Kate Lockley had known fear before, of course. Fear of embarrassment, fear of failure, fear for her reputation, her social standing, even her physical well-being. As a cop, she'd feared for her very life on more than one occasion. Though it wasn't as dangerous an occupation as television made it look, there were risks. They came with the job. She accepted them. Bravery, her father used to tell her, wasn't the absence of fear—it was the strength of character to act despite the fear.
In the last year she'd even learned to fear for her soul. The world was a dark and awful place, full of horrible realities that most people—even most cops—never knew existed. She'd resumed attending church on Sundays after lapsing from her childhood faith long ago. If vampires and demons and God only know what else really existed, then God must also. Right?
If so, he seemed to keep his representatives in the dark. So to speak. The first priest she'd spoken to had become scornful in the face of her sacreligious jokes about vampires—and angry when she'd persisted by trying to convince him she was serious. After that incident, she'd been more cautious. But her oblique hints and leading questions had elicited only puzzlement and expressions of concern for her welfare coupled with platitudes that told her they knew nothing of what she'd seen. She'd stopped asking after that. She'd never felt so alone.
Kate's calm shattered and she thrashed again, madly, frantically. The sharp cold edges of the handcuffs gouged her wrists and ankles, slipping back and forth across her bloody skin but giving not at all. The armchair to which she was bound was solidly constructed wood, heavy and rigid, undamaged by her best efforts. She screamed her frustration and terror into the gag stuffed in her mouth, the sound muffled until it emerged as a dull moan that would never penetrate to the hallway outside or the next room.
She stopped struggling only when her labored breathing threatened to choke her. She sucked air in noisily thru her nostrils, knowing she was very close to gagging on the mass of fabric filling her mouth. If that happened and she vomited, she'd die. The thought frightened her, but not enough to silence the thought that it might be her best option.
If she choked to death, she'd only be dead.
If the vampires had their way with her, she'd be undead.
Kate sat very still, breathing loudly, trying to think of a third option. Trying hard.
* * *
He got the messsage and his hand shifted around to the small of her back just as the doors of the elevator opened. Nope, no forwardness here. Just being courteous. I can't believe how much I'm not trying to cop a feel. He smiled down at her and gestured with his free hand. "After you."
As it should be, Cordelia thought, and nodded in acknowledgement. She stepped out of the elevator, allowed him to take her arm, and led him down the corridor. Thoughts of the last time she'd indulged in a one-night stand flashed through her mind. Well, a demonic pregnancy wasn't in the cards this time. She knew for a fact that this guy was a human. A hunk, a big ole slab of beefcake, yes, but one hundred percent human. No threat at all.
Cordelia paused in front of a door. "Well," she said coyly. "Here we are."
Beekcake looked at her. He's awfully cute, Cordy thought. "Yeah," he said.
Not too bright, though. Not that intelligence was necessary for what she wanted of him.
Cordelia fished her room key out of a pocket and unlocked the door. She took Beefcake's right hand in her left and pushed the door open. She drew him into the dark room, drew him closer and gave him an aggressive kiss as she turned them in place til she could push the door closed with her foot.
She broke the kiss, leaving him gasping. She locked the door and turned to lean against it, drinking him in. His eyes gleamed in the darkness. The scent of his desire for her rose off him like steam. His heart was pounding inside his chest. Had men always been so desperate, so hungry for her and she'd simply been blind to it?
Cordelia reached out and flipped the light switch. Light flooded the room abruptly, driving away the darkness and momentarily dazzling Cordelia. She gestured for her would-be lover to lead her toward the kingsize bed that dominated the hotel room. He grinned and turned—then froze in mid-movement, shocked by the sight.
Kate Lockley sat shackled to a straight-backed chair by her wrists and ankles in the middle of the floor. She was completely naked, the torn remains of her clothes piled on the bed, along with her purse, her badge in its leather holder, and her handgun. All visible to her but tantalizingly out of reach. At the moment, though, she was looking not at the ruins of her previous life but at Beefcake.
Cordelia watched with exquisite pleasure as surprise, hope, understanding and resignation play across Kate's face in quick succession. She was quick, Cordelia had to give her that. She'd grasped the situation immediately. No knight in white armor coming to her rescue this, just another victim.
Beefcake—Paul, Cordelia suddenly recalled—stood gaping at the scene for a moment, then turned to Cordelia with dismay and anger fighting for control of his features. "Wha—what's going on here? I don't understand."
Cordelia reached up to stroke his face affectionately. "That's alright, Paul," she said. Then in one movement she allowed her vampire face to show as she drew back her hand and slapped Paul to the floor in a daze. "Only one of us has to understand."
* * *
Cordelia squatted in front of Kate. Kate continued to ignore her. After a moment, Cordelia grasped Kate's chin between her fingers and thumb and turned her head with a slow but irresistable pressure until Kate was looking into Cordelia's eyes. "You aren't still angry with me, are you, sweetie?"
Kate didn't answer. Couldn't answer. Cordelia's eyes widened in mock surprise. "Oh, of course. Silly me."
In a motion too swift for Kate to follow, Cordelia ripped away the masking tape covering Kate's mouth, leaving her lips feeling rubbed raw. Then Cordelia slowly drew out the sodden handkerchief. The motion of the gag coming out tickled Kate's gag reflex and she spent at least a couple of minutes wracked by gagging coughs and retching.
When she could breath again, and the contents of her stomach seemed likely to stay where they belonged, she straightened up again. Cordelia was standing again, her arms crossed, one foot tapping impatiently.
"Are you quite finished? Good."
Kate croaked, swallowed, and tried again, managing a hoarse whisper. "Why are you doing this?"
"You say that as if I was doing something awful."
Kate stared at her, left speechless by the wounded innocence in that statement. Cordelia was looking at her with confusion, seemingly sincere. She really couldn't see anything wrong what she intended. Kate's vision suddenly blurred. It took a moment for her to feel the tears on her cheeks and understand why.
Kate realized that she'd been harboring a secret hope that she could talk Cordelia out of this, that she might survive. Now she knew she'd been kidding herself. This wasn't Cordelia. This was a monster, a demon in human form, and she—Kate Lockley—was food. Grief and pity (self-pity really, and why the hell not?) overwhelmed her. Her last reserves crumbled and now the tears came in ernest.
"What the hell is wrong with you now?" Cordelia demanded.
Kate ignored her, caught up in her grief.
Cordelia tilted Kate's head back and caught her gaze. "Answer me," she demanded.
"I don't want to die," Kate said quietly, hopelessly.
"I'm not going to kill you, Lockley." Cordelia threw up her hands in annoyance. She sighed dramatically. "Don't you understand, you stupid cow? I'm not going to kill you. I'm going to turn you. You'll be better off this way."
"Better off dead?"
"Immortal, not dead."
"But Angel said—"
"Forget Angel," Cordelia shouted. "He's so wrapped up in his angsty ole curse that he doesn't know which way is up. Of course he thinks it's horrible, that he's just a demon in a dead man's body. Do you think those gypsies wanted him to believe otherwise?"
Cordelia preened for a moment. "Look at me! When Harmony bit me, I thought I'd really screwed up. But look at me now. I'm still me, still Cordelia. I've learned a few things. Discarded a whole lot of superstitious nonsense. But I'm still me. Still beautiful, still young. Just look at these breasts," Cordelia ran her hands up her body lasciviously, ended up cupping her breasts. "So round, so firm. And they always will be!"
She cast a critical eye at Kate. "And trust me, babe, that's something you can use—stat! You're no spring chicken, Lockley. But you'll keep what you have—forever."
"But—what about the...drawbacks. S-sunlight and crosses. And drinking...blood."
Cordelia smiled, and this smile held no malice, only joy. "There's a price to be paid. But you learn to love the price you pay. I know, drinking blood sounds so gross to you now. It did to me too, once. I'll tell you a secret, though."
She leaned closer to Kate. "Now it's better than anything."
Kate swallowed heavily. "Better than..." She knew Cordelia knew the question.
Cordelia smiled knowingly, but didn't speak. Waited for Kate to say it. For Kate to take a first hesitant, voluntary step towards accepting her fate. Kate closed her eyes for a long moment, took a deep shuddering breath. Opened her eyes again, to face Cordelia's patient gaze. "Better than...sex?"
Cordelia's smile widened. "Better. Much better. Better for you, better for them."
Kate stared at Cordelia, her fears wrestling with newfound hope. Could it be true? Was it possible that Angel was wrong and Cordelia right? Maybe being turned wasn't a fate worse than death. Maybe it wasn't even really death. She certainly still had Cordelia's memories, Cordelia's personality. Vain, self-centered, utterly certain of herself and merciless in skewering conflicting opinions.
Kate had never known Angel when he wasn't a vampire, she had no basis for comparison. But she'd known Cordelia before the change. Not well, perhaps, but enough to see how much of her remained in the vampire. She was horrified to realize that she was tempted, even as she recognized how much of that temptation stemmed from simple fear. She was helpless, at Cordelia's mercy. Cordelia could kill her or turn her and there was nothing Kate could do to stop her. So it was frightfully tempting to believe her, to take solace in that belief and cling to the hope it offered.
A low moan caught her attention. The man Cordelia had bought to the room was stirring. Cordelia's...victim. Kate stared at him trying feebly to rise from the hardwood floor. Cordelia's prey. Cordelia was speaking to her, but Kate paid no attention. She was a fool. She'd almost bought into Cordelia's fantasy.
Without warning, Cordelia's foot lashed out, catching the man in the jaw as he struggled up to his hands and knees. He flipped through the air and crashed to the floor again, unmoving. Just as suddenly Cordelia was standing behind the chair, her cheek pressed against Kate's.
"Forget about him, Kate," Cordelia told her. "You don't mind if call you Kate, do you? I couldn't possibly call you 'Lockley'...after. And it's not like you have a choice, is it?"
Then her fangs were piercing Kate's neck.
Kate screamed, at first in fear and pain.
* * *
Kate glared at Cordelia, who simply laughed and pointed at the floor by the side of the bed. Kate looked down to see Cordelia's would-be lover lying there. "I knew you'd be hungry," Cordelia told her. "Eat. Take the edge off. Then we've got to go. Harmony is out getting us a new place. Who's your daddy?"
Kate thought about that for a moment. Angel had told her that to make a vampire of someone was to 'sire' him. Or her. Kate smiled ferally. "You are," she said.
Cordelia matched her smile. "That's right. I'm your daddy now."