Thanks to Danielle, Robyn and John for (as always!) suggestions.
Cordelia Chase ran for her life.
It was bound to be a short run, seeing as she was trapped in the Sunnydale mall with a freaking VAMPIRE who thought he was -- what had Giles called him? A gray-white hunter? That term made NO sense! Anyway, the big freaky dude, dressed all in white (and here it was, AFTER Labor Day, hello!) was even now stalking along the bottom floor, fangface off, rifle in hand.
And she was alone. Well, not ENTIRELY -- but Willow, Oz and the security guards were unconscious, bound, gagged, and locked in the mens' room downstairs. The vampire had picked her first because he thought she'd be easiest to kill. Seemed he liked to play with his food before eating it, but he didn't REALLY like a full-out challenge. That's why he'd made noises about showing up on the other side of town -- Giles, Buffy, and Xander were staking out a forest. So, in a fit of boredom, she'd dragged Willow and Oz into taking a mall trip with her.
The hunter bozo's name was Livingston, he'd been tracking lions and other helpless beasts about a hundred years ago in Africa when one of the envamped natives had turned him. See, she COULD pay attention to important icky magic stuff at times. He'd come to Sunnydale only a week ago, planning to use the locals for sport and prey, like he did EVERYWHERE.
With the other three on the far end of town, he'd caught Willow, Oz and Cordelia during the mall trip and knocked them out, and now, with the mall closed, the lights and power were on, the stores were locked down tight and . . . .
Livingston was on the prowl.
"Where are you, milady?" he called out in some way bad imitation of a high-class British accent. "I'm not jolly well going to be able to kill all of you if I have to spend this long on just you, now, am I?"
Frantically, she tried one of the upstairs exit doors. Locked! Of course, he wasn't going to make it easy. She tried to pick up one of the trashcans and throw it through the doors -- but it bounced right off!
Of course! that little incident with the big blue Smurf creature back in January had broken the glass when Buffy'd fired off her big rocket thingie. The noise or some such, leave that for the science geeks like Willow.
"Is that you, milady? Ah, you made it upstairs! Capital! You're making this better than I thought!" Cordelia sprinted back towards the main area of the mall -- there Livingston was coming up the escalator. He bowed slightly and raised the gun.
Cordelia threw herself to the floor -- RUINING her outfit, just ruining it! -- and the rifle's shells whizzed over her head. She looked up and he was reloading. One of his manias, he SO needed therapy (what was she thinking? What he needed was a stake through the heart!) was that of using "Big game" type weapons only. Whatever, this gave her a couple of seconds to run for her life.
She looked around. But where? The stores were all caged in -- and the only places to go were towards Mr. Whitesuit or over the rail onto the floor below.
Naturally, she jumped, vaulting the rail and pushing off as far as she could. She caught a brief glimpse of Livingston's eyes widening before she lost sight as she fell . . .
landing in the inactive fountain below. As soon as she felt the water she squatted to take away as much of the shock to her ankles as she could. (One thing Cordelia had, was much experience in and near swimming pools. Xander would have leered at that, or made a stupid joke. What she wouldn't give, right now, to hear a stupid joke from Xander. Oh, Xander, Buffy, where are you?)
She could almost hear Buffy saying, "You? Stop a vampire all by yourself?" and Giles say, "Yes, Cordelia, DO leave the Slaying to the experts, would you?"
WhatEVER. No time to let her whiny inner child take over. She looked up and was rewarded with the sight of a gun barrel. Screaming, she scrambled over the side of the fountain onto the mall floor as two shells smashed into the fountain floor beneath her. He called after her, "I say,girl, that was most unsporting of you." He started growling. "I can see I'm going to have to get serious." Cordelia wasn't interested in sticking around to see what hunterboy MEANT. She took off running.
A few seconds later there was a loud crash. She twisted her neck -- he'd just jumped down from above instead of walking. Plus, ick, his game face was on.
Think, Cordelia. What hurts or kills vampires? Stakes. None. Nothing even wooden except the trees, and the benches, and one was too soft, and the other too hard. There might be something in the, what do you call it, the back tunnels? Where the (shudder) mall employees got into the stores? But she wasn't NEAR one of those at the moment. Holy water, none. Beheading? With what? Fire? She didn;t have anything to burn. Crosses? She wasn't in church, and she doubted that holding her fingers up like a plus sign would do much good.
Garlic, though . . . . that pizza place in the food court! What was it called? Oh, yeah. the Pizza Place. Ingenious, they were NOT. The place would be gated, but -- she looked around. Livingston was chasing after her, rifle raised, game face on. Thank God, it seemed like his idea of getting serious still didn't include attacking her like a vampire would. The steps were ahead. Screaming, she grabbed the rail and spun, stumbling a bit. The rifle shell smashed into the rail ahead of her. "Curses!" Livingston shouted. "I must be out of practice . . ." If she hadn't stumbled --
"C'mon, Cordy," Xander said inside her. "Just go run through three counties. We won't think any less of you, we promise." Her head shot up and she sprinted up the stairs. Livingston again was reloading . . . this gave her about ten seconds and she made the most of them, running for the food court. The Pizza Place was three down on the right.
God, what all this sweat was doing to her outfit, and her makeup, she did NOT want to know. If she saw a mirror right now --
"That's right, Cordy," Xander said inside her. "Worry about your makeup." "Could she BE any more shallow?" came Buffy's voice.
She was doing the best she could!
"Yes, Cordelia, we realize this," said Giles' voice. "But if Willow and Oz only have you to depend on, I fear they are doomed."
She redoubled her pace. Finally, The Pizza Place was right in front of her. As usual, they'd left the spices out towards the front. The cage door was down -- but that left room for a hand to SQUEEZE through --
and pull out the parmesan cheese. Nice if she wanted to top her spaghetti, but useless at the moment. Ignoring the horrifiyng screech of her nails, she tried again -- and got it . Quickly, Cordelia ripped off the top of the container and held it nervously.
"See? See? Holding it out in front of you like a big ol' stinky diaper," Xander said inside her. "No WAY he'll notice that . . . ."
Livingston was charging up the stairs. Going way against her instincts, she made sure that he SAW her run around the corner towards where the public restrooms were, not that she ever used them, except, well, to check her makeup and stuff.
"Oooh, right, Cordy," the Buffy inside her echoed. "Gotta make sure you've got the right shade of lipstick on when he kills you. Nothing worse than a murder victim who's also a fashion victim."
She stopped around the first corner -- and she was thrilled to notice that the door to mallworkers service was open. Well, they left it open during the day, not such a big surprise it'd be open now.
"Don't think you can get out that way, little miss," Livingston boomed pompously. "All the exits are quite thoroughly locked, you can rest assured." Cordelia looked around and took one step backwards. Not the time to hesitate, here.
The hunter strutted around the corner and stopped when he saw Cordelia not five feet away. Lowering his rifle, he stopped for a second and Cordelia got her first good look at his face. Euuhhh! Mustaches just did NOT look good on a vampire.
"Decided to just give up, eh, missy?" Cordelia nodded, playing along. "Well, you've given me a jolly show, but it had to end somet--"
NO time like now, with nothing blocking the path to the face. Up came the shaker, and the garlic flew into his face.
Livingston immediately began coughing and sputtering, dropping the rifle and falling to the floor in a seizure. She knew it wouldn't help longterm, but it might slow him down a bit -- she reached forward and grabbed the rifle. It was heavier than she'd thought, and all she knew about how to fire the thing was point, click, and pull.
Her inner Xander said, "Watch it! You might NOT hurt someone with that thing!"
Carefully, she aimed for the vampire's heart and pulled the trigger. The recoil slammed the rifle into her right shoulder -- how much concealer would she need to cover up THAT bruise? -- but a large and messy hole opened up in the vampire's chest.
"Shoulda gone for the head shot," Buffy said inside her. "Heart -- does nothing but piss 'em off."
Quickly she dumped the rifle into the ladies' room and took off down the hall. She tried all the doors along the way. Locked, locked, locked . . . there were only two more --
and then she saw the outside door . . .
UNLATCHED! She could get away, get help -- not die . . .
"It's as I feared," Giles said inside her. "She's unreliable. She's willing to let them die."
Xander: "yeah, well, easy come, easy go, right, Cordy? You gotta know, you run, Willow and Oz and the guards die."
"Ahh, what does she care?" Buffy said. "SHE'LL be safe. And that's all that's ever really mattered to Cordelia, right? Deep down, we all know she's shallow."
She wasn't like that! She wasn't . . . .
did she really care that much what they all thought? Was this what she feared?
A growl, from a LONG way behind her, brought Cordelia back to herself.
Oh. Right. Large, angry vampire, with a hole in his chest and garlic burning the hell out of his face. Frantically she looked around outside for ANYTHING that could serve as a stake. Nothing, not even a handy dumpster. No trees, no matches, no beheading thingies, NOTHING. And she couldn't run, not with Willow and Oz down there. She just couldn't.
There were two more doors to try and a janitor's closet. The closet locked, first door locked -- Oh, NO . . . .
"Unreliable.""Run, Cordy. WE won't blame you."
Second door! Not locked! This would be the CVS, no pharmacy, she was SO majorly ticked when they couldn't fill one of her prescriptions --
She pulled it open, latched it behind her -- and stumbled over some boxes. The interior of the store, now THAT was dark. Scrambling, hearing Livingston out in the hallway, she found the lights and flipped everything on.
There was pounding at the door behind her, and she quickly looked around. This was a drugstore . . . She ran down aisle 2. She'd been in here not two days ago --
"Slumming, Cordy?" Buffy's snide voice called.
For god's Sake, she'd needed Midol, and she'd been desperate! Anyway, there it was. She grabbed five bottles of rubbing alcohol and clawed them open, pouring them onto the floor. Then she ran and got a few lighters and tossed them into the puddle by the back entrance, then frantically ran to the front of the store. Cigarettes, cigarettes . . .
The back door splintered under the force of Livingston's blows as the vampire burst in. All pretenses of dignity and a high-class accent were gone as he screamed. "Woman! Show yourself!" Cordelia ran to the back of the store. Livingston's face was scorched all to hell, and the hole in his chest was still ick factor times TWELVE, but unfortunately he was on his feet, and way pissed.
"It is time for me," he growled, "To go the way of my primitive ancestors. Hunt, kill, and feed all by hand." Cordelia waited until he stepped into the puddle and struck the match.
But before she could throw it, Livingston looked down, sniffed the air, and JUMPED out of the puddle towards her. Only by rapidly backpedaling did Cordelia avoid being caught by the vampire's flailing arms. As she scrambled, she dropped the matches.
Her inner Buffy sneered, "Oh, nice work, Cordy! Snatched defeat right from the jaws of victory!"
There had to be a -- her eyes fixed on the hole still in Livingston's chest and she got an idea. The vampire leapt for her again and she could feel his hands scrape against her dress.
Cordelia hung a u-turn and ran down the next aisle over. She stopped in front of the wall and looked over it. Where were they, where were they . . .
She grabbed the package off the wall and ripped it open, then hid one in her hand. She'd heard Buffy say she'd done this to the first big vampire leader she'd ever killed. Of course, Cordelia didn't have Slayer strength --
Livingston was there. His teeth seemed to be the size of a dinosaur's. He garbbed her around the waist and yanked her closer, grinning as he did so. "The harder the hunt," he snarled, "the sweeter the victory at the end." He opened his mouth and bent down.
Cordelia brought the pencil up into the still-closing hole and rammed
it in as far as she could.
* * *
They were very much afraid that that final shot had meant that Cordelia had been killed, and that Livingston was taking his time feeding before coming back and starting over with one of them.
Willow whispered to Oz, "I'm telling you this now. This is the LAST time I go to the mall with Cordelia."
Oz was spared a response by the sound of keys in the lock, and the restroom door opened. Bracing for the worst, they were dumbfounded to see Cordelia stagger in.
In more ways than one. Her shoes were missing, her outfit was torn all to shreds, she was limping, holding her right shoulder and bleeding and scraped from numerous cuts.
She came over and started to untie and ungag Willow, getting most of the ropes off of her hands before collapsing against the wall, still conscious, but clearly exhausted.
Quickly, Willow worked to free first herself, then Oz, and then the security guards, while Cordelia sat there catching her breath. No one said anything, though by mutual agreement they let the guards lie there on the mens' room floor while they got out of the building
Finally, in the van, they started asking questions.
In response, Cordelia said, "Yes, he's dead, and yes, I'm basically okay, though my WARDROBE will never forgive me. And do you see my face and my nails? I'm going to be FOREVER getting a makeover!"
"We're taking you to Giles," Willow said, and Oz nodded agreement. Cordelia didn't bother to protest.
Willow smiled back. "Thanks, Cordy. We knew you could do it."
"No, you didn't," she said. "But it's okay. I didn't think I could do it, either. But you know what? I did. I'm NOT a failure. I really CAN help with all the Slaying stuff." Willow thought she heard the battered cheerleader mutter something like "See? TOLD you I could do it," but she couldn't be sure.
"Um -- how DID you beat him, Cordelia?" Oz asked from the driver's seat.
She laughed. "Please! In a MALL? I had the home-field advantage!"