Title: A Crisis of Faith
Content: A/C, A/C/W/F friendship
Summary: Sequel to Long Time Coming. I’ve also summarised it below to jog everyone’s memory as it’s been a while since it was posted. Even if you haven’t read Long Time Coming, you should be able to understand this fic as long as you read the summary of Long Time Coming. Set in ATS Season 1,but basically AU. After Angel and Cordelia went to LA at the end of Long Time Coming, events pretty much happened as they did on the show, except that ‘I Will Remember You’,’Expecting’ didn’t happen. They met up with Doyle and set up Angel Investigations. Doyle’s romantic feelings for Cordelia were either nonexistent or he kept them well hidden because he knew Angel would rip his head off!! He died in ‘Hero’ and passed his visions onto her. Wesley didn’t come to LA though, so Angel and Cordelia have been alone since Doyle’s death. Cordelia’s visions are more like the end of Season 2 in strength.
Spoilers: Non really – set in ATS Season 1
Disclaimer: Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Please ask first.
Feedback: Always welcome.
The dark and brooding figure sat, silent and still, in the armchair by the bed. The room was as black as midnight, the basement apartment being devoid of windows. Despite the darkness, the souled vampire’s enhanced eyesight enabled him to make out the restless form on the bed, and his deep brown orbs were focused with guilt on the sleeping woman tangled up in the crisp white sheets. He wearily closed his eyes, shutting out her image as his acute hearing picked up the sound of her faint whimpers and the agitated beat of her heart.
Cordelia wasn’t even aware that she no longer slept peacefully in his arms, but Angel, driven to insomnia by her disturbed slumber, couldn’t escape the undeniable reality of it. The reason for her restlessness filled the vampire with the urge to smash the objects around him to smithereens.
Unable to stay and watch her unconscious disquiet any longer, Angel abruptly got out of the chair and strode, on silent feet, into the living area of the apartment. He turned on the standard lamp that stood in one corner, flooding the room with a muted light.
The apartment was furnished in an eclectic mix of their contrasting styles, an echo of their individual personalities. Ancient weaponry and classic paintings decorated the walls alongside several modern movie posters. Cordelia’s favourite Keanu picture was not among them however; Angel had put his foot down when she had wanted to hang that up.
Next to the shiny new stereo system, CD’s of Beethoven, Bach and Mozart were stacked up next to those of various bands whose music sounded like white noise to Angel, but who Cordelia insisted were ‘cool.’
The dark brown leather sofa and chairs were decorated with pink heart-shaped cushions and the low coffee table was covered in back issues of various fashion magazines together with hardback copies of ‘The Complete Works of Shakespeare’ and Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace.’
Over the last seven months, Cordelia had blossomed from a pretty teenager into a vibrant young woman, and although her sharp wit and refreshingly brutal honesty were still very much in evidence, these character traits had softened around the edges with her growing maturity. Angel had found himself falling in love all over again, mesmerised by the beautiful woman that she was developing into.
Sighing heavily and running his fingers through his dark spiky hair, the vampire trudged up the back staircase to the offices of Angel Investigations situated directly above the basement apartment. He didn’t use the old elevator for fear of waking up his girlfriend; her current pain was becoming increasingly difficult for him to cope with and he just couldn’t muster the strength to face the young seer right now.
Turning on the lamp that stood on the desk, Angel crossed the room to contemplate the framed picture that hung above the coffee percolator. It was an amateur sketch of the ‘ugly, grey, blobby thing’ in Cordelia’s first vision, and a treasured reminder of Doyle.
He felt his stomach burn with grief at the loss of his half-demon friend, but mixed in with that sorrow was an overwhelming anger towards his former seer. Doyle had intentionally passed on his agonising premonitions to the woman that Angel loved and the vampire was struggling to forgive him for that.
His girlfriend willingly accepted the visions as a parting gift from their friend, but Angel could not. The sight of Cordelia screaming and writhing in pain made him want to throttle their dead comrade-in-arms. As far as Angel was concerned, Doyle should have never placed this too heavy burden on her slim shoulders.
The vampire could see all too clearly the toll that the responsibility of being his seer was taking on her psyche. She was still the light to his dark, but the weight of the visions had cast an inevitable shadow over her bright and sunny personality. Angel couldn’t stand to see Cordelia suffering and the injustice of it was gradually eating away at him inside.
If only she hadn’t kept things a secret from him, then he might have had a chance to prevent this from happening.
She was alone and drifting in the sea of her own mind; she could sometimes hear the murmur of voices, both strange and familiar to her, but she couldn’t open her eyes, move, or speak to let them know that she was still here.
They didn’t know that she was still alive and waiting to be rescued.
Cordelia rolled over and reached out for Angel’s solid and comforting form, coming awake instantly when the palm of her hand touched the cold empty space besides her on the mattress instead. Reaching up with one hand, she fumbled for the light switch turning on the pair of wall lights above the bed.
She was alone – again.
A cold finger of anxiety stirred low in her belly making her suddenly nauseous. How many nights was it now? It was almost as if Angel couldn’t stand to be near her. Everything had been fine until Doyle’s sacrifice, and then things between them had irrevocably changed.
Turning over onto her back, Cordelia gazed up at the ceiling trying to deal with her chaotic thoughts and emotions. The sorry state of their relationship all stemmed back to one thing – the terrible fight that had taken place a week after her first vision.
Angel, obsessing over her vision pain, had been constantly trying to wrap her up in cotton wool and his overprotective behaviour had driven Cordelia up the wall. She had decided, therefore, to tell him what Styjasimok had said about her destiny to become a seer, in the hope that it would make him realise that this was what the Powers That Be had intended from the very beginning.
Unfortunately, instead of being mollified, the vampire had exploded in a fit of apoplexy, furious that she’d kept the evil magician’s words a secret from him.
Afterwards, in the cold light of day, Cordelia couldn’t recall all that had been said in the heat of their argument, but the angry words had cut deep on both sides, opening up wounds that had yet to heal and that continued to fester with infection several weeks on.
Rolling over onto her side, Cordelia’s glassy eyes wandered tiredly about the room, and she flinched inwardly when they landed on the hastily swept up shards of glass from the vase that the enraged vampire had hurled against the wall during their fight. Angel had stormed out of their apartment soon after, leaving her alone, weeping and curled up in a tight ball on the bed.
When he had finally returned home, twenty-four hours later, the vampire was subdued and distant, but they had somehow managed to paper over the gaping cracks that had suddenly emerged in their relationship. Something had been missing since that night however, and Cordelia didn’t have a clue how to get it back.
Her boyfriend had closed himself off, putting up an impenetrable wall between them that the seer couldn’t seem to break down, no matter how hard she tried. In bed, Angel still brought her body to the heights of physical ecstasy, but their previous emotional connection was barely apparent and their love life had dwindled dramatically in frequency as a result.
It was clear to Cordelia from the vampire’s behaviour that he didn’t think she was good enough to be his seer, and that hurt like hell. He got so irritated when she couldn’t properly interpret her visions in the expert way that Doyle had done. It wasn’t fair – she was still learning and was getting better at it every time. Why couldn’t he give her the chance to prove herself worthy of the vocation that their friend had bestowed on her?
Surrendering to her deep unhappiness, the emotionally drained seer let a stream of salty tears leak out of the corner of her eyes and run down her pale cheeks to land like raindrops on her pillow. She put her hands over her face and cried herself back to sleep, her weary body shaking with silent sobs.
Something ancient and evil ran like ice through her veins, and she desperately needed to escape from it and get away before it was too late. It was finally time to breakout of this oppressive black prison and move towards the pinprick of white that gleamed like a miniature spotlight, guiding her and showing her the way home.
Angel returned to their building just before dawn broke over the horizon. Heading into the upstairs bathroom, he washed the combination of red and greenish-yellow blood off his hands, and cleaned up his various cuts and bruises with the bottle of disinfectant that he found in the cabinet.
Whilst restlessly pacing the dark streets of LA, he had been set upon by a nest of vampires and their pet Streflar demon. Hunting down and eliminating his foes had a cathartic effect on Angel’s mood, and he currently felt more in control of his emotions than he had done in weeks. He pulled off his torn and bloody shirt and donned a dark green sweater before making his way downstairs to the apartment.
Cordelia lay curled up asleep in the centre of their bed, the soft glow from the wall lights illuminating her tear-streaked face and the dark circles under her eyes. The cotton pyjamas that she wore used to fit snugly over her curvy form, but now hung loosely on her much thinner frame.
Angel sighed; he knew that her distress and weight-loss were not purely down to the strain of the visions. Their estrangement was the cause of a great deal of mental anguish to them both. The vampire was only too aware that he was taking his inability to handle the situation out on his girlfriend, but he found it impossible to stop himself from doing so. He just couldn’t get past the impotent rage that he felt every time he saw Cordelia in physical pain.
She had kept secrets from him and that filled Angel with an unreasoning resentment towards her. The upshot of this was that he had instinctively withdrawn back into himself and the effect on their former closeness had been devastating.
Kneeling by the bed, the vampire reached out and ran his cool fingers through Cordelia’s thick glossy hair, needing to make some sort of connection with her. Despite their recent troubles, he still loved her with a powerful intensity and hated that this current state of affairs seemed to be slowly, but surely, destroying the deep affection that they held for each other.
Angel decided, then and there, that he wasn’t going to let that happen; he would find a way to rid her of the visions if it was the last thing he did. His Cordelia didn’t deserve to suffer like this and he was going to put a stop to it. The Powers That Be could go to hell; he wanted things back to the way that they used to be.
Wesley peered out of the porthole window, watching while the bright lights of Los Angeles slowly got closer as his plane made its descent into LAX Airport.
He looked down to double-check that his precious backpack was still there by his feet, stuffed under the seat in front. The books and papers stashed within were the result of months of painstaking research, and to lose them was unthinkable. The ordinary-looking green canvas bag held the key to freeing Faith from the Orb of Ravaclesh’s nefarious influence and it was therefore the most important thing in the ex-watcher’s possession.
Noting that the plane’s landing gear had descended, the Englishman clutched at the armrests of his seat and waited for the inevitable bump as the aircraft hit the ground. Always a nervous flyer, Wesley sighed in relief when the pilot put the engines into reverse throttle, and brought the plane to a safe standstill on the runway before announcing their arrival in LA.
As Wesley sat with his bag in his lap waiting for the other passengers to disembark, he glanced at his watch – six am, he figured he should make it to the Angel Investigation offices by nine o’clock. Clutching his passport, the ex-watcher finally left the plane and stepped down onto US soil again, almost seven months to the day from when he had last set foot on the western side of the Atlantic.
The tunnel was dark, but she could just make out the faint light at the end of it. Struggling to move her leaden limbs, she crawled slowly on her hands and knees towards her way out, the illumination getting brighter as she approached the end of her long and painful journey.
Keep going you’re nearly there, she encouraged herself when her progress faltered slightly. Just a little way further and you’ll be home free.
Wesley smiled as he spied Cordelia’s dark head through the grubby glass panel; the young woman’s attention was intent on the pad she was scribbling on, and her long hair was hanging like a curtain around her face. Angel didn’t seem to be anywhere in sight.
Pushing down the handle, Wesley entered the Angel Investigations reception area, the rattle of the door heralding his arrival. Cordelia looked up from her desk and Angel appeared like magic in the doorframe of the offshot office at the sound. They both stared stupidly at him for a few moments, neither of them properly registering his unexpected presence.
Their dumbfounded surprise gave Wesley the time to ascertain that all was not as it should be. The cloud of tension that hung in the air choked the room with its invisible fog, and the few metres separating his friends appeared more like a deep impassable chasm.
Growing more worried by the second, Wesley’s eyes took in the extra pallor of Angel’s face and the deep bruise-like circles under the vampire’s exhausted eyes. He shifted his scrutiny to Cordelia next and was dismayed when her hazel orbs suddenly welled with unhappy tears, her brave front crumbling under his concerned blue-eyed gaze.
With a choked sob, the young woman rose to her feet, stepped around the desk and flung herself into his arms. “Oh Wesley.”
As his arms closed about the shaking girl, Wesley was shocked to discover that he could feel the outline of her ribs through the thin gauzy top that she wore.
He lifted his gaze to Angel’s and was greatly disturbed by the film of unshed tears that veiled his brown eyes and the expression of bleak despair that was etched upon the vampire’s angular face.
Something was very wrong.
Angel tore his tortured eyes away from Wesley’s steady look and bent his head to contemplate his feet, hunching his shoulders and sticking his hands in his pant’s pockets as he did so. The vampire made no move to comfort the crying girl in the ex-watcher’s arms, frozen into inaction by the knowledge that his failure to protect her was the main cause of her distress.
He cleared his throat and spoke with some difficulty, his voice hoarse and raspy. “Wes – good to see you. You should have told us you were coming home.”
Cordelia pulled away from their friend, wiping her eyes as she tried to compose herself. “Yes.” she agreed, her voice wavering slightly. “We would have met you at the airport if we’d known that you were coming.”
“I called to let you know I was on my way back a couple of days ago, but you weren’t in.” Wesley explained, reaching out to shake Angel’s proffered hand. “My flight got in a few hours ago.”
“So, have you found a way to help Faith yet?” the vampire enquired, casually perching on the edge of the desk and folding his arms across his broad chest.
“I think so, but I’m going to need your assistance to successfully restore her.” Wesley replied, his sharp eyes taking note of the fact that Angel deliberately avoided looking at Cordelia while she mopped up her tears with a large handkerchief.
What the hell was going on?
“I’ll tell you about it later though; right now I could do with a good breakfast, because I’ve had nothing but in-flight food for the last ten hours.” Wesley looked towards Cordelia. “Where can I find a decent diner?”
“There’s Sally’s – it’s only a couple of blocks away.” she replied, tucking her long hair behind her ears to keep it off her face. “You turn left when you leave the building and then….”
“How about you just show me?”
“But it’s daylight and Angel…”
“Can spare you for a couple of hours I’m sure.” Wesley quickly circumvented her attempt to evade being alone with him. He knew the only way he was going to get to the bottom of the trouble between his friends was to talk to them separately. Neither one was going to confide their problems with the other present.
“You don’t mind if I steal her for a while do you?” he queried, directing his question towards the vampire.
“No, go ahead.” Angel readily agreed, actually glad at the suggestion; it would save him the job of having to come up with a plausible excuse to explain his planned absence this morning. “We can catch up properly later.”
Wesley reached behind himself to pick up his backpack. “Can you put this some place safe please? It’s got all my research in it.”
“Sure. I’ll lock it in the weapon’s cabinet downstairs.” Angel replied, taking the backpack from him; he gestured towards the ex-watcher’s suitcase. “What about that?”
“It’ll be okay in here for now.” Wesley answered as he tucked his wallet into his jacket’s inner pocket. “It’s only clothes and stuff.”
“I’ll put it in my office.” Angel decided, slinging the green canvas bag over one shoulder and crossing the room to effortlessly pick up the suitcase. “You go and eat. I’ll see you both in a bit.”
“Shall we?” Wesley invited, gently ushering Cordelia out of the office with a light hand on the small of her back.
“We’ll talk later.” he called to Angel over his shoulder just before the door closed behind him.
The vampire waited until their heartbeats faded into nothingness, and then retreated into his office to deposit Wesley’s suitcase before heading down the stairs to the apartment. He unlocked the weapon’s cabinet and stashed the precious backpack in one corner, then reached right to the back to retrieve an intricately carved mahogany box.
Moving to sit down at the table, Angel removed the small key attached to the chain around his neck and opened the wooden box, flipping the lid to reveal the red velvet-lined interior. The receptacle contained various personal items – small trinkets that he had acquired over the years and also a series of letters tied together with a red ribbon. He pulled out the top letter, unfolded it and began to read the loopy script written in Doyle’s messy handwriting.
Angel had found the letter among the half-demon’s possessions when he had cleared out Doyle’s apartment after his death. The first few paragraphs told the vampire the story of the Scourge that his friend had already narrated to him, but the second half of the letter contained instructions on how Angel could contact the Powers That Be, should he ever need to.
It was this information that the vampire was after – he was going to demand that they send him a new seer so that Cordelia would be released from her unsought burden and their lives could get back to normal.
Wesley slid into the booth opposite Cordelia, looking upon the young woman’s pale and drawn face with concern. The walk to the diner had taken place in almost complete silence apart from a few exchanged pleasantries regarding his journey back to the US.
A blonde buxom waitress came over to take their order, smiling congenially at the two of them.
“Err – I’ll have blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, some coffee and orange juice please.”
Wesley glanced over at his too thin companion. “And we’ll have all that twice.” he added, not giving Cordelia the chance to order next to nothing.
“Sure thing honey.” the waitress replied as she scribbled on her pad.
“I was just going to order a Latte; I’ve already had breakfast.” Cordelia protested as the waitress made her way back over to the counter to shout their order through to the kitchen.
“What, two bits of dry toast?” he queried with a hint of reproval. Cordelia looked down at the table at that and Wesley realised that he had pretty much hit the nail on the head.
“Cordelia, you’ve gotten far too thin – you need to eat a proper meal.” Wesley told her, reaching out across the table to take her hands in his. “What is the trouble between you and Angel? You could have cut the atmosphere between you with a knife back there.”
Cordelia lifted her gaze up to his, allowing him to see the pain that was starkly apparent in her liquid-filled hazel eyes. He gently squeezed her fingers in sympathy. “I want to help.”
“I don’t know whether you can.” she choked out, pulling her hands out of his grasp and swiping angrily at the few tears that had escaped to run down her hollow cheeks. “He won’t forgive me Wesley, and I don’t know how to make things right again.”
“Won’t forgive you for what?” Wesley sat back in the booth watching as an expression of guilt washed over her delicate features at the question.
“When Doyle died, he passed his visions on to me.” Cordelia haltingly began to explain.
“Yes; you told me that in an email a while back.” Wesley replied with a slight nod of his head.
“Well, I guess I sort of knew it was going to happen.” the young brunette continued, her voice dropping in volume. “You see Styjasimok told me that I was destined to become a seer when he kidnapped me. That’s why…”
“He specifically needed you – the ritual to raise the Orb of Ravaclesh required the blood of a seer.” Wesley finished her sentence for her as understanding dawned in his quick mind. “I take it you failed to tell Angel any of this?” he guessed.
Cordelia nodded miserably, running her hands over her tear-streaked face and pushing her dark hair out of her eyes. “He was so angry Wesley. I’ve never seen him like that before – ever. We had a really huge fight about it; he blames me for what happened. He thinks he could have stopped me from getting the visions if I’d told him what Styjasimok had said.”
“And why doesn’t he want you to have the visions?”
Cordelia shrugged her shoulders and looked down at the table. “I don’t know; maybe you should ask him that.”
There was a hint of bitterness in her voice as she spoke, which suggested to Wesley that she had her own theory about the reason for her boyfriend’s attitude. She patently wasn’t going to tell him however, and even though her suspicions about Angel’s motives were more than likely incorrect, he decided not to push it – for the time being at least.
Given how protective the vampire was of her, Wesley could easily imagine the strength of Angel’s anger over his girlfriend’s reticence. The scale of the argument that followed her confession must have been colossal and he suspected that they had each unintentionally caused great hurt to the other during the course of it.
There appeared to be a severe breakdown in communication between them as well, which probably meant that these inflicted verbal wounds had gone unresolved, further deepening the gulf that had opened up between them. He needed to find a way to get his friends talking again, and then hopefully this bump in the road could be properly smoothed over.
The waitress brought their food to the table and Wesley watched as Cordelia shot a small smile in his direction, then picked up her knife and fork and began to ravenously eat the breakfast that he had ordered for her.
Well, at least that’s a start in the right direction, he thought silently to himself as he attacked his own breakfast with equal gusto.
Following Doyle’s hand-written directions, Angel made his way through the underground tunnels until he came to a hidden cave with a huge blocked off archway built into one wall. The gleaming white arch had ‘The Gateway for Lost Souls’ written in Latin across the top of it and a large stone font stood in the centre of the circular cavern.
The vampire quickly crossed the dusty floor towards the structure and took out the glass bottle of Kinsell powder that he had just purchased. He scattered the colourful dust into the font before bending down to pick up the lighter that lay on the ground next to the rough stone column.
“I beseech access to the Knowing Ones,” he said solemnly, then set alight to the powder in the bowl.
The concoction immediately flared up with bright orange flames and Angel jumped back, covering his eyes as a blinding white light filled the room. Once it had faded enough for him to see again, the vampire realised that the marble gateway was no longer closed off. The white light was still too bright for him to observe what lay beyond, but he strode confidently towards the revealed doorway nonetheless.
As he proceeded across the threshold, Angel felt like he was being sucked through a portal into another dimension, until he eventually found himself stepping out into a hexagonal room with its floors, walls, and ceiling all constructed from dazzling white marble.
Two figures stood on the steps in front of him – one male, one female.
The Oracles had a metallic golden sheen to their skin which was decorated with cyan blue swirls. They were dressed in black Greek-style togas with sandals on their feet. The female wore a heavy gold circlet in her hair and a matching bracelet around her wrist.
“Come before us Lower Being.” the male proclaimed in an echoing voice.
“What have you brought us?” the female asked with a higher, but similar intonation.
Prompted by a hastily scribbled P.S. on the end of Doyle’s letter, Angel pulled out a small rose-coloured vase and offered it to her. “Ching Dynasty, circa 1811.”
The female oracle beckoned with one hand and the vase flew out of the vampire’s grasp and across the room to land safely in her outstretched palm. “Lovely.” she said, turning it this way and that to admire its slender elegance.
“You have sought our counsel warrior; ask what you will – your time here is short.”
“I want you to take the visions from Cordy. Send me a new seer.” Angel got straight to the point.
The female oracle cocked her head to one side and fixated her brilliant blue eyes on the vampire’s face. “You wish to strip her of her birthright, take away the destiny that is written large in the stars?”
“Is she not sufficient?” the male oracle continued, his voice faintly incredulous. “She is young and inexperienced yes, but she will come into her own in time.”
Angel shook his head. “No, that’s not what I meant. She’s in pain and I can’t stand to see her that way.”
“That is no concern of ours.” The male oracle sniffed disdainfully. “It was your own free will that led you to invite her into your bed. That was not the purpose for which you were brought together.”
“That which has come to be was pre-ordained and cannot be altered.” The female oracle circled the vampire slowly as she spoke. “Do not trouble us with such a trivial matter again; there are more important concerns for you to be focusing on – a great malevolence awakens in your world as we speak.”
“What is that suppos…”
“Begone, Lower Being.” the female oracle cut off his query with a regal wave of her golden hand.
The vampire immediately found himself violently expelled from the Oracle’s domain and he crashed into the opposite wall of the underground cave, catapulted there by the force of his dismissal. He scrambled to his feet, swearing profusely at the once again barred doorway.
Angel clenched his fingers into tight fists and allowed the face of his demon to emerge with a low growl. He then proceeded to punch at the stone walls with his fisted hands, venting his anger and frustration out on the inanimate objects around him until he finally regained some semblance of emotional control.
Her eyelids felt heavy and were encrusted with sleep, but she forced them open and found herself staring up at a grubby ceiling and a white fluorescent strip-light. The acrid smell of antiseptic irritated her nostrils and the steady beep of machines sounded extremely loud to her sensitive eardrums.
Where the hell am I?
With significant effort, Faith lifted her arm to remove the obstruction that covered her nose and mouth and felt a tug on the back of her hand that protested the movement. She struggled for a few moments to focus her gaze, but her eyesight eventually cleared to reveal a needle secured into one of her veins with medical tape. She was in hospital then, but why?
In answer to her silent question, a deluge of images bombarded her confused brain:
C tied to a chair and struggling to escape as Styjasimok raised his knife to spill her blood.
Angel leaping across the widening crack in the High School Assembly Hall, C safely ensconced in his arms.
B crashing against the ceiling and plummeting like a dead weight to the ground.
Styjasimok raising his arms to catch the glowing Orb of Ravaclesh in his outstretched palms.
Herself, looking down at her knife, then up at the exulting magician on the podium as she slowly rose to her feet.
Oh my God! I killed him and the Orb of Ravaclesh infected me, she realised in a panic as her memory suddenly came flooding back to her in a rush.
Now that she was more alert, the weakened slayer could feel the evil that inhabited her every pore and her stomach churned with nausea in reaction to it. Her mind appeared to be clear of the infection though – how could that be?
As if triggered by that thought, the Orb began to stir within her and the blood in her veins was inundated with its corrupting influence. Faith began to hyperventilate in terror as the evil quickly spread throughout her body and headed with chilling purpose towards her unprotected mind.
Oh God! Somebody please help me! The slayer silently screamed as the Orb took control of her brain and brutally crushed her free will into submission.
“You said you’d found a way to help Faith?”
“Yes, I think so.” Wesley replied as he and Cordelia walked in the direction of the building where she and Angel both lived and worked. “I’ll explain everything to you and Angel in a bit okay?”
“Okay.” she agreed with a bob of her head.
The sun was now higher in the sky and the temperature had consequently risen by several degrees, so Wesley shrugged out of his suit jacket and slung it over his forearm. “How was she when you last saw her?” he asked the seer in a subdued tone.
Cordelia looked across at him guiltily. “Oh God Wesley – what with Doyle and everything else, we haven’t been to see her for nearly two months. The hospital hasn’t called to notify us of any change in her condition though. I’m so sorry – what kind of crappy friends are we?”
Wesley patted her soothingly between the shoulder-blades. “Don’t worry about it. You and Angel – you’ve both had a lot on your plate recently; Faith would understand.”
“I know, but still.” Cordelia shook her head in self-flagellation. “She’s my friend and I haven’t been there for her.”
“I want her back, Wes – do you really think you can make that happen?” she asked, turning expectant hazel eyes on the Englishman.
“I hope so Cordelia, I really do.” Wesley answered with feeling, as they mounted the steps and re-entered the building where Angel Investigations was housed.
Cordelia desperately missed having another woman in her life to confide in. Although she loved Angel and Doyle had been a good friend, as was Wesley, it wasn’t the same. Faith was the only true female friend that she had ever really had and the young seer grieved her absence acutely.
Sitting with the unresponsive slayer in that sterile hospital room got more difficult each time she and Angel went to visit. Cordelia hoped against hope that Wesley’s plan worked because she didn’t know how much longer she could cope with seeing her friend like that.
“It’s locked.” Wesley turned to tell her after he had tried to open the office door several times without success.
“We must have had a client or something.” Cordelia mused, fishing around in her bag for her key. Producing it with a flourish, she twisted the metal implement in the lock and let the two of them into the reception area.
“No note?” Wesley asked as she searched first her desk, and then Angel’s for a message from her boyfriend.
Cordelia frowned, the expression marring her pretty face. “No – but then he doesn’t always tell me where he’s going nowadays anyway.”
“Maybe he’s just downstairs.” Wesley suggested delicately. “Your apartment is directly under here, isn’t it?”
Cordelia nodded absently in answer to the ex-watcher’s question. “How are we supposed to make any money if he locks the clients out?” she exclaimed in exasperation, crossing the room towards the elevator.
She tugged open the metal lattice and the two of them stepped into the square-shaped lift to make the descent into the apartment below. Angel was nowhere to be found downstairs either.
“Where is he? It’s daytime so it’s not like he could…” Cordelia stopped mid-flow as she heard the sound of the trapdoor that allowed the vampire access to the underground sewers tunnels opening.
Angel emerged through the hole in the floor, his black clothing covered in a layer of dust and an expression like thunder on his handsome face.
“You’re hurt.” Cordelia cried out in alarm, rushing towards him when she noticed the dried-up blood on the vampire’s knuckles and forearms.
“I’m fine.” Angel snapped, side-stepping the worried young woman and making his way into the kitchenette to wash his self-injured hands. Wesley and Cordelia trailed into the small room after him like naughty school children.
“I don’t want to talk about it Cordelia, so don’t even think about asking.” Angel said brusquely when she opened her mouth to question him about what had happened.
The pretty brunette visibly shrank back from her boyfriend’s harsh tone, crossing her arms in front of her chest in a defensive gesture as her eyes filled with tears at his unkind treatment of her.
Wesley sighed. “Angel …”
“So tell us how we can help Faith.” The vampire quickly interrupted his friend’s objection to his anti-social behaviour. Angel was well aware that he had just reduced Cordelia to tears and he already hated himself for that; the last thing he needed was Wesley pointing it out.
The vampire knew he had to stop this before he completely destroyed their relationship; at least saving the stricken slayer would give him something else to focus on for a while. Maybe a distraction from their troubles would help matters.
Seeing that Angel wasn’t exactly in a talkative mood, Wesley saved the lecture for later and sat down at the small kitchen table to fill them in on what he had learnt during his many months of research into Faith’s predicament.
“I found a lot of spells and potions that can limit an object of power’s influence over the vessel it possesses, but there appeared to be nothing that could exorcise that control completely. With every possible solution I found, Faith would have still been partially under the Orb’s dominion. Even with her slayer abilities, she wouldn’t have the strength to fight against its authority twenty-four hours a day.”
Wesley paused to gather his thoughts, taking off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “After months of coming up against brick walls, I finally decided that I was approaching my research in the wrong way. I was hunting for a solution in the past when I should have been looking into the future instead.”
“I don’t understand.” Cordelia said, wrinkling her brow in confusion at that cryptic statement.
“I was searching for a spell that already existed rather than trying to devise a new one.” Wesley explained to the perplexed seer. “I took everything I’d found out and approached one of the witches covens that the Council has contacts with. It took a few weeks but, with their assistance, I was eventually able to come up with a potion to expel the Orb from Faith’s body, and also a binding spell to seal it once again into the earth – for good this time.”
“Why do I get the impression that there’s a catch to all of this?” Angel asked, sitting down opposite Wesley at the table and resting his chin in his hand.
Wesley smiled wryly at his friend. “Because there is; the potion has to be made and administered within an hour or it’s ineffective, and we have no way of knowing whether it will work until we try it.”
Angel nodded in understanding. “It’s worth the risk though. How long will it…?”
The vampire broke off and quickly rose to his feet, his attention suddenly diverted elsewhere.
“What is it? What’s the matter?” Wesley asked urgently.
There was a sudden blur of movement and Angel was gone from his line of sight. Wesley quickly spun around, just in time to see the vampire catch Cordelia as her knees buckled underneath her.
She clutched at her head, crying out in agony and flailing about in his arms as painful image flashes assaulted her brain.
Wesley watched her torment with growing horror; he was aware that the visions were painful, but he hadn’t expected anything like this. No wonder Angel was having such a hard time dealing with seeing her this way.
Cordelia eventually calmed in her boyfriend’s embrace and the vampire gently led the shaking girl to a chair. He knelt down on the linoleum floor in front of her and took her trembling hands in his.
“What is it baby? What did you see?”