TEASER: The Bracken demons want the money Doyle owed them. But they'll settle for killing Angel if they have to.
DISCLAIMER: Angel, Cordelia, Wesley and Doyle belong to Joss Whedon and co. Grace, Jake and Barry belong to me.
Cordelia flipped through the folders she was carrying as she walked through the office. Angel was sleeping and Wesley was at home recuperating. At least, that's what he said he was doing. Grace told her otherwise. The demon had seen him at the video store, stocking up on video games.
She had to smile. Wesley was still just a big kid in a lot of ways, but she loved him anyway. Cordelia stopped flipping the files. Loved him?
"I love him?" She asked herself aloud, then quickly glanced to each side making sure she was alone. "I love him." She said again. Then she shrugged, "Hm, I love him."
"Hello?" Grace walked in from the street and hung her jacket by the door. "Anyone here?"
"In the back." Cordelia called.
Grace joined her a minute later. "Have you talked to Wesley lately?"
Cordelia shook her head. "No, why?"
"Because when you call his house you can hear the gun shots from his games in the background." Grace smiled. "I've called a few times just to hear it and laugh about it."
Cordelia smiled. "Count on Wesley to do something like that."
"Is Angel asleep?" Grace asked, sitting behind Cordelia's desk.
"Yup. That guy sleeps like a log. No wonder they call them the undead." She sighed. "He's pretty stressed out about Lindsey and Lilah."
Grace frowned. "What about?"
"Well, that whole bringing back a vampire thing. Angel thinks that maybe Drusilla was killed or something and that they brought her back."
Grace stared at her blankly. "Who's Drusilla?"
"Oh!" Cordelia smiled. "That's right. You don't know about her. Well, okay, the story is that Angel drove her completely insane and killed her entire family before he turned her into a vampire. She was with him for a long time and they had a little thing going on behind Spike's back." She shrugged. "I think everything he did to Drusilla was the worst memory he has. I mean, Angel feels guilty about everything he did, but what he did to Dru was the worst."
"And he doesn't want her brought back, if she is in fact dead."
Cordelia nodded. "Right. Other than her, Angel really can't think of anyone else that they could torture him with. Obviously there were other victims, but he can forgive himself for some of those. He's never forgiven himself for what he did to her."
"Who?" Angel asked, coming up the stairs.
"We were just talking about Drusilla." Cordelia said. "You know, and the whole thing about her being brought back."
Angel nodded. "Of course, Drusilla." He poured himself a cup of coffee and made a face. "My favourite vampire in all the land."
Cordelia cocked her head at him. "I certainly hope you're being sarcastic."
Angel glanced up from his coffee. "You think I'm serious?"
Grace sighed. "So what do we do about it?"
"Can we do anything at all?" Angel asked.
She looked at him. "Well, if you're worrying about it, then obviously you want to do something about it."
"The only way we can find out if it's true is to sneak into Wolfram and Hart again." Angel turned to look at Grace. "And I am not letting you put yourself in that kind of danger again. You were lucky that you had the antidote last time. Lindsey isn't going to have any hesitations about killing you if he finds you in the building any more."
"And he knows that Wesley and I work with Angel." Cordelia said. "So we can't get inside either."
Grace shrugged. "So then what? We wait to see if they try to kill any of us?"
Cordelia nodded. "Basically."
"Well, that's not good enough." Grace stood up. "If we're going to win this battle, we have to make the first move."
"It's too dangerous Grace." Angel warned her.
"And it's safer to just sit around the office and wait for them to pounce?" She asked.
"Look, I'll offer you a compromise." Angel said. "We'll wait until Wesley gets back to work before we make any big military plans, okay?"
Grace nodded, looking somewhat satisfied. "All right. I agree."
Cordelia stood up. "Speaking of Wesley, he asked me to drop off some stuff at his apartment today, so maybe I'll go do that."
Angel finished his coffee and made another face at it. "Sure. Call us later to tell us how he's doing."
She nodded, then picked up a bag near the door and left Angel and Grace alone in the office.
"Why do you keep making faces at your coffee?" Grace asked.
Angel looked startled. "What?"
"You stuck your tongue out at it when you poured it and when you finished it you scrunched up your face." She explained. "So I'm asking why you make faces at your coffee."
"Oh." Angel offered her a lopsided grin, then shrugged. "I don't know, I don't really like coffee very much."
"So, why do you drink it?" She asked.
He shrugged again. "I couldn't begin to tell you why."
Grace studied Angel for a moment longer, then stood up. "I should get going. I have some stuff to do today."
Angel nodded. "I'd join you but . . ." he trailed off and gestured helplessly at the windows.
Grace smiled. "Yes, I know. It's okay, I just want to get it all done quickly and if I'm by myself, I move quicker." She walked past Angel on her way to the door and he expected her to lean down and kiss him on the cheek, at the very least. When she didn't, he looked at her back in confusion.
She grabbed her jacket and shrugged it over her shoulders, before opening the front door.
"Grace?" Angel called, before she could leave.
She turned back. "Yeah?"
He paused for a long moment before saying, "I love you."
Grace stared at him, her eyes wide. Then she turned and shut the door without saying another word.
Angel sighed and slumped down further into his chair. "What a great way to start the morning." He muttered. "A bad cup of coffee and Grace deciding she doesn't want me anymore."
"It's not that I don't love him," Grace explained, looking perplexed, "it's just that with the whole curse thing, I'm a little scared of getting close to him." She sighed. "Well, not scared of getting close to him, I'm scared of getting that close to him. You know?"
Wesley and Grace sat facing each other on his couch in his small apartment. The half demon nervously twisted her hands as she spoke, scared of revealing so much to him.
Wesley nodded sympathetically. "I understand Grace. But he learned from Buffy, you don't really have to worry about Angel making that mistake again."
"But I'm scared." She said again. "Really, really scared." Then she sighed. "He said he loves me."
There was a long pause as Wesley watched her uncertainly. "He told you this?"
Grace nodded. "Before I left the office. He said 'I love you'."
"And what did you say?"
She shrugged helplessly. "What could I say? I was scared Wesley."
"So you said nothing."
Grace nodded miserably. "I said nothing."
"And how did Angel react to this?" Wesley asked.
"I really don't know. I left right after he said it. Then I did my stuff and I really needed someone to talk to, so I came here."
"So what do you plan on doing now?" He asked.
"Next time you see Angel," Wesley explained, "what are you going to do?"
Grace thought about it for a moment, biting her lip thoughtfully. "I really don't know. Maybe I'll pretend it never happened."
Wesley shook his head. "Grace, I don't think that's a very good idea. Angel will end up even more hurt than he already is and if you ignore it, nothing will happen. This will hang in the air above us and we'll never get any work done together."
She groaned. "So what can I do?"
"I can't tell you what to do." He said. "You'll have to figure that out for yourself."
Grace opened her mouth to say something, but her cell phone shrilled, cutting her off.
She flipped it open and said, "Hello?" Wesley watched as Grace paused, her eyes getting wider and wider as the person on the other end of the line spoke. "Yeah, thanks Cordelia." She paused again. "We'll be there as soon as we can." Then she turned off the phone and shoved it back into her bag.
"Grace?" Wesley asked, getting up off the couch and following her around his apartment. "What's going on?"
"That was Cordelia." She said. "Something happened to Angel while we were all gone."
"Do you think it was Wolfram and Hart?" He asked.
Grace turned to look at him. "Is there any doubt?"
Wesley and Grace arrived at the office later in the afternoon to find Cordelia sitting alone behind her desk.
"Hey." She said when they came in.
Wesley and Grace stared in shock at the office. The ground was littered with broken glass and the blind from the window lay twisted and bent on the ground. One window had been broken with a rock and whoever had taken Angel had come in through there.
"What happened?" Grace asked.
Cordelia just stood up and motioned for them to both follow her. They stepped into the elevator and rode down to Angel's apartment below the office. The apartment was in even worse shape than the office.
"Angel put up a good fight." Wesley noted, staring at the over turned furniture.
"Or someone wanted it to look like he did." Cordelia said. "Maybe they knocked him out."
"Why would they do that?" Grace asked.
"It would certainly be easier to transport him if he were unconscious." Wesley said thoughtfully.
Grace shook her head. "I don't understand why Wolfram and Hart would want his apartment turned upside down. What could they possibly want?"
"The scroll." Wesley said suddenly and ran to the weapons case where they had kept the scroll.
The lock was still on the front and it was still secure.
"It wasn't them." He said.
"Well, maybe they couldn't get the lock off." Cordelia said.
Wesley put his hand on it and pulled, the lock coming off easily in his hand. "Last time they sent someone it was broken and we haven't had it fixed yet." He explained. "They would have gone inside here and taken the scroll." Wesley reached inside and pulled out the scroll, unrolling it and studying it carefully.
"What?" Grace asked.
"I'm just making sure this isn't a fake." He said, then put it back. "I don't think that it is."
"So now what?" Grace asked. "How do we find Angel?"
"If it wasn't Wolfram and Hart, who could it possibly be?" Cordelia looked toward Wesley, as if he held the answer.
He shook his head as Grace wandered off, picking things up off the apartment floor. "I couldn't tell you Cordelia. It could be almost anyone."
They stared around Angel's ransacked apartment for a moment longer, then Grace turned and began to walk up the stairs.
"She seems pretty upset." Cordelia whispered to Wesley, trying to speak low enough that Grace wouldn't hear her.
He nodded. "I know. It's hard for her to feel like she's losing him now."
Cordelia opened her mouth to say something, but was interrupted by Grace's startled gasp.
"What the hell is that?" She cried from the stairs.
Wesley turned and raced up behind her. She was staring down at something on the stair and as he turned to look at it, he too gasped in surprise.
Crouched on the stair was a creature that looked like a tiny man. He was wearing boots that looked like they were made out of some kind of metal and a blood red cap sat on top of his head. His tiny eyes were fiery red as they darted around, looking at the three people now staring down on him. Grace took a step back as he raised one of his hands and hissed at them.
"Oh my God." Cordelia muttered.
The little creature on the step had sharp talons instead of hands and he darted forward again, ripping Grace's ankle with the claws.
She cried out and stumbled backward, running into Wesley and pushing them all down the stairs. When they looked back up, the creature was gone.
"What was that?" Cordelia asked, her eyes wide.
Wesley ignored her question as he pulled Grace toward him and pulled up her pant leg. "Get me a towel." He ordered Cordelia and she obeyed without question, knowing Grace was hurt.
Wesley dabbed the blood on her leg lightly and Grace cringed, her fingers tightening on his arm.
"Sorry." He said quietly, trying to be more gentle.
"No." She shook her head. "I know you're trying to help."
"Do you know what that was?" Cordelia asked.
This time Wesley acknowledged the question and he nodded slowly. "In Sunnydale I had a lot of time to catch up on my reading, with Buffy and Faith never listening to me." He sighed as he continued to clean Grace's leg. "It's called a Redcap," Wesley began, "They're a type of Goblin, but a much worse and very dangerous type. They wear caps that are soaked with the blood of their human victims, have bright red eyes, wear iron boots but are still very quick. That's why we didn't see it leave. They have talons instead of hands and those are meant to kill. We're lucky that we scared him when we did."
"Lucky?" Grace asked, looking at the deep and flowing cut on her ankle.
Wesley nodded. "Yes, we were lucky. If you hadn't discovered it, that thing could have easily snuck up on us and killed us all."
"Do you think that it has something to do with Angel's disappearance?" She asked suddenly, tightening her grip on his arm again. "Because it was here and it's our only evidence."
Wesley looked confused. "Maybe. You see, Redcaps really never cause their own trouble. If someone gets in their way, they'll protect themselves, but they usually live in seclusion. The only way one would be here would be if it had been hired. Redcaps can be bribed with almost anything."
"Why would Wolfram and Hart get such little guys to do their dirty work?" Cordelia asked.
"I still don't think it was them." Wesley said. "I don't see them hiring Redcaps."
Cordelia frowned, "Then who would?"
Wesley shook his head. "I don't know."
"There has to be some other kind of evidence." Grace said, struggling to her feet and limping around the apartment. "Some kind of clue to who took him." She was beginning to sound frantic. "We need to find Angel, we can't do this without him."
"Grace," Cordelia caught up to the half demon and grabbed her shoulders, "you have to calm down. Angel is going to be fine, but we need you to calm down so we can figure stuff out."
"I've figured out a little bit." Wesley spoke up and they turned to see him holding a piece of paper. "I found it on the fridge." He said.
Grace hobbled over to him, cringing when she stepped with the hurt leg. "What does it say?" She asked.
Wesley sighed, then read it aloud, "It says, 'Told you, you still owed us O'Doyle'. That's all."
Grace grabbed the paper from him and studied it. "They're still after me. After Doyle's money."
"And since you weren't here, they took Angel." Cordelia concluded.
Grace groaned loudly, then walked to the kitchen and sat down hard in one of the chairs. "I can't stand this. This is all my fault. I didn't know they'd come after me again, I thought we'd be safe."
"We have to find a way to get Angel back." Cordelia said.
Grace nodded. "I know, but even if we get Angel back, is that going to stop them from going after me again?" She looked up at them, biting her lip nervously. "I don't have the money to pay them off and I know that's what they want."
"We're going to have to go after him." Wesley said. "That's the only solution I have to the problem and I know it's what Angel would suggest we do if anyone else had been taken."
"But we don't know where they are." Grace pointed out. "They could be anywhere, including out of the country."
Cordelia shook her head. "I don't think they'd take him anywhere. This is a ransom-like kidnapping. They need him in order to get money from you."
"But I don't have the money." Grace moaned, then collapsed to her knees. "I can't pay them off to get him back. I can't save him."
Wesley knelt in front of her and grabbed her shoulders. "Grace, we can do this. You need to calm down and think about this rationally. We have to devise some kind of a plan in order to save Angel."
Grace nodded like she had heard him, but her eyes remained vacant and lifeless. Cordelia grabbed Wesley's arm, pulling him away from the half demon and into the other room.
"We're going to have to do this without her." Cordelia told him. "There's no way Grace is going to be able to do any fighting. First off, her leg is badly hurt and second, she's not going to be any help when she's freaking about Angel. We're going to have to think of some kind of plan that doesn't include her."
"No." Grace said suddenly and they were startled to find her standing in the doorway. "You're not leaving me out of this. This is my fault and I am going to get Angel back, no matter what it takes."
"But Grace," Wesley began, then was cut off by the ringing of the phone.
Grace picked it up and the person on the other end began to talk without her saying anything.
"Hey there Gracie. How're you holding up?" The voice rasped.
"Who is this?" She asked.
"We told you last time that you still owed us and we're going to get our money. I don't give a damn if your brother is dead and I don't give a damn if we have to kill you and everyone you love to get it. We will get our money."
Grace bit her lip nervously. "Do you have Angel?"
The person laughed. "Your little vampire friend? Sure we have him. Want him to say a few words?" Then the voice was gone and there was heavy breathing on the line.
"Grace?" Angel's voice came out loud over the phone line and she cringed. "Grace are you there?"
"I'm here Angel." She whispered.
"I'm fine Grace, okay? Don't be worrying about me. I know you don't have the money to pay them off but tell Wesley I don't want you guys thinking up some brilliant plan to save me, okay?"
Grace didn't say anything.
"Are you listening to me Grace?" Angel asked. "I can take care of myself as long as it takes to break them."
"They won't break Angel." She said. "They'll kill you if I don't get them the money."
"Then they'll kill me." He spoke solemnly. "Whatever happens, I don't want you putting your life in danger. The same goes for the other two."
"Well you're not here Angel!" Grace exploded at him. "And you can't be the boss when you're tied up, God only knows where with a bunch of angry demons. We make our own decisions now and if we want to save you, then we will."
"Grace listen to me," he tried to reason with her, "it's dangerous and you'll get yourself killed."
"Put the other guy back on." She ordered him quietly. "I don't want to talk to you anymore. All you're doing is making my decision easier."
There was a long silence on the other end and Grace thought Angel had gone, but then he spoke. "I just don't want you getting hurt."
She smiled sadly. "You know what Angel?"
"I love you."
There was another long pause, but this time the demon came back, yanking the phone from Angel's hands.
"Now, if you and your lover are done babbling to each other, can I tell you the rules of our game?"
Grace's eyes narrowed. "Game? What game?"
"The game you and your friends will have to play in order to get your friend back for free. If you win, Angel comes home without a scratch and we leave all of you alone forever. If you lose . . . well, let's just say money won't be a problem for you anymore."
"Why would you want to do that? Don't you just want your money?"
The demon made a growling noise deep in his throat. "There are two reasons Grace. Number one, I know you don't have the money that your brother owed us and this is your chance to get out of it. You're one of us and I don't enjoy hurting others like me. Number two, Jake thinks it's just plain fun."
Grace sighed. "What are the rules?"
"You'll get the steps at different stages of the game. First, you and your friends have to find out where we're staying by decoding a clue. After you figure it out, get there as soon as possible, we'll be waiting."
Grace grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil from the table near Angel's phone. "What is it?"
The demon laughed. "It's an easy one, but you should still pay close attention. Water flows beneath when the flowers grow, I'll wait for you there in the heavenly snow." Then there was a click and he was gone.
Grace hung up the phone slowly, then turned back toward Cordelia and Wesley. "They're playing a game with us." She said finally. "They're playing a game. They give us clues and if we win, we get Angel back unhurt."
"And if we lose?" Wesley asked, though he didn't want to.
Grace swallowed hard. "We die."
"Oh God." Cordelia breathed, then sat hard in a chair. "This is not good."
"What's the first clue?" Wesley asked, stepping toward Grace and taking the paper. "Water flows beneath when the flowers grow, I'll wait for you there in the heavenly snow." He read aloud, then paused for a moment. "Where is there snow in this city?"
"Hello!" Cordelia spoke up. "We live in Los Angeles. There is no snow."
"She's right." Grace said. "There isn't a single place in this city that has snow in it. We're in California."
"Well, what about the water part? Do either of you know a place that has flowing water around here?" He asked.
Grace shook her head. "I haven't been here all that long. I don't know the city very well."
"Hold on a second!" Cordelia said, then stood up and grabbed the paper. "Water flows beneath when the flowers grow, I'll wait for you there in the heavenly snow." She looked at then, excitement covering her pretty features. "This makes sense now. At least, I hope it does."
"Care to explain?" Grace asked.
Cordelia nodded. "There's a wide river outside the city that always has the most beautiful flowers growing around it in the spring and summer. But by fall they die and that's when the city pays to have it covered and frozen so it can be an ice skating rink."
"The entire river?" Wesley asked.
"No, just a really large part of it." Cordelia looked at them eagerly. "Tell me that doesn't make sense."
Grace nodded slowly. "It does. It has water flowing under it when the flowers are growing, but when fall comes around they freeze it, meaning they have snow."
"Most everyone in the city knows about that place." Cordelia said. "It's a pretty popular place to go, especially for teenagers."
"That's why the demon told me it was an easy one." Grace concluded. "We have to get there. Right now."
Angel nearly glowed with hope after the phone was taken away from him. There was absolutely nothing the demons could do to him now that would make him feel bad, nothing. They could torture him and rip out his insides if they wanted to, but nothing could change his mood.
"Why're you so happy?" One of the demons growled at him.
Angel smiled. "Because she loves me." He answered simply, then turned his eyes away from that of the demon.
Another Bracken demon stepped forward and placed his hand on the arm of the other. "It was a good idea to kidnap him Jake. I don't think there's anyone in the world that means more to Grace than this vampire. She'll do anything to get him back."
Jake smiled, looking at Angel. "I know Barry. Trust me, I know."
Grace, Wesley and Cordelia stood alone on the back of the river, brushing leaves and flower petals off their faces. They were the only living things around for miles and Grace had begun to give up hope.
"We must have guessed the clue wrong." She said, pacing nervously in the sand. "There has to be some other place."
"But there isn't." Cordelia told her. "This is the only place in Los Angeles that fits the description."
"But we've been here for ten minutes and no one's come." Grace looked between Cordelia and Wesley. "Are you both sure there is no where else that they could be?"
Wesley shook his head. "I honestly couldn't say, but Cordelia's idea make sense. There's not much else we can do, but wait."
Grace crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm getting sick of waiting. They said to meet them here as soon as possible. Now we're here and they're not."
"We're here." A voice said from behind them and they all turned to see a Bracken demon standing on the grass, smiling at them. "Or should I say, I'm here."
"Where's Angel?" Cordelia asked.
He smiled again. "All in good time my dear. My name is Jake and I assume you two would be Cordelia and Wesley."
"Good guess." She retorted in a snotty voice, then raised an eyebrow at him.
"Are you all ready to play our game?" Jake asked, lacing his fingers together in front of him, then taking a few steps closer. "Ready to battle for the vampire's life?"
"We're more than ready." Grace said, stepping forward. "What do we have to do?"
"It's simple really." Jake told them. "All you have to do is get through a series of tests and figure out where we're holding him, and you'll get Angel back. If you die during the test . . . well, then you lose."
"What sort of tests?" Wesley asked cautiously.
Jake shrugged. "Tests of your strength and ability. You'll see." He glanced at Cordelia. "Unfortunately, the tests are for pairs, not groups of three. So unless you have a partner . . ." he trailed off.
"Hey!" Cordelia said angrily. "I'll have you know that Grace and I could do this without a man's help."
Jake just shook his head. "I'm afraid that's not possible. These tests require one male and one female participant."
"You're sick." Grace spat. "This is too organized, too perfect. How long have you been planning this?"
"A long time my dear, a very long time." He answered. "So what'll it be? Cordelia and Wesley as a team or Grace and Wesley?"
Grace looked over at Cordelia. "I have to do this. I can't sit in his apartment and wait to hear if you're all dead."
Cordelia nodded. "I know. But promise me you'll call the minute something happens. Anything!"
"I promise." She turned back to Jake. "Where do we start?"
He smiled. "Follow me."
Grace and Wesley walked after the demon, following him to a black SUV at the top of the hill. Cordelia watched as they got inside and it drove away, taking her friends with it.
"Please let them find Angel." She begged quietly. "Please don't let them die, please."
Part 2 of The Games We Play
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