Archive for June 29, 2015

Tired Promises. 3a   1 comment

***

“Then what the fuck are you saying, man? She doesn’t trust any one of us right now and you know that…”

Gunn gave a sigh, running a hand over his head. What the hell was he supposed to say, that Gio was right? Cordelia didn’t trust any of them and it was a lesson she’d had to learn the hard way.

“It’s not just you,” He tried to explain, make the guy see reason, but that too was out of the question. Gio was pissed.

“So how come you get in on the goods,” Gio asked, voice dangerously low. “Unless you’re getting some goods on the side we ain’t hearing about…”

Gunn was off his chair in an instant, the front of his former friends shirt balled up into his fist. “You wanna watch what you’re saying, man. Start a rumour like that and you might get hurt…”

“Off you, Charlie? Nah…” He laughed, “Rumour has it, you gone soft in your old age.”

“Try me and find out…”

“The both of you, back off.” Wesley’s voice came from the top of the stairs; looking down into the corner of the lobby Gunn had taken Gio into. It had been his decision to tell Gio and a few of the others of Cordelia’s plans.

He’d been fighting alongside these few for over three years. He figured he owed them as much to explain what was going on, why certain things were changing around here lately.

“You heard about this too?” Gio asked, glancing up at Wesley. “It’s bullshit…”

“Actually, it’s not.” Wesley disagreed, “Until we find out who the traitor in our midst is, Cordelia has no other option but to do this. Perhaps now, whoever’s dithering between both sides will see what they’re doing. We can’t go on like this.”

“So what, you punish all of us?” Asked another team leader, frowning.

“It’s not about punishment, it’s about keeping our team alive. And right now, that’s what’s important. We can’t go up against Giles if he keeps picking off our team one by one.”

If there was a protest, no one got to voice it.

A burst of sound spread through the hotel, sending the inhabitants scattering into position. Years of practice had honed this very moment in as near to perfection as they could get it. There was a place for everyone, should this moment occur – and everyone knew what that place was.

The two-mile radius gave them a five-minute head start on whatever was coming towards them, give or take a few seconds.

Within that few small moments, they were ready.

The doors burst open, a loud noise in the silence that reigned since the alarm had stopped sounding.

A girl entered, hands held high in the air, being pushed forth by a rifle pressed into her back.

“She asked to speak to Wes. Found her outside with this guy…” Said her captor, gesturing backwards.

Behind him, a dark-haired man was being led in, hands twisted behind his back, stake shoved up to his throat. It mightn’t kill him if his captor struck – but it’d hurt like hell.

Wesley stepped out from behind the counter, eyes squinting to see who it was. “Who the hell are you?”

Michelle’s eyes blazed as she glanced up angered at being caught again. “Michelle Blake. I’m the Slayer.”

Hope dared to spark within Wesley but he pushed it down, frowning. “And your friend?”

“Nice to see you again, Wesley.” Angel murmured, finding it difficult to speak with a stake shoved into his throat. “Course, it’d be nice if I could actually see you…”

“Let him go.” Said the ex-Watcher immediately.

“But…”

“I said let him go.”

The stake lowered, but his captor shoved him forward, eliciting a growl from Angel. Almost immediately, a collection of crossbows and other weapons were pointed at him.

“Put your weapons down, damnit!” Wesley growled, “He means no harm. Angel, please…”

Slowly but surely, Angel lifted his hands up, eyes flitting over the inhabitants of the hotel. “He’s right. I’m not here to fight. Not you guys, anyway…”

“How? When?” Asked Wesley, walking slowly forward to gaze at Angel.

“This afternoon. Michelle…” He gestured to the slayer who’d been allowed to join him down into the lobby.

“I went to the office. She’d been there. Is she…?”

Angel faltered and in him, Wesley saw the same desperate hesitation. The wanting to believe; yet not daring to.

“She’s alive.” Said the ex-Watcher and found himself smiling. “I can’t tell you how many times…”

The scream that rang out ended the brief moment of reminiscing. Angel could feel its presence before he saw it.

It burst into the hotel through the basement door, attached to someone that Angel knew only too well.

“Wesley!”

He recognised the demon instantly. A few months ago, Giles had sent a bunch of Cathixol demons after them, effectively wiping out one of their twenty men teams.

One had got away. It seemed it wanted more tonight.

Cordelia rolled backwards with the force of the blow, using her body weight to her advantage. Driving her knee upwards, she flipped the demon over her head and away from her, sending it spinning into one of the stone pillars of the hotel.

The demon leapt for her again, claws outstretched. Blue spittle dripped from its teeth, its red eyes burning into Cordelia.

“Boy, you really are the poster boy for the ugly stick,” Cordelia growled, “Were you born that way, or did it take years of grooming?”

Damn. Usually, her bantering caught them off guard, years of practice helped.

But this demon – this one was all business, Giles had seen to that. He’d hired one of the most ruthless, most calculating groups of mercenary demons he could find. Once they had their target, they didn’t stop until they were all dead.

People were filtering in from the floors they’d been waiting on, moving down into the lobby where Wesley and the others had collected. They tried shouldering their weapons, but in a fight of such close proximity, they were useless.

The demon slammed Cordelia into the wall, raising its arm to rake its claws down her face as red spots danced in front of her eyes.

Angel didn’t waste a second. Letting loose with a snarl, he leapt forwards, ready to defend what was his.

The Cathixol demon let out a screech of pain as Angel drew a flurry of fists into its sides.

His last punch went right through its stomach, his eyes blazing golden, demon rejoicing inside as its blood spilled.

Not five seconds later and the demon was dead, Cordelia sitting hunched over, one arm wrapped around her waist, the other pressed against her head.

God, was it just her or did every vision take more out of her lately?

“Cordelia, are you all right? You blacked out for a…”

“I’m fine, Wesley.” Came the expected response. “It just… Took it out of me, is all.”

“You saw that, didn’t you?”

Angel looked at Wesley, puzzled. What did he mean by that?

Cordelia nodded. “Someone left the sewer hatch open. There were two of them, I managed to kill one… I was nearly too late.”

The Powers had never been forthcoming with the visions, at least, not lately.

Blinking as if to clear the cobwebs, Cordelia looked up, “Thanks, I—”

Her breath caught in her throat as she saw him, her world teetering all around her into a tailspin.

He reached for her and Cordelia pulled back, pressing herself closer to the wall.

“You’re not real.” She told him, shaking her head.

“I am.”

“You always say that.” She looked around her then. There was a crowd gathered around them, waiting for Angel’s next move, waiting for hers.

“Cordelia, it’s me.”

“You always say that too.” She frowned.

“Cordy—”

She winced as if the name hurt, hearing it spoke like that.

“Don’t call me that.” Bracing her hands flat against the wall behind her, Cordelia pushed herself up, regarding Angel wearily. “You’re here?”

He nodded, once.

“How?”

“Giles put Michelle in with me. We escaped together.”

Cordelia’s gaze skipped to the slayer, regarding her with cool, professional eyes, before she looked back at Angel.

“How?”

“You want the details?” He half-growled, frustrated.

“Don’t get snippy with me, Angel. I just find it a little hard to believe that after five years of thinking you were dead, you’re standing here now.” Her words came out harsh, brittle.

“I thought you’d be pleased.”

“Of all the things I am right now? Pleased isn’t one of them,” She said quietly, “Scared? Yes. Shocked? Maybe. But pleased is so very far down the list right now.”

“Cordelia…”

“How do I know it’s you I’m looking at, and not Angelus?” She asked, so softly that only Angel could hear.

“Because the only chance I had at perfect happiness got taken away from me five years ago.”

“Buffy.” Said Cordelia, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice and failing, miserably.

“No.” He replied. “You.”

***

She sat in her room in the Hyperion, legs pulled up to her chest, her hair hanging wet against her back.

In her hands, she held an Angel. Tiny. Silver. The one she’d left back in amongst the rubble at their old offices.

“How did you find it?” She asked, quietly.

“I could smell you. Where you’d been.”

“Are you… Mad at me?”

“For what?” He asked, gently.

“I dunno, leaving this…”

He seemed to understand what she meant by that and shook his head, “Five years is a long time to wait for somebody, Cordelia.”

“There’s no one else.” She told him, softly, her words showing implicitly that there’d never been anyone else – never would be.

“I know.”

They lapsed into silence for a while, Cordelia turning the tiny angel over in her fingers. “I know you’re waiting for me to explain everything. I just have no idea where to start.”

He didn’t speak again, just watched her in silence, waiting.

“A few weeks after you left, Doyle had a vision. We went to help. They were a bunch of demons, hiding from the Scourge. They wanted to rid the world of half-breeds, Doyle stopped them.”

“How?”

“Sacrificing himself. He saved us all.” Pride shone in her eyes and her voice, far surpassing the pain she still felt over Doyle’s death.

“And you got the visions.”

“I cursed his name for about a month until I realised what he’ d given me.”

“What?” Asked Angel, bitterly, “Mind-numbing pain? A shortened life sentence?”

“No.” She paused, “A part of you. Don’t get me wrong, they hurt and I’m so not a fan of the pain but they’re part of me, just like they were a part of you and Doyle. It was all I had left of you two.”

“So much has happened,” Said Angel shaking his head. “And yet… You’re just like I remember you.”

“I’m not. Everything changed when you went away. The world got, I dunno… Darker.”

The world had got more painful; she knew that for sure.

“But you learned to live without me. What you’ve done, all the people you’ve helped over the years, I’m proud of you, Cordelia.”

This, she accepted with a nod of her head. “I’m proud of me too,” She told him, “I’m proud of us. But what you said? I didn’t learn to live without you. I learned to survive. I had to. I had to tell myself – even if I didn’t believe it – that you weren’t coming back. I had to come to terms with it, or else…”

She paused then, biting down on her lip and looking away. Her emotions were boiling just beneath the surface. Just one little tug and they’d all come tumbling free.

“Or else what?”

Cordelia sighed, “Do you know how many times I saw you? Every time I turned, I thought you were there. Every person we helped, you were there. I kept expecting you to turn up one day and it was killing me.”

It would be so easy to take comfort from him now. Cordelia knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if she so much as sniffed the wrong way, he’d have his arms around her – he’d keep her safe.

Instead, Cordelia spoke with a clarity that both stunned Angel and broke his heart at the same time.

“I lit two candles and sat waiting for them to burn out. When they did, I told you both goodbye. Every year since then, I’ve lit two candles, one for you, one for Doyle.”

“What are you saying?” Asked Angel, his voice choked with emotion, “Are you saying you’ve made your peace with me? Is that it?”

“No,” She turned away so he wouldn’t see the shake in her shoulders. “I’m saying I can’t handle another goodbye. Angel, what you said downstairs… I know you meant it. I could see it in your eyes without ever having to hear your voice. Giles broke something in you, Angel – and you sit there and… You might never say it? But you think that I can fix it. I can’t. I’m not the same girl I was five years ago.”

“I know that…”

“Do you?” She asked, softly. “I don’t think you do, Angel. I think you came back here expecting to find same old Cordy – and this is what you’ve been left with.”

“What?”

“Me.”

“You think that’s not enough?”

“I don’t know what I think. But what I do know is that things just can’t go back to the way they were, not to get all Barbara Streisand on you. Things aren’t okay. You know that, right?”

Angel let out a breath of air and sighed. “I do.”

“Good.”

He stared at her for a long time, watching as her gaze slid slowly away from his. It was like she couldn’t even bear to look at him any more…

“What happened to you?” He asked softly.

She didn’t look up. “I got older.”

“Cordy…”

“Angel, please.” She spoke in a shaking, pain filled voice. “I know you want answers. I know you want to know what happened. But not tonight, please?”

“Do you want me to go?”

That got through. Something inside Cordelia shifted and she looked up, alarmed. In that moment, he saw the girl that he’d rescued from Russell Winters. He saw the girl who’d captured his heart…

She was afraid.

“Go?” She whispered, voice choked. She was trying desperately not to let her heart rule what was in her head. But… He’d just come back. She couldn’t face his going away again.

“You’re leaving?”

“No,” He told her softly. “I just…”

“What?”

“It feels like I’m hurting you by just being here.”

“Don’t you dare,” Cordelia whispered, hurt flashing through her eyes. “Don’t say you’re leaving just because you’re hurting me. It’s not me you’re doing this for.”

“I don’t know how to talk to you.” He frowned.

“Newsflash, Angel, you never did. It was me who did all the talking and what, now it’s not the same you’re going to walk out?”

“That’s not it at all and you know it.”

“Then what is it, Angel?!”

He didn’t speak. Avoiding her gaze, he looked at the floor, listening to the little sounds he’d taken for granted five years ago. The sound of her breathing, the sound of her heart thumping against her chest.

“I’m sorry that I can’t make this right with a few well placed words. I’m sorry that I can’t be sarcasmo-girl and make you feel comfortable again. I’m sorry that for every time you dreamed of this, I was the girl you remember. I’m sorry it’s so different. But for every tear I’ve shed, there’s been a reason. Every time I’ve looked back at the past, there hasn’t been a moment gone by when I didn’t wish you were here, by my side. Everything changed, Angel and I can’t make it right again.”

“I don’t want you to!”

“Then what do you want?!”

“You.” He yelled, before his voice softened into a whisper. “Just you. I don’t care if you’re not the same person you were then. I don’t care if you’re scarred and battle worn. You’re you, Cordelia. Underneath it all, you’re still you.”

“You don’t know me at all, Angel. Not any more.” Cordelia snapped, getting off her seat and walking away from him, standing looking out of the window and onto the darkened streets of LA.

“I know you more than you think I do.” Angel growled, “I know that it’s killing you standing in front of me and pretending everything’s okay. I know that it’s not the—”

“You don’t know anything!” Cordelia spun round, “You don’t know what it was like watching Doyle jump onto that stupid light thing and seeing his skin melt away! You don’t know what it was like fighting this fight of yours day after day, knowing that you weren’t coming back. You don’t know what it’s like, getting a vision and waiting for Wesley to come back, to tell you that half the people that trust you to take care of them are dead or… Or worse.”

“Then tell me.” He pleaded, moving towards her, “I hate seeing you like this.”

Cordelia sighed. “Forgive me if I’m not share my pain gal, Angel, but I’ve seen enough of it to know that opening your heart to someone just gets it ripped out. I can’t afford to lose it all right now.”

“You mean you haven’t already?”

“Damnit, Angel, what’s your problem?” She cried, “You don’t get to come in here and insert yourself back into my life like nothing happened, it doesn’t work like that.”

“And you think what, that this is the answer? This, what you’re doing? Absolving yourself from pain because you refuse to let yourself feel any of it? You’re dead inside Cordelia, and that not only affects you, it affects the people around you.”

“Y’know what? I’m done apologising for something I’ll never be. I am who I am, Angel and if that doesn’t suit you, then don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”

Shoving her way past him, Cordelia walked away – slamming the door to the bathroom behind her so hard it made the windows rattle.

Bracing her hands on the edge of the sink, Cordelia hunched forward, eyes squeezing tight shut. Damnit, she wouldn’t cry.

She stood there for what seemed like forever, shaking, head bowed, chin tucked into her chest.

When she looked up into the mirror above the sink, she didn’t recognise what she saw. She recognised a couple of fading bruises here and there. The small scar above her right cheekbone, that was hers.

But the eyes, they were haunted. The look so scarred and jaded that for a moment, Cordelia found herself wondering who she was, how she’d got here.

She was staring at her own self-destruction… And Cordelia couldn’t bring herself to keep watching.

***

He was at the door when he heard it. Hand poised over the handle, ready to leave.

A second later, he smelt the blood.

If he hadn’t smelt it, he might’ve just thought it was a glass crashing, something dropping to the floor.

That smell was distinctly Cordelia.

He ran to the bathroom, bursting through the bathroom door in time to find her sinking to the floor beside the bathtub, fists balled, glass biting into them.

There was blood everywhere.

“Cordelia,” He cried, sinking fast to his knees. “What the hell did you do?”

Her eyes raised to his, slowly, the movement almost sluggish. “Why couldn’t you just leave it alone?”

Angel reached for a towel, wrapping it around her blood-soaked hands.

“You’re hurt.”

“No shit, Sherlock.” She laughed, but the sound was empty.

He could still remember her laugh. It was nothing like it was now. Helping her to her feet, Angel got her seated on the edge of the bath, before grabbing the first aid kit from the top of the bathroom cabinet.

Usually, his demon would have rolled inside at the smell of so much blood – battling for dominance.

For once, he stayed silent.

The white towel was now blood red round her hands. When Angel unwrapped it, she hissed a little, but didn’t move otherwise.

“This’ll sting a little.” He told her gently, grabbing a piece of tissue and some antiseptic spray to clean the cuts.

“I hate that. ‘This’ll hurt a little’ –” She mimicked him, quietly. “—Why not just say it’s going to sting like a bitch and get it over with?”

“Comfort?”

“Who for? The person inflicting the pain or the one getting it?” She asked, her entire body shivering.

When Angel applied a little of the antiseptic spray, Cordelia jolted upright, her back snapping straight.

“Sorry.” He winced, removing the glass from her hands with gentle fingers. “You should go to a hospital.”

“No hospital. It’s not critical. I’m fine.”

“Cordelia…”

“For once, can you not argue with me?”

Angel sighed and looked down, she was in no fit state to be going anywhere, unless by some miracle a paramedic arrived and whisked her away to hospital.

Time for other tactics. “Why’d you hate the mirror?” He asked, gently.

“I had nothing against the mirror, I just didn’t like the person looking back.”

She was trembling now, tears welling up in her eyes. “For five years, I’ve avoided looking in the mirror. A glance here and there, fine. Checking for bruises and stuff – part of the job. But I’ve never just… Looked. You come here and everything changes… I looked because you still see something in me and I…

Cordelia faltered and looked down at her hands. “I just wanted to see what you saw. I want her to be there, Angel, not just for you but for me too. I wish she was…”

“Listen to me, Cordelia.” Said Angel softly, slipping his hand under her chin and bringing her gaze up to his. “I fell for you because you’re you, not because of what you can give me, what somebody you used to be meant to me. When I came back to LA I had to face up to the fact that you might be dead or… Worse. Underneath all of this hurt and pain, you’re still you. And you’re still who I love.”

“Angel…” The tears ran down her cheeks then and Cordelia’s mouth opened in a scream that never left her lips.

He winced as she grabbed his shirt with still-bloody hands, sure that it was hurting her – Cordelia didn’t seem to notice as she buried her face into his chest, her body heaving with the sobs that were wracking her body.

He didn’t tell her it was okay. He didn’t whisper tired promises in her ear. Angel held her until the sobs had subsided and Cordelia was lying curled up in his arms.

Gently, he scooped her up in his arms, taking her through and into her room, placing her on her bed.

“Angel…”

“We’ll talk later. Get some sleep.”

“Oh, sure.” She smiled, tiredly. “The one time I wanna talk, you decide you don’t want to.”

Reaching over, Angel pressed his lips against her forehead. “You need to sleep.”

“I wasn’t… I was just…” Cordelia flushed, eyes filling with uncertainty again for a moment. “Stay with me?”

“You want me to…”

“Stay.” She nodded, “Just stay with me.”

He sat down opposite her in the wicker chair she had by her bed, watching as she drifted off to sleep.

There were things he noticed, little things. The fact that Cordelia slept with a variety of weapons by her bed. The fact that she slept facing the door, so that if someone should get in, she’d be able to defend herself.

The fact that the full time Cordelia slept, she never relaxed once. She was primed for fight, ready should someone get in.

Angel sighed, resting his head on his balled up fist as he watched her sleep…

TBC…

Ficbitch82

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC

Tired Promises. 3   1 comment

Part 3

“She’s gonna freak, man – and with good right too. They walked into that building knowing what the hell they were doing and someone was waiting… Someone tipped them off again.”

Wesley frowned at Gunn’s words, knowing his friend was right. He shouldered the crossbow he’d been carrying and shook his head slowly, trying to make sense of it all.

“The only people we told about tonight’s operation were the team leaders, the others were following – blind, but following, nonetheless.”

“So, we know you ain’t doing the tipping off and we know I ain’t doing it. Cordelia’s out… So that leaves who?”

“Rondell–”

“Not even.” Gunn said immediately, “I grew up with the guy, Wes. He wouldn’t.”

“Gio, Roberts, Jonah…” Wesley tailed off with a frown, “I’m starting to believe more and more that we have a traitor in our midst.”

“Gee, you getting that?”

Wesley ignored the sarcasm in his voice. They were nearing the Hyperion now. 68 rooms all filled with members of their army, some doubling up with others – and five beds in there that would tonight stand empty after the failed patrol they were returning from. No hi-jinks, Cordelia had said. No putting anyone in danger, just a routine patrol – they could handle that.

It turned out, they couldn’t.

Five men down.

Five.

Tired, Wesley rubbed his hand across his face and shouldered open the door. Months ago, Willow had visited Los Angeles, placing a certain kind of spell on the hotel.

Anything ‘Hellmouthy’ as she’d put it that came within a two-mile radius of the hotel would throw off an alarm, alerting the group of people inside, letting them prepare for battle. Most of the time, the alarms were false – a demon or some other such creature ambling past.

They had yet to deal with an ambush on their operations base…

As Wesley and Gunn entered the lobby, the ex-Watcher found himself frowning. It was a rare opportunity for any of them to have a night off. Along with Cordelia, a few of their group that had been injured last night had stayed behind, forgoing the patrol to get well again.

For one brief moment Wesley was glad they hadn’t been there – after all they’d lost tonight the casualties could have been much, much higher.

“Is Cordelia in her room?” He asked the small gathering in the lobby, face softening into a smile as his eyes settled on Tina. Tina was 16 years old, a girl much too young to be tossed into this fight.

Her parents had been killed a year ago, her father of some sort of hindrance to Giles, he’d gathered – since the Vampire King had ordered him to be killed.

“In the office. She got some phone call from that Willow girl.”

Wesley knew fine well that Cordelia wouldn’t have stayed in her room the entire night they’d been gone. Most nights, she spent her time sitting downstairs when they weren’t patrolling, listening in on the police scanner she’d had set up in her office.

He firmly believed that Cordelia needed an outlet, something that would take her mind off what they did on a nightly basis, but telling her that had proved futile. Cordelia had reminded him that this fight – then, hers – was all she had. She didn’t need an outlet; she needed it to be over.

When he entered the office, Cordelia was standing with her back to him, muscles corded in her back, knuckles pressed white against the table. “Cordelia?”

“Willow called.” She said quietly, not turning round.

“I heard. Is everything all right?”

“The slayer, the one in my vision – she got free.”

He allowed himself a brief moment of hope, one that surged through him like wildfire, before confusion rained on its parade. “I don’t understand, I thought that would be a good thing…” He questioned, softly.

“It was. It is…” She amended, “It’s just…”

The fall in her voice told Wesley everything he needed to know. “You think he’s not coming back.”

Her shoulders squared and she turned, eyes dark, sad. “I always believed he was dead,” She said, angry at herself for letting herself hope all this time even if she hadn’t let herself admit it. “I always believed that if he wanted to get out enough, he could and now…”

“Now that she’s out it just proves that what you believed might be true.” Wesley finished, moving towards her and placing a gentle, supporting hand on her shoulder. “Cordelia, that’s only natural.”

“Is it?” She bit, “Wesley, it’s been five years. Hoping after all this time that maybe he was still alive was so stupid, I just always thought that maybe, y’know? I always hoped that maybe he’d just walk back into my life one day and… Now, this has happened, I’m just not sure I can believe that.”

Wesley sighed, stared at her for a moment. There were two things he could do here. He could tell her what she wanted to hear, that hoping was all very well and good – and that maybe, someday, her miracle could happen. Or he could tell her the truth.

She’d always been honest with him, always. She’d never sugar coated anything, never laced it with sweetness just to make it that little bit better. Wesley honestly wasn’t sure that he could do the same with her.

“Cordelia…” He began, eyes meeting hers. “I suppose… We all thought that one day he’d return, just like I’m sure Willow and the others thought the same about Buffy. Seeing you like this, I wish he would, if only to restore your faith in the fact that occasionally, good things happen to good people. People like you.

You’ve been fighting for so long and not once have you lost sight of your mission, his mission… I think, in doing that, you’ve honored him. You’ve honored everything he came to Los Angeles to do – and you’ve done it each time with the glint in your eye that he loved just as much as us.”

“I sense a ‘but’ coming.” Said Cordelia gently, “You have ‘but-face’.”

Wesley smiled, a sad smile that Cordelia had been witness to too often. “I think perhaps it’s time to let him go, Cordelia. We all torture ourselves with the hope that he might show up someday, I just don’t think we realise that we’re doing ourselves more damage than good by thinking it. It’s nice to be able to hope for something,” He continued, “But when it’s something that might never come true, it begins to get dangerous.”

He watched as the tears welled up in her eyes, and when Cordelia looked down, Wesley wanted to kick himself for saying what he had.

“There’s always been that little part of me, y’know?” Cordelia whispered, “Just that one little part of me that hoped maybe…”

She straightened up then, blinking back the tears that still, she hadn’t let fallen.

This conversation was over.

“How was patrol?”

Her moods had changed so quickly that Wesley was taken off-guard. In one bare instant, she was back to being the self-sufficient, independent Cordelia that everyone – with the exception of a few – looked up to for guidance.

So taken aback by her mood swing, Wesley didn’t answer at first – and from the look in her eye, his hesitance was all the answer she needed.

“How many?”

She’d known, instantly. How, he wasn’t sure, but she had, nonetheless.

“Five.” He told her, wearily, his tiredness showing. “We interrupted a feed, a group of teenagers in a nest downtown. There were too many of them.” He faltered then, not wanting to say what he did next, “We have reason to believe that they were tipped off.”

Her face blanched. Wesley could almost swear that he could hear her heart beating quicker – or was that his? – as he looked at her.

“Again?” Her voice was strained; her hand shaking in what he believed was anger as she reached up to push her hair behind her ear.

“Again.” He nodded, “It can only be one of the team leaders. They were the only ones who knew where we’d be and what part of the city we’d be patrolling.”

The snap of the pencil in Cordelia’s fingertips drew Wesley’s eyes downwards. The yellow, rubber-tipped writing implement was now splintered, half lying on the floor, the other half resting in Cordelia’s hand.

“I’m tired of this,” Said the brunette, sharply. “They want to play with vampires? I say we let them. I’m going to find out who our traitor is and they’re going to see what it’s like to be on the wrong side of Cordelia Chase. From tonight, only you, George and Rondell know anything. Team leaders will take their assignments from you, me or the others, depending on what happens when we get out there. They find out nothing before that.”

“It’s going to cause dissension,” Wesley advised, shaking his head slowly. “Can we really afford to alienate people like this?”

“You tell me,” Said Cordelia, taking a moment to look at Wesley, “Then tell me whether we can afford to let innocent people who put their lives on the line die like this.”

“Then I’ll inform the team leaders.” He stood then, going to walk out of the door and into the lobby, when Cordelia’s voice halted him.

“Wesley?”

“Yes?” He turned back to face her, eyebrows raised.

“Thanks.” She told him quietly, “For what you said earlier, about Angel. You were right. I have to let him go.”

***

Picking her way through the dust and debris, Cordelia bit back a sigh.

She’d come here alone, against Wesley’s advisement of taking some of the group with her, insisted that she was fine and she could handle herself.

He’d known what she was going to do, understood that in order to move on, Cordelia had to lay old ghosts to rest.

Never thought I’d be laying this old ghost to rest... She thought sadly, placing her foot carefully on one side of a broken beam. The old offices of Angel Investigations – and the last place she’d ever seen Angel – had been destroyed by a bomb blast just four short months after Doyle had died.

Cordelia had been driven crazy by her visions, a visit from Vocah putting her in hospital where she’d seen everything – every ounce of pain that would be introduced to the world, not just through Giles but by others too.

People wanting to destroy each other, knives-in-eye guys. Cordelia had seen it all. While she’d been in hospital, Vocah – acting under the instruction of Wolfram and Hart, had ordered the scroll Angel had stolen two weeks before his disappearance to be retrieved.

Apparently, leaving Cordelia practically insane in a hospital bed just wasn’t enough for Wolfram and Hart.

Vocah had left a bomb, an ancient, multi-dimensional device – Wesley had deducted – and had blown the offices apart, Wesley inside.

It had been Gunn who had saved them both. Had called by to talk to Cordelia about joining her fight just two weeks after his sister had died. What he’d found was a blazing office, Wesley inside, and Cordelia lying in a hospital bed.

Charles too had shown he could mean business. He’d attended the raising of Darla – stopped it right as it was happening, killing Vocah and Lindsey McDonald in quick succession, retrieving the scroll required to bring Cordelia out of her coma.

Cordelia shivered, pulling up the zipper on her jacket. She wasn’t cold, not by a long shot, it just seemed that here, there were more ghosts than usual. Doyle, Angel… The memories that Cordelia had held close to her heart for just over five years. She could still remember Wesley getting cranky over that ‘Shoeshine’ thing.

A ghost of a smile passed across Cordelia’s face, the first one that night, as she ducked under a fallen beam and stepping into Angel’s office, ready to go down the stairs. Her steps were always careful. The building itself had been condemned four years ago, deemed unsafe for public use but unable to be built upon again because of a bitter lawsuit that had raged since just after the bomb blast. Cordelia didn’t know the gist of it and she’d never asked. By default, this part of the building was hers – decrepit though it was.

She slipped down the stairs in silence, her footsteps barely making a sound on the charred black floor. Everything down here was different and yet… All the same. The cabinet that housed his weapons, charred almost beyond recognition, yet still standing.

The stove where he’d used to cook breakfast after a particularly long case. The wrought iron bed that, even after all these years, still stood – the mattress charred into little pieces.

A layer of dust spread over everything, making it look like a blanket of snow had settled across the dingy little bat cave, as Doyle had liked to call it. It had been five years since she’d stood in here, five long years and yet… She could still remember everything.

She could smell beyond the bitter, burnt smell – smell the God-awful coffee that used to assail her senses when she walked into the office of a morning. Could still smell the beautiful aroma of breakfast wafting up the stairs when Angel was feeling generous, even the wood of the desks. She could smell it all… See it all as it had been then.

And her heart was breaking.

As tears welled up in her eyes, Cordelia crossed the room, taking the small package from her pocket. It was the last thing she had left, other than silly things she’d kept like sweaters, which had lost their smell after months of crying herself to sleep into them at night.

She took it out of the box, turning it over in her fingers for a second, the tears finally sleeping down her cheeks as her mind went back…
“You’re leaving?! Angel, you can’t… We need you here…” She whispered, breathlessly, her head spinning. He couldn’t be leaving, could he? He wouldn’t do that. Not to her, or Doyle. God, just a phone call from Buffy, one… And he was ready to drop everything and walk away from her.

She hated this, and in that moment, she hated him for doing this, for putting them through this.

Her next comment was bitter, laced with anger. “Although, I guess it’s Buffy…” She bit off, “Gotta go rescue your slayer, right? I mean… Forever, immortal love crap – can’t miss your seat at that little revival, can you?”

He placed a hand on her arm and Cordelia wanted to slap it away.

“You know that’s not true.” He pleaded, desperately, just wanting to make her see. “Cordelia, please. Look at me.”

“No.” She told him with an emphatic shake of her head.

Placing his hand on her cheek, Angel turned her to face him and bent down, dusting his lips with hers. “Listen to me. These past few months, here in LA with you and Doyle. I’ve learned something. I’ve learned that I have a family that’ll be there for me, no matter what. But I’ve also learned something else too.”

In perhaps his biggest speech since Cordelia had known him, Angel continued. “I’ve learned that love doesn’t always have to hurt. Cordelia, I love Buffy, part of me will always love her – but… She’s my past. You’re my future. One I intend on coming back to. I’ve lost too many things in my life, I refuse to let you become another one of those.”

Cordelia closed her eyes, trying not to cry, trying to be strong because even if she didn’t like it, she knew that Angel had to do this, he had to go. “You’re saying goodbye.” She whispered, feeling her heart break in two.
Her eyes snapped open and Cordelia looked at the place they’d stood, the place where she’d yanked away from him and yelled that if he cared, if he really cared, he’d never leave. He’d leave Buffy to handle this on her own. But in this fight, you accepted certain things.

You accepted that one night, you’d put your life on the line, one night you’d be fighting and the next night, you might be dead – because that was the way it worked – but you did it, nonetheless. You did it for those less fortunate; you did it because people, innocent people, didn’t deserve to die at the hands of a vampire or the claws of a hell-beast.

Some people never knew what went bump in the night and it was those people, those who needed saving, that Angel was fighting for.

He was fighting for their future, no matter what it held.
“I bought you this.” He told her quietly, handing her a small silver box. “It’s not much but… When I’m not here…”

“I understand.” She nodded, looking down at the tiny Angel in the box. Soft fingers drifted over it, touching it almost reverently, like she was afraid she’d break it. “When do you leave?”

“Tonight. As soon as the sun goes down. They need me…”

“I know.” She said nodding, then, “Angel? Promise me something?”

“I’ll come back.” He nodded, making her look at him. “You have my word.”
Somehow, the silence had seemed to grow louder, taunting her.

Reminding her that Angel wasn’t there.

“I’m sorry.” Cordelia told him, wondering if he could actually hear her. “I’m sorry that… I didn’t come for you. I’m sorry that you never came back. I’m sorry for a lot of things but… I know what you did was right. And that if you saved just one person that night when you left, then what you did was the right thing.”

Gently, she placed the Angel on the floor, running her fingers over it one last time.

“I love you. I know I never said that and I know that… That maybe I didn’t show you as well as I could. But I loved you – I still love you. But I can’t do this any more, Angel. I can’t hold onto something I’m never going to have or hope for something that might never… I have to let you go.”

She straightened then, her tears falling freely onto her shirt. She didn’t care. This was harder than she’d imagined, much,much harder. When she turned and walked away, her heart pounding in her ears,

Cordelia turned, could almost imagine him standing right behind her. “I’m sorry.” She whispered to the empty room, before beginning her ascent up the stairs.

***

“Have I mentioned how much I really don’t like this?” Asked Michelle, turning to look at Angel. They’d been driving for the past two and a half hours in a car that, from the way it had been left, couldn’t have even been classed as stolen.

“Come on, who leaves a car like this lying around, keys in the engine? For all we know, it could blow up three miles down the road.”

“Has it blown up yet?” Asked Angel, “No. Why? I have no idea but… Let’s just say. Gift horse, mouth – me looking the other way.”

And that was the end of that discussion.

“So,” Michelle continued, desperate for some kind of interaction, even if he was reluctant to talk. “Once we get there, what’s the plan?”

“We find my friends.” Said the vampire, simply. “They promised that while I was gone – they’d hold up their end of the fight. They wouldn’t go back on their word.”

“Not to be all… Ms. Stating The Obvious and everything but… You know that we could be walking right in the middle of a war here, right?”

“We’re already in the middle of one.” Angel replied, “It doesn’t change just because we’ve crossed the border. You told me yourself that the only reason Giles hadn’t managed to take LA was because of Faith. I’m figuring that since you’re here and she’s not, he managed to kill her…”

Michelle didn’t remind him that that was the reason he’d got so pissed in the first place. He was unstable enough…

“From what I heard, she fought well… Well, all things considered…”

Angel turned to look at her, sharply. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re about to miss our exit.” She frowned.

Continued

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC

Tired Promises. 2   1 comment

Part 2

“You’re not coming?”

Cordelia shook her head slowly, glanced up at Gunn. “No. The way I feel right now, all I am is a liability. Someone’s relying on me watching their back and I get a wave of nausea, we both go down – maybe more. You guys can handle it. Just a routine patrol tonight. No hi-jinks.”

He nodded, smiled, hand covering hers. She’d taken him under her wing almost five years ago after his sister had been turned into a vampire. He’d been on a path of self-destruction, insisting that he could do everything alone.

His sisters death had proved otherwise. Charles Gunn had never been and would never be God. He couldn’t do everything alone. He needed his friends around him, keep him grounded. They’d all joined Cordelia’s mission, albeit reluctantly at first.

When the vampires had first started taking over, Gunn had lost a good few of his men. He’d went to Angel Investigations only to discover that their mission coincided with his… Theirs.

The first time they’d joined forces – Cordelia had selected a natural leader from their group. Rondell. The guy had a good head on his shoulders – even though at first, Gunn had felt a little annoyed. He should be the one heading up his team, leading them out into battle.

It had taken a very little near death experience for Gunn to be shown that, while he was a good leader, his self-destructive streak was no good for their team – and that if he was in, he was in for the good of everyone there, not just himself.

“Wesley said something about a leak?” His brow furrowed in annoyance, the thought of any of their team siding with the vampires made his blood boil. He knew fine well that some of them did it out of terror, fear of what would come – but if there was one thing he couldn’t abide the thought of, it was a traitor.

Cordelia nodded, taking a sip of her water. She could understand Gunn’s frustration. It wasn’t as though the people they picked for the mission could be vetted – it was simple. Stay alive and fight or become what the residents of Sunnydale had become – bound by fear in a town they could never leave.

Those who chose to fight did so off their own back – it wasn’t like they could be asked for credentials or measured by their honesty.

“I’m not sure who, obviously. But if I find out…” She didn’t have to finish her sentence. Wesley and Gunn both looked at each other, knowing that Cordelia would deliver a world of pain to the traitor in their midst.

“For now, I’m keeping all information to a team leader basis. You guys will get to know everything,” She smiled, trust implicit in the look on her face alone, “But the bare minimum for everyone else until we know what’s going on. We can’t afford to lose more guys.”

She looked at Gunn directly then, eyes showing remorse. “George fought well last night…”

She went to say sorry then, but stopped, the look on Gunn’s face clear.

“He knew the risks, like we all did. If his death served just one of our gang getting out of there, then he did what he came to do.” He nodded, once, to show that he meant what he said.

It was a difficult fight and men – good men – were lost along the way, men like George. He’d been dedicated to the cause – one of the ones willing to follow Cordelia’s lead.

So many of them lately questioned her abilities as team leader. Gunn knew only because round here, he wasn’t seen as a team leader. He was respected, of course – and beyond the call of duty, his word went above all others in that group – but more than anything, he was a friend, a confidant.

He’d seen more in and before his time with Cordelia than most would in a ifetime – and that made him different in their eyes.

Though they never outright said it, a lot of the team believed that the one flaw in Cordelia’s mission was her heart. She followed that a lot of the time, instead of following what her head said – something she admitted to.

Cordelia’s strengths lay purely on instincts – just like they had last night. It was hard to believe that a former May Queen and self-professed high school bitch could be what she was now.

A leader.

A tower of strength in a world full of hurt.

Though Gunn might never admit it, he had a soft spot for Cordelia. He knew the story though, knew of the guy she loved. His name was Angel. The vampire with a soul.

“I loved him.” She’d told him once, “But… He’s gone. I know he is. He told me he’d come back for me. Angel wouldn’t go back on his word.”

She’d never gone after him. Cordelia had explained that the night Angel had left, their understanding was clear. He’d go, help the people in Sunnydale that were struggling against the vampire King – and leave Doyle and Cordelia to manage things in Los Angeles.

Their plan had worked and for a while, Cordelia even believed Angel was coming back – until Doyle had died.

The Scourge had hit Los Angeles and hit it hard. For weeks before Doyle’s death, fear had run rife through the city. Half-breeds going into hiding because of the threat the Scourge posed. It was then that Doyle’s vision had sent them to the Lister demons – they’d tried to help as best they could until Doyle, realising what he’d had to do, had kissed Cordelia, passed the visions on to her and sacrificed himself to save the half-breeds and the humans.

To her apparent credit, Cordelia hadn’t fallen apart. On the night she’d told him about Doyle, she hadn’t shed a tear – though they’d been shining behind her eyes.

After that, she and Charles had become fast friends – both having lost everything they loved in a short period of time. A certain kinship in the irony. In losing someone, they’d found someone else.

She had a family again, now. Everyone who fought her mission, who went out nightly, was her family. But Wesley and Gunn – those were her life. Cordelia prided herself on the fact that she never picked favourites, never opted for one over another unless she had good reason to – but they had shared so much together, it was hard not to think of them as the brothers she’d never had.

“Did you manage to get in contact with Willow?” Asked Wesley, looking at her. She looked tired, haggard – lines on her face. The old Cordelia he’d known would have cared about that more than anything else. This Cordelia was different.

She nodded, once. “She said there was some disturbance just past the border last night but no-one was captured, to her knowledge. She’s looking into it.”

“And you, do you feel any better?”

Cordelia shook her head, not covering the fact that she was in pain. It was a natural progression of their friendship that they just didn’t hide things from each other now. “It’ll get better.”

She knew that much, though there was no comfort taken in it. Her vision pain could be ended in one of two ways. Willow could save the new slayer – or the girl would die and Cordelia’s pain would be lessened.

Not much of a choice, when you thought about it.

“Was there any word from Willow about how things were being… Handled?”

Cordelia smiled at Wesley’s tact. Still, it was never something she’d mastered. She was always blunt, to the point, never covered things up. Cordelia never lied to protect anyone – if they needed to know the truth then she told it, regardless of the hurt it could cause.

She was a firm believer in the fact that what did not kill them simply made them stronger.

“Not much.” She frowned, “A couple of their guys got injured last night. Minimal deaths, nothing too serious.”

“Any sign of…”

“No.” She quashed both the questions that were about to come quickly. “No Buffy, no Angel.”

Wesley sighed, knowing that even if Cordelia refused to believe that Angel was still alive, somewhere deep inside hope still lingered. “We should go,” He announced after a moment, “You’ll leave two of the guards outside your room?” As always, Wesley worried about her safety.

If half the group were to be away from the base, then that would provide ample opportunity for one of Giles’ men to steal in, take Cordelia.

The Vampire King had made it more than clear of what an asset to his team the brunette would be, if not for her visions then for her cunning alone. His men had been given orders, in case of battle – the others were to be killed. Cordelia was to be left alive.

“I’ll leave the guards,” She nodded, knowing as much as Wesley did why they were needed. “Go on. It’s getting late.” She watched as they both stood, walking towards the door and each giving a respective smile and a wave.

When finally the door was closed, Cordelia buried down her head into her pillow and closed her eyes, a tear slipping down her cheek. Sometimes, I wish the Powers would just stay the hell out of my head… She thought, bitterly.

***

It was after dusk when she was captured. In a move alien even to her, who’d studied the King and his moves for three months, Michelle was taken down by a large group of vampires and yet not killed. She hadn’t been taken lightly, not at all. During the day she’d been accosted by vampires wearing heavy silver suits – protecting them from the sunlight.

She’d fought well at first, staving off the first group.

The second hadn’t been so easily deterred. Now, Michelle was waking up with the mother of all headaches, blood hardening onto her skin.

“Okay,” She murmured, eyes adjusting to the darkness around her, “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say… Not good.”

“You’re a slayer.” It took him a while to speak, for the neglected muscles to start working again. He hadn’t spoken in a long time, even less if you considered that the babbling now all seemed to be in his head.

The voice came from the darkness just past her blurred line of sight. Michelle sat up, sharply, squinting to see who the voice belonged to. “That wasn’t a question.” She said, frowning, wishing her head would clear enough to let her think properly. “Who are you?”

He frowned then, staying hidden. Who was he? There were times he remembered things, blurred things that didn’t make much sense. And with a startling moment of clarity, he realised that he wasn’t a he at all. He was an it. A thing.

A murderer.

A monster.

He was the thing young girls like her killed and other young girls fled from.

“I’m nobody. Nothing.” He intoned, darkly. “You don’t want to know.”

That annoyed her. If she didn’t want to know, she damn well wouldn’t have asked. “Great. Well you just continue being nobody in the corner while I figure out a way to get me out of here.”

Michelle turned away, examining her surroundings. The windows had been painted with something black – to block out the sun, she presumed – and were so high up that even if she used every ounce of slayer training, she’d still never reach.

No slayer powers were going to help her in here – she’d have to rely on cunning, plain and simple. Maybe… Rushing the guards? If there were any. She had no idea who the hell had shoved her in here.

She frowned, ready to ask the guy something when she heard his laugh, sharp and without a trace of mirth. “Laugh it up, shadow-boy. I refuse to be turned into whatever the hell you are.”

“You think you’re going to get out of here.”

He sounded… What, shocked? She was getting out of here. There were people relying on her to be okay, to be alive. she couldn’t help them in here with him.

“I don’t think,” She frowned, “I know.”

“So does he. You don’t think he has this all planned? There’s a reason for putting you in here with me. Maybe it won’t be clear now, but soon, it will be.”

A short burst of hysteria washed over him then, making Angel laugh again. Still, there was no mirth in it. He’d been here so long, the only company a couple of rats and the brief visits from whoever brought him his food that day or whoever wanted to play a round of kick the vampire. There was a reason she was here…

For all he knew, she could have been sent in here to kill him, but then Giles had had ample opportunity these past years. No, Giles – while now a vampire – was a simple creature. Easily read. He knew that he’d best be served by exercising caution where Angel was concerned.

“So what, you’re staying I’m stuck here?” Her voice threatened to break then, eyes moistening with tears. She was 17 years old, she couldn’t become what he was – lost down here in this dank, rusty little cell. Damnit, she needed to get out of here.

“I can’t die like this…” She whispered softly. “Just… Just tossed into a cell and left here.”

“You won’t.” Said Angel quietly.

In that one sentence, he offered hope – something that made Michelle’s spine straighten. And as quickly as he’d given her it, he yanked it away again.

“You won’t die because doing that will bring another slayer. He’ll feed you scraps, beat you, wear you down – but he won’t kill you. That would be too easy.”

Michelle felt her throat tighten, her heart almost come to a shuddering stop. “That’s easy?”

She was desperate now, begging for something. Hope… That thing that had been missing in Sunnydale, it was even harder to find in here.

“No.” He shook his head, “That’s life.”

“It’s not. It’s not my life. People out there are waiting. Waiting for me. I can’t stay here. I won’t.”

Angel just sighed. He’d felt that way too, all those years ago – when her face had been fresh in his mind. He’d studied his captors for weeks, watched their every move – the way they gingerly placed his blood on the floor, the way they backed away.

He had a response timed for each one of their actions – and just when he’d been ready to make his move, his captors had been replaced. New guards sent to watch over him.

It was useless to hope he was getting out of here. That was just a pipe dream now.

“You’ll learn.” He told her quietly, frowning. “There’s no ‘out there’ now.”

***

“It’s been a good night in all,” Said Giles, enjoying the fact that he could still lord it over Spike, in a sense.

He was younger than the other vampire, true – and knew that Spike hadn’t survived this long with just brawn on his side. No, Spike had exercised an almost extraordinary cunning these past few years, working under him.

Not quite his right hand man, yet not quite far from the title either – Spike was a particularly large asset to the vampire king, even though he knew that Spike’s self-preservation meant more to him than most anything else, save Drusilla.

“A good night?” Spike’s tone was harsh, “That bitch up in LA killed a good few of our men, Giles. Why you won’t just let me kill her is beyond me.”

The move was quick, effectively startling Spike into submission – and a burst of pain that the proud vampire never let leave his lips. Giles had him pinned up against the wall, one hand against his throat, flexing against the muscles, fingers digging in painfully.

“Because I’ve already told you,” He growled, all traces of the human Giles now gone. On his face he wore a mask, that of his demon – and one born of hatred for Spike’s insolence. “It’s not part of the plan.”

“Screw the plan,” Spike snarled, angrily. “You’re plotting something, Watcher, I know you are.”

Giles backed away then and smiled, almost serenely, all traces of his demon having disappeared. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“No?” Spike held his throat a moment, cocking an eyebrow, “Then how come when I came in here all your bloody lackeys were yammering on about the new slayer?”
Giles smirked a little then, having relented in giving Spike some of the credit he deserved. He wasn’t stupid – he knew when to listen and when information would benefit him most. “We took her hostage, yes.”

Usually, that might be enough to sate Spike’s fears. It was not unheard of that Giles wanted to keep the slayers locked up, prevent another one from coming. This time, though, was different. There was a gleam in Giles’ eye that Spike had never seen before. “Care to elaborate on that, mate?” He cautioned, eyebrows drawing together in a frown.

“I’m not your ‘mate’.” Said Giles, shaking his head, “Let’s get that straight right now. As for the slayer. I imagine she and Angel will be bonding right about now.”

“Angel?! What, are you out of you mind? You put the slayer down there with Angel, my grand-sire Angel?!”

“You know another Angel? Odd. I thought that name would be quite unique…”

Giles’ nonchalance was annoying Spike and he knew it – relished in it.

“What are you playing at?” Spike growled, “He’s crazy. And if he doesn’t kill her first, she’ll do the honours.”

“Perhaps.” Giles smiled, “Or perhaps he’ll escape. I imagine we’ll find out soon enough.”

“Are you deficient? I mean, really… Has someone been putting something in your blood? You let Angel go and he’ll destroy the whole sodding plan. I know him, I hung around with the wanker for long enough. He’ll take your plan and stomp it into the ground and there won’t be enough of you left to pick up the pieces.”

“Spike, unlike some people around here? My plans work. If you don’t agree with them, fine, I take your cautions but don’t think that just because I’ve kept you around me this long, it means you’re running the show. You’re not. I send you on missions that I feel would be best served by your presence. That does not mean you’re irreplaceable, not by a long shot.”

“Listen to me, Angel is a…”

Once again, Spike found himself with a back against the wall. This time, Giles’ fist had been lodged in his stomach. He sputtered, eyes crossing in a short and soon-to-be-forgotten burst of pain.

“I meant what I said, Spike.” Giles snarled, “Don’t push me or you’re liable to find out just how expendable you are.”

The threat was left hanging as Giles turned and stalked out of his chambers.

Spike’s lip curled slightly eyes glowing amber and angry. “You’ll get your comeuppance, mate…” He growled, his voice low as he straightened up, yanking his duster back into place. “And I’ll be the one dancing on your sodding grave…”

***

Michelle was beyond frustrated. Not only was she scared now, but she was growing annoyed at the guy in the corner. He wouldn’t come into the light, kept offering short bursts of laughter that were starting to unsettle her – he was severely unhinged… And she was locked up in a cell with him.

She didn’t doubt her own abilities. She could take him in a heartbeat – but therein lay the problem. She didn’t want to takehim. He sounded human. Hell, the body shape showed her he was – even though there were a multitude of other things he could be. Michelle needed to keep her strength up because damnit, she was getting out of here.

She screamed again, her voice cracking under the pressure. She’d screamed herself hoarse for the last twenty minutes.

“They’re not going to come.” He told her, shaking his head.

“Then when DO they come?” She spat, whirling back round to face him. Her eyes were wild, face streaked with frustrated tears. She looked like hell, she felt like hell and he wasn’t doing much to help.

“God, you’ve been in here for how long and you’ve never tried to get out?”

“Of course I have,” He growled, and in that moment, she knew he wasn’t human. “I tried for as long as I could, studying them – then the minute I thought about leaving, everything changed. Everything I knew was taken away again…”

Michelle looked around her for something, anything that’d protect her against him. He could be stronger – and crazy? Definitely on the cards. Suddenly, she wasn’t liking the odds.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” He said gently, as if reading her own thoughts. “I wouldn’t.”

“How do I know that?”

“I guess maybe you’d have to trust me.”

“No offence. But you’re not human. It’s usually a rule of mine to only trust the living.”

“Sometimes even they can’t be trusted.” Angel intoned, shaking his head. He remembered something then, something from his past, but it was gone as quickly as it had came. He shook his head again, trying to clear the cobwebs. “Who is it?”

“Huh?” Michelle was puzzled.

“Out there. Who you want to go back to?”

“I have a family, a sister. She’s 12 years old.” Said Michelle, “I told her that I’d go home, I promised her… I don’t go back on my promises.”

“Neither did I.”

“Who the hell are you?” She frowned, “You ask me to trust you, but you stay hidden in the shadows where I can’t see you. Show yourself.”

“You don’t want to see me.”

“Would I have asked if I didn’t?”

“You know what I am?”

“I’m siding between vampire or demon. I haven’t quite worked out why you haven’t killed me, but I guess that’ll come. Right now, all I want to know is a way I can get out of here. You can help me.”

“I can’t.” He shook his head wildly, blinking. “I tried to get out of here and… It’s just… It doesn’t work. They’ll beat you.”

“I’ve had worse.”

“No,” He frowned, “You really haven’t.”

“Are you going to show yourself?”

She heard his sigh, deep and plaintive. He stepped out of the shadows then, moving towards her with a simple grace that he’d honed after years of capture through his knowledge of Tai Chi. “You’re hurt.”

“No question there either,” She shook her head, “I’ll live.”

He stopped next to her, reaching out a hand, still wary even though he knew all weapons on her would have been removed. Her shoulder had been dislocated, her face a bloody pulp, but she was still alive, something that shocked Angel.

Maybe Giles had had her put in here so she’d kill him – although, after five years of being here, Angel figured that he’d have done that by now.

“You want me to help you with that?”

Michelle glanced down at her shoulder, wincing a little as the pain came alive again. “I don’t even remember doing that.” She admitted, shaking her head.

“Adrenalin.” Angel deadpanned, moving towards her. “You want me to–”

Michelle nodded once and winced as Angel braced one hand on her shoulder.

“After three,” He warned her, “One two…”

The bone snapped back into place with a crude, grating noise.

“I knew you were going to do that.”

“Sorry.” Angel gestured to her shoulder though, shaking his head, “At least…”

“I know.” She nodded, “Thanks.”

She wiped at her cheeks then, ashamed that she’d let this guy see she’d been crying. “So, which are you?”

“Which what?” It still sounded like it pained him to talk.

“Demon. Vampire. Which?”

“Vampire.” Said Angel, still cautious. “They tossed you in for a reason, you know that, right?”

“Yeah. So I could become Lost Slayer number two…” She rolled her eyes, glancing over the room again.

“Number two?”

“Yeah. They didn’t manage to catch the one before me. She put up one hell of a fight.” Said Michelle, absent-mindedly.

This drew Angel’s attention further, “The one before you, what was she called?”

“Faith. Her name was Faith. I’m guessing you had a run in with her.”

If it had been beating, Angel felt sure his heart would have stopped in his chest right then and there. Frustrated, he turned, slammed his fist into the stone wall, letting out a growl of annoyance.

Michelle almost jumped back a foot. “Maybe not a run in then…” She whispered, softly.

***

“So why the change of heart?” She asked, studying Angel’s face. He looked determined now, eyes drawn together in a frown.

He’d grilled her for fifteen minutes on what she knew of the outside world – the things he’d missed while locked up in here. What she’d told him hadn’t made him happy – not that she’d expected that, of course, but she’d mentioned something – and somewhere along the line things had changed.

She knew his name now, knew who he was trying to go back to – he’d been locked up in here for years without another person to talk to. His reluctance to talk had been understandable, his reluctance to utter his name even more so.

Michelle had known who he was the minute he’d said his name. Everyone simply thought he was dead.

Now, Angel wanted out of here, and he wasn’t going to let anything stand in his way.

He turned to look at her, a depth of emotion that scared her rolling beneath the surface of his once soulful brown eyes. “You mentioned LA.” There was nothing soulful about his eyes now.

Angel had been driven to the brink of insanity time and time again and the only thing that had pulled him back were thoughts of Cordelia. The idea that now, she might be dead – or worse – angered Angel to a point he’d never been before.

A long time ago, he’d loved Buffy with all his heart – but it had been Cordelia in those short few months that had opened his heart. He had to find her.

“I mentioned a lot of places,” She frowned, “Why’s LA so special? We’re needed here.”

“You’ve seen what Giles can do, what he’s willing to do. The moment you go back out there he’ll capture you again and this time, you’ll be alone – we won’t be as lucky.”

“You call this lucky?”
Angel nodded, once. “Do you trust me?”

“No.” She said immediately, “Just… Make it look real.”

Angel had never opened a vein in five years, never had the taste of human blood. At first, he worried that once he got his first taste, his demon might take over. Thoughts of Cordelia, his family, stilled that. If he did this, it had to be with Michelle alive. Who knew what he was facing once he got out there – he only hoped it wasn’t sunlight.

His demon rolled forth and Angel stepped forward, grabbing her roughly. She let out a little squeak of fear – much to his demons excitement – and Angel buried his fangs into her throat, feeling the warm liquid flow down his throat.

Only once before had he tasted Slayers blood. It was intoxicating… Captivating… He drank and he drank… Until a pair of hands pushed roughly against his chest. Angel snapped his demon under tight control again, pulling away from Michelle, a growl leaving his lips. He wanted more…

“Now what?”

“We wait.” Angel turned away, fingers digging into his palms as he tried to stop himself from going back to her, taking what he craved.

***

It was an hour later when the guard arrived. New and nervous – still not oriented in Giles’ family just yet – how was he supposed to know that the small pool of blood growing round the girl was the vampires? She had bite marks in her neck, he’d discovered after stunning Angel with the taser.

He kicked the girl for good measure, noting that her eyes had become lifeless. She was dead.

He turned, ready to shout out his warning – when movement behind him made him turn. He was too late. In a move that made Angel cringe, Michelle had removed his head from his body, an explosion of ash showering them.

“You really think he’s just gonna send one guard?”

“I guess we’ll find out.” Said Angel, grabbing Michelle’s hand as the pair of them made a break for the door…

Part 3

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC

Tired Promises. 1   Leave a comment

Title: Tired Promises
Author: Ficbitch82
Posted: 24 September, 2003
Email
Rating: PG-13-R for now
Category: Angst
Content:
Summary: AU fic. Giles was turned into a vamp at the beginning of S4, Angel was captured, Buffy was thrown into a cell to prevent a new slayer from coming. This is set 5 years later.
Spoilers: S1 of Angel and S1-4 of Buffy. The Lost Slayer by Christopher Golden (explained in authors notes)
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. The idea for the book came from The Lost Slayer by Christopher Golden, this wasn’t my idea. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere, just ask!
Notes: The idea from this fic came from The Lost Slayer. I took it and changed it a little bit and started writing the LA side of things that the book didn’t much touch on. Oh, and this fic hasn’t been beta-ed yet.
Thanks/Dedication: You betcha!
Feedback:


Part 1

Staring up at the clear, dark sky above her, the girl blinked. In the places she’d been before, there’d been stars, each one twinkling on a blanket of navy blue, offering hope, light. Sunnydale, California, had none.

It was like a testimony to what the place had become. Over-ruled by vampires, dominated by the Vampire King himself – there was no hope for the inhabitants of Sunnydale. Those who still lived there did so under force, too scared to stand up to those above them.

They were cowards.

Some tried to run and occasionally, one slipped through – but for the most part, they were murdered before they could pass the ‘leaving Sunnydale’ sign. Somehow, they always knew. Sunnydale had become the sort of town that no one wanted to visit, a ghost town – one that you were told stories about but never visited.

Michelle had heard the stories. She’d heard each and every one of them and, until the day she’d become a slayer, she’d never believed one. Why should she? She’d heard of urban legends, stories with morals telling you not to leave the baby alone upstairs or not to get into your car without checking the back seat first.

Sunnydale was just another one of those – small town, strange history. Not true.

Looking over the border into the small town, Michelle knew different. She’d been naive back then, in her days before becoming the slayer. Quiet, certainly. Michelle had kept herself to herself and that was the way she liked it.

This though, was different. She’d heard the stories of the Lost Slayer. She vowed she’d be different. She’d help.

And as Michelle crossed over the border, the darkness shrouded her like a blanket, offering some kind of warning.

It was then Michelle knew.

This would be the last time she crossed this border alive.

***

“Back off!” Her voice was hoarse. The smell of disinfectant was almost acidic, scratching the back of her throat. Over these past five years, she’d had to learn survival skills and sometimes, running away from the fight was all you could do – regardless of what or who you left behind.

She raised her foot into a snap kick, spinning the nearest vampire into a wall. This was her city. She’d fought for five years against the Vampire King and his legions, trying to stop the flow of vampires running over from Sunnydale into Los Angeles.

So far, she’d managed to keep the numbers down, but lately… It had been like fighting a never-ending war. It had always seemed that way, of course. Evil didn’t stop coming just because you were tired and wanted a day off. It had grown worse.

Their spirits lately had sunk so low that she didn’t think she could ever raise them, no matter what she said. They were tired, fighting a never-ending battle – knowing that ultimately, they might lose – that what they did would never make a difference.

She turned to watch in silence, wincing as another member of their team went down – the wet snapping sound slicing through her. She cried out again, eyes dark and heavy. “Move, now!”

They glided as one, staving off the vampires as they too surged forward – well versed in moving together – and as the last slipped out, the spell was activated, holding the door in place just long enough for the small group to get out.

“This isn’t winning…” Someone growled from the back, obviously frustrated.

“You’re right.” Said Cordelia, as she turned to lead her team out of there. “It’s surviving.”

***

The welt on her cheek from the night before looked ugly. Purple in colour, beginning to turn black at the edges. In a couple of days it’d be gone, waiting for the next one to appear.

It wasn’t the worst of injuries Cordelia had endured – not by a long shot. She’d had more broken ribs than she could remember, visited the hospitals more time in the past five years than she had in her whole life – and still, she’d come out the other side.

So far, she’d been lucky – if you could call it that.

She was alive.

So many of her original group had died a long time ago, fighting the fight she’d now taken over. A fight she’d declared her own.

A twinge set deep inside as she thought about all the people they’d lost over the years. Angel, Doyle. All of them dead, their deaths never avenged. She took a breath, let her eyes drift closed a moment, thinking about her lost family.

The pain was still raw, even after all this time, Doyle’s death replaying in her head like a vision – only considerably less painful. He was her reason, or one of them, anyway. He’d given up his life, sacrificed himself so that others could live.

He’d never known what he’d be leaving them too.

On particularly bitter days, Cordelia felt like everything he’d done had been for nothing. And then, she’d remember. Or more pointedly, the PTB would send her a vision – and she’d know.

The mission, was the reason. Angel’s mission. The one Doyle had received the visions for, the one they’d been passed down to hers. That was her reason. That was why she fought.

Months after Angel had disappeared, Wesley had unearthed a prophecy. Unearthed in the sense that they’d broke into Wolfram and Hart and stolen it. In years to come, once he’d stopped the impending apocalypse, survived a few plagues – the vampire with a soul would Shansu.

Angel would turn human.

Her eyes opened then. Reminiscing over with. It did her no good to think of Angel, what he’d lost – what they’d all lost. When he’d disappeared first, Cordelia had held out hope that he’d come back. A year later and that hope was almost completely gone.

He’d promised her that night, right before he’d left that he’d be back, he’d help in Sunnydale and then he’d come home, to her.

Thoughts of their last night came to Cordelia unbidden and she sighed, standing up and pretending to busy herself in the small office that doubled up as her bedroom. He’d kissed her, tenderly, told her that he loved her and that he’d be back for her, no matter what.

“Cordelia, can we talk?”

Her reverie was broken, mind snapping back to the present as quickly as it had gone – eyes blurred through tears but focussing on Wesley.

“What’s up?”

He hesitated first, though his eyes met hers guilelessly. Down the side of his face ran a scar, courtesy of his predecessor.

“Some of the group are worried. Last night…”

“I made a decision.” Cordelia said immediately, “If they think that was the wrong one then I’m sorry but our people were dying. I had to get them out as quick as I could.”

“It’s not that,” He replied, “They think…”

His pause annoyed Cordelia. She was running this show, had been for five years. It wasn’t a power trip for her – it was nothing like that. It was simply her fight, the one Angel and Doyle had both died fighting.

“They think what, that my decisions aren’t strong enough to hold us together?”

“Not exactly…”

“Then what, exactly, Wesley? We can’t win this fight if there’s not enough of us left to fight.”

“I understand that, Cordelia, truly I do, but…”

She frowned, “But nothing. Do you know three of our best died in that fight last night? Davies went down in the first five minutes. If I’d trusted my instincts at first calling, I’d have taken them out of there then. There were too many, Wesley, someone knew we were coming.”

Wesley paled, his eyes widening. “Surely you don’t think that someone here could have tipped them off?”

“I don’t know.” She sighed, “All I know is, whatever we do? They always seem to be two steps ahead of us and I don’t like it. They get a couple of more steps ahead and our whole operation dies along with us.”

Wesley nodded, gravely. “Then we should proceed with caution. Cordelia, listen…”

“I know, Wesley. You want the best for all of us. So do I. And that’s why last night, I got them out when I did. If they don’t understand that, I’m sorry, but the first rule in our fight is something I learned from Buffy. Don’t die.”

For the first time since he’d entered the room, Wesley smiled. “Shall I inform them of where we’ll be going tonight?”

“Just the team leaders. If someone is leaking information, I want to know who. We need to stop it, Wesley, before there’s no information left to leak…”

Wesley nodded, once, then left the room, leaving Cordelia alone once more. Immediately, her fingers went up to her cheek. Once, she’d prided herself on being able to moisturise with the best of them. Now, her fingers were rough, calloused – worked. She was no stranger to holding a weapon in her hand, be it a stake, a sword or a crossbow.

Her gaze drifted up to the mirror in front of her and for a long moment, Cordelia just stared at her reflection. Her hair was longer these days. Dark. Always pinned up in not-quite the latest style. Her trademark fashion sense was non-existent, Cordelia Chase dressed for comfort – easily-washable clothes, dark – something that made it easy for her to slip into the background.

The more she stared at her reflection, the more the shapes began to blur, become something else. Something I’m not, she thought sourly.

A moment later, Cordelia slipped out of her room, locking her door behind her and walking down the hall.

A bare second after that? The vision hit.

***

“So,” Said the vampire lazily, “Got a little cocky last night, did we? Fancied our chances against the odds?”

“We won, didn’t we? They ran…”

Sometimes, thought Spike, Lackeys just never show the proper respect. Now if that had’ve been me… Well, we all know what I would’ve done. Not exactly one for rules myself, but still…

“That’s not winning, you moron. She said herself outside the door that they hadn’t won either. All they did was live to fight another day. Tell me how that aids our plans?”

The vampire smiled, teeth curling back to show a hint of fang. “Look.”

He gestured behind Spike to a curtained area where three bodies lay, each waiting for their imminent rise. “The more they send, the more we turn, simple as.”

“And if you’re dusted? What then?”

“Then there’s others to take my place.”

Spike sighed and moved away. Regardless of whatever that wanker was feeding them on that week, that still unsettled him – the willingness to die for the cause. Generally, vampires liked to act big – but thinking big? A little further down the scale than normal.

Then, he’d come along. He was nothing, if not patient, Spike supposed – but it was bloody unsettling knowing that a newcomer – a previous white hat, of all people – had the means and the intentions of doing even what had been done so far.

He’d changed everything. The world wasn’t as it should be any more.

Taking a cigarette out of his pocket, Spike looked at it a moment before lighting it. “I’ve been meaning to give it up too…” He murmured, slipping past two vampire guards and into the chambers. “You wanted to see me, sir?”

***

“What did you see?” Wesley was on his knees next to Cordelia, his hand wrapped around hers. Her eyes were closed, bright sparks of pain shooting off in her head. Every so often, she’d whimper, softly – eyes rolling backwards into her head as if begging for sleep.

Ever since he could remember, Cordelia’s visions had been like this. Wesley had arrived in town two weeks after Doyle’s death, Cordelia already heading up her own mission.

The first time he’d witnessed a vision, he’d thought Cordelia was dying, her screams tearing right through to his very soul. She’d assured him quite assertively that the visions were always like this and that no, she didn’t want anything.

“A new slayer.” Said Cordelia, her voice quiet yet insistent. She’d endured the visions for five years, regardless of the talk about her mental state, Cordelia refused to let people see them get the better of her.

“By the time we get there, we’ll be too late. Maybe Willow and the others can stop it from happening.”

“Did you see anything else?” Asked Wesley, urgently, the need for information on this latest vision almost surpassing the worry he felt for Cordelia.

She nodded, slowly, moving as Wesley helped her to her feet. “Giles.” She said quietly, “He’s going to kill her.”

Part 2

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC

That Dating Thing. 4   1 comment

Part 4

Cordelia was inconsolable. Angel watched as her body shook uncontrollably, the sometime reprieve of shutting her eyes not evident here, for all she could do was cry and sit, her upper body hunched over in her lap.

What she’d seen was enough to terrify her beyond belief. But what she’d felt. She’d felt as that tight feeling in her chest had started. She’d felt realisation and then panic sweep over her when she found she was stuck. And then soil… Wood… She could taste it.

And then her first breath of sweet, comforting air as it attacked her lungs. And then confusion. Cordelia was a firm believer in ‘what didn’t kill you made you stronger’ – everything except this. How could it make you stronger, going through the experience of pulling yourself from a grave?

How could you be stronger, feeling a former friends confusion as she looked down breathless at her own grave? The one she’d just clawed her way out of.

“Cordy, please. Tell me what you saw.” Said Angel, desperately. He didn’t care about the vision, only what it was doing to her right now.

“You need to get to her.” She whispered hoarsely, “She was so scared. They just… They just left her there…” She said quietly, “They just left her there to pull her way out and… She’s scared… She doesn’t know what she’s doing…”

“Who?” Asked Angel gently.

“B-Buffy…” She whispered, “Oh, God… Angel, she had to…” Cordelia stood, trying to walk over to the bathroom, when Angel grabbed her arm, “Cordy?” Angel was stunned and shocked and everything in between, but not so much that he’d run off and leave Cordelia here.

“You have to go.” She said gently, “It’s okay, I’ll be alright… I mean… Dennis is here…”

Angel frowned, “I’m not leaving you, not like this.”

“But, I…”

“No but’s Cordelia, I mean it. I’m not leaving you like this.”

“But Buffy… Angel, she was scared. And… I don’t want her to be scared…” She whispered, sadly.

Riley looked at Angel, “She… Maybe we should…” For once, the soldier who was used to giving out orders was at a loss for words. “What do I do?”

“Call Willow… Or someone, let them know what’s happening. Tell them we’ll be there tomorrow if they need us.”

“We?” Said Riley, quizically.

“All of us. You, Cordy and I.”

“But shouldn’t we…”

“We can’t crowd her right now, call the gang, see what’s happening. See if they know what’s going on.”

Riley obediently dialled Buffy’s number, waiting to see if maybe Giles or Willow would answer.

“Hello?” Riley sucked in his breath as he heard the voice, so familiar, the one he’d longed to hear for an entire year.

“Buffy?”

“Yeah, it’s me.” She sounded so weary on the phone, like she was tired of even talking for a second. “Xander, there’s something wrong with the phone line, it sounds a little muddled.” She said gently.

“It’s not Xander…”

“Oh, then… Who?” Asked Buffy.

“Buffy, it’s me, I…”

“Me, who?” She asked puzzled, “I can barely make out your voice.”

“Riley… It’s Riley… And you’re… You’re alive?”

Buffy gasped, “Riley?”

***

He’d finally got her calmed down enough to close her eyes and get some sleep, when a sob that made his heart twist in his chest emanated from her lips. Rushing back towards her, Angel looked down, “Cordy?”

“I keep seeing it…” She whispered, “I see her… I feel it when she… Angel, make it stop… Please?” She begged, tears streaming down her cheeks.

He took her in his arms, rocking her back and forward like he would a child, resting his chin on top of her hair. “Ssshhh…” He whispered, “You’re safe. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Cordelia buried her face in his chest, her hands clinging to his upper arms like she was afraid to let go. “They left her there…” She cried, “They just left her there…”

Angel winced, stroking her back, “It’s okay… It’s okay…”

I can’t breathe… Where am I?

Cordelia’s head was pounding. When she closed her eyes, the soil came pouring back in, taking her breath. Her hands felt like they were on fire…

“Angel, we need to get to Buffy.” She whispered.

“Tomorrow.” Said Angel, gently but insistently. “You need to rest.”

“I can’t.” Whispered Cordelia, “Everytime I close my eyes, it’s there. I just… I need to see that she’s okay.”

Angel nodded, “Okay… I’ll call Wesley, let him know what’s happening…” Reluctantly, he let Cordelia slip from his arms and onto the pillow where she lay, staring at the wall, wide-eyed and afraid. Going into Cordelia’s living room, he glanced at Riley who sat with his head in his hands. “Riley?”

“She’s alive.” Said the soldier, quietly. “She was… We talked and… I’m going back to Sunnydale for a little while… Uhm…”

“We’re coming too.”

“Like Hell you are!” Said Riley, standing up, “One boyfriend going back is bad enough, I think two’s a little much.”

“I’m not going back to rekindle an old flame.” Said Angel, frowning, “I’m going back because Cordelia needs to see that Buffy’s alive, okay…”

“Then I’ll take her…”

“Not a chance.” Said Angel, “If Cordelia goes, I go too. Besides, as I recall you aren’t the boyfriend.”

“Neither are you…”

“I know that. Do you?”

Riley sighed, “Yeah, I know that but…”

“Look, I’m worried about Buffy, yeah. But I also know that she’s got some of the best friends she could wish for, the best support group I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t need me crowding her… I’ll go and if she needs me, I’ll be there. But I’m not there to start anything. Buffy and I, we’re not… We’ll never be…” Angel sighed, “I love her. I’ll always love her. But we lead different lives.”

Riley sighed again, “I think that might be my problem.”

***

Hours Later

As the Sunnydale sign approached, Angel glanced at Cordelia who lay on the back seat, just staring up at the dark, night sky. “Cordy, are you…”

“I’m fine.” She said softly, “Just… Drive.”

“We’re almost there.”

Cordelia nodded, turning away from him as tears welled up in her eyes. Closing her eyes meant seeing it again, she could still taste the soil, could still taste the air as it attacked her lungs as Buffy had pulled herself from her grave.

What seemed like hours later, the car came to a stop outside a house. A very familiar house. Riley had explained to Buffy some, if not most, of what had happened with Cordelia and the vision.

Buffy still didn’t understand some of it but… There it was, they were outside of her house and she had to deal.

Great, both of her exes arriving together. And a girl she’d considered a nemesis for most of her Sunnydale High School life. But when Cordelia got out of the car, Angel holding her to support her, Buffy realised she looked different, almost frail, like she were afraid to lift her head.

Buffy opened the door and stood awkwardly, watching as Riley came up the steps. When he wrapped his arms around her though, Buffy leaned into him and hugged him. “Oh God, Buffy…” He whispered.

“Yeah.” She said softly, pulling back and looking up at him.

When Angel came up the steps, Cordelia lifted her head and Buffy saw that tears were streaming down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry.” She whispered softly.

Buffy was puzzled, “About what?”

“I saw… What happened… I felt it…” She didn’t say that she still did, but Buffy knew what she was talking about and put her head down,

“I’m sorry too… Sorry you had to see that… or… Feel it…”

Cordelia shrugged, “All part and parcel of being Vision Girl… You look… Tired?”

“Jet lag from Hell is really… Jet lag from Hell…” Said Buffy, gently. “It’ll do that to you…”

When she looked up, Angel’s eyes were on her. “Did you… How do you…” He sighed, “I really don’t know what to say.”

“Yeah,” Said Buffy, “At least when you came back you were attacking me so conversation wasn’t necessary.” When Angel winced, Buffy sighed, “Sorry, bad joke… Uhm… Come on, inside…”

Angel nodded, still holding Cordelia around the waist to support her and stepped inside the house.

Riley went to do the same when Buffy pulled him back, “Riley? Can I… Talk to you for a second?”

Stunned, the soldier stopped and nodded, “Sure, what’s up?”

“I just… I wanted to say I was sorry.” She said quietly, “Before I di…” She winced, “Before I died, I… It was like… I’m sorry. I’m sorry for never telling you I loved you. I’m sorry for not treating you better. I’m sorry for not running faster…”

“Running faster?”

“The night you left.” She whispered, “I saw you, I ran and… I thought I’d catch up with you. I thought that because I loved you, I could make it better. I screamed and screamed but… You never heard and I’m sorry.”

Riley looked at her, sighing, “I never thought you’d come.” He whispered. “I never thought that…” Reaching out, he touched her cheek and shook his head, “I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you… When your Mom… And everything. Maybe I could’ve made it – “

“No.” Said Buffy, “You couldn’t have made a difference. What happened, when I died it was for a reason. And now I’m back. I’m happy.” Said Buffy.

“You don’t look it…”

Buffy sighed, “We should go inside.”

When they did, Cordelia’s body was thrashing on the floor as images poured into her head, Angel kneeling next to her, trying to calm her or at least sate some of the pain she was feeling.

Buffy looked at him, “Vision?” She asked gently. They looked painful to say the least…

“Something’s after you…”

Cordelia’s voice came out weak as her body stopped thrashing, “I don’t know what but… Something’s after you.”

“So, just another Tuesday night on the Hellmouth, huh?” Said Buffy, shrugging her shoulders…

TBC…

Ficbitch82

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC

That Dating Thing. 3   1 comment

Part 3

Okay, she was snippy at times. Cordelia *knew* this. But having two drunken guys hanging on her was beyond a joke. She’d ended up almost CARRYING Riley to the Hyperion and when she’d gotten there, she’d found drunken Angel.

When she’d said to Riley, ‘Maybe you should have another drink’, she meant ONE, to calm his nerves, maybe make him feel a little better. So he’d had one. Then two. Then three. Then four and… Then Cordelia had lost count.

He’d cried. He’d honest to goodness cried and Cordelia had felt awful. He said something about vampires and how he was sorry and asked Cordelia if she thought that he was a bad person. Cordelia hadn’t known him long enough to make a judgement, so lied and told him no.

After a long time in the bar, Cordelia had realised that Riley was in no state to go anywhere and decided to take him home, see if he and Angel could maybe talk… And what she’d found… Oh God, this was embarassing in ways she’d never known…

The Night Before

“Riley, if you’d just… Umph…” The guy wasn’t light! Her attraction to muscular men? Forget it! Give her a wiry guy who could take his drink any day and then SHE wouldn’t have to carry him home.

There wasn’t a cab to be got in the entire area of Los Angeles. So Cordelia had ended up walking with Riley (or rather CARRYING Riley) back to the hotel.

“Angel? Help would be nice!” She called out, almost stumbling down the steps with Riley, “Okay then, maybe not…”

Frowning, she got Riley nicely laid out on the couch and went into the office, glass crunching underneath her feet. When she looked down, the framed photo of Cordelia, Angel and Wesley lay on the floor, smashed into little pieces.

Her first thought was that something had happened and Cordelia, admittedly, panicked. But seeing as how there was nothing else broken or otherwise disturbed, Cordelia realised that what she was looking for was a very huffy Angel.

Checking to make sure Riley was alright, she ran up the stairs, hearing Angel talk to someone.

“But I love you… And you left me and… Why are there three of you? I mean, I can shee threee of you… And I’m all wobbly…” Cordelia frowned. Oh, great, he was hallucinating AND dreaming of Buffy.

Unexpected jealousy burned within her and the brunette stepped into his bedroom, greeted with the sight of him lying on his bed, covers pulled to his midriff, exposing his muscular chest.

Supressing the drool, Cordeila frowned, “Angel, Riley’s here I…”

“Cordelia!” The grin on his face was almost splitting his head open, “Aww, itsh ma girl!”

“Stop dreaming of Buffy, now isn’t the time!” She snapped.

“Not!” He said, pouting (which Cordelia had to admit was possibly the cutest thing she’d ever seen), “Dreaming of my Cordeeeeeeeeee…”

“Since when am I yours?” She asked, creeping closer to the bed to see what his particular damage was. Whiskey. Cordelia frowned, about to say something when a pair of arms grabbed her, pulling her down on the bed next to him.

“Always been mine…” He growled, burying his nose in her neck.

“Ange… Uh… You’re all stinky!” She said, frowning. “Could you *be* any more drunk?”

Angel reached an arm out, lethargically, scrabbling for the whiskey bottle, “Yup… Want some Cordeee?”

Cordelia couldn’t help but grin at the way he was saying her name. “No, Cordeeee doesn’t want none.”

“Angel wants Cordeeee…”

“Angel’s not *getting* Co… Whuh?”

“Angel wants Cordeeeeeeee…” He repeated, his voice sending chills up her spine. “Cordeee wants Angel… Mmmm, Angel sexy…”

Cordelia pulled back, “Could you contemplate getting over yourself? I *don’t* want you…” She lied.

“Cordeeee lying… Angel smell Cordeee from here…”

“No, that would be YOU you can smell, Angel.” Said Cordelia, wrenching herself away from him and getting up, “You have a visitor. I need you downstairs.”

Angel nodded, saluting her with a grin, “Yes, Ma’am… You can *have* Angel anywhere.” He said, his voice dripping with the pre-emption of a double-entendre. Cordelia rolled her eyes, shaking her head,

“Angel, now!” He went to get out of the bed, which was approximately around the time that things started to go very wrong. Heavy sheets, plus drunken naked Angel, pretty much didn’t mix.

Angel stumbled, falling over himself and landing on the floor, chuckling heartily, the sheets falling away…

Cordelia stood there, mouth almost hitting the floor at the sight of naked Angel.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Cordelia realised her mouth was very VERY dry, “Ungh… Might wanna… Cover yourself up…” She said quietly.

Even drunk Angel was incredibly stealthy. A second later, a pair of lips were pressed down on hers, surprisingly tender for the drunken state he was in.

Cordelia however, was having none of it. She pushed him away, quite forcefully and frowned, “GET DRESSED. I told you I needed you downstairs.” She almost growled.

What was she doing? Trying to form a ‘I Love Buffy Cast Off’s’ club? Nuh-uh… First Riley, in his drunken and grieving state, had thought she was Buffy, trying to cop a feel. And then so had Angel!!! What the hell was this?

She stomped down the stairs, writing Angel a very obscene note and then storming back to her house.

When Angel came down the stairs, he promptly passed out (although he *was* dressed – a feat in itself) landing next to Riley in a heap on the floor…

The Morning After

He remembered whiskey. He remembered passing out. Twice or maybe even three times. But he didn’t remember Riley. And he certainly didn’t remember Cordelia… And what he thought she was saying in the note.

Angel,
*So* don’t appreciate being shown my best friends bits. Getting fondled isn’t top on my list of things to do for this week. Very traumatised. Taking tomorrow off. Sort it out with Riley, BE NICE..

Cordelia

Okay, so the note was a little short. And this was the amended version of the amended version. But Cordelia couldn’t think of anything else to write. How about ‘Hey Angel, you kissing me like that made me kinda… Warm? Fuzzy?

And I think maybe there was kissage of me back to you but… Hey, let’s repress.’ She needed to DEAL with these feelings first so she could blame it on being fondled…

Or something…

Cordelia sighed. Which was when she heard the banging on the door. “All right, all right already!”

Angel and Riley stood there, both wearing sheepish (and painful) looks on their faces. Riley, literally looked green from puking, as did Angel.

“Cordelia…” Started Angel.

“We never meant to…”

“Well, I mean… We didn’t force you… Right?”

Cordelia looked at them, “What?”

“We… Threesome…”

Cordelia spluttered, “WHAT? There was no threesome of any kind!!! There was no twosome – not even close to a onesome! Where the HELL did you get that idea???”

“Your note!” Said Angel.

“You groped me! And so did you… But threesomes weren’t had… Besides, EWWW!” She yelled. “And plus, even if…”

She stopped, her head seizing up, Cordelia gasped, plummeting to the floor before Angel could get to her.

I can’t breathe… She wheezed, What’s happening to me?

Riley looked at Angel, “What’s wrong with her?”

Soil… Pouring in… Damn… Ow, my hands…

“Angel?”

Bursting free of her confines, Cordelia was pulled from the vision with one last flash of something. Not just anything. A gravestone.

**Buffy Anne Summers

Beloved Sister

Devoted Friend

She saved the world

A lot**

Cordelia sobbed…

Part 4

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC

That Dating Thing. 2   1 comment

Part 2

“RILEY FINN?”

“And again I say YES.” Said Cordelia shaking her head, “Want me to go out the room and come back in and say it again?”

Angel frowned, “But… But…” He growled, making Cordelia frown. “Geez, Angel! What do you *have* against me having a normal life? I know he’s not a vampire, I met him in the sunlight. He’s not a demon, he actually killed one in my presence!”

“But that doesn’t mean he’s not evil!” Angel yelled. What the hell am I saying? The guy’s not evil just… Well, if I say an asshole, does that mean I’m jealous?

“Cordy, there’s something you should know ab…”

“No!” Cordelia shook her head, stubbornly, “No, no and no again. For once I’m going to go out and be normal. I’m gonna sit there and not worry about noodles in my hair! I’m going out on a date and if you don’t like it you can go… BROOD!”

She grabbed her bag and stalked away from him, leaving Angel to stand there and sigh. Fred popped her head out of the door, “Are you brooding?”

Y’know? I think I am. Thought Angel.

***

“So…” Cordelia smiled, “How did you get into the whole… Demon fighting business.”

Riley glanced at Cordelia, wondering what to tell her. She seemed to know enough about it herself so there was no point in him hiding anything from her. “I used to… Fight demons… In college…”

“Oh!” Said Cordelia, “For fun or just for… Something else?”

“For… The something else thing. Involved a girl. Ended badly.”

Cordelia nodded, “Oh yeah, it usually does… I mean, take my ex-boss for example.” Riley’s eyebrows raised. “He’s brooded over this girl for the past God only knows how long, he’s just come back from this whole spiritual retreat thing to find out that hey, the girl he thought he’d… Uhm… LOST… Is back and… Now he doesn’t really brood anymore which completely throws me for a loop and…”

Cordelia stopped, “I need to breathe.”

Riley smiled at her, taking a sip of his beer, “Your boss broods a lot, huh?”

“EX-boss… And ohhhh yeah, we’re talking the Eternal Brooder, in the very literal sense.” She smiled. “He’s cool though. He does what you do. Fights demons and stuff.”

Suddenly, this was getting a little familiar to Riley. And then a *lot* familiar. “Uhm… Cordelia, what’s your boss called?”

“Why?” She was instantly put on guard by the question. If he wanted to hurt Angel, she’d walked right into this.

“Uhm… I think I might know him.”

“And where might you know him from? You’re from Iowa, he’s never been to Iowa… And he’s my EX-boss.”

“Well, has he lived anywhere else?”

“Like where?”

“Southern California?”

“We’re in Southern California.” Said Cordelia.

“Oh…” Riley decided to play a different tack, “Just thought I might have known him from somewhere. Places like that aren’t all that common.”

“Places like what?”

“Hellmouths…”

“How the f…” Cordelia stopped, swearing wasn’t ladylike, “How do *you* know what a Hellmouth is?”

“I went to a school near one.”

“I went to school ON one.” Said Cordelia, pointedly.

“Let me guess, Sunnydale High?”

“Oh, you’ve GOT to be kidding me!” Said Cordelia, shaking her head, “I moved away from Sunnydale for a reason! To get AWAY from it!” Okay, so that theory hadn’t really worked – Angel was a part of Sunnydale, as was Wesley – a part she wouldn’t trade for the world.

“Is this some kind of ‘I was mean to you I think I’ll get back at her’ thing?”

“Huh?” This left Riley puzzled.

“Well, I was mean to people in High School – and if you want to kill me for it and think dating’s the way to do it, think again buster, I was impregnated with Hellspawn! Almost TWICE! I’m *so* not naive.”

Riley stared at her for a while in complete puzzlement, “I thought not many people knew of the Hellmouth…”

“Well, when you’ve got little Miss Likes To Fight in your Senior Class, it’s kinda hard not knowing…”

“Little Miss Likes To Fight?” ‘She who hangs out a lot in cemeteries’.

“Just a… Girl, I used to know her… I still do… Well, again. I do *again*. I didn’t know her for a while on account of her being dea… Uhm… De-ACTIVE!”

“De-active? Since when was she active?”

“Huh?”

“With the Council?”

“The Watcher’s Council?”

“BUFFY!” He exclaimed. She knew Buffy!

“Buffy? You know Buffy?”

Oh God, Thought Cordelia, Could this BE any more awkward?

“I used to date her!”

“Oh… CRAP… You’re that Riley? Jeez, no wonder he brooded!” Said Cordelia, then,

“OHHH, YOU’RE THAT RILEY!!!”

“Yeah, I’m that Riley…”

“The one who… Left…”

“Yup.”

“The one who went to Belize on the big missiony thing?”

“Uh-huh…”

“The one who doesn’t know that Buffy…” Cordelia tailed off, “Uhm, maybe I shouldn’t be the one who tells you this…”

“Tells me what?”

“Uh, nothing. I mean, everything’s fine now I think… Sure she’s still a little disoriented and everything but…”

Riley sighed, “Her Mom… It’s her Mom, isn’t it?”

Cordelia shook her head, “No, that happened ages ago… I’m talking about when Buffy died, not her Mom…”

“Joyce di – WHAT? BUFFY DIED?”

Cordelia gulped, “Uhm… Maybe you should… Take another drink…”

Part 3

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC

That Dating Thing. 1   1 comment

Title: That Dating Thing
Author: Ficbitch82
Posted here:
Email
Rating: R – Warning: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK – DEALS WITH NAKED ANGEL…
Category:
Content: C/?, W/F and eventually C/A (I won’t be bashing the ? Character!)
Summary: Cordelia has a date with *someone*… Angel’s not pleased…
Spoilers: Heartthrob – set a couple of weeks after but That Vision Thing hasn’t happened yet! Rating:
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution:
Notes:
Thanks/Dedication:To all the people who give me feedback – you guys, rock!!!
Feedback:Love it, need it, crave it… “It’s like a Sickness…


In retrospect, his mistake was standing outside of Fred’s room while Cordelia helped her get dressed for her date with Wesley last night. In retrospect, vampire hearing sucked. In fact – he’d say Vampire Hearing was the worst thing ever to be invented.

If he couldn’t hear so good, he wouldn’t have heard what he did. If he couldn’t hear so good, he wouldn’t be sitting here nursing a *blinding* hangover. A major misconception over vampires was that they couldn’t and didn’t get hangovers. Wrong!

Ow, even thinking hurt. Well, thinking vehemently anyway. Thinking normal just caused a dull throb that raged throughout his whole body…

***

Yesterday, 6.30pm – Inside and Out of Fred’s bedroom

“Fred! Keep still!” Laughed Cordelia, pulling the comb through Fred’s hair gently.

“I’m sorry, I’m just so nervous! I mean, I’ve never been on a date in five years. Everyone just thought I was a cow in Pylea and dating wasn’t allowed, now it is and I’m all nervous. What if I make a fool out of myself? Do they serve taco’s?”

Cordelia smiled, “Fred, breathe…”

“How do you *do* this?” Asked Fred, nervously. “I mean, how do you date?”

“Simple.” Said Cordelia, piling Fred’s hair on top of her head, “I don’t.”

Fred shook her head, “But what about that guy?”

Strolling past, book in hand, Angel stopped, his eyes wide. Guy? What guy?!

Cordelia blushed, “Uhm… There’s no guy.”

“Liar!” Said Fred, “You came in this morning with a smile that almost split your head open! Who was he?”

Okay, so maybe she did seem rather happy this morning but… Cordelia’s smile was always wide, bright. An old song popped into Angel’s head and it was his turn to smile…

You are the sunshine of my life…

Oh yeah.

“I met him a few days ago.” Said Cordelia softly, “He’s sweet.”

“So, are you going on a date then?”

“Uhm… I dunno… He’s asked me, but…”

“But what?”

Cordelia sighed, “It’s just… That vision thing.” She said quietly, “I mean, what if I have a vision right when the salad or the main course arrives? I’ll be picking noodles out of my hair for a week!”

Fred sighed, “Cordelia, you can’t live your life afraid of a vision… If you did that, you’d never go out. And besides, the statistical impossibility of you having a vision is probably one in a…”

“Fred, stop with the numbers!” Said Cordelia, smiling slightly.

“Oh, sorry, numbers make sense to me!” Said Fred, shaking her head. “Ooh, they might serve pie tonight, get it? Pie… 3.14234…”

“FRED!” Cordelia laughed, “I get what you mean by pie but… Stop with the nervousness…”

“You’re one to talk!”

“Nervous, me? I’m not nervous!”

“Yeah you are.” Retorted Fred, “Why haven’t you told Angel about that dating thing?”

Cordelia sighed, “Because…”

“Because he’ll get jealous and brood a lot?”

Cordelia started to laugh, “Yeah, Angel jealous of me? Pffft!”

I don’t get jealous! Or brood any more! Cordy’s just… Well, if she’s going on a date I only wanna know who with… Where he lives… What car he drives… If he’s got any convictions… She’s my friend, I’m just… Looking out for her. (Even Angel could hear the PFFFT of Cordelia in his head at this point.

“He is *so* jealous! You even look at another guy and Angel growls.”

“Since when?”

“When you were looking at that male model in that magazine that time? You said some guy was hot, Angel growled!”

“He did not!”

“He did too! He growled!”

I didn’t growl! I coughed! I… I coughed and it sounded like a growl… Or maybe I purred, I was feeling kinda funny then… Maybe growly. Maybe I growled…

Cordelia laughed, “There ya go… Ready!” She said, adding the finishing touches to Fred’s hair and (rather appropriately) bringing a close to this awkward conversation.

Fred smiled, nervously, “Okay, I’m ready… With half an hour to spare but… I’m ready…”

Cordelia looked at Fred, “You look great.” She said honestly.

“Thanks… You picked out this dress for me, you’ve got great taste in stuff like this…”

“Duh…” Laughed Cordelia. “Okay, am I done here?”

Fred nodded, “Yup, done. Oh, Cordelia?”

“Yeah…”

“Does this guy have a name?”

“Yeah… He’s called Riley. Riley Finn.”

Angel growled. Not a purr… Or even a weird mood. He damned well growled.

Cordelia popped her head out of the door, “Angel?”

Damn!

Part 2

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC

Starting Over. 6   1 comment

I’ve angsted over this part for a week and it’s doing my HEAD in. Literally. I tried to include Doyle/Groo, it did my head in that way. It didn’t have much Cordelia, it did my head in that way. Finally, I just thought, “right, sod it, I have to post it or I’m going to be bald by next week…” So, here ya go. Just be thankful I like my hair.

Part 6

Three Years Ago…

A bead of moisture began its slow trickle down the half-demon’s forehead, its eyes bulging as the sword pressed against its neck.

The demon – known as Doyle by his friends and a variety of names by the other people he came into contact with or owed money to – looked up at his captor, realising that no small amount of Irish charm would get him out of this one.

“Woah, woah man,” he held up his hands, “I’m… I come in peace?” He muttered, wondering what the hell he was supposed to say to his ‘champion’. The Powers hadn’t exactly been forthcoming with the vision – just a flash of a place, a name and a sensation that Doyle still wasn’t getting used to.

“I do not understand these words,” said his Champion, darkly, “And you have a different smell to these other cows.” He gestured to the small crowd that had gathered across the street and looked at Doyle again.

“Yeah, well, first off? Not a cow.” Doyle huffed, rolling his eyes skyward, “Human, most of the time. With a little demon in me.”

“Demon?” The pressure of the sword increased, “I’ll kill you where you stand, filthy–“

“Hey, hey, less of the filthy,” said Doyle, indignantly, “And, for the thousandth time? Not all demons are dedicated to the destruction of the world, ya know?” Doyle paused, still holding up his hand, “The name’s Doyle. Pleased to make your acquaintance… Groo, is it?”

Groo’s eyes narrowed, “Speak, demon. How do you know my name?”

“I get visions from the Powers That Be. They told me you were comin’ here tonight, an’ that I was supposed to meet you so you could… Help. Welcome to LA, big guy… We got work to do.”

I am SO dead, thought Cordelia, glancing around the room as she struggled against the bonds that tied her to the chair, SO so dead. If this had been Sunnydale and she’d been trussed up like a turkey, she’d have a moderately high chance of getting out of there – considering Little Ms. Likes To Fight had this uncanny knack of turning up at just the right time, give or take a few minutes.

As it were? This wasn’t Sunnydale.

Cordelia had left that little dump behind for pastures greener – Los Angeles, to be precise, the call of fame and fortune too loud to ignore.

It had been hard at first. She wasn’t destitute per-se, but yeah, some months she felt a little light-headed from the whole not eating thing. Then this acting gig had come along and… It had been like Cordelia’s dream come true. A national, no less, sponsored by some of the most richest and influential guys in LA.

Cordelia Chase, big fish of little pond ala Sunnydale, was three weeks away from hitting the big time.

Her first acting gig, she’d see her face plastered all over billboards and TV’s and… Now, Cordelia was realising that her face would be all over those for the wrong reasons.

“Y’know, I knew you were evil,” She growled, looking up as one of her, *airquote*, ‘co-stars’ walked into the room, “You were entirely too hot to be normal.”

He barely spared her a second glance, heading across the room to the head cheese, the one who looked like the kind of guy you’d see hiring a gimp costume in a sex shop.

“Don’t make me gag you, Cordelia,” he growled over his shoulder, “I want to hear that mouth of yours do something better than talking.”

She muttered an expletive under her breath, looking at the others in the room she recognised as extras, one of her other co-stars, all trussed up, just like her. Most of them, however, had stopped struggling. They were sitting there, looking pretty docile, making Cordelia wonder if they’d been drugged.

“Hello, anyone home?”

Nobody looked up.

This is just my luck, she thought belatedly, Something good actually happens in my life and, despite the lack of certain slayer’s who shall remain nameless, it still sucks beyond belief! What is it, karma?

She was NOT that bad. At least not so bad that everything in her life was leading up to this point and, hello, first big break since she’d fell on a rebar!

Seething, Cordelia watched as they made preparations – for what, she didn’t know, but she’d lived in Sunnydale long enough to realise that this was some multiple sacrifice thingy. Possibly a cult, which she SO didn’t get.

Her eyes flitted across the room. One entrance, one exit. Which meant that if she was ever going to get out of here– Who was she kidding? She was never getting out of here. There gimp boy stood, sharpening his knives, and in a word? Cordelia was screwed. She yanked at the bonds that tied her to the chair again, pulled this way and that to try and get free.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

“You won’t get away with this, y’know,” said Cordelia, addressing her co-star again, “I have… I have friends! Friends in high places! And they will be SO pissed when they find out I’m not where I’m supposed to be right now.”

“And where’s that?” David, co-star extraordinaire, looked over at her, smiling cruelly. He didn’t even give her chance to lie. “Haven’t you worked it out, Cordelia? We didn’t pick you for your acting skills – what little their were anyway–” Cheap shot. “–We picked you because you, like so many in this city, were alone. We sensed something in you. Vulnerability… Solitude. You don’t have any friends.”

Cordelia’s anger flared. “I have plenty of friends, as it happens! I was May Queen! And I was almost Prom Queen by, like, two girls, I–“

“Shut her up.”

Gimp boy crossed the room at that one simple order and a burst of pain spread across Cordelia’s face. Her cheekbone cracked under the weight of the punch and the brunette groaned, slumping sideward in the chair.

“I was sent,” Groo repeated, “To lessen the burden.”

For what felt like the fiftieth time, Doyle tried to explain. “Listen, man… I’m… I’m not… I don’t need you to lessen the burden. Really. I’m good with the burden.”

What he was proposin’ was against all laws of God and man. Well, God and man according to Doyle anyway… He had no problems with guys doing as Groo had suggested but him? Definitely not… Well, gay.

“But didn’t you say that I should help?” Asked Groo, confusion flitting across his face, “I am the Groosalugg, my purpose here is to comshuk with the visionary. That’s–“

“Not ME.” Doyle asserted, shaking his head. How come he always got the dense ones? “Look, we’re gonna be there soon. And we gotta figure out a plan of attack so that you’re not rushin’ in there all hot-headed and–“

“I will kill the filthy beasts!”

Doyle groaned. This was going to be a long night.

When Cordelia woke again, she was no longer in her chair. Now the centrepiece of what looked like a grand human buffet, she lay tied to a table with restraints that looked suspiciously like they’d come from the nut ward of a hospital, keeping her in place.

She went to say something, bark her disapproval, but found her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth, her throat dry. All she managed was a groan and the answering smile she received from her kidnapper only got her pissed.

How long had she been out? And why was it that she had a serious case of tunnel vision going on?

“You can’t keep us here,” said a voice from across the room, pitifully.

Cordelia sighed. They choose now to speak up? What happened to earlier when I was the one doing all the talking?

The girl said something again and though Cordelia couldn’t quite make out what it was, she rolled her eyes. She’d been through enough in Sunnydale to know that the petty whining got you nowhere. Fast.

She pushed against the restraints again, each muscle willing the other to work and just break free… But that was the thing about Nut Job restraints. They were meant to keep the nut jobs down.

“I have family,” one bleated, “They’re going to miss me.”

But it was then Cordelia realised… One of the voices, she’d recognised. He’d been in the same situation as her. New in town, semi-hot but not enough to make it huge, looking for his big break in acting… He had no family here, just like her.

They were alone here. They didn’t have anyone…

Despair flooded in quickly. She wasn’t in Sunnydale any more, there was no Buffy to potentially ruin her life and save her from the big ick monster all at the same time. Cordelia had walked into this one all by herself and there was no-one who even knew she was here, never mind cared enough to rush in and save her.

The tears slipping down her cheeks were compounded by the knife she felt sliding into her flesh. She tried to scream but it caught in her throat, the smell of her blood assaulting her senses.

Somebody else screamed.

For the first time in her life, Cordelia found herself wishing she was back in Sunnydale. Back with people who knew her, people who’d miss her – people who’d know she was gone.

She felt helpless, groggy. She was bleeding out from wounds on that table she wasn’t aware she had and her head was starting to pound.

Gimp Boy appeared over her, smiling, the knife in his hand dripping blood – probably hers.

David was nowhere to be seen but Cordelia had always figured that he wouldn’t get his hands dirty for anything.

“Asshole,” she murmured, but it came out raspy and the word itself wasn’t enough to get her meaning across. Gimp Boy smiled again and she vowed that if she ever got out of here? She’d wipe that smile clean off his face.

Pain exploded through her left side and Cordelia managed to shriek this time, bringing the entire room down around her—No, wait, that wasn’t her.

The last thing Cordelia remembered before losing her battle with the darkness was a weird-smelling guy standing over her, telling her everything was going to be okay.

Present Day…

He arrived at the hotel fifteen minutes after the phone call from Fred. Driving hell for leather through the streets of LA, Angel’s knuckles were still white when he got in the hotel, having gripped the steering wheel so hard.

He listened in silence as Fred filled him in on the events of the day. Cordelia’s visions, Wesley’s visit to the evil law firm across town, his involvement in all of this.

The lawyer had some front, he knew, dragging Cordelia into something he had no idea he’d even been part of, giving her visions so powerful and potent that they’d grown into physical manifestations of themselves.

“Where is she?” He asked, once Fred had explained again, “Is she—”

“Okay?” Fred shook her head, “Not even. Four visions, Angel, each worse than the last… And the pain doesn’t seem to be lettin’ up. That’s not even mentionin’ the whole… Boil and burn thing. She looks awful.”

He noticed the flush of her cheeks, as if saying that she didn’t look good was betraying Cordelia. Proud to a fault, Angel knew that, Cordelia had been the same back in Sunnydale. “I want to see her.”

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea,” said Wesley from behind him, “Seeing you might confuse Cordelia…”

“Wesley–” Angel’s jaw tensed as he turned towards the former watcher, his eyes narrowing, “I want to see her.”

Wesley sighed, “Very well.”

Angel took the stairs three at a time. He didn’t know what room she was in – assured Wesley that he hadn’t paid that much attention during his almost illicit visits with Cordelia – yet he could hear her heart beat, could hear the soft murmurs as she slept, the cries as she dreamt.

When he got to her room, Angel pushed open her door, his heart splintering as he saw her lying there on the bed.

“It wasn’t my idea to call you,” Wesley told him as he got to his side, his gaze raking over Cordelia’s too small form, “I didn’t even know about your visits before this.”

Angel sighed. “Wesley…”

“I’m not berating you.” He said, stopping as abruptly as he’d started.

The silence hung thick and heavy between them. The only sound in the room at that point was Cordelia’s breathing – slow and laboured. She was hurting and all Angel wanted, all he knew Wesley wanted, was to make that stop.

“I don’t agree with the way you’ve gone about it.” He murmured, “Inserting yourself into her life like you did, making yourself part of it… You shouldn’t have done that, Angel, but I understand that I didn’t give you much choice.”

Cordelia shifted suddenly, crying out as part of her burned skin scraped against bed clothes that were soft but brought no comfort. Wesley winced, watching Cordelia as sleep claimed her again.

“I blame myself for what happened,” he held up a hand to ward off any argument, shook his head, “I’m not looking for absolution, Angel, I’m simply telling you so that you understand. Fred said something to me downstairs, told me that we didn’t just lose Cordelia the day of her accident…

We lost something else too. We used to be a team, you see. Chase Investigations – no case too big or small,” the corners of his mouth lifted in a wistful smile, “We could handle it. And yet after Cordelia’s accident, we stopped being a team.”

This time, when Wesley spoke his gaze drifted to Angel’s. “I’ve made decisions these past few months that I’m not proud of. I’ve looked after Cordelia for so long now that it’s become second nature and when something threatened to rock the boat…”

“I understand,” said Angel.

“Do you?” Wesley asked, “Because I’m not sure I do and I’m the one trying to explain it. Cordelia is my best friend, Angel, has been for a long time. Ever since Doyle and Groo… All I’ve ever wanted is to look out for her, to make sure she’s safe and when you came along, you seemed to be able to put all that in jeopardy.”

Angel looked at him, puzzled, “By being her friend?”

“By making us realise that there was more to Cordelia’s life than we could give.” He sighed. “I’d have figured it out, you know.”

By the grim determination on his face, Angel knew he probably would have, but he let him continue anyway, watching Cordelia for any signs of waking.

“I’d noticed something was different a couple of weeks ago. She seemed happier almost…”

Angel’s spirits lifted at the simplest of statements. She seemed happier… Had he done that?

“And now this,” Wesley continued, “Lilah—She works for Wolfram and Hart. She’s vindictive, Angel, will stop at nothing to get what she wants and even if that means destroying Cordelia, she’ll do it.”

Angel’s spirits had dropped again, the mere mention of Wolfram and Hart enough to put a dampener on what Wesley had said, “What does she want?”

“You,” said Wesley, “She has… She has a mission for you.”

“A mission?” Angel took a look at Cordelia, confusion evident on his face, “What does that have to do with Cordelia?”

Wesley sighed, “Apparently they have their fingers on more buttons than even I knew about. They’re going through Cordelia to get to you and unless you do what they want…”

They let the rest of the sentence hang between them, the implication clear. She’d stop at nothing, she’d go through Cordelia… Angel’s eyes glittered angrily, his composure stretched to the limit as he tried to keep his demon from coming to the fore.

“What’s this mission?”

Wesley sighed, “It’s Wolfram and Hart. I can only assume that it’s something bad, Angel—”

He nodded.

“And since past involvement with Wolfram and Hart has ended rather badly, I can only tell you of what a risk you’re taking.”

Angel nodded again, “I know that.”

“Good. Then I don’t have to convince you to let me come with you.”

Angel nodded, “Right—” then, “—No, Wesley. I need you to stay here in case something goes wrong.”

Wesley frowned, “But it’s Cordelia.”

Angel knew that. He knew that Wesley would do anything to keep her safe but if something went wrong and Wesley didn’t come back, he wasn’t sure how Fred and Gunn would begin explaining it. “I know that,” he sighed, “But… If something happens, if this mission goes wrong…”

Another sentence left hanging. Something else that they both didn’t want to say.

Sighing, Wesley shot a glance back at Cordelia. “You know where their offices are?”

Angel nodded. “I’ve run into them once or twice.”

Once or twice was an understatement and, unwittingly, Angel had brought Cordelia into the war between himself and Wolfram and Hart. They’d dogged his every move since he’d got to LA, capturing him during a street brawl with another vampire and trying to bribe him into becoming part of their payroll.

Angel, as they’d expected, had declined.

Now, by seeing Cordelia, he’d given them ammunition, a way to hurt him. And that didn’t sit well with him. That didn’t sit well with him at all.

“Care to elaborate?” Wesley asked, gazing openly at the look on the vampires chiselled features.

“I should go,” said Angel, his face clouding as he turned towards the door, “If Cordelia wakes up, tell her… Tell her it’s being taken care of.”

To Be Continued… Yadda, yadda.

Ficbitch82

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC

Starting Over. 5   1 comment

Notes: This chapter takes ideas from That Vision Thing (S3). There will be a pay off to a certain lawyer’s asshattyness. Yus.

Part 5

It was surprising how easy it had been to get him on side. She’d expected months of wheeling and dealing, reams of paperwork as far as the eye could see… And Angel himself had provided her with an out the minute he’d visited Cordelia Chase at her apartment.

From then on Lilah’s plan had been set in stone.

She hadn’t batted an eyelid as Cordelia was sent the first vision – she’d devised it herself, why should she?

When her demon friend had sneered that the message had been received loud and clear? Lilah had sat down for a round of mini-golf on her computer.

The second and third messages were somewhat more difficult to send. The details had to be precise, exact. The girl had to know exactly what she wanted, why she was receiving the visions, if Lilah wanted to be paid a visit from the second in command at Angel Investigations.

He’d catch on soon enough…

***

“Of course this hasn’t happened before,” Cordelia snapped, “Don’t you think I would’ve told you guys?” She was met with blank gazes all around the lobby, eyes that looked at her, took in what she was saying but didn’t quite believe. She couldn’t blame them, really.

As frustrated as she was, Cordelia knew that if the last vision hadn’t resulted in this whole Elephant Man look she’d had going on, she’d never have told them what was happening, no matter how scared she was.

The only reason Gunn found out was because of the blood, and eww, by the way. Her favourite shirt was ruined, her head was pounding more so than normal and her body felt like it had gone 800 rounds with a very large, very clawed demon – which technically it had, but only in her head and how the hell did that work, anyway?

Were the PTB’s somehow under the impression that she didn’t get the point with the pain and the smells and the rest of it? Visions? Had to be solved quickly – she knew that – geez! So the whole side effect thing? Kinda pointless!

“If the Powers are seeing fit to hit you with a vision this hard then we have to assume that this takes precedence over everything else and…”

Cordelia tuned Wesley out. She loved the guy, really she did, but did he have to state the obvious all the damned time? And if the Powers were seeing fit to scar her up and make her bleed now, instead of the normal debilitating visions and the drool-fest, what came next? Eyeballs popping out of her head?

Real knife in the eye instead of just a vision-head one?

Great. Wonderful. Now the visions could outright kill her instead of doing that oh-so-wonderful slowly-but-surely thing.

“You think it was a good idea to send Gunn out on his own?”

Cordelia’s head snapped up. She instantly regretted the move as a blistering bolt of pain shot from her temples, to the back of her brain and then to her eyes again, but she spoke anyway, “What do you mean ‘out on his own’?” She asked, frowning, “I thought Groo was meeting him?”

Fred looked flustered. “I-I mean… What if Groo’s late? He could… I mean… Traffic! He could hit traffic!”

“It’s 6.45, Fred,” Cordelia shook her head, “The only traffic he’s gonna hit is people flitting from work and since Caritas isn’t that far away anyway, I don’t think that– What?”

They were all looking at her, which, in itself, wasn’t unusual. It was just… Call her crazy? But something was going on. Something they weren’t telling her… And Cordelia was getting annoyed. “Okay, I get that you guys are the epitomy of vague tonight, really,” she snapped, “But whatever it is you’re keeping from me? Getting old. Fast.”

Wesley sighed, moving towards her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder, “We’re not keeping anything from you, Cordelia, we’re just worried, that’s all. I’m sure once Gunn and Groo get back the vision effects will disappear.”

Cordelia looked at him. Either he was trying for the award of Most Unconvincing Argument ever? Or Wesley really wasn’t sure that they would go away. Either way, she didn’t like it.

“I’m sure you’re right,” she said after a moment, forcing a tight smile onto her face, “I mean… It’s not like the Powers are gonna keep doing the whole Elephant man thing on me, right?”

They seemed reluctant to answer and Cordelia, reluctant to even continue with that argument, stood up. “Okay, back to work…”

Alarmed, Wesley turned his gaze back to the brunette. “Work? Cordelia…”

“What? So I got a few little scratches from a vision, big deal. It’s not the end of the world or anything.”

“Honey, I’ve seen scratches,” said Lorne, shaking his head, “And those aren’t few or little. You should be in bed.”

Cordelia’s eyebrows shot up, “Doing what? Lying there worrying about Gunn and Groo and making my headache worse? I don’t think so.” She probably could do with lying down a while. Her entire body felt like it were on fire, the back of her eyelids burning insistently.

Vision pain? Not fun. Especially not today with the added extras. “I’ll be fine, okay? I’m just…”

“You’re just nothing,” Wesley interrupted, “Every Time you say you’re fine that blatantly means you’re not. You either go home to lie down or you stay in your room here. I’m not arguing with you on this, Cordelia.”

Sighing, Cordelia ran her hands through her hair, “Wesley…”

“Resistance is futile, Plum-cake.” Said Lorne, patting her shoulder gently, avoiding the scars, “He looks like he means it.”

Cordelia sighed, dropping her hands back to her sides. “Okay, fine, whatever.” She said, annoyed that she had to forgo the actual helping out part and not answer the phone that was ringing behind her, “But if this ever comes up in conversation or we have to turn that customer away ‘cause of a few scratches? On your own head be it.”

As it turned out? It wasn’t a customer. For the second time that night, the phone clicked and right there in the lobby, Cordelia went down like a ton of bricks, skin exploding into a mass of boils…

***

“I don’t care what bloody time it is, tell him to call me back.” Wesley growled, slamming the phone down into its cradle, his brow creased with worry. He’d called as many of his contacts as he could – anyone who he thought would be able to help, shed some light on the physical manifestations of Cordelia’s visions.

So far none of his contacts had proved helpful. It had been two hours since Cordelia’s last vision, two hours since those God-awful boils had appeared on her skin and Wesley was reaching the end of his tether.

“No joy?”

He looked up from the phone to find Gunn at the door to his office, shooting a nervous glance every once in a while at the stairs. “Nothing.” Said Wesley, “In fact, I’ve got less than nothing. In fact–“

“I get the picture, Wes…” Gunn cut him off, raising his hand. “There ain’t nothin’ else I can be doing?”

Sighing, Wesley sat down at his desk, pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, “Like what? Lorne’s contacting as many of his mystical consorts as he can muster, Fred’s hovering with chicken soup and I’m…” Wesley paused.

What was he doing? Other than getting frustrated by an ancient artifact? “I can’t help but think I’ve missed something.”

“Like what?” Asked Gunn, shaking his head, “We’ve been through everything, English. It’s not like the answer’s gonna just jump up and bite us in the ass.”

Wesley glanced over his notes again. Gunn was right. He’d spent the hour chasing down contacts, praying that the answer would just suddenly be there, right where he didn’t expect it.

“I hate to say it, man,” Gunn continued, “But I think we’re looking at another vision and girlfriend upstairs ain’t exactly lookin’ like she can handle it, y’know?”

Cordelia’s first vision, the one with the claw marks, had been about a coin. Her second, in which her skin had exploded into a mass of boils, had been about a key. They had both articles in their possession now… And no idea what the hell it was they were supposed to do with them.

Gunn had suggested putting them together, seeing what happened until logic (or at least a semblance of it) had prevailed and Wesley had told him he didn’t know what he was going to be walking into, that despite Cordelia’s current state, they should wait – only time was running out.

“There ain’t nobody else you can call?”

Wesley shook his head, gravely. “Everyone on my list is either too busy to talk or has nothing. I’m rather afraid that we’ve hit all the dead ends we’re going to on this side. Perhaps Lorne can turn something up when– What?” He looked over at Gunn, sitting there with an odd look on his face. “What is it?”

“You said the phone rang when Cordy had that second vision, right?”

Wesley nodded. “Yes, we just assumed it was a wrong number, they didn’t talk…”

“Let me guess,” Gunn interrupted, “High pitched squealing noise? Not much else?”

“How did you–“

Gunn steepled his fingers underneath his chin and leaned forward, “Something’s going on, Wes. And unless the Powers That Screw You started sending visions through the telephone? Then we got a phantom vision giver on our hands…”

***

By the time the third vision had been sent, Wesley Wyndham Pryce had burst into Lilah’s office, marched right past her PA, and tossed the artefacts he’d retrieved from Cordelia’s visions down on the desk.

“I don’t know what you want with Cordelia,” he told her, darkly, “But this ends. Now.”

Lilah smiled. “Wesley. Can I offer you some tea?”

Wesley had never before wanted to hit a woman, had never had the urge to raise his hands except when in fight, but now? He wanted to wipe that smirk right off her face. “Cut the crap, Lilah, what do you want?”

She looked at them for a couple of seconds, head tilted to one side, her expression curious. “Actually, we have another mission for you. You’re not done.”

His expression darkened. “So you send Cordelia debilitating visions, make me track halfway across the city to find out it was you who caused her unnecessary pain and you think I’m about to help you more?”

“I don’t think, Wesley,” she shook her head, “I know. You’ll do anything to help your girl and we want something from you.”

“What could you possibly want from us?” He asked, breathing out a sigh. He was weary now, running on less than four hours sleep. Cordelia, his main concern, hadn’t been hit by another vision but he understood that all that could change in an instant.

“You have your coin and your key. Be thankful I didn’t just offer them up to the highest bidder…”

He turned to leave, pulling the lapels of his jacket closer.

Time for the bait. “That’s a shame,” said Lilah, heading back to her desk, “Give whats-her-name my regards when we send the next vision.”

It had worked. Wesley spun, angrily, eyes ablaze, grabbing her by the throat. He could kill her in an instant in this office and, honestly, didn’t Lilah get off on that a little?

“Her name is Cordelia.” He snarled, “And you will help her.”

Lilah smiled, tightly, her expression one you’d expect to have accompanied with a pat on the head. “Of course we will. But first? Your mission.”

“I don’t have a bloody mission.”

“Oh you do.” Lilah affirmed with another smile, “At least, if you want to help Cordelia you do.”

Wesley sighed, his grip on her throat slackening somewhat. “What is it you want, Lilah?”<

***

The thing about Wesley, and certainly Gunn and Fred along with him, was that if they could give Lilah anything in place of Cordelia and the seemingly killer visions? They would hand it over without question.

She’d received another one in the time it had taken for Wesley to reach the hotel. This time, there’d been no phone call. That, apparently, had only been necessary to lead Wesley right into Lilah’s path. Now, Cordelia was covered in burns – skin cracked enough to contend with the worst burn victims of an ER unit.

He paused outside the Hyperion, glancing into the lobby where Fred sat on the ottoman, flicking through the pages of a book, trying to help Cordelia still, no doubt.

His heart felt heavy as he trudged inside, head downcast.

“Wesley! You’re back!” She jumped up off the seat, sandals clicking on the floor as she ran to greet him. “What’s happening? Is Lilah going to help Cordelia?”

From the corner of his eye he noticed Gunn, carrying a glass of water and a bottle containing Cordelia’s most potent pills. “How is she?”

“Same.” Gunn frowned, shaking the bottle, “Up to one every hour now. What’d Lilah say?”

Wesley blinked. What the hell was he supposed to do, exactly? Go to Angel, grovel, beg him to take on a mission that had nothing to do with him and pray that he, a once soulless demon, was a much better man than Wesley could ever be?

That would go down a treat, he was sure.

“The visions aren’t meant for us.” He said tersely, heading down into the lobby with his two colleagues, “They’re a tool. Not only to free the man in Cordelia’s last vision but for Angel.”

“Angel the-vampire-I-don’t-like, Angel?” Gunn asked.

“The very same.” Wesley nodded, “She wanted to… Get Angel in the game, so to speak. Apparently he plays an important part in the future of Wolfram and Hart.”

“So they go through Cordelia? What’s that gonna achieve?” Gunn’s expression grew dark. “Angel has nothing to do with us, man. What the hell–“

And this was the difficult part, Wesley supposed. Telling them that they had to believe that Angel was the better man, that he’d come through for Cordelia. Telling him that they, apparently, didn’t matter.

Cordelia didn’t matter because she was just a tool, a card to be played when Wolfram and Hart were lacking in things to do.

The ex-watcher sighed, sinking into one of the chairs, head in his hands. “Lilah said that Angel would get involved because… Because that’s who he is. That’s what he does. He helps people. Especially one’s he’s connected to.”

“Connected how?”

Neither noticed that Fred had stayed silent through all of this. She shifted nervously, foot to foot, knowing the conversation was about to take a turn for the decidedly worst.

“I’m not sure,” Wesley answered, “I can only assume his past with her in Sunnydale, but we can’t afford to wait around until this plays out. I knew Lilah meant business already but sending her another vision–“

“Can’t we just kill her?” Gunn interrupted, “Seriously. My hub-cap axe would really like to have a meeting with her neck, know what I’m sayin’?”

Despite himself, Wesley smiled. “If only… Lilah assured me that should anything happen to her Cordelia’s visions would only get worse.”

“So what you’re saying is that there’s a rock, a hard place and then there’s us?” Gunn ran a hand over the back of his head, “Great. Meanwhile Cordy’s stuck upstairs with those fucking killer visions and we can’t do a thing.”

Wesley’s hands tightened into fists by his side. “We can contact Angel. Hope that he’ll be willing to help Cordelia…”

“Yeah but how?” Gunn pressed, aware that he was asking all the questions no-one wanted asked, “It’s not like we can shine some big vampire light in the sky and hope he comes to the rescue.”

Wesley frowned. In hindsight, he should have asked the vampire for a contact number, should they need it. Of course, he hadn’t been so welcoming to Angel, had he? Reluctant to rock the boat even slightly, Wesley had turned him away, lest he destroy the one instance of sanity they managed to bring to Cordelia’s life.

Now, he wished he had asked him for a number. Especially now they needed it.

“I’m not sure,” he answered, slowly, “I was thinking we could ask Lorne to talk to his patrons, perhaps? See if they know where he lives?”

“That could take hours.” Gunn frowned. “And wouldn’t half of his patrons have tried to kill him already if they did?”

“You have a better suggestion?”

Fred, having listened to all this with a ball of nervousness growing in the pit of her stomach, looked up. “I might have a better suggestion.” They both turned to look at her. “I mean, I’m not sure it’ll work, I… It’s just his cellphone. His address…”

“You have his cellphone?” Wesley questioned, once Fred tailed off. His mind was already working overtime in ways he didn’t want to imagine – each one of them concerning Cordelia. “How? Why?”

“Because,” she sighed, “Because I asked him for it.” It was the simplest answer she could give and yet when they both continued to stare, Fred felt compelled to offer more. “He’s not a threat to us, Wesley. He can help. He can help Cordelia and he’s not gonna give up when the goin’ gets tough.”

There was a flash of anger in Wesley’s eyes, a flash of misunderstanding in Gunn’s. They just didn’t get it, did they? “You didn’t see what I saw that first night,” she continued, folding her arms across her wiry frame,

“The way Cordelia smiled when she talked about Angel. And y’all have been saying how much happier she’s been lately.”

“This hasn’t been just a one time thing, has it?”

Fred shook her head, determined, “No. Angel’s been seeing her on and off for the last three weeks. I gave him her address.”

Wesley’s temper flared. He wasn’t sure what he was so angry about – the fact that Fred had done this? Or the fact that she’d gone behind his back.

“You had no right to do that, Fred,” he snapped, “There are things about Angel that you don’t understand, can’t possibly. Things that Cordelia shouldn’t have to deal with.”

“What, Angelus?” She asked, folding her arms in front of her, “He told me! Even offered me a list of books to go read in case I had any doubt about what he was. I even asked Cordelia one night, before she went to meet our snitch. He’s not a threat to her.”

“And you’re qualified to make that decision?”

Fred looked at him, incredulously, “Excuse me?”

“You heard me.” The ex-watcher intoned darkly, “You can make that decision all on your own?”

Gunn, who’d been watching the exchange silently, tried to step in, “This isn’t the time guys…”

“I’ve kept the peace for a long time, Charles,” Fred looked at him, “Maybe this is the right time.” She turned back to Wesley and though her voice was strong, her eyes were sad,

“How can you ask me if I’m qualified to make decisions for Cordelia? None of us are!”

“And yet that’s exactly what you’ve done.”

“And what you do every day!” She yelled, past the point of frustration, “You make the decisions. You tell us that we have to keep up the charade and yet it stopped being about Cordelia a long time ago. It started being about you, about how living a lie was easier than facing up to the truth. Groo’s dead. Cordelia thinks every day is the same. And that’s easier for you because you blame yourself.”

Wesley’s eyes were dark, pinning Fred to the spot, “Feel better?”

“This isn’t about me and you know it,” said Fred, her voice never wavering, “We lost a lot the day of Cordelia’s accident, Wesley, but we didn’t just lose her. We lost part of you too and I’d do anything to get that back.”

“And Angel’s the answer?”

“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully, rolling her shoulders in a tiny shrug, “But for Cordelia? I’m willing to give it a try.”

Wesley didn’t stop her when she went towards the phone. He barely looked up when Gunn turned his gaze on him, not agreeing with Fred but not having disagreed either. The atmosphere in the hotel thickened even more so and Wesley, true to form, felt uncomfortable.

Casting bitter recriminations wasn’t the key to helping Cordelia get better but for what had happened was out in the open. They had a way of contacting Angel, a way of getting help. It should have pleased Wesley… But Fred’s words had left a hollow ache deep inside him.

She was right, he could admit, walking towards his office and closing the door behind him. So much of what he’d done this last year had been in Cordelia’s best interests – starting over, letting her live that day again.

He didn’t want to see her hurt, didn’t want to spend the day explaining that Groo was dead, that Cordelia’s life, in effect, was over.

It killed him to see her cry and Fred was right, he did blame himself. How could he not? Every day that Cordelia was happy was a constant reminder of how much she’d lost.

“It’s Fred,” he heard her say from behind his door, her voice muffled, “Something’s happened… Wolfram and Hart… Okay… Bye.”

And that was that, apparently. She and Gunn didn’t talk when Fred had hung up the phone, but then Wesley wasn’t much fond of the art of eavesdropping.

He busied himself tidying files and folders on his desk wondering when he’d lost sight of what he thought was important.

Part 6

Posted June 29, 2015 by califi in TBC