X X X
Halloween was always a big night for my club and tonight was no exception; well okay, it wasn’t my club. Let’s face it, how many times could I rebuild? I had to make a choice, my club or my friendship with Angel. The splitting headache I had from Wolfram and Hart’s brain suck aside, I stand by my choice.
I had promised Bill and Bill, friends of mine who ran a great club, that the next time I was in town I’d do my karaoke act for them; that found me in a packed club just a few days post-assault on my noggin, facing a Halloween crowd.
Bill and Bill, bless their little hearts, had billed the show using my fresh-from-Vegas fame, and it was almost standing room only. An almost all-human crowd, in costumes that would make your heart race with child-like glee at seeing them, packed the club. I was used to all-human Halloween crowds. Most demons see going out on this night as gauche. I just wished my head would stop aching. It’s been days, after all, and this was going to be one busy night.
“Lorne!” Bill the Dark beamed, sweeping up to me. Bill and Bill had been ‘married’ for years but they couldn’t be more different in looks and temperament. Bill the Dark had dark hair, a muscled body but for all his loudness, he was a reserved man. Bill the Light was petite, blond, and brash. I liked them both equally.
“We’re ready to rock,” Bill the Light said.
I fussed with my rhinestone domino mask, my one concession to the holiday. When you have a face like mine, you’re set for Halloween three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Bill and Bill were dressed as Legalos and Aragorn and had spared no detail. “Sounds good,” I replied without enthusiasm. “Could I get a Seabreeze?”
“As many as you’d like,” Bill the Dark promised.
Fortified with the tart mix of cranberries, grapefruit and vodka, I sat on a wingback chair done up to look like a throne that the Bills had set up near the stage. The first gal up started warbling her way through one of Faith Hill’s ballads, and doing it well I might add, and the night was off and running.
Sometime during a harrowing rendition of Bad to the Bone, I noticed a couple I hadn’t expected to see, well ever. Connor looked so out of place I almost felt sorry for Daddy’s Little Psychopath. He still had yet to change out of those horrid drab clothes that looked like he’d fished them out of the dumpster and probably smelled that way, too. The boy needed help. I’d settle for him not freaking out and killing someone, thinking a costume was a demon.
I’m guessing the little thief had gotten back into the Hyperion after Daddy Dearest threw his betraying butt out - I tried to warn Angel about his brat, but would he listen? - because Cordy was wearing her princess outfit from Pylea and I’m sure she didn’t take that with her when she ran off.
My poor Pixie-Cat. She looked as lost as Junior. It broke my heart seeing the pain in Cordelia’s beautiful eyes, the haunted expression. I didn’t know how to help. I had nothing left in my brain from what I had read from her. The only thing I had left was an echo of her and a heavy heart. I didn’t even have a good suggestion to get her to come home and trust us again.
For my own sanity and safety, I couldn’t let Cordy sing. If I got another head full of whatever Wolfram and Hart stole from me, who knew what would happen this time. Luckily my lovely kitten didn’t seem interested in doing more than having an ice cream drink and basking in the appreciative looks of half the male populace of the club, unattached and otherwise. Even Angel’s ragamuffin couldn’t keep his eyes off her ripe breasts. Who could blame him? The metallic-sequined bikini top did wonders for her.
As I tried to impress on Mr. Bad to the Bone that his sure thing was a sure loser, I thought about Cordy and Connor’s presence in this club. What were they doing here? How’d Junior even get past the door since he looked more like he was thirteen than twenty-one? I’m no believer in coincidences. Somehow they knew I was here, probably heard some of the ads Bill and Bill bought on the radio. Connor wouldn’t want anything from me, that much I was certain of. If he was drowning and I was the only one holding out a hand to save him, he’d probably drown out of spite rather than owe, in his words, a filthy demon. That was just as well since I had no desire to read the boy.
I knew what my Sweet-Cakes wanted, her memories back, but I couldn’t help her. Did she even trust me enough at this point to ask for help? Cordy wasn’t even looking at me. She was busy wincing at the stick-figure gal in a nun costume stumbling her way through a Madonna tune. So, if they weren’t here to be read, what did they want? Maybe it was all just a coincidence, and Pixie-Cat wanted a night out to have fun. She always did like a good time but what would Angel-Hair think about Mr. Ill-Temper ogling his girl? You didn’t need to be empathic or psychic to see Connor’s lust.
As the nun stopped and I turned to tell her being a size zero wasn’t worth dying for - which was where she was headed - I caught sight of Angel out of the corner of my eye. He was in his usual black on black. Would it kill him to add a little color if he wasn’t going to come in costume? I signaled Bill the Light for another drink. I was going to need it to get through this day. Vampires don’t go out on Halloween as a loose rule, like I said, gauche. Of course, Angel had a good reason to be out and about. He was concerned about Cordelia. Oh, I know he says he’s confident that Connor can protect her but no one believed Angel would leave it at that. From the way Angel was hunched in the corner, from the look on his face, I could tell he didn’t like Cordelia being out in public in that outfit. I think he understood his boy wasn’t entirely the honorable protector. Seriously, I don’t know what Angel-cakes was thinking. Maybe it’s been too long since he’s been a...um, healthy teenaged boy.
All three of them were like statues at the back of the room. I had to push them out of my mind and give the paying audience my attention. I couldn’t tell if Pixie-Cat knew Angel was there but Connor did. I could almost taste his irritation even at this distance without a reading. The boy didn’t want to be here. He had the look of a caged wild animal, but I could understand how crowds like this might be a little much for him. Allowances had to be made for being raised in hell by a mad man.
Finally, we arrived at my first break. Cordy still wasn’t paying me much mind as I headed for the Bills’ office to get away from the madding crowd, but Connor and Angel both watched me like Pylean Nystaries, which is to say, very closely. It felt good to just sit in the darkened office and let my head clear. At least all the readings hadn’t stirred my headache up much. I kicked my feet up on the desk and tried to go liquid but there were too many thoughts in my head.
I barely heard him coming. The brat moved like a predator, very quiet. If I had been prey, I didn’t doubt he could kill me. Connor hesitated in the doorway. I just raised an eyebrow at him. “Guess I’m not surprised you got past the bouncer,” I said, thinking about the living wall of flesh the Bills had stationed at the hallway to insure I’d have twenty minutes of peace.
His brow wrinkled. I’m not sure he knew what a bouncer was.
“Turn on the lights and come in,” I said.
He did so, but he didn’t come and have the seat I indicated as I sat up. He leaned on the wall, arms crossed, looking like he’d rather be anywhere but here. He wasn’t going to ask whatever it was that propelled him this far, not unless I dragged it out of him. “I’m not sure I want to hear you sing, kiddo.” I really didn’t. I was afraid of what I might see.
His confused look deepened then he shook his head. “I don’t want that. I want you to help Cordy remember who she is.”
That took me by surprise. I didn’t think he cared about anything but the concern in his voice was absolutely plaintive. “I tried. It didn’t work.” I tapped my forehead. “I don’t know what else I can do.”
He made a disgusted sound. “No one’s trying to help.”
“That’s not fair. I almost got lobotomized by an evil law firm trying to help. And even if they didn’t suck out all the stuff about our Cordy out of my head, there was nothing there to help her get her memories back...I think.” I didn’t have time to process what I had read but I was left with that vague impression. Connor made that disgusted noise again. “Why are you asking me for help?” I simply had to know how I got selected for one of his uncomfortable little visits.
His head dropped back against the wall. “Fred won’t talk to me, Gunn neither.”
He seemed surprised by that, which shocked me. “Can you blame them?”
“I never hurt them,” he protested, and I could see he honestly had no clue the depths of his betrayal. “I don’t know the other one, Wesley, the one who saved me. I can’t ask him.”
Saved him? Whoo-boy, wonder if Angel-cakes knew that’s the spin Holtz put on Connor’s kidnapping. If the boy really believed that, I didn’t see how my friend would ever reach his kid. Connor didn’t give a reason why he wasn’t talking to Angel about this because that was obvious. He wouldn’t spit on Angel if he was on fire.
“Can’t you help?”
That was some of the first real emotion I’ve ever seen from the kid, outside of blistering rage and hatred. He was trying to do good, and I felt so helpless because I didn’t know what I could do. “I’m not sure how I can.”
The anger flooded back. “You know magic, right? Fred and Gunn said you have all sorts of magical friends. They were really mad that you wouldn’t help them find Cordy and Angel because you had all kinds ,” he stumbled over the unfamiliar term, “that they didn’t.”
I winced. I hated thinking that my friends thought I had deserted them all summer when I was held prisoner.
“Don’t you know anyone who could help Cordy?”
It was so simple. I had been so caught up in my own failings that it hadn’t immediately occurred to me to contract out for help. I nodded my head. “I’m not sure. But I can certainly talk to everyone I know, and a few people I don’t, to try and find a spell to help,” I said with enthusiasm I hadn’t felt in too long.
He smiled and that was even scarier than his mad-face. The boy was absolutely chilling. “Thank you.”
“I might still fail.”
“But you’ll have tried,” he said, and was out the door before I could respond.
He had a point. I needed to start trying harder. Problem, most of my friends would be out tonight, having a good holiday time. I’d start tomorrow morning. Another very slight sound reached my ears and I knew without looking up it wasn’t Connor returning. Angel waited in the doorway for me to wave him in. He came in and sat down.
“What did Connor want?” he asked without preamble.
“For me to talk to my magic friends to find a cure for Cordelia’s amnesia,” I said with a faint smile.
Angel couldn’t have looked more like a proud father. I still feared for him though. I just didn’t trust the little chip off the block. “Good. I’m glad he’s looking out for her.”
I didn’t bring up any of the negatives in that. Angel wasn’t in the mood to hear them, and he had seen what I had out there in the bar. “I’ll start calling around tomorrow. We’ll cure her, Angel,” I said with conviction that I was almost beginning to feel.
He smiled. Really, he wasn’t much better at it than his kid. “Thanks, Lorne. I know we will. I’d better encourage Cordy to leave now that Connor has said what he needed to. I don’t want them walking home alone.”
Meaning, he’d follow them in the shadows, irritating the hell out of his son, who I doubted would miss Angel’s presence. “Just be careful, Angel.”
He got up, waving me off. “Not much out there I’m afraid of.”
“I was thinking closer to home, Angel-cakes,” I said, risking that much, and got the glare I was expecting. “He’s no less dangerous now than he was the first time I warned you.”
Angel just nodded. He didn’t need to be reminded how treacherous his son could be. He slipped out as quietly as he came in. My break was pretty much over. I headed back out into the costumed crowd but my mind wasn’t on the singing. I was already making mental lists of who to talk to first. I would find a way to help my Pixie-Cat. Even the brat had confidence I could do it. Cordelia needed me, and I couldn’t fail her. That in mind, I settled back on my throne, feeling oddly rejuvenated. Even the drunken, nearly incoherent, group murdering Friends in Low Places couldn’t bring me down now.