t put her finger on, that had remained even after she woke.

Keeping her eyes on scarred, dirty hands, she spoke again. “It’s hardly ever dark here.”

Cordelia wasn’t sure what had prompted the girl to speak, but she wasn’t about to break her concentration. She stayed perfectly still and waited for Victoria to continue her thought.

“I don’t know if this place has a sun, I’ve never seen one, but it’s almost always light. The dark…it rarely comes.” She scrubbed a little harder against the dirt on her skin, eyes stinging with tears that she refused to let fall. “I think…I remember it being dark more often back…back home.”

Cordelia nodded to herself; at least it was something, even if it wasn’t much.

Victoria turned to finally look at the other woman. “Is it like that where you’re from?”

The brunette got comfortable against the cave wall and rested her hands in her lap. “Yes. There are twenty-four hours in each day and, depending on where in the world you are, just under half of that is dark. Especially in winter. During the summer, the dark only lasts for a few hours.”

The girl copied Cordelia’s move and leaned back against the hard rock, looking out over the tiny cave with the small stream. “Tell me more,” she said, letting her eyes close as she drifted; not quite asleep but not fully awake either.

Cordelia let a small smile play on her lips, glancing at the peaceful looking girl. “Well, let’s see…my world has warm food on every street corner. Showers with great water pressure. Silk.” She frowned. “It’s not perfect, but…” She looked all around the cave. “It’s paradise compared to this,” she whispered to herself, glancing back at Victoria to see that the girl had fallen back asleep.

She smiled again and got comfortable herself; it had been a long day.

And wasn’t that an understatement.



Dirk had been open for business for just over twenty-three years now, and in that time he’d seen his fair share of weirdness. Certainly one vampire accompanied by two humans and a green demon with red horns was nothing new and he barely raised a brow when the foursome walked through the door of his herbal store.

“What can I help you with, gentlemen?” he asked, keeping one hand under his counter, fingers tight around the hilt of a bejeweled knife. One could never be too safe in the big city, after all.

Lorne walked forward and tried on a smile that he knew fell kind of flat. “Aggie sent me.”

Dirk nodded and took his hand off the knife, smiling a bit at the group. “In that case, welcome.” He walked around the counter to join them in the main space of the small shop. “She called me earlier, said you might be coming by. You gents looking for Purgatory?”

Angel knew his emotions were a bit out of control at the moment. Everything this past year, with Darla and Drusilla, combined with Cordelia’s sudden disappearance, wasn’t making him feel very fluffy and he was realizing that it was probably best to let the others take the lead. He could feel the demon deep inside, clamoring to be let out to rain down destruction the longer his friend was gone. He stood at the edge of the small room and simply listened.

“Yes, Aggie mentioned you might know of a way to get us in,” Lorne said, nervous about the term ‘we’ but knowing it wasn’t a discussion to be had right now.

Dirk shook his head with a frown. “I don’t know what that girl’s been smoking, but she steered you wrong. Sure, I know my fair share about that place, but that includes there being no way in. Unless you’re a monster fixing to get yourself killed, of course.”

Angel forced down a growl as Wesley stepped up beside Lorne. “I’m not sure I understand; our friend was trapped there by a portal, surely that means it can be done?”

The shopkeeper rubbed his chin as he considered the foursome. “I ain’t never heard of that before, but I guess it’s not impossible. What exactly where the circumstances surrounding this friend of yours?”

While Wesley and Gunn filled Dirk in, Lorne stepped up to the large window where the vampire was frowning, deep in thought. “I’m sorry about this, shortcake, Aggie’s never given bad intel before.”

Angel lifted his head to look at the demon. “It’s not your fault,” he sighed, letting his arms fall to his sides.

Lorne always knew how to read the vampire, even without a song to help him out. “It isn’t yours, either.”

Angel didn’t say anything more.

“Guys,” Gunn called out, waving the two preternatural beings over to the small table on the other end of the room. They were done filling the shopkeeper in and needed all ears for this. “Repeat that for us, Dirk,” he said, once the vampire and demon had joined him and Wesley.

He pulled out some papers and lay them on the table. “My father studied Purgatory his whole life, trying to find a way to harness its mystical power for himself; he never found it. However, he did learn a lot about it.” He unfolded what looked like a map and placed a flat palm down on it. “There isn’t technically a way inside, although it’s been speculated that you can ride the wave of a dying monster inside. It can’t be just any monster, though, it has to be an Alpha.”

Gunn frowned. “What the hell’s that?”

Dirk smiled and looked up at the taller man. “The first of every kind of monster; everything has a parent, Mr. Gunn, even evil creatures.” He looked back down at the paper. “Most of the Alpha’s have been destroyed, and whoever is left have gotten very good at hiding.”

He tapped the paper a few times. “This is a map of Purgatory, though of course it might not be precise; it was supposedly drawn up by someone claiming to have been there, but there is no real way of verifying that.”

Wesley leaned in over the table, adjusting the glasses on his head. “Well, it certainly doesn’t look anything like I’d expected.”

Dirk smiled again. “Fiction has a way of getting most things wrong, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce,” he said, glancing over at Angel. “Isn’t that right, vampire?”

Angel just nodded, his eyes fixed on what appeared to be a map of a large, unending forest, with few clearings and rivers dotted here and there; he couldn’t help but question the validity of the map. He had been to hell - or, at the very least, a hell dimension - and he doubted that a place like Purgatory would look like this.

It seemed almost…peaceful.



“Victoria, run!” Cordelia shouted, digging her long fingernails into the belly of the demon that had a hand wrapped around her midsection. “Get out of here!”

The girl was wavering, wanting to be safe but also not wanting to lose her new friend. She waffled back and forth on her bare feet, teeth sinking into her bottom lip as desperate eyes flew from Cordelia caught in a monster’s grasp to the rest of the forest and any of the dozen hiding places she had found over the years. What was she supposed to do?

Cordelia continued to struggle with the strange-looking demon - it looked almost human, if not for the teeth - praying that the girl would listen to her and get herself far, far away from here. She wasn’t sure how this would end, but it probably wouldn’t be pretty. For her or the demon.

Maneuvering herself around just enough to get the room needed, she threw her elbow deep into the gut of the demon with as much force as she could muster; it worked and the demon loosened its grip on her. She forced her way out of its arms fully and turned around, getting into a fighting position that she’d seen the Slayer do on several occasions.

The demon with the sharp teeth smiled at her, probably assuming that she was just a weak little human - which it may be right about, but still, no need to gloat - and charged at her. She threw out her leg and used its own momentum against it, watching as it tumbled to the ground. Before it could get back up, she kicked it in the back and then ran.

She grabbed Victoria’s hand - not bothering to scold her for not listening - and started to run as fast as her feet would carry her. She heard the girl occasionally cry out behind her, as her feet were bare and no doubt being ripped up by the branches and rocks on the ground, but they couldn’t afford to stop, even for a second. She bit back her own sympathy and pulled on Victoria’s hand, trying to tell her to move faster.

They could hear the demon pursuing them in the distance.

The forest rarely changed as they ran and Cordelia couldn’t help the stray thought that wondered just how Victoria - and the demons - could tell anything apart from anything else. Maybe she just had a horrible sense of direction? As they entered yet another tiny part of the forest that were missing enough trees to be called a small field, a body came out of nowhere and crashed into the two women, sending them barreling to the ground, scraping up their exposed skin in the process.

Cordelia immediately crawled over to crouch protectively over Victoria and stared up into unfamiliar eyes that seemed almost human. The man smiled, sharp teeth identical to the demon that’d had her in its grip before, before winking and rushing off to fight the pursuing monster that was now reaching the area.

She could feel Victoria’s hands clutching at her denim-suit as she watched the two creatures fighting all around them, bashing into trees and throwing punches that made her teeth ache just to listen to. She wondered what was going on; were they fighting over the right to eat them? But the other one…what was with that wink? She wasn’t sure if they could afford to wait around and find out and grabbed Victoria’s hand again.

Just as they were getting ready to run again, the ‘friendly’ demon chopped the head off the other one and turned to them, dipping his hat at them and smiling. “You have no idea how long I’ve been looking for you,” he said, a thick Southern accent coating his words.

Cordelia was stunned almost silent. “Huh?”

To be continued in Chapter Two; Who is the stranger that saved Cordelia and Victoria and why has he been looking for the girl? Will Angel and the gang ever find a way to get their friend and Seer back?
 
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WillowFromBuffy

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I was certain Vicky was Fred. You write really well. Looking forward to more.
 
@Puppet Can Willow say, "Hey, I know I used to wear overalls, but a denim bodysuit!? Seriously!?"
 
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I also just realized that there is a certain redhead in the next chapter, so forget what I wrote yesterday ;)

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Black Thorn
Chapter Two


Cordelia stayed in her position in front of Victoria, one arm stretched behind her and a hand wrapped around the girl’s wrist, while she stared calculatingly at the strange demon who had yet to attack them. He was just standing there, a somewhat amused smile on his face, hands stuffed in his pockets and a very calm demeanor about him that didn’t really fit in with this place.

She considered his words; the only ones he’d spoken so far. He said he’d been looking for one of them, and considering that he used the word ‘long’, she very much doubted it was her. Which was part of why she was acting so protective of Victoria, who knows what he wanted with her.

Maybe someone should break the silence and ask, though. “Why?” She kept it short and succinct, watching carefully in case he suddenly chose to attack.

The creature - who was looking annoyingly human now that he had packed his fangy teeth away (and how did he do that?) - continued to smile, as if this whole thing was amusing to him. “Why was I looking for that pretty thing you’re hiding behind your back?” He didn’t wait for a response, though he chuckled when his words made both women stiffen. “Cause she’s my way out; you both are.”

Victoria stared at the demon, wide eyes full of shock - was he telling the truth or just trying to lull them into a sense of security before he attacked? She wanted very much for him to be on the up and up, but… he was a monster.

Cordelia was on that same train of thought as her brows furrowed and a determined look settled over her face. “And we’re supposed to just trust you?”

Again, his grin seemed to grow, as he raised one hand to rub against his beard. “Darling, if you wanna be stuck here, that’s your choice. I’m just offering a way out; only thing I ask in return is to hitch a ride.”

“What, so you can kill people back in my world?” Cordelia replied, not letting her guard down one bit. “Yeah, I don’t think so, pal.”

For the first time, the demon got serious. “You can assume whatever you want of me, but I have no intention of doing that.” He got a faraway look in his eyes before shaking it off. “I just want out.”

On cue, a trio of demons attacked them as if to underline his desperation to get away from this place of death, a desperation seemingly as powerful as the two human women’s own. Cordelia pushed Victoria up against a tree and watched as this strange monster fought off the others trying to get to them. Every time they came close enough to almost touch one of them, there he was, blocking their path and putting himself in danger to save them from harm.

Cordelia wanted nothing more than to believe he was simply doing this to make them think he was being upfront, that he was playing a long game, but there were pieces of her own past that forced her to reconsider. She didn’t think of Angel - he was a unique case thanks to his cursed conscience - but of the handful of demons she had met over the last few years that were more than what they appeared.

An unbidden image of Doyle passed by her mind’s eye before she shook it off and considered the rest instead; like the Host, a kinder demon she had never met before. He didn’t seem to have a violent bone in his green body and had, in fact, been very helpful over the past year. There were even a few instances from her high school years in Sunnydale, when she was spending time around the Slayer.

Not to mention the instances where humans were the real monsters. Did she really have the right to judge based simply on the fact that he was a demon?

She had been willing to give Doyle a chance; the fact that he had only been half demon shouldn’t be that important in comparison.

She was wavering but she still wasn’t sure. Maybe if it had just been her, she could take the chance, but she had Victoria to look out for, a girl who couldn’t be older than seventeen, at the most. If she decided to trust this demon, as much as she was able to at least, and it turned sour, she wouldn’t be the only one paying for it.

This was not the easiest dilemma in the world.

As she considered it from every angle, Victoria was peeking out from behind Cordelia’s back, watching the fanged demon fighting off three other, very different, demons. He was a very brutal fighter, not as fluid as her new friend had seemed the day before, and she found herself wincing when he laid a harsh blow down on the creatures that wanted to hurt her and Cordelia.

He held a weapon very similar to the one she’d left behind right before she met the older brunette woman, which told her that he was one of the intelligent monsters in this place; they were often the only ones smart enough to create a weapon to help them survive. She watched as the sharp end of the stone cut through the neck of one of the demons and he was down to fighting two.

Despite his brutality, there was a small sense of grace in his movements, she began to notice. Now that he had taken down one opponent, he seemed to lose that slight edge of desperation that had coated the battle at first, more confident now that he would be the winner. There was even a small smile on his face, she noted, when he turned just enough for her to see him from the front.

She was still holding on to the back of Cordelia’s denim-suit and she gently pulled on it, to get the woman down within earshot of her whisper. “Do you think he’s telling the truth?”

Cordelia sighed and kept her eyes on the fight as she replied. “I’m not sure, but we may have to give him a chance to prove himself. If we’re lucky, my friends will come for us before we can test it to the fullest.” She prayed for this, but couldn’t be sure; it had already been a full day here and still no sign of Angel and the others.

She wondered what they were doing.



The employees of Angel Investigations were still huddled around a small table in a herbal shop in Los Angeles, looking at the worn piece of paper that supposedly held a map of Purgatory. The vampire wasn’t the only one who doubted that it was legit, but it was all they had.

Wesley looked at the shop owner, Dirk. “What else do you know?”

The man adjusted the glasses on his face and cleared his throat, while he walked around the room gathering more books and loose pieces of paper. “A lot, if I’m being honest. Anything that’s useful to you? That’s another story.” He finally took a seat at the table and gestured for the other four to do the same; Angel was the only who remained standing, hovering over the rest. “Some of these are my father’s personal notes.”

Wesley grabbed a pile of papers and brought them closer to himself, peering over the scrawled words on the sides of the printed pages. “Am I reading this right?”

Dirk leaned over to see what the Brit had found, and then smiled. “Yes, you are. I thought that might interest you.”

Angel stepped forward, reading over Wesley’s shoulder, but didn’t understand the language it was written in. “What did you find?” Gunn and Lorne were also interested in this answer.

“According to this text, there is a way out of Purgatory, it’s just a matter of finding it.” They all knew Cordelia was smarter than most people gave her credit for, so this was indeed good news.

Gunn asked what they were all thinking. “Why haven’t the monsters left, then?”

Wesley looked up at his friend with a smile. “Because the exit only works on humans.”



“Then how can you get out?” Cordelia asked, arms crossed as she stared at the demon that had just saved all of their hides.

He smiled; he did that a lot. “I’m not technically here,” he said, lifting his eyes up to the skies above. “Just my soul. My body is still back in your world.”

Cordelia shook her head, she was terribly confused. “Okay, how does that work?”

Victoria watched, still hidden behind Cordelia, while the man - she had decided to think of him as that from now on, it made it easier to have him around - sighed, but never lost the smile. “As soon as this little one,” he pointed at Victoria, “came here, a while back, a portal opened up. See, humans aren’t supposed to be here, they don’t belong here, and this place doesn’t want them here. So when one comes, an exit opens up.” He rubbed his chin and continued. “Any human can pass easily through this portal, I’m guessing because they have a body.” He gestured to himself. “This isn’t actually a body, just a soul with a corporeal form, if you will. There’s a ritual - a spell - involved in getting my soul through the portal and back into my body.”

Cordelia’s frown deepened. “But isn’t that a body that’s dead.”

“Ah,” he said, smiling even bigger now, tapping his temple. “Now you’re thinking. And, yes, it is, but the ritual reverses those effects at the same time that my soul is returned to my body.”

Admittedly Cordelia was feeling a lot better about this whole deal since discovering that the demon - whatever kind he was - had a soul. Was a soul currently, as it was. “Okay, I think I understand…mostly.” She clenched her fists just a bit, wishing once more for the soothing presence of her trusted friends. “You help us get to this portal safely, protecting us from the other demons here along the way, and in return we perform this ritual to help you get out of here, too. Am I getting it right?”

He looked at her with a strange glint in his eyes, like he was confused, but then he just seemed to shrug it off. “Sounds like it, darling. Once you two are on the other side, you track down my grave, dig up my remains, and do the second ritual like I’ll be teaching you. Should bring me right back.”

Those last words made Cordelia realize the risk that this demon was taking; trusting them as much as they were choosing to trust him. For all he knew, they would just abandon his soul to float around their world. On top of that, he didn’t seem to have any security that this ritual would even work in the first place, as according to him it was based on hearsay and no actual proof of success. It did make her feel a bit better about agreeing to this deal.

Doing her best to keep it from shaking, she stretched out her hand, keeping her eyes on the demon. “Cordelia.” She glanced at the girl for permission. “And this is Victoria.”

Again with that smile. “Good to officially meet you, miss,” he said, grasping her hand in his own. “Benny, at your service.”

She raised a brow at how he was acting, but didn’t mention anything. “Okay, so where do we start looking for this portal.” She stared all around the area they were standing in, surrounded by the dead bodies of the three demons Benny had fought off for them. “This is a pretty big place.”

He chuckled. “I doubt you’ve seen even a third of this hellhole, darling; it does get pretty big.”

“And you can find your way around? I mean, I can’t tell one tree from another tree, one stone from another stone, and so far I’ve only seen one river.” Cordelia didn’t exactly have the best inner compass to begin with.

“Been here long enough, shouldn’t be a problem,” he replied, adjusting the hat on his head, a glint of humor in his blue eyes. “As far as the portal goes, I have somewhere for us to start.” Then he leaned his body to the side and offered a smile to the girl who had yet to utter a single word, still hiding behind Cordelia. “You’re pretty decent at playing hide-and-seek, little one, I gotta say. Been searching for you since rumor of your arrival reached me, and that was a sight long ago.”

Not feeling the least bit brave, Victoria stayed where she was, but she did offer the ‘nice’ demon a small smile, just to let him know that she’d heard his words. “Alright, should we go?” Cordelia spoke, getting his attention away from the poor girl.

Benny straightened up again and still had that same smile on his face. “You’re the boss, Cordelia. I’m just the compass.” He winked and then set off in one direction of the dense forest.

Cordelia turned to Victoria. “It’s gonna be okay, alright? I’ll keep you safe.”

Though she didn’t say it, the young girl was already sure of this; however she may doubt the man, she trusted Cordelia completely.

It was a nice change from what had become the norm around here, she thought.



It was a somber threesome that returned to the Hyperion just a few hours after they’d left. Lorne had been dropped off at his bar, now that there was nothing more they could do but wait and hope that Cordelia found a way out as soon as possible. None of them liked feeling so helpless, but what else was there to do?

Wesley recognized the look in the vampire’s eyes, though; Angel was going to continue looking for an alternate route, until the day their friend stepped back inside this hotel. And he would be damned if he wasn’t planning on helping out every step of the way.

They pushed through the back doors, having come in from the garage where Angel kept his convertible, only to stop up short at the sight of someone sitting on the red couch by the office door. Their hopes that it might be Cordelia were dashed with the flash of red hair.

Willow.

“What…?” Angel cut himself off, staring into the watery green eyes of the young woman. Realization hit him like a battering ram. “Buffy.”

Wesley’s breath hitched at the name and he glanced at Gunn standing beside him, trying to figure out how to get around all of the questions that the demon fighter probably had. Thankfully the man had more tact than their missing friend and he kept quiet, simply watching with hawk eyes that held unspoken confusion.

Willow sniffled a bit and rose from her seat, but didn’t speak; she just kept sad eyes on the vampire.

The Brit decided to break the silence. “Uh, why don’t we take this…” Only then did he remember that the office was a destructive mess of broken furniture and scattered papers. He no longer knew what to say.

Angel swallowed, images zapping by his mind; he needed answers. “My room is upstairs.” The redhead left with her old friend.

Now it was just Wesley and Gunn in the lobby, standing around with no idea of what to do.

“So,” Gunn spoke, rolling his shoulders and leaning against the counter. “What was that about?”

A few floors up, the door closed with a soft click and Angel gestured for Willow to take a seat in his sofa chair. She offered him a tired smile in return and fell into the soft cushions. She let her eyes wander around the spacious room; this was definitely a decent step up from the basement apartment that both Oz and Buffy had told her about.

At the thought of that name, she choked up again.

“Tell me everything, Willow,” Angel said, taking a cautious seat on the table next to the sofa chair.

And so she did.

Angel sat crouched over, his fingers intertwined and arms leaning on his thighs, staring at the redhead with lowered brows and a deep frown on his face as he listened. He was finding it difficult to wrap his head around it all; that he’d never actually met Dawn, even though he had memories of doing so, that the Slayer had been fighting a God, of all things, that Spike - Spike - was fighting with them, not against them.

Quite possibly the only thing he did understand was the sacrifice that Buffy had made for her sister. This was exactly the girl he had fallen in love with all those years ago, the one that made the hard choice when no one else could - or should. Who understood, better than her friends, perhaps even her Watcher, that the Slayer was more than just a hero - she was a warrior. And a warrior made the hard sacrifices in battle.

Of course he was in pain, no one was denying that; the woman he loved - would always love - was gone and it left a sharp sting behind in his heart, but he was also so proud of her, for doing something that amazing to save both her sister and the world.

But it might be a while before the pride overpowered the grief, of course. Until then, he would be strong, especially right now, when Willow - the only one from Sunnydale other than Buffy that had treated him like a friend - needed someone to be so, allowing her to let go completely.

As the redhead fell apart in his arms, drenching his shirt with tears, Angel wondered what this would mean for the future.

It was a somewhat dismal image to conjure up, admittedly.



Cordelia wiped the sweat from off her forehead and crouched over, trying to get her breathing back to normal. They’d been forced to run from a group of demons, too outnumbered as Benny was the only one of them who could take on the creatures; both because Cordelia really didn’t have much experience and because someone needed to protect Victoria.

The girl was currently leaning up against a tree, sleeping as she sat on the ground. Cordelia and Benny were standing far enough away that they wouldn’t disturb the poor girl, who’d already been through so much… most of it long before either of them even met her.

Several feet away, Benny stood leaning against another tree, staring curiously at the bent over woman gulping at the air around them. There was a small smile on his face - no doubt he was silently making fun of her, she thought - but he stayed eerily quiet. This was new, as she hadn’t been able to get him to shut up for the past however many hours since they’d first shook hands on their deal.

“What is it?” she asked, when she could finally breathe normally again. She stood straight, hands on her hips as she stared him down with her fiercest glare.

He just chuckled. “Just wondering.”

Cordelia’s brows furrowed as she continued to stare right back at him. “Wondering what exactly?”

Slowly he shook his head, eyes still fixated on her. “Something you said back where we met.” It was his turn to look confused. “You called me a demon.”

She raised one brow. “So? Is that, what, offensive to you? Would you prefer something more cuddly?”

Benny laughed and pushed off the tree, walking closer to the woman. “Not what I meant, darling. I’m just wondering how much you really know about these things, if you think I’m a demon.”

Cordelia’s eyes widened as she realized what he was saying. “Wait, you’re not a demon? When did that happen?”

Again he shook his head, seemingly astounded by her ignorance. “Cordelia, how many demons have you seen?”

She huffed and crossed her arms. “Plenty, trust me. My buddies back home run a supernatural detective agency. Besides, I was born and raised on a freaking Hellmouth, thank you very much.”

“Ah,” he said, nodding as if understanding completely. She was still confused, though.

“What?”

“No, no,” he replied, pushing back a grin. “I wouldn’t wanna burst your bubble, princess.” He then proceeded to walk slowly away from her and closer to Victoria, knowing that little noise could be made in case she woke up. Which kept Cordelia from interrogating him about exactly what he meant. Stupid whatever he was, she thought to herself, kicking her heels at the ground below.

The thought was now stuck in her mind, though. What did he mean he wasn’t a demon? Of course he was. Last time she checked, demons were the only beings with things like sharp teeth and enhanced strength, and he’d definitely exhibited both more than once. He had a soul which, granted, was a bit confusing to her, but she’d never known for sure whether demons had souls or not, only that vampires didn’t - Angel not included, of course.

If he wasn’t just playing with her, then what did he mean; what else could he be? She tapped a couple of fingers against her dirt-encrusted, denim-clad thigh, eyes not staring at anything in particular, as she considered this. But she was coming up empty. In a world full of so much evil, there really weren’t that many different species of creatures.

Vampires? Check. Demons? Check. Witches? Check. Slayers? Check. And...that was it.

Right?

She suddenly wasn’t so sure, she thought, as she glanced over at Benny, who was leaning casually against the tree directly beside Victoria’s resting place.

What was he?



It was strange how obvious it sometimes was that you were dreaming. From the moment Victoria had woken up in this weird place, she had known that it wasn’t real. That she was really still in that awful place, that she was resting after Cordelia had told her to while they took a break from looking for the portal.

But even that knowledge didn’t stop this whole thing from very, very strange.

She was standing in the middle of a room - one that looked very homey, if you asked her. It was a bit messy, but in a loving way; stuffed floor to ceiling with books of all shapes and sizes, a fireplace at the back wall and dimmed lighting from a few lamps here and there. There was also an uncomfortable looking bed to her right that looked very slept in. But the first piece of furniture that caught your eye in the room, was the oak desk that stood almost in the very middle, as if everything else had been placed here to fit around it.

The desk was as cluttered as the rest of the room - and the kitchen behind her, she decided, after a quick peek over her shoulder - but it seemed to be almost a kind of orderly mess. As if the person who lived here knew exactly where to find what they needed, without having to root around all those books and papers for hours.

Like she said, homey.

Knowing better than to think she could force herself awake, she took a few steps forward, going further into the small room. She couldn’t hear any sound beyond a curious wind blowing outside - she hadn’t heard the wind in ages, so she wasn’t entirely sure that’s what it was - but this being a dream, she mostly shrugged it off as she continued to take one step after another, until she stood hovering over the desk.

She didn’t want to poke through someone else’s precious belongings, but this was a dream, right? So, it wasn’t really the same thing, right? She told herself this as she walked slowly around the desk and took a slow, cautious seat in the matching oak chair and stared down at the papers and notes in front of her.

Victoria felt a strange sensation - it almost felt like recognition - as she read the different words. She was surprised that she even remembered how to read, if she were being honest. But she did, and with each sentence, images sparked through her mind.

Suddenly she had all this knowledge in her head, knowledge she couldn’t remember having before now. It wasn’t what she was expecting, however; she still didn’t know the name of her mother, nor could she remember the house she grew up in. Looking all around this place, she wondered if this was it.

Was that why her sleeping mind had conjured it up? Was this her home?

She stood up and started walking around again, this time searching for a photo, or anything that could tell her if this was where she’d come from. Why else would her brain come up with this, if not because it held some form of meaning to her? Unless she had made it up, of course, but that seemed highly unlikely. She didn’t think she’d ever had the most illustrative imagination.

She wandered into the kitchen, which was rather dirty with several dishes stocked in the sink. She thought that perhaps she would have curled her face in disgust had she not spent so long living in filthy caves and wearing the same clothing year in and year out. Now, it didn’t even faze her.

The kitchen was very similar to the room with the oak desk, as in cozy and homey looking, like whoever lived here didn’t bother making it comfortable for others, so long as it was comfortable for them. Did that make sense? Anyway, it was cluttered with half the amount of books that had been in the previous room, and she wondered just how many books were in the entire house, combined.

Something told her it was more than a small town library.

Before she could investigate further, a noise that definitely wasn’t the wind caught her attention and she walked through the opposite doorway to the one leading to the living room, which put her in what appeared to be the foyer or hallway. She tried to look through the window on the front door, but it was too grimy to make anything out.

Victoria frowned and reached out to grab the door handle, which squeaked a bit under the pressure when she turned it, and pulled open the door. When she stepped outside on the front porch, it was suddenly much lighter and she threw a hand up to cover against the sun beating down on her.

Searching for the sound she’d heard, she stepped down off the porch when a quick look around didn’t bring her any answers. There were cars littered all over the enormous front lawn, some in one piece, but most of them in different stages of repair; there were even a few that only had the skeleton of the vehicle left and had been left to rust in the rain and cold weather and she wondered why - whoever owned this home - they hadn’t gotten rid of those.

Her frown deepened as she carefully walked around all of the tetanus dangers waiting to happen, still searching for that elusive noise. She had been so sure that it had been voices, but not only could she not find any people, the noise had stopped. Where had it come from? Had she even heard it, or just made it up?

Was it wishful thinking?

Just as she thought that, however, the noise returned. She couldn’t make out words, but it sounded like a male and female voice arguing against one another heatedly. Picking up her pace, she walked in and out of the many - many - cars all around her, sometimes three stacked on top of each other like a tower. She was desperate to find out what was going on before she lost track of the sounds again.

As she finally closed in on their location, she began to make out actual words, and soon whole sentences.

“I don’t care how gifted she is, my daughter is not going to follow in my footsteps. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that this discussion is a non-issue; she’s my daughter.”

Victoria’s breath caught in her throat. “Mom?” she whispered, shocked still as an image of her mother came unbidden to her mind.

She had her mother’s hair; she remembered that now. It looked brown inside a dark room, but in the sun it turned auburn, almost red at times. It had a few natural streaks of black here and there, which had always made her feel unique, even when other kids would tease her about it in school or on the playground.

But she had her father’s eyes. She had never met him, but her mother had told her that.

Victoria walked around the corner of yet another stack of cars and finally came face to face with the woman she had forgotten for so long. She was standing there, in the bright sunlight, a frown on her tired face and hands on her hips, glaring at the man with fierce, green eyes.

She could only see the back of the other man but, with a smile, she realized that she would recognize him anywhere. That tattered vest he wore over an equally tattered checkered shirt, the cap on his head with strands of graying hair peeking out from above his collar, the way he stood, leaning slightly to one side due to an old injury to his left knee.

Bobby.

Victoria’s father had passed away while her mother was still pregnant with her, so the closest thing she’d ever had to a strong father figure in her life had been this man. The man that owned and operated a salvage yard in South Dakota, just outside of the small town of Sioux Falls where she had lived for a few years with her mother when she was a small child.

And just like that, the floodgates opened.

They had moved around a lot in her young life, going from place to place and never staying in one spot for more than a couple of years, at the most. They had been living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last she remembered, in a small, white house with blue shutters on the windows and a herb garden that her mother would tend to in the daylight. It had been a nice change and Victoria had almost felt like maybe, just maybe, she’d get to stay there longer than usual.

That wasn’t the case, of course, as she had ended up in that endless nightmare of forest and ferocious monsters.

Taking another few steps closer, she again paid attention to the conversation as the memories fell into place in her head like a puzzle coming together at long last.

“Now you listen here, Chris,” Bobby said and Victoria smiled; that’s right, her mother’s name was Christina. Christina Phillips. “That girl of yours is not just gonna sit on the damn sidelines while you brick her away in some goddamn tower of your own insecurities. She’s got a mind of her own, maybe it’s time you start realizing that, before you push her away. For good!”

Victoria gasped as his words settled into place; this was an actual memory. She had been around the corner, where she couldn’t be seen, listening to this very conversation.

Days before she had vanished into her current ‘home’.

Her mother rolled her eyes and reached out to poke Bobby in his chest. “Don’t tell me how to raise my child, Bobby Singer, that’s not your job. I don’t even know why you’re getting involved, you should just mind your own business.”

Victoria didn’t have to see his face to know that it was turning red with anger. “I’m not a child, Chrissie, and I don’t appreciate being treated like one. Now, about my rights? That girl is like a daughter to me and you damn well know that. I’m the one who was there for her, when you’d be gone for weeks at a time, never telling her why. I’m the one who taught her how to protect herself, because you were too busy being afraid that she would want to ‘follow in your footsteps’.” He used very sarcastic quote marks with his hands. “And have you already forgotten why she’s even alive right now? Oh, right, because I taught her what she needed to know to get out of that hairy situation last year! Don’t tell me I have no rights, don’t ever say that to me again.”

She didn’t want to hear anymore, not now that she remembered how the rest of the conversation went. Turning on her heel, she ran away from the pair, deeper into the forest of metal and rubber until she came to the very edge of the property. She threw herself down on her knees, keeling over until her forehead touched the soft grass below and she cried out her frustrations and overwhelming emotions.

Three days later, her mother still pretending that everything was okay because she didn’t know that Victoria had overheard anything, she had gotten in her car while her mother waved from the front porch, worry in her green eyes. Her last words to her mother ran through her mind, like an echo banging against her skull. “I don’t know why, but thanks.” A response to her mother expressing her love for her.

Sure, it was her way of saying ‘I love you, too’, but now she was wishing she’d said the actual words. What if they never escaped that literal hell she’d been in for so long? What if she never saw her mother again, never got to tell her how much she meant to her, how sorry she was for not listening to her, not trusting her when she said it was too dangerous to go.

Because she remembered now… she knew how she’d wound up in that place.

Cordelia was still irritated with Benny an hour or so later - it was difficult to tell how much time passed in this place, especially since she wasn’t wearing a watch - when she jumped at the sudden way Victoria sat up. She hurried over and crouched down, looking at her with worry in her eyes. “Nightmare?” she asked, brushing some hair out of the girl’s face.

“I-I don’t know,” she whispered, frustrated as the images of her dream once more began to slip out of her reach. She almost growled out loud. “Why can I never remember when I wake up?”

Benny, overhearing the two women easily, spoke up before Cordelia could. “If I remember right, Freud theorized that we forget our dreams ‘cause they’re about our repressed thoughts and wishes. He felt that we shouldn’t want to remember them, anyway.” He came closer as he spoke.

Cordelia twisted her head to the side to look at him, curious. “You memorized Freud?”

He grinned. “Layers, darling. They’re called layers, we all got ‘em.” He leaned his shoulder against the tree Victoria was still resting her body against.

“But what if they’re important?” Victoria said, forgetting in her irritation that she hadn’t spoken in Benny’s company yet, other than a few whispers to Cordelia while he was busy fighting. “What if I need to remember them?”

Benny took in her words and chewed on them for a bit. “Something tells me that you’ll remember what you need to, little one. Maybe your subconscious isn’t ready for you to remember? It’s hard to say, without knowing what your dreams are about.”

Victoria just nodded, even if it didn’t make all that much sense to her. She was stuck with that same sensation from when she had woken up in the cave with Cordelia; she remembered warmth and a familiar scent she couldn’t name, but nothing concrete.

“Hey,” Cordelia said, reaching out to place a comforting hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Who knows, maybe when we get back to our world, the place will start jogging your memories. That’s possible, right?” She glanced up at Benny, communicating with her eyes.

He either got her message or was already planning on coddling the poor child. “Absolutely is. Hell, it happens to everyone; I believe it’s called nostalgia.” Then he laughed.

Very little seemed to get to him, Cordelia had noticed; it seemed like a nice trait to have.

Victoria just nodded her head, eyes still on the ground as she tried not to fall apart. The last thing she wanted right now was to start bawling her eyes out in front of two relative strangers. They were both so strong, emotionally along with physically, she was already seen as the weak one. She didn’t need to come off any weaker.

Cordelia rose up and clapped her palms against her thighs. “Well, should we get going again? I really wanna find that exit, asap.” She smiled down at Victoria and held out a hand to help her up.

The girl gratefully took it and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. She brushed some dirt off her clothes, though it was all but impossible to be clean for her these days, and slowly nodded her head. “Yeah, okay.”

Benny was still smiling as he began leading the way again. “Hopefully we won’t have to take any more breaks,” he said, nothing in his tone of voice accusatory against the girl that had forced them to stop for a few hours, thankfully.

Cordelia stayed behind him with Victoria, but their previous conversation was still forefront in her mind. “Now are you going to tell me what you meant earlier?”

Her only answer was Benny’s laughter.



Willow took the book from Wesley and quickly glanced at the cover before looking back up at the former Watcher. “And you’re sure you read something in here about it?”

He smiled gently at the young woman who’d come so far from the last time he’d seen her. “Positive. Giles should be able to make heads or tails of it, even if you can’t.” He reached out and squeezed her arm. “Don’t forget my offer.”

She returned his smile with a shaky one of her own. “I won’t, I promise. And, hey, if things in LA ever get slow, you could always just come for a non-world-ending visit, right?”

Wesley nodded as Angel stepped down from the staircase and joined the two by the couches. “You all set, Willow?”

She turned to the vampire and stuffed the book in the bag on her shoulder. “Yep, got everything I brought, and some extras, too.” She frowned as she looked at her old friend. “And you’re sure you don’t need me to stick around and help you find Cordy?”

“We can manage, really; you should be back in Sunnydale with the others.” His brows furrowed as he thought of Dawn and what she must be going through right now. “I’ll call if I need help.”

The infamous resolve face took over her features as she stepped forward to give him a hug. “You better, I don’t like to think of her stuck somewhere like that. I may do some research of my own, since summer vacation just hit.” She stepped back and then gave a nod to Wesley, before looking back at Angel. “I’ll call you with the details, once we know where to… where to bury her.” She choked on her last words but kept the tears at bay through pure inner strength. “You can stop by whenever you need to, I’m sure it’ll… be somewhere isolated.”

Angel just nodded, still not trusting himself enough to do more than that.

Gunn stepped in from the back entrance and took in the scene. “Guess I got here just in time for the farewell party.” He smiled at the redhead he’d barely gotten to know in the past day. “You heading back?”

Again, Willow tried on a shaky smile. “I shudder to think what’s become of the Hellmouth while I’ve been gone,” she joked, liking the honest demon fighter very much, from what little she’d seen of him.

Gunn shook his head. “I still can’t get past that concept; a Hellmouth? I’ll take my big city of occasional vamps and demons, thanks. All this mystical stuff goes right over my head.”

This time she laughed. “I don’t blame you, it can get pretty intense.” She sighed and looked over all three of them as a whole. “Have Cordy call me herself when she gets back, kay?”

“Of course,” Wesley said, smiling at her.

Angel stepped forward. “I’ll walk you out, Willow.”

They exited the front doors of the Hyperion in silence, walking through the front garden and out onto the street, where Xander’s borrowed suburban was parked by the curb. They each turned to face one another, but neither knew what to say; it felt as if it had all been said up in his room, in the past twenty-four hours.

The rest was still too fresh to bring up.

She stepped forward to grab him in another hug, feeling there was nothing else for her to do, and she whispered in his ear. “Call me, anytime, day or night, got it?”

Angel felt his eyes sting, not something that happened often with him - though it was certainly understandable at this point - and squeezed her back, just a little harder than he usually did. “I promise. Give my best to the others, okay?”

Willow walked over the front door of the car and opened it up, throwing her bag in on the passenger seat. “You betcha; I’m sure they’ll be glad to hear that you’re doing good.” She looked up at the sprawling hotel. “I’m real proud of what you’ve built for yourself here, Angel,” she said, her voice lowering as she continued. “She would be, too, ya’know.”

He blinked away the tears and gave her the best smile he could produce right now. “Thanks.” He came over to the window when she started the engine. “Drive safe.” She gave him another shaky smile and a short nod.

And then she was gone.

To be continued in Chapter Three; Will the Fang Gang find Cordelia before she can escape Purgatory? Will Victoria ever remember her dreams? And how much can the girls really trust Benny?

Authors Note; I forgot to put this in the first one, cause I'm a dummy, but special thanks goes to @sosa lola for being my lovely beta for this :D
 

sosa lola

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I hope that Willow would show up again. I just love her friendship with Angel. I used to read Willow/Angel fics before, but as a second pairing to Xander/Spike.

I'm afraid that Cordelia would exit Purgatory just as Angel and crew go in to save her and they end up stuck there. :D

I feel really sad for Victoria and really hope she'd remember her dreams, her mother and Bobby.
 

Priceless

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Jan 25, 2016
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So good @Puppet. Loved Willow, and Angel's reactions. Are you visualising Emma Roberts as Victoria?
 
Puppet
Puppet
Yes, with that auburn hair from the banner. Not identical, but Roberts is a nice banner fit.
W

WillowFromBuffy

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Good job, Puppet!
He smiled gently at the young woman who’d come so far from the last time he’d seen her.
I would have written, 'She smiled gently at the older man who had come so far from the last time she had seen him.' :p
 
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