Title: Tough Choices
Content: C/A, B/S
Summary: Two ancient objects link Buffy and Cordelia in an uncomfortable way.
Spoilers: BTVS: Through “Wrecked” ; ATS: “Lullaby”
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: I don’t care where, just let me know.
Notes: Okay, folks, here’s how this worked. 1) Reading and then submitting feedback. 2) Voting in the Poll that was formulated. 3) Then I reviewed the results of the poll and wrote the next part accordingly.
The direction of this story was entirely up to the forum members of AO/ST. Since this is, at its core, a fluff piece, I chose to ignore the following: Holtz just walked away after Darla staked herself and Connor was born. He’s not coming back for revenge. Call it a change of heart or whatever. Willow’s crazy magic stuff is still there, but its not going to consume everything like it did on BTVS.
Prologue – L.A. – The Hyperion Hotel
The small, brown paper wrapped package sat precariously on the edge of Wesley’s desk. He peered at it from the doorway, his perusal wary. He never got unsolicited mail like this and the fact that it was a package, not a letter, ruffled his nerves slightly. The cube shaped box seemed harmless enough, but nothing in the world of Angel Investigations was ever as it seemed.
“Cordelia,” Wesley called, hoping that the girl was actually here for once.
“I’m busy, Wesley,” Cordelia called, obviously not happy to be disturbed.
Wesley rolled his eyes at her tone. She’s probably reading a magazine. That’s so terribly important, he grumbled silently.
His irritation turned to guilt when he heard the soft cry of a baby in the next room, then Cordelia’s soft murmur. He strode into the lobby and found her there, tickling Connor’s tummy as he lay on the couch, kicking his feet.
“Where’s that smile, little guy? Smile for Auntie Cordelia, please?”
Wesley just shook his head at her. “Cordelia, he’s only a few weeks old. He doesn’t understand you, and a smile would just be a result of excess gas.”
Cordelia glared at him, “Well, aren’t you Mr. Sunshine today. Who put prune juice in your Wheaties?”
Not wanting to get into an argument he would lose, Wesley just ignored her snide comments. “Did you accept a delivery for me and put it on my desk?”
“Yup, yesterday afternoon,” Cordelia said, her eyes once again on the baby.
“Did you happen to see where it came from?” Wesley asked, impatient.
Cordelia shrugged. “The return address said ‘Sunnydale.’ I assumed it was from Giles.”
Not able to resist the pull of his position of authority, Wesley assumed his “Stern Boss” face and lectured her. “Next time, Cordelia, don’t accept a package unless you know who it’s from. You never know how dangerous the contents might be.”
“Geez, Wesley, such a worrywart. We get packages all the time; what’s the big deal? Besides, Angel was gone, Fred and Gunn had gone to get lunch, I was watching Connor, and he was screaming to high heaven when the delivery guy came. I didn’t exactly have the mental energy to play Gestapo with the poor guy,” she excused herself, then promptly ignored him and turned back to the baby.
Wesley just shook his head, amazed yet again that he never seemed to get through to her. He loved Cordelia like his sister, and he would do anything to protect her, but she just wouldn’t stand for it. The only one who’d ever had any luck was Angel, and even his success was limited.
Back in his office, he hefted the small box, surprised to find how heavy it was. Just as she’d said, the return address was from Sunnydale, but the writing wasn’t Giles’ and no name accompanied the address. Shrugging, Wesley went against his better judgment and opened the box.
The contents stunned him, momentarily rendering him breathless. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped as he eagerly drunk in the sight of what was obviously an amazing archeological or paranormal find.
In his hand rested an orb, approximately five inches in diameter, made entirely out of onyx. The black rock shone as the light caught it, its surface delicately etched with an ancient language. The flowing, swirly script covered nearly every inch of the sphere, interrupted only by a line that ran the circumference of the object, dividing it into two equal halves. The polished stone was warm in his hand, the energy contained in it leashed, but powerful.
Reverently, he placed the object on the middle of his desk, determined to study it further. The language looked very familiar, but the meaning escaped him. He would have to do research, lots of meticulous, exciting research. He frowned as he realized that the books he needed were not here. He’d have to go out.
Grabbing his coat off the rack near his door, Wesley swiftly exited his office. On his way he passed Cordelia who was struggling with a now-fussy Connor.
“I’m going out for a little while. Don’t touch the orb that’s on my desk.”
“What?” Cordelia shouted after him, his words drowned out by the crying baby in her arms.
But Wesley, lost in his thoughts, didn’t hear her word, and his warning went unobserved.
Sunnydale – The Magic Box
Buffy sighed heavily as she entered the Magic Box, shutting the door behind her. It was after closing time for the shop, but her workday was just beginning. It would be dark soon, compelling her to roam the streets and the graveyards to hunt and kill her enemies. Just another day of the same game, running endlessly into other days that were exactly alike. The monotony and pointlessness of it was killing her.
Ever since she’d been resurrected, Buffy couldn’t bring herself to swallow the reason for her existence that she’d so eagerly held on to since she was 15. She’d always thought she was making a difference in the world, fighting the good fight, balancing the scales of good and evil. But since coming back, that didn’t seem to matter. Every vampire she killed seemed to leave room for two more, and those left room for four more, and so on and so forth, until she felt surrounded by the undead, buried under them with never a chance for escape.
More than ever, she had longed for the sweet oblivion of death more than she’d ever longed for a normal life. Those thoughts had consumed her until that fateful night a few weeks ago when she had unleashed her anger, her sorrow, her passion, on the one person she thought she hated above all else.
Even now, the thought of that night together was enough to make her body come alive, her skin tingle, and her breath catch in her throat. She had put up a big show of loathing and self-disgust when they woke up the next morning, the remains of the building around them. But she’d said those things because she was trying to squelch the more alarming thing growing inside of her. She had realized sometime during that night, their bodies locked together in passion, that she had finally found the one person who could truly understand her. This vampire, even without a soul, had laid her bare and tended her emotional wounds in a way that no one else had ever done before, in a way that no one else would ever think of doing.
She was dangerously close to falling in love with him, and his relentless pursuit of her in the past few weeks had been wearing her down, and he knew it. She hadn’t succumbed to him yet, but she knew she would, eventually.
Shaking herself out of the raw emotions of self-reflection, Buffy pushed away from the door and strode into the room, looking for her former watcher. The shop seemed empty, not even Anya was present, which was rare, considering how the girl loved to play with the cash register and count the loose change.
She began to scan the room, looking for a familiar face in the dark corners and doorways.
Why was no one ever around when she needed them?
L.A. – The Hyperion Hotel
Angel’s heart clenched as he descended the stairs and took in the sight of Cordelia rocking his son. The baby’s small frame fit perfectly in her arms, his mouth nuzzled against her chest, his cheeks rosy, eyes closed in sleep. In that moment, he envied his son tremendously.
It had come upon him so unexpectedly, this all-consuming love for Cordelia. Where one day there had been warm, intense friendship, the next it had exploded into a fireworks display of feelings that had consumed his soul. She haunted his dreams, making his waking life a practice in self-restraint. He had to keep himself from touching her too much, from pulling her into his arms and declaring his love to her, or from kissing her senseless and carting her upstairs to his room.
His curse had been a non-issue since Darla; he’d reached such a pit of despair that the resulting epiphany had anchored his soul. He’d seen Lorne about it, and the green demon reassured him that his soul was indeed there to stay. While that journey of discovery had been painful, the result was a gift that he’d never thought possible. Happiness was within his grasp.
Happiness was sitting in front of him, cradling his son in her arms.
Angel smiled softly at her, his insides warming instantly the moment she noticed him.
“Shhh,” Cordelia admonished, whispering. “He’s finally asleep. He was screaming loud enough to wake the dead.”
“He did,” Angel said, grinning at his own joke.
Cordelia rolled her eyes at him. “Ha, ha. Funny, big guy.”
She stood up, confident at the depth of the baby’s sleep and put him gently in the portable crib on the other side of the room.
Walking back over to Angel, she said quietly, “So I assume last night was a success?”
“Yup. Those particular demons are no longer a problem.”
“Good,” Cordelia said. Their eyes met and the intensity in his sent heat flooding through her. She didn’t understand him lately. She kept getting these . . . looks from him. The increase in inner heat had her taking her coat off and throwing it onto the couch.
She was startled to hear a growl from the vampire in front of her. “What the hell are you wearing, Cordelia?”
Cordy looked down at her outfit, puzzled by her outburst. She took in the gauzy halter top, it’s neckline plunging between her breasts but covering both adequately. Her navel peaked out from the opening in the front, her tattoo dancing from the opening in the back. Her lower body was encased in form-fitting velvet pants, the soft material hugging her curves, but covering her from waist to ankle.
“What’s the big deal, Angel? You’ve seen me dressed in less than this before. I’m supposed to go out with Fred tonight.”
“You are not going anywhere in that,” he growled, angered that she didn’t see what he did.
His eyes had nearly popped from their sockets when she’d removed the calf-length coat and he’d caught sight of her attire. The shirt, though it covered her, was nearly see through, her miniscule bra not doing nearly enough to cover her breasts underneath. In fact, the outline of it drew his eyes to her chest, making his hands itch to touch her.
The pants were worse. The velvet surface begged to be touched, and even though it seemed soft, he knew that the skin it covered was infinitely softer. The pants were skin tight, and since no panty lines were visible, he knew that she had some very enticing underwear on.
“Go change, Cordelia. Now,” he ordered, not caring if she thought he was domineering. There was no way in hell that she was going to go out, to a club with men in it, looking like that. He mentally rifled through his closet in his head. Yeah, he thought he had an ankle length parka she could wear. That would be much better.
Cordelia’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t know what the hell has been wrong with you lately, Angel, but you need to knock it off. I am not about to let you dictate to me what I can and cannot wear. You are not my husband, my boyfriend, or my boss. You are my friend, and that does not come with the right to order me around.”
She stepped closer to him, her face inches from his. “I am going to wear this tonight. If you don’t like it, screw you.”
With that threat, she turned and stalked into Wesley’s office, anxious to escape him.
Immediately, Angel felt bereft at the loss of her presence. He let out a long-suffering sigh, realizing he was going to have to apologize for his actions. Again.
The last thing he wanted was to be the recipient of a full force of a Cordelia Chase Silent Treatment.
Sunnydale – The Magic Box
After scanning the front room quickly and finding it empty, Buffy headed toward the back rooms.
“Giles?” Buffy called.
His muffled voice came from the somewhere in the rear of the shop. “In here, Buffy. I’ll be out in a minute,” he said.
Buffy just smiled, reassured that he was there. Of all the things in her life, Giles was the one person who could always reassure her, make her feel better, even if it was only momentarily. Where Spike sparked fire within her, awakening feelings that threatened to both consume and heal her, Giles was the softer side of her emotions, nurturing, loving, and supportive.
As she waited for him, she noticed a new object on the counter. It was a black stone sphere, small swirls and lines covering its surface. She picked it up in her hand and rolled it over, her finger tracing the line that intersected it.
Looking more closely, she realized that there was a small space between the two halves of the sphere, as if they weren’t actually connected. She held it up to her eye, and peered through the slit. There was no center attachment holding the parts together. It was as if they were glued together magically.
Intrigued, Buffy decided to try to open it. If there was space there, it must be able to open. She took each half firmly, one into each hand, and pulled.
Frowning, she examined it again, then placed her hands. This time she twisted, and the orb responded.
Just as she felt it move, she heard Giles gasp, “Buffy, don’t touch that!”
It was too late. She looked up at Giles with uncharacteristic fear on her face, right before she was blinded by a cloud of light surrounding her.
L.A. – The Hyperion Hotel
Angel followed Cordelia into Wesley’s office, standing near the door as he watched her stiffened shoulders with resignation. He ran over his speech in his head, making sure that he tweaked it a little bit so that it didn’t sound like the last 20 or so apologies he’d made. She probably wouldn’t appreciate the fact that he recycled.
Even though she knew he was behind her, Cordelia ignored him. It was true that she was in love with him, but he didn’t know that, and right now she wasn’t about to tell him. If he thought he could order her around when she was just his friend, she shivered at the thought of how domineering he might be if she was his girlfriend.
In an effort to distract herself, Cordelia noticed the black orb on Wesley’s desk, its gleaming surface begging to be touched. She hefted the object in her hand, surprised at its weight. Running her fingers lightly over the etchings, she wondered absently what the words meant.
The lobby doors opened behind Angel as he stood and watched Cordelia stroking the sphere, wishing her fingers were stroking him instead. Wesley pushed passed him, his eyes wide with shock.
“Cordelia, put that down immediately!” he cried.
Cordelia just frowned at him, and tossed the sphere from one hand to the other. Wesley’s heart stopped in the millisecond that the orb was in flight.
“What’s the matter, Wesley? Didn’t they teach you how to share in nursery school?” Cordelia taunted, her earlier argument with Angel making her snottier than usual.
Wesley was nearly hyperventilating. “Cordelia, put it down slowly and back away. We don’t know what the orb means. It could hurt you.”
Angel came alive at that statement. “Cordy, put it down,” he demanded.
Her eyes narrowed and she grasped the sphere in both hands. “You two are the worst pair of scared old ladies I’ve ever seen. ‘Don’t touch that, Cordelia.’ ‘Don’t go there, Cordelia.’ ‘Don’t wear that, Cordelia.’ Geez, I’m a big girl, I think I can handle it.”
Both men visibly blanched at her icy glare.
“This thing is harmless. Look.” She pulled at the two halves. “See? Nothing. It doesn’t even open.” In an effort to further her argument, Cordelia twisted it, only to find herself enveloped in a haze of blinding light.
“Oops,” she said before she disappeared into the cloud, her now terrified eyes catching Angel’s.
Sunnydale – The Magic Box
Giles panicked as he lost sight of Buffy in the cloud of white light. He reached for her, only to be repelled by a strong force surrounding the light. He didn’t have time to find a way around it, and he didn’t need to. As quickly as it had appeared, the light dissipated and Buffy was left standing there, the orb clutched between her two hands.
She looked at him, her eyes wide with fright.
“Giles!” she exclaimed, her eyes rolling back in her head as she slumped to the floor, the orb rolling harmlessly away from her.
L.A. – The Hyperion Hotel
Angel lunged for Cordelia the moment she’d said “oops,” only to be thrown back across the room and slammed against the wall. He growled, vamping out at the barrier between himself and Cordelia.
“Do something, Wesley!” he growled, his eyes glowing with amber fire.
Wesley stood helplessly, his mind racing. Before he even had time to formulate a hypothesis, the light dispersed and Cordelia was once again in view, her hands gripping the sphere tightly.
Her eyes were huge, darting around the room in disbelief.
“Oh, God. Angel?” she said, her eyes finding his. Then, they fluttered closed and she sank to the ground, the orb landing with a soft clink near her hand.