Cenodoxus

By Maquis Leader

 

 

 

Rated R

Author’s note: Post Not Fade Away. This is the third story written using the prompts from 600 Seconds.  It follows That Good Night. Some of the prompts are pictures and those will be described. The prompts will be in bold.

 

 

 

There was a delicate, subtle shadowing along her mouth, as if she held a secret. Angel sketched gently, adding those secretive shadows. She stretched lazily as if he were stroking along her skin.

 

“Lie still. The idea is, you lie still and I sketch.”

 

Her green eyes glimmered at him as she settled back into her reclining position.

 

“And don’t blink.”

 

A bored yawn bared her fangs. Angel bared some fang of his own. “Lie still.”

 

“You know she doesn’t understand you, right?”

 

“How do you know?” Turning, Angel gave Buffy a smile.

 

“Because she’s a cat.” Buffy leaned down and brushed a kiss across his lips.

 

The cat hissed. Getting to her feet, she jumped down from the table and walked away. As she passed Buffy, she gave a disdainful snap of her tail.

 

“Should I be jealous?”

 

“She only likes me for my looks.” Angel deadpanned.

 

“This new joking stuff is scaring me.”

 

It scared him too, being this close to the edge of contentment. Luckily, that same fear kept the contentment from inching any closer, and happiness was kept firmly behind the red line.

 

Buffy watched Angel put the finishing touches on his sketch. He’d drawn the cat in charcoal with a touch of green pastel the only color, and she seemed alive, as if caught between one breath and the next. “Wow, that’s so good.”

 

“You want it?” He added his signature in the corner and held the sketch out to her.

 

“A picture of the other woman?” She kidded as she carefully took the picture.

 

“She only warms my bed.” The double meaning was intended and he winked. “In the non-biblical sense.”

 

“Sounds like she’s after my job.” Non-biblical was all they had. Close to the line, well past Genesis and heading for the book of Exodus many times, but they always stopped short of the book of Revelations.

 

“No one can take your job.” Angel brushed a fingertip over her lips. “No one.”

 

Who’d want it? Stuck in the safe sex zone of no sex for the rest of their lives. Her life anyway.

 

A tinge of sadness clouded Buffy’s scent and Angel wondered what had caused it. Surely she wasn’t really jealous of the stray cat that had adopted him? No, jealousy had a slightly different scent. Pressing his cool lips to her warm ones, Angel applied the only cure all he knew of.

 

Then again… Buffy slid the fingers of her free hand into the thick, soft hair. The job does have a great benefits package.

 

“Better?” He asked as the kiss ended.

 

“Better.” Sex wasn’t everything. Angel kisses beat cheap sex with someone else any day. “Oh! I forgot!”

 

“It hasn’t been that long.” Grinning, he leaned in for another kiss.

 

“No – “ She dodged, letting his lips slide across her cheek. “There’s someone here to see you. It’s important.”

 

“More important than this?”

 

“Well… I don’t think so.” The next kiss she let land on her lips for a long moment. “But he does.”

 

“He? Giles?” The school had a minority of men and only Giles could get Buffy to run errands. Rather, he was the only one who’d dare to ask.

 

“Nope.” A mischievous sparkle lit the green eyes. “It’s a secret.”

 

That sounded promising. The last time Buffy'd had a secret, he’d ended up blindfolded and tied to a chair while she did a striptease. It had driven him crazy to be able to hear and smell her without being able to see her. Crazy in a good way.

 

“Not that kind of secret.” A tingle ran over her skin. “Maybe later. Come on.”

 

Taking Angel’s hand, she led him out of the art studio and down the hall to the elevator. From there they rode to the basement and the hidden entrance of the tunnel that led under the alley from the school to the Hyperion.  

 

Angel followed quietly, content to hold Buffy’s hand and follow her wherever she wanted to go. Whatever was up had her nervous and a little scared, her scent off colored with it. He lifted her hand to his lips, brushing a kiss over her warm skin. Instead of leading him to the hotel, Buffy opened the warded doorway that led into the sewers. Angel’s eyebrows went up, but he didn’t ask. Wherever she led, he’d follow.

 

Buffy smiled up at him as he closed the door behind them. She was a nervous wreck, and Angel had to know that, but he wasn’t asking questions or lagging behind. Considering she’d once put a sword through his heart –

 

“There wasn’t any other way to stop Acathla.”

 

“What?” She stumbled and grabbed at his arm for support. “How did you know – “

 

“Guilt.” Angel wrinkled his nose. “It’s not a very attractive scent.”

 

“I could be feeling guilty over lots of things. Spending too much money on a pair of shoes, eating two pieces of chocolate cake, singing along with Wang Chung, there’s lots of things.”

 

“You never feel guilty over any of those things. Mischievous, silly, but never guilty.” He squeezed her hand. “Three things make you feel guilty, and you weren’t thinking about Dawn.”

 

“I could have been, you don’t know. Hey, you said three, that’s just two.” When he didn’t answer, Buffy frowned up at him. “What’s three?”

 

Something I don’t like to think about. “Come on, Riley’s waiting.”

 

What’s three? And how do you know Riley’s waiting for us? You read minds now?”

 

“Leave me some secrets.” Some vampire he’d be if he couldn’t scent prey at a distance.

 

Riley and a blond woman were waiting at an intersection about half mile from the school. They were dressed in black, heavily armed, and both were nervous. Very nervous. Angel resisted the urge to take in a deeper breath.

 

“Finn.”

 

“Angel.” The other man nodded.

 

“You wanted to see me?”

 

Riley pulled a photograph from his jacket pocket. “Do you recognize this man?”

 

The picture took Angel back. Walking down a New York City street, shoulders hunched against the cold drizzle, ignoring the people and the bright lights of Times square on his way to his lonely apartment. His brooding interrupted by his apartment door being kicked in.

 

“We’ve met.”

 

“When did you meet him?”

 

Years were hard for Angel to keep track of. Time didn’t hold the same meaning for him as it did for humans. He tended to remember eras rather than individual years, and events stood out in connection to the time period they were in rather than the exact calendar date. “It was during one of those world wars – the second one – World War Two.”

 

Riley pulled another photo out and handed it to Angel, his hand trembling. “Is this the same man?”

 

It was obviously the same man, but Angel humored Riley with a careful look before answering. “Yeah, this is him.”

 

“Do you see any difference in age?”

 

Angel studied the second picture more carefully. There were a few changes, minute ones,  and he might not have caught them if he wasn’t looking for them. “A few years. Not too many.”

 

“You’re sure this is the same man?” Riley plucked the other picture from Angel’s hand and held the two up side by side. “Are you sure?”

 

Fear curled up around them and Angel blew out a discreet breath.

 

“Are you sure?” The other man asked again. The blonde woman laid a hand on his arm.

 

Judging human age was something Angel was very good at. Certain ages were the best for feeding. Too old, and the flesh was tough, the blood tired. Too young, and they didn’t know enough to experience true terror, leaving the blood less than perfectly sweet. “It’s the same man. There’s more than five years difference but less than ten.”

 

“Are you sure – absolutely sure?”

 

“Riley, he’s told you already.” Buffy felt jittery; there was enough tension coming from Riley and Sam that even she could feel it. “What’s the deal?”

 

“This picture was taken in 1948.” He handed the first picture back to Angel. “And this one was taken two days ago.” He gave the second picture to Angel once again.

 

“That’s not possible.” Angel took another look at the photos. They were clearly taken a decade apart at most.

 

“Riley and I have been helping to train a new group of recruits. Special recruits.” Sam rubbed a hand up and down Riley’s back, trying to ease the tension in his muscles. “Female recruits.”

 

“Female?” Buffy frowned.

 

All female.”

 

Buffy looked up at Angel, startled. Slayers? The Initiative was training Slayers?

 

“They’re unique and we’re training them how to handle their… uniqueness.”

 

“Which you would know how to do how exactly?” Buffy asked her.

 

“Well…” A smile curved Sam’s lips. “One night, about a year ago, I woke up and I was different.”

 

“Different? Ah… I get it.” Buffy grinned. “It figures.”

 

Riley shrugged. “Guess I’m attracted to a certain type of woman.”

 

“It’s better that the Initiative trains them than for them to fall into the wrong hands.” As many girls as the new council had managed to connect with and enroll in their various “schools” around the world, Angel knew there were still countless others out there with little or no guidance. Or worse, being guided by evil.

 

“We were showing them film of you and Spike.” Riley interrupted Angel’s musing. “Telling them that the two of you are different from other vampires. Later, General Mallory called us in and told us to put you on the list of enemies.”

 

“Angelus, honey.” Sam reminded him. “He specifically said Angelus.”

 

“Right, he did. Angelus was to be put on the list of enemies.” Riley nodded.

 

“Well, as far as the Initiative is concerned, the only good vampire is a dead vampire.” Buffy shrugged it off. The Initiative didn’t concern her.

 

“That’s true, more or less. There are some non humans that are left alone, those that are known to be on the side of good.” It didn’t sit well with some of the hardliners, but the reality was that they couldn’t eradicate possible allies; the battle was too lopsided as it was. “But Mallory didn’t say anything about Spike – just Angelus.”

 

“Well, Spike’s not much of a threat. Hey!” Angel yelped as Buffy elbowed him.

 

“We started looking into General Mallory’s background to see if there was a connection to Angelus. What we found was a lot of dead ends.” Sam shook her head. “A lot of missing information and documents that were incomplete.”

 

“Let me guess, no pictures?” Studying the photographs again, Angel picked out details in them that betrayed the time periods. A rotary phone in one, a microwave in the other. “Nothing before the 1950’s or so?”

 

“Exactly. Nobody’s really sure how long General Mallory has been in the Initiative, just that he’s been around longer than anyone else.”

 

“Maybe he just eats all his veggies?” Buffy said hopefully.

 

“The General managed to cover his tracks with military and official records, however, he missed some civilian sources.” Pulling a piece of folded paper from her pocket, Sam handed it to Angel. “I found this in the Waukesha Gazette. It’s a small town outside of Milwaukee. They didn’t put their archives online until about a year ago.”

 

Unfolding the paper, Angel found a printout of a newspaper article dated December 10th, 1941. There was a picture of a group of young men being sworn in by a man in uniform. “Eager recruits sign up to fight the Axis.”

 

“Axis? I thought we fought the Nazis?” History had never been Buffy’s best subject.

 

Germany was the Nazis. Germany, Italy, and Japan, they were the Axis powers.” Angel said absently. Scanning the picture, he found what he was looking for. “Local sons Kowalczyk and Pederson are among the group being welcomed to the Army by Lieutenant Mallory.”

 

“Lieutenant Mallory. Same name anyway.” Squinting at the picture, Buffy tried to see a resemblance.

 

“Here.” Sam handed over another paper. “I enlarged the picture.”

 

“Wow.” There was no mistaking that the man in the newspaper article was the same man in the two photographs. And with very little age difference. Buffy chewed her lip. “Great. Another Mayor Wilkins.”

 

“A little dynamite and that’ll be the end of him.” Angel smiled. Buffy’s solution to that problem had been both effective and unique. “Two inches in a small town paper. Mallory probably never even knew this was published.”

 

“I found a file on Angelus, with references to a mission in 1943.” Riley told them. “Something about capturing a German U-boat.”

 

“You captured a boat full of sheep?” Buffy giggled. “Were they spy sheep?”

 

Angel tucked the papers into his pocket along with the pictures. “Mallory forced me to go help retrieve a German submarine that the Americans had captured. It was full of vampires that the Nazis were going to experiment on. Only they got loose and killed most of the crew.”

 

“Experimenting? How?”

 

“I’m not sure.” He replayed the events in his mind. “There was some research about using vampires as an army using some kind of mind control. Spike looked at the papers – no, Lawson did. He was fluent in German.”

 

“Lawson?” Sam snapped her fingers. “He’s in the report. Considered MIA when the sub was recovered, then he showed up a few days later.”

 

“Part of his debriefing is missing.” A slight smile crossed Riley’s lips. “I wonder who was doing that part of the debriefing?

 

“Oh, I know this one! General Mallory!” Buffy pouted when they turned to look at her. “Well, hello, it’s obvious he’s covering his tracks so nobody knows he’s been around for forever.”

 

“What I want to know is how he’s been around forever. One Professor Walsh was enough.”

 

“No kidding.” A shudder ran through Buffy’s body at the memory of Walsh and her creation.

 

“There’s a lot of ways humans can extend their life span.” Angel put his arm around Buffy’s shoulders and rubbed a hand up and down her arm. It was chilly in the sewers, and he should have grabbed a jacket for her. “Let’s go to my office, we’ll be more comfortable there.”

 

“It may be bugged. Mallory has you under surveillance.”

 

“What?” Angel’s head snapped up. “He’s watching me?”

 

“It’s not a constant watch, but there’s regular reports. Especially since your involvement with Wolfram and Hart.” Riley stepped back at the low growl. “Which the reports say appear to have been an undercover mission on your part to bring down the organization.”

 

Now Angel understood the reason they were meeting in the sewers away from the school. And he didn’t like it one bit. Sometimes in protecting themselves against mystical threats, they overlooked the mundane.

 

“This Lawson was assigned to the Initiative after the debriefing, but there’s really no other mentions of him. He’s listed as on assignment in 1947, but nothing after that.”

 

“He’s dead.”

 

“How do you know?” Riley didn’t seem skeptical, just after details.

 

“I killed him.” Before they could question him, Angel held up a hand. “He was a vampire. I turned him to repair the sub and save the others. I let him go and he came after me. He’s dead.”

 

“You turned him?” Buffy glanced up at Angel, giving him a we'll talk about this later look. He’d told her he hadn’t fed off of a human since he’d gotten his soul back. Obviously, he’d been less than truthful. Again.

 

“Lawson spent five years with the Initiative.” Sam chewed on her bottom lip. “Not as a test subject, but as an operative.”

 

“Five years among humans? Yeah as chief chef at the vamp all you can eat buffet maybe.” Vamps and humans did not co-exist with each other. Present company not included. “Could Lawson have turned this general?”

 

“I don’t think so.” Riley told her. “I’ve seen him outside in the daylight.”

 

“In lowlight, in a jacket and wearing sunglasses. He’s not a vampire, but he’s not human, at least not completely.” Sam looked thoughtful. “He made me feel funny.”

 

“Funny  how?”

 

“Not like he does.” She nodded toward Angel. “But there was a weird feeling in my gut.”

 

“A lot of non human things will do that. Sort of a Slayer alarm system.” Buffy shot a look at Angel. “Of course, some set it off more than others.”

 

“Mallory was human when I met him.” Angel remembered the encounter only too well. “He wore cologne to cover his body odor and cigarette smoking.”

 

Eww!”

 

‘Well, he’s not human now.” Sam made a face that mirrored Buffy’s comment. “I didn’t smell anything when he was talking to us. Not even cologne.”

 

“Does he know you’re a Slayer?”

 

“No. We…” Sam looked at her husband. “We thought it was best not to tell anyone.”

 

“Sam’s already trained.” Riley said defensively. He was also worried that she might become a test subject and he was not letting that happen.

 

Angel ignored their conversation, going through his memories of the various ways a human could extend their life span. There were way too many. However, there was one that was relatively simple, and Mallory would have access to everything he needed.

 

“Angel?”

 

He blinked and Buffy came back into focus. “What?”

 

“I said that Sam and Riley should probably stay away from Mallory until we get this figured out.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, that’d be best.” He nodded. “And the girls, keep them away, too.”

 

“No problem, he’s never so much as set foot in the same building with them.” Something that had never struck Riley as odd until now. “He thinks the entire program is a waste of time.”

 

“I’ll bet he does.” It still didn’t sit well with her that the Initiative was training Slayers. “You know, you can send the girls to us. We’re sort of experienced at training Slayers after all.”

 

“They’re already in the military. Besides – “Sam softened her words with a smile. “Right now you guys are just getting things set up, your plate’s a little full.”

 

Giles was constantly muttering that they were stretched thin – there was no arguing that point. “Any girl that wants to can come to us, okay?”

 

“Of course.” Sam nodded. “They’re special.”

 

“They are.” Angel squeezed Buffy’s shoulder. “We need to stay in touch. We’ll narrow down the possibilities and then Mallory will have to be – “

 

“Taken care of.” Riley agreed. He handed Angel a business card. “This is a secure number. Just leave a message and I’ll get back to you within a few hours.”

 

Angel chuckled. “John Walton? That’s a good one.”

 

“It was Sam’s idea.” His face colored.

 

“We’d better get going. We’ve got to drive the girls up into the mountains for training.” Sam reminded him.

 

“Is it too late to join the war in Iraq?” Riley joked.

 

“Stay safe.” Sam reached out and hugged Buffy.

 

The move startled her, but Buffy recovered and returned the hug. “You, too.”

 

Angel draped his arm around Buffy’s shoulders again as Riley and Sam walked away. “Good night, John Boy.”

 

Sam’s giggle echoed along the sewer walls.

 

Buffy looked up at Angel. “I don’t get it.”

 

 

Chapter 2



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