It was decided that Angel, Buffy, Xander and Oz would go to Waverly Park. Cordelia said she’d seen a dozen demons in her vision, so they needed the muscle. And Oz’s van was the quickest way to get there.
Once they had left, the apartment was much less crowded. And much too quiet.
Giles glanced at the beautiful brunette. She lay on the sofa, eyes closed, one hand pressed to her forehead.
“Are you alright?” he asked her.
Her left eye opened just a crack. “I will be. It’ll just take a minute. Or thirty.”
Careful not to jostle her, he sat on the edge of the sofa. “Are your…visions always this painful?”
“They used to be. I could have sworn I fixed it, though.” Wincing, she closed her eye again. “I’m liking this time travel crap less and less.”
Giles waited a beat before continuing. “If you don’t mind my asking, how did you…”
“Details, Giles?” Cordelia said. And, despite her obvious pain, she graced him with the slightest of smiles.
Giles was startled by how…enchanted he was by it. He’d always known she was a stunning young woman, of course. He wasn’t blind. But it was a very impersonal awareness.
But, now, a warmth he’d never noticed before seemed to shine through the beauty. As he looked at her, a strange heat seemed to climb up his neck.
“Y-your right,” Giles said, as he rose to his feet. “Of course. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“Your chronically curious,” she said. “I’m used to it.”
A little thrown by her graciousness, he backed away.
Just then, Willow returned from her search of the bathroom.
“All I found was aspirin.” She gave him a disapproving glance. “You only have aspirin, Giles.”
“I’m…sorry?” Giles said, not quite sure what he was sorry for. Never being sick enough to have anything stronger?
The red-head disappeared into the kitchen, and came back with a glass of water. “Here, Cordelia. Maybe this will help.”
“Maybe.” The brunette pulled herself into a sitting position. When Willow shook two pills into her hand, she scoffed. “Give me a couple more.”
“Four?” Willow glanced at the label on the bottle. “But this says…”
“I can handle four aspirin, Will.”
After a moment’s hesitation, the young witch gave her the extra pills.
Giles frowned. Cordelia acted like taking pain medication was an everyday occurrence. Which, if the visions had always hit her this hard, might be the case.
Of course, she’d said the visions didn’t hurt anymore. Or, at least, weren’t supposed to. Which was some consolation.
After taking the pills, Cordelia closed her eyes and lay back down. “Thank you,” she sighed.
“Um, you’re welcome,” Willow said. Looking uncertain, she walked over to Giles’s side. “She’s…different.” Then, as if she needed a second opinion, “Don’t you think she’s different?”
“She certainly is,” Giles agreed.
Assured, Willow nodded and continued on into the kitchen.
Eyes still on the young woman. It was obvious that Cordelia *had* changed. And it wasn’t just the lack of complaints, the warmth in her smile. The change was a tangible thing. It radiated from her spirit. There in every word, every gesture. In her eyes, and in her voice.
Three years. What else would change in that time?
Mind exploring the possibilities, the Watcher returned to his seat and picked up his book. Soon after, Willow returned to her computer.
Giles was convinced Cordelia was asleep when she suddenly sat up.
“They did it,” she said.
Willow glanced up from the keyboard. “Did what?”
“Beat the demons and saved those kids.”
“Um, how do you know?”
“Because.” She tapped her temple. “This always gets easier whenever *whatever* the vision wanted done gets done.” She glanced towards the door. “Our little hunting party should be back any minute now.”
Xander looked up at the stars. He was in the perfect position to do it, lying on his back and all.
The teen closed his eyes and took a deep, shaky breath. It was nice being able to breathe again. Breathing was good.
Why had he been so eager to come a-demon-fighting anyway?
Oh, yeah. Angel was going. And *Oz*, too. And there was no *way* Xander was going to be the lone guy left sitting by the hearth, waiting for the heroes to return.
Okay, so Giles was there. But no-one ever questioned *his* manliness.
Xander opened his eyes…and yelped when he found a tall, dark figure hovering over him.
Smiling, Angel held out a hand. “Here.”
After some hesitation, Xander took it, and let himself be pulled to his feet.
“You okay?” the vampire asked.
Xander paused, suspicious of the question. Unable to find a hidden meaning, he said, “I’m fine.”
“Good,” Angel said…and seemed to mean it. Giving the teen a strong pat on the back, he moved off. The vampire stopped a few feet from Oz, who had somehow managed to stagger to his feet. “How ya doin’?” he asked…sounding eerily like a character in a modern-day mobster movie.
“Not too bad,” the werewolf said. “Mostly.” Rubbing the back of his neck, he moved his head from side to side. “That kinda hurt.”
And Angel chuckled. Again! “I’m sure it kinda did. That hit would’ve taken *me* down.” And he gave Oz a pat on the back, too.
Xander felt dazed and confused. Since when had Angel become a back patter? Or a chuckler? Or even the let-me-help-you-up type?
That’s when Buffy returned. From what Xander remembered, she’d taken off after a couple of runners.
“Everybody okay?” She took a look around. “Where did that couple go?”
“Took off,” Oz said.
“Good. Maybe next time they’ll get a room. Or at least do it in a car. Like normal people.”
Then—like she always did when the subject of S-E-X came up and Angel was around—she cast him a shy, embarrassed look.
Sighing, Xander turned towards the vampire. This was going to be one of those long moments when everyone was supposed to shut up and stay still while the two gazed longingly at each other.
But he was surprised to see that Angel had already started walking towards the parking lot.
“We should get back,” he said. “I want to check on Cordy.”
Buffy’s face fell. Her shoulders sagged.
And Xander had yet another reason not to like the vampire.
The drive back to Giles’s was mostly made in silence. There was one surreal moment when Oz put in the tape for an up-and-coming LA band.
Angel nodded his head and made a grunting sound. “Good song.”
“You like Play House?” Oz asked, obviously surprised. Or as surprised as he ever got.
“They’re not bad. I think they’re best live, though, which is probably why their record didn’t sell.”
And the dazed confusion kept on a-comin’.
They all trooped through Giles’s door, ready for their usual, post-demon slaying party.
“How did it go?” Giles asked, the worry he usually tried to hide flashing in his eyes for a brief moment.
“Are you okay?” Angel asked, going straight towards Cordelia. And not trying to hide his worry at all.
Cordy gave him a long, hard look. “*I’m* fine. But *you’re* not.”
An entire room of startled faces turned towards the vampire. Who looked completely fine to Xander.
“Cordy,” the vampire said, shaking his head. “It’s nothing.”
Hands on her hips, she eyed him up and down. “Where does it hurt?”
After a brief staring contest, the vampire sighed in defeat. “Here.” And he gingerly placed his hand on his left side.
“Okay, sit down.”
And, without argument, the vampire took off his coat and sat down on the sofa. Sitting next to him, Cordy—without hesitation—lifted his shirt.
Xander winced. There were three slashes along Angel’s rib cage. Demon-claw-type scratches.
“Ewwww,” Cordelia said, crinkling up her nose. She looked at Giles. “First aid kit?”
“Yes, of course,” the Watcher said as he disappeared into the bathroom.
Xander wondered if he was the only one who noticed Buffy slipping out the front door.
Apparently not, because Willow slipped out after her.
Xander wanted to follow, too. But, at the same time, he didn’t want to leave.
So, he turned back towards the sofa, and listened to Cordy fuss about Angel’s habit of getting hurt every time he went out to fight a demon.
And watched Angel try to hide his smiles.
“Are you laughing at me, buster?” Cordelia finally demanded.
Immediately, the vampire donned a look of pure innocence. “I wouldn’t dare.”
“Hmmmph,” Cordelia…well, hmmphed.
And Xander felt his heart sink. He’d seen this side of Cordelia before. But, somehow, with one thing or another, he always managed to forget it.
Well, it looked like Cordy had found someone who saw and remembered. And it wasn’t him.
((Hey, look! Another reason to hate the guy!))
Buffy paced from one side of the courtyard to the other.
She wasn’t angry exactly. She was…she wasn’t sure. She just felt like pacing.
And was glad Willow hadn’t said anything. She just sat on the bench and waited for Buffy to speak.
“She knew he was hurt,” Buffy finally said.
“Yeah,” Willow said, the confusion plain on her face.
“I didn’t know he was hurt, and I was there when he *got* hurt. But she knew he was hurt.”
“Oh,” Willow said. She searched for something to say. “Well, maybe it’s tied in with the visions. Or…”
“No.” Buffy gave her head a vigorous shake. “She just looked at him and knew. And he lets her take care of him. Did you see that?” she demanded, giving Willow a hard look.
“W-well, yeah. I m-mean…”
“It looks like she takes care of him all the time. Like he’s *used* to it. You know?”
Willow didn’t try to answer. Just waited.
“And he keeps *smiling*!” She said it almost like an accusation. “I’ve seen him smile more tonight than he has since I’ve known him. And the way they talk to each other, all tease-y and joke-y. And they were *hugging*! I’m not the only one who *saw* that, right?”
Obligingly, Willow shook her head.
“And he’s going to rock concerts, and letting Cordy bully him, and holding her when she has visions. Whatever *they* are.” Running out of steam, Buffy sank lower in her seat. “So,” she sighed. “What does it all mean?”
There was a lengthy pause. Frowning, the Slayer turned to stare at the witch.
Willow jumped, like she’d been startled. “Oh! Me talk now.” She paused to gather her thoughts. “Well, I think it means that, in the next three years, Angel and Cordy will become…friends.”
“Friends?” The word left a strange taste in her mouth. “How in the world will Angel become friends with *Cordelia*?”
Willow almost seemed afraid to say what was on her mind. But she forged ahead. “Well, Cordelia does seem kind of…different?”
“Why? Because she’s not bitching about whatever at 100 miles an hour?”
“No, it’s not just that. There just seems to be something different about her. Inside. You know?” She shrugged. “I can’t really explain it. She’s just not the same person we saw at school this morning.”
Buffy scowled. Okay, she’d admit that something seemed to have changed about Queen C. Still…
“Buffy?” Willow said carefully. “Are you jealous?”
Buffy gave it some thought. And, okay, she *was* jealous. But not for the obvious reasons.
Okay, the obvious reasons were part of it. But there was something else. Something that was the tiniest bit petty.
“I’m all he has, Will.”
Willow gave her a questioning look.
“I’m all Angel has,” she explained. “When he’s hurt, or lonely, I know I can help him. *I* can make him feel better because there *is* nobody else. I’m all he has.”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “And I feel bad about that. When we’re at school. Or at a party. Or I’m having a movie night with my mom. I feel bad knowing Angel is alone. Waiting for me. That he’ll be alone until I can get there. I feel bad about it because I’m not there. And I know he needs me.”
“Oh,” Willow said again. And she gave Buffy a sympathetic look. “Well, he *has* kind of devoted his life to you. It seems like you’re everything he needs or wants. It’s not your fault that that’s how you expect things to be.”
“But it’s not how things will be in the future. Sometime, in the next three years, he and Cordelia are going to become friends. And he’ll have someone else to turn to when he feels hurt or lonely. And he won’t need me anymore.”
“Buffy!” Willow admonished. She looked at the Slayer like she’d gone crazy. “Angel will *always* need you.”
Buffy looked down. She just kept seeing Angel and Cordelia together. There was a connection between them. Even when they weren’t together. Even when Angel was at the park, fifteen minutes away, there was that connection.
Buffy squeezed her eyes shut. Maybe it was the suddenness of it. Maybe in three years, after watching Angel and Cordelia’s friendship progress naturally, it wouldn’t bother her at all. Maybe…
Buffy and Willow turned to see Oz standing in the door.
“Giles found what we were looking for.”
“It’s good we found this reversal spell when we did,” Giles said. He looked fondly at the book he held. “Apparently, the magic of the statue lingers inside those it affects for several hours. But, once that magic dissipates, this spell would be useless.”
“So, that’s it?” Cordy asked, her eagerness plain to see. “Say a few words, and poof?”
“Not quite. We have to prepare. Fortunately, I have all we need right here.”
“Then let’s do it”
So, they prepared. Candles. Herbs. Circles and runes drawn on the floor. The whole bit.
Finally, Angel and Cordelia were standing in the center of the circle.
“So, um, it’s been real,” Cordelia said. And she graced them all with that brilliant smile.
Xander, who’d been walking across the room, actually tripped.
“Fascinating,” Giles agreed. “Although, I wish we’d had more time to…”
“Giles. Details?” Cordy interrupted.
For some reason, the Watcher smiled with chagrin. He even blushed a little.
((What’s *that* all about?)) Buffy wondered.
“Safe trip,” Oz said, like they were about to hop in the car and make a quick stop at Thrifty Mart. Not travel through time.
“’Bye.” Willow said. And did that shy wave thing she liked to do.
“Toodles,” Xander said, managing to sound sulky and sarcastic at the same time.
Buffy stepped forward, her attention focused on Angel. From somewhere, she managed to dredge up a smile. “So, I guess I’ll see you in three years.”
And he flinched again. “Um, yeah.”
After an uneasy pause, Buffy stepped back.
“Alright,” the Watcher began. “Angel, Cordelia. Hold hands, please.”
And they took each other’s hands like it was the most natural thing in the world. And gave each other small, reassuring smiles.
Buffy looked down.
“Let’s begin,” Giles said. And, reading from the book, began to speak in a language Buffy didn’t even pretend to understand.
Suddenly, Angel and Cordelia were surrounded by tiny, blue sparks of light.
No, the sparks weren’t surrounding them. They were coming *from* them. Being pulled through the pores of their skin. Dancing and swirling, like the winds of a tornado.
Without warning, a brilliant flash of light filled the apartment.
Buffy threw up a hand to shield her eyes.
“Ewwwww! What is going *on* here?” a shrill voice demanded.
Buffy opened her eyes to a sight weirder than anything she’d seen since coming to the Hellmouth.
Angel and Cordelia were holding hands.
That is, until Cordelia snatched hers away. Folding her arms, she glared at the room at large. “Okay, what mondo weirdness have you freaks and geeks managed to get me mixed up in now?”
It was a question everyone was asking themselves as they looked around the apartment. With the exception of Giles, this wasn’t the last place any of them remembered being.
“Well,” the Watcher said, staring at the book he held in her hands. “It’s obvious that…something occurred.”
Xander gave the Watcher a look. “Ya think.”
Frowning, Buffy looked around the room. Something had happened here. Something none of them could remember. Which, on the Hellmouth, probably meant serious non-goodness. She should probably feel really worried.
But, when she looked at Angel—who was already gravitating towards the darkest corner of the room—all she felt was relief.
* * *
Angel and Cordelia crashed to the ground. One with a grunt. One with a painful yelp.
“Angel!” Wesley cried.
“Cordy!” Gunn exclaimed.
Frowning, Angel looked around the chamber. They were back. To the exact moment—the exact second—when they had left.
Wesley and Gunn hovered over them.
“Are you two alright?” the ex-Watcher asked. “Did the light effect you in any way? Do you feel…strange.”
“’Cause it looked nasty,” Gunn offered. The young man shivered for illustration.
Cordy didn’t comment. Just raised an uncertain hand to her shorter hair. Eyes wide, she turned to look at Angel. “Did we really just…?”
“Yeah,” he agreed. Seeing the worried looks on the other men’s faces, he couldn’t help but grin. “What a trip.”