“I must say I never thought I would ever prepare a bottle of blood for a vampire.” Wesley offered a shy smile as he handed the bottle to Cordelia. “This is Buffy’s blood. Faith’s is laced with tranquilizers, so it would be better to save hers for last.” That said he handed her a second bottle.
“What are friends for?”
“Nothing says friendship like draining an unwilling slayer of three pints of blood.” Cordelia winked before disappearing into Angel’s bedroom.
Giles gently clasped Buffy’s arm when she turned to follow Cordelia. “Perhaps we should return to the library. Time is quickly running out and we still don’t have a plan.”
“Angel needs me right now. I’ll join you once I’m sure he’ll recover.”
“Don’t, Giles. I need to be here right now.” She tugged her arm free and walked away.
Wesley cleared his throat, feeling out of place the moment Cordelia had left the room. “Perhaps you should remain here for now, Mr. Giles. I can return to the school. I was making some progress with the Professor’s notes before the Council… I realize I no longer serve in an official capacity but I’d… I’d like to help.”
“You have. You came through today.” Giles could almost feel the tension coming from Angel’s bedroom. “I believe I will stay a little longer. Willow, Oz and Xander should already be in the library. They can assist you. I instructed them to continue researching but they were rather distracted.”
“I’ll be sure to explain what transpired here.”
“Thanks.” Giles rushed from the room when he heard Buffy’s raised voice.
“Just let me do it! I have the strength to hold him down. Angel’s confused. He knows it’s my blood and he’s trying to protect me.”
“He drinks pig’s blood for a reason, Buffy. It’s the human part he’s having trouble with. Angel is a vampire. I think he knows the difference between drinking from a bottle and biting a human. He’s protecting himself, not you.” Cordelia gently cupped Angel’s cheek. His thrashing settled at her touch. “You have to drink this, Angel.”
“No. Human,” he mumbled.
“Perhaps Buffy should hold him down, Cordelia. He must drink.”
Cordelia pressed the nipple to his lips. She had enlarged the opening so the blood would flow more freely. Angel would balk at knowing he drank from a bottle but she wouldn’t risk losing a single drop. “LIAM MICHAEL SULLIVAN, YOU WILL DRINK THIS RIGHT NOW!” A sigh of relief escaped her when he finally obeyed.
Giles silently studied Buffy’s reaction.
“Who,” Buffy asked in a choked whisper.
“Who… What did you call him?”
Loving hazel eyes remained focused on the still weak vampire. “Oh that. What can I say? Young horny Liam followed the wrong blonde into an alley and ended up becoming known as the vampire with the angelic face.”
Buffy felt her heart breaking a little more. The strong hand on her shoulder kept her from crumbling or launching herself at the brunette on the bed. She straightened her spine and spoke to the room in general.
“There is still a battle to be fought. Angel will be fine now.” She nodded as if confirming her own thoughts. “Faith is out of the picture, so that leaves the Mayor.”
“Wesley has joined the others at the library. Why don’t you and I return there as well?”
“Of course,” she absently wiped a tear away. “We’re…” she took a cleansing breath, “we’re needed there.”
Giles gently guided Buffy from the mansion.
“Cordelia? Cordelia Chase came up with that plan?”
Wesley held up his hand before Xander could ask again. “Yes. It was Cordelia’s plan. Angel will make a full recovery. Faith is en route to the Watcher’s Council. No slayers were irrevocably hurt to attain the cure. Now we must return our thoughts to the ascension.”
“Willow, enough with the “oh wow’s”. Deadboy is cured, Buffy’s not a killer, Faith is no longer a danger and we have Cordelia to thank for it.” Xander scrubbed his fingers through his hair and glanced at Wesley again. “Cordelia Chase?”
“Yes damn it all to hell. Cordelia bloody Chase. Now may we please get to work?”
“Well excuse me for asking,” Xander muttered. “And just for the record, damning everything to hell was the last apocalypse.” Xander buried his head in the book in front of him at Wesley’s venomous glare.
Oz rubbed soothing circles on Willow’s back. “Do you think you’ll be moving past the “oh wow’s” soon?”
“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.”
“Exactly.” She couldn’t resist the urge to smile. “I’m not an accessory to murder.”
Cordelia snuggled into Angel’s side. Shortly after finishing Faith’s blood, he began sleeping peacefully. His body was cool to the touch again. She felt like she could finally breathe again. The sound of his voice was all that was missing and the world would truly be a beautiful place.
“What happened?” The blinding smile he received almost made him forget his confusion but human blood still teased his senses. No, not just human, slayer blood. “What happened?”
“You were poisoned. You needed a cure.” She shrugged her shoulders. “And you got one. Details so aren’t important right now. You need to rest.” She gently pressed his chest back to the bed. “The Counc… I mean I was told your strength should return quickly, but rest is still a good idea. You’ve been through quite an ordeal. I’ll just let you sleep.”
Avoiding eye contact, she tried to extract herself from his arms but he refused to let her go. “You had some human blood. Get over it. You’re alive or still undead. I won’t apologize for doing what needed to be done.” She grumbled, “At least my plan was better than Miss Slay Happy’s.”
“Cordelia, what… I’m not mad. I’m confused. What happened and don’t leave out the part where I was fed slayer’s blood.” He rolled his tongue around his mouth. “More than one slayer at that. Start at the beginning and don’t leave anything out.”
Xander continued to unfold the page. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
“Oh dear lord.” Giles turned and rushed down the stairs. “It seem pure demons truly are bigger.” He placed the book on the table in front of Buffy and Wesley.
“I can kill that.” Buffy gulped as Wesley continued to unfold the page. “No problem. I just need… a ton of molten rock and the Mayor’s toast, right? I can do that.” She clutched Giles’s arm. “Where the hell can I get a ton of molten rock?”
“I don’t want any more excuses! Faith can’t just have disappeared. She wouldn’t do that. She wouldn’t miss our big day. She wouldn’t.”
“There were signs of a fight, sir. The scent of her blood was faint, but it was there.”
Mayor Wilkins grabbed the fledgling by the throat. “Faith wouldn’t let someone kill her! She’s out there somewhere. Find her.” He tossed the struggling vampire into his cowering companions. “Don’t disappoint me again, boys. Disappointment tends to make me unpleasant and no one wants that, do they? Now go!”
“That about sums it up.” As soon as Cordelia managed to extricate herself from Angel’s ever-strengthening grasp, she immediately began pacing and stuttering out an explanation.
Angel tried to remain calm. His girlfriend was obviously agitated enough for the both of them. “You left something out.”
Her eyes looked everywhere, except directly at bed. “I don’t think so.”
“Cor-de-lia,” he purposely dragged out her name. “Where is Faith now?”
“I can’t believe you’re asking me that.” Her hands flailed as she continued to avoid his gaze. “She’s alive.” Her eyes narrowed as she finally met his. “She wouldn’t have fared so well in Buffy’s plan.”
“We’ll get to that. First I want to know where Faith is now. If she knows what you did, she might come after you. She’ll definitely go after Buffy, considering Buffy wanted to feed her to me.”
Cordelia rushed to Angel’s side. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that. Buffy was distraught. Honestly I would’ve helped her carry Faith’s dead body here if I hadn’t come up with a better plan.” She covered his mouth before he could speak.
“I know. You don’t drink human blood for a reason. I get that.” She waved her free hand to dismiss his worries. “Oh well. The important thing is Buffy and I both wanted you to be alive, or you know still undead, to yell at us. Okay so you have your whole guilt thing and don’t feel you have the right to judge Faith. Yeah well I have no problem judging her. She tried to kill my boyfriend in order to distract his ex-girlfriend. Somehow I’ll find a way to go on.”
Angel kissed the palm covering his mouth before pulling it away. “Where is Faith?”
She gave him her best innocent face. “I sort of gave her to the Watcher’s Council.” She jumped off the bed and resumed pacing. “Look. They promised they would try to help her. It’s not like she was getting any better by staying in Sunnydale. The police would never be able to handle her and we can’t just stand by and let her continue to kill people. I did—”
“—what I… What did you say?”
“You’re right. Something had to be done. I don’t know if the watchers can help her. I’m not sure anyone can until she wants to be helped, but doing nothing wasn’t a possibility anymore. We’ve been focusing on how to stop the Mayor, but deep down Buffy, Giles, Wesley and I knew we’d have to go through Faith to do it.”
“So,” Cordelia stepped closer to the bed. “You’re not mad at me?”
“Cordy, you saved me and you did it without sacrificing a life. You knew what that would’ve done to me and found another way. I’m proud of you. You kept a clear head even though—”
“Well I may have been a little hysterical when I first got to Wesley’s apartment.” She didn’t protest when Angel’s hand caught hers and pulled her onto the bed. “I may have cried a little and there may have been a little screaming too.” She rested her head on his shoulder.
“I think I even cursed at some uppity up in the Council. Of course he should’ve been more cooperative with Wesley in the first place. I knew their refusal didn’t make sense. They met Buffy. They had to know she wouldn’t follow orders like that.”
“So you got them to admit what the cure was?”
“Well I am Cordelia Chase. When I really want something, I get it.”
“Is that right?”
Her grin matched his. “I got you, didn’t I?”
“I need to know his weaknesses.” Buffy continued to ignore Cordelia and Angel’s presence. Even though the couple stopped holding hands moments after entering the library, they never strayed more than a foot or two from each other. “Giles, tell me you have something. A rocket launcher isn’t gonna get it done this time.”
“We’re still working on it.” Giles glanced at Wesley hoping he might have had luck.
“I haven’t found anything either I’m afraid.”
“Perhaps there is something about the Mayor himself that might be helpful.” Giles turned toward Angel. “Did you notice anything that might be helpful when you were pretending to be Angelus?”
“I… Well he didn’t seem too crazy about germs.”
“I don’t believe germ warfare would be a very good idea. He may be impervious to germs in his new form and we’d end up killing every living thing in Sunnydale except him.” Cordelia’s fidgeting caught Giles’s attention. “Cordelia, have you thought of something?”
“I need useful information fast, Giles. I don’t need Cordelia wasting time I don’t have.”
“Well excuse me, Miss Let’s-kill-fellow-slayers; we can’t all be expert thinkers like you.”
“Bickering amongst ourselves helps no one.” Giles waited until Buffy regained her seat before continuing. “Now have you or have you not thought of something that may prove helpful?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Buffy, please let Cordelia finish.”
“Well he really does think of Faith like a daughter.”
Angel nodded, remembering seeing Faith and the Mayor together. “He’s probably going out of his mind right now.”
“Exactly. He has no idea I arranged to have Faith… well shipped out of the country.”
Buffy grudgingly acknowledged Cordelia’s valid point. “I can use that and I think I have something that just might help.” A plan quickly formed in her mind. She glanced around the room realizing for the first time that she was the leader.
It was strange, a little sad and a whole lot scary. A part of her wanted to make a few suggestions to Giles and let him give the orders. It was one thing to be in charge of her actions. It was totally different to be in charge of everyone else too. She was responsible for them.
“Cordy, we still have a few hours before we need to get back. Isn’t there something else you’d rather be doing, preferably while naked?”
She glanced heavenward and prayed for patience. “If someone had followed through on their promises sooner, we’d be doing the naked pretzel like Oz and Willow.”
“How did you know?” He was the one with the increased senses.
“Duh! It was written all over her face. She had the ‘world is ending and I can’t die a virgin’ moment. I’m happy for her. Oz is a great guy, even if he does get in touch with his canine side once a month. I’m not too pleasant to be around once a month either.”
“I can’t wait,” he mumbled under his breath.
“Nothing. We’re getting a little off topic. Let’s focus on our sex life, the one we don’t seem to be enjoying at the moment. Can’t we have the ‘world is ending’ moment too?”
“Oh please! You are so far from being a virgin you can’t even say the word.”
“I can say it.”
“Whatever. The point is you promised to teach me how to use a crossbow and I’m holding you to it. Hello! You do remember we’re about to be involved in a battle for our lives and this time we’re all fighting.”
“I told you you’re not going.”
“Pfft. Like I’d miss my own graduation, I don’t think so.”
“Cordelia, there isn’t going to be a graduation. The Mayor is going to ascend into a pure demon and eat the seniors, their parents and the faculty.”
“No really? And here I thought it was going to be your run-of-the-mill diploma and unflattering gown events.”
“Sarcasm aside, I don’t want you to fight.”
“We’re you not paying attention to the plan? I know you’re upset about Xander being “key” guy and all, but…”
“I’m not upset. Just because Xander couldn’t fight his way out of a bingo parlor, doesn’t mean I object to the plan. I can take orders.”
“Pfft. Like anyone doubted that, we all witnessed the age of the slayer’s lapdog so let’s not reminisce.”
“Geez even Harmony has agreed to fight. I’m not bailing on my friends to save my own ass. End of discussion, now get with the teaching.” She accidentally pulled the trigger releasing the bolt. “Oops.”
Her sheepish grin didn’t pacify him. “Be careful. That’s a dangerous weapon, not a toy.”
“Yeah well I never liked that painting anyway.”
Angel retrieved the arrow from the wall, tearing the painting further. “Don’t worry. It’s a knockoff.”
“Really? I wonder if Daddy knows. Maybe I should add that as a postscript in my letter.”
“I’m still not too sure about that.”
“Angel, it was your idea to leave right after the ceremony.”
“Yes but that was when you were supposed to be at home packing while the battle was going on.”
“Get over it. I’m not sitting this one out.”
“I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you.”
Cordelia wrapped her arms around Angel’s neck and drew him down for a kiss. “I don’t plan to take unnecessary risks.” She kissed him again to stop his protests. “I plan to stand beside my friends today and I plan to ride off into the sunset with you after it’s over. Well maybe not the sunset but you know what I mean.”
He leaned forward and rested his forehead against hers. “I can’t lose you.”
“You won’t.” A frown crossed her features as a thought suddenly occurred to her. “You know you should be the one comforting me. You’re the one who almost died. I almost lost you.”
Angel captured her lips to stop her growing agitation. “I’ve been trying to comfort you but you insisted on fighting lessons instead.” His hands skimmed down her back to cup her butt. He lifted her slightly to press her hips into his growing hardness. “It feels like forever since I made love to you.”
She wriggled out of his arms. “I guess that thought should keep you properly motivated to survive.”
“Cordy,” he groaned when she evaded his grasp. “Have mercy.”
“Angel, you know I want you. I ache with it, but I’d like to have some idea of what I’m doing with that thing.” She pointed at the crossbow to stop any crude comments he might be tempted to make. “Do you really want me to go into this without any training?”
“I don’t want you to go into this at all,” he sighed in defeat, “but it’s obvious I’m not going to get what I want.” He picked up the discarded weapon. “Let’s start from the beginning.”
“Are you okay, Buffy?”
“Stupid question. Of course you’re not okay. You have to fight the Mayor.”
“I won’t be alone in that.”
“Yeah but you’re the one who has to lure him into the school.”
“I’ve been thinking, Will. In a way, this plan seems strangely fitting.”
“I left my last school after I burned the gym down. This time I plan to blow the entire school up.”
“You do like to make a statement when you leave. Life with you never gets boring.”
“It’s not too late to choose one of those ridiculously expensive colleges.”
“I think Harvard can live without a badass Wicca matriculating in their hallowed halls. UC Sunnydale is where I’ll be. Where else can I minor in fighting the forces of evil?”
“That’s very true.” Buffy’s grin slowly faded. “Angel’s leaving.”
“What? What about the Mayor?”
“I mean after. He’s leaving Sunnydale for good.”
“But… does Cordy know?” The redhead almost hit herself at the slip. “Not that I’m worried about… that horrible boyfriend-stealer, because I’m—”
“It’s okay, Willow. I can’t bury my head in the sand. I’m dealing and to answer your question, Cordelia is going with him.”
“They’re both leaving? Is Angel following her to college?”
“I don’t think so. To be honest, he didn’t mention where they were going and I didn’t ask.” She shrugged. “Knowing Cordelia, I’m sure she’ll call Giles at least once a week. I don’t think I’ll ever understand their friendship. It’s yet another thing I just have to accept.”
Willow clasped Buffy’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “I can’t say I know what you’re going through but I can tell you that I’ll be here for you.”
Xander found the two friends hugging. “Group hug and I’m missing it.” He rushed over and embraced his best friends.
“That was much better.”
“But my aim is still off.”
“That will improve with practice but it’ll do for now. You saw the drawing Giles showed us. The target won’t be small. A few inches won’t matter.”
Cordelia tossed the crossbow onto the table and turned in Angel’s arms. “Whatever will we do now?” She began nibbling on his earlobe and let her hands wander. “We still have some time.” Having Angel’s arms around her while he corrected her technique nearly drove her out of her mind.
“I know. Let’s work on some staking techniques.”
“That’s not the expression I would’ve used but it still works.”
Angel stilled the busy hands trying to unbutton his pants. “That’s not what I meant.” Once he began her lessons, his fears seemed to fester and grow. Cordelia would be facing a demon of massive proportions, vampires and who knew what else. She needed to have some idea how to defend herself.
As much as he wanted to devote his attention to keeping her safe, he had to wait until the eclipse before he could even show up. Even then, there was a plan to follow.
He grabbed a wooden stake out of the weapons bag he’d filled at the library. “Staking a vampire isn’t as easy as it sounds.” He tossed her the stake.
Cordelia caught it with ease. “What happened to my frisky vampire boyfriend?”
“His girlfriend refused to stay where it’s safe. Now try to stake me.”
“That is so not gonna happen.”
“Cordy, the Mayor’s lackeys are sure to be there; which means you have to be prepared to fight vampires. Inches will definitely matter so the crossbow is out. When Xander calls for retreat, you need to have your stake ready. Now try to stake me.”
“Angel,” she spoke slowly as if speaking to a child. “This is a wooden stake and you are a vampire. There is no way I’m going to try to stake you with this.”
“Baby, I’m not gonna let you actually stake me.”
“Duh but accidents can happen. Who knows what hidden talents I might have? Get me something non-wooden and I’ll be happy to stake you.”
Her wicked smile made him laugh. “I have an idea. I’ll be right back.”
Cordelia poked through the bag, checking for any weapons she might want to learn how to use. She turned at the sound of approaching footsteps.
“Since I’ve heard how good you are with this, I figure it’d be perfect for this lesson.” His eyes sparkled with amusement as he tossed her a weapon.
“I seem to recall you mentioning how adept you are with that.”
“Nobody likes a smartass.” Homecoming flashbacks made her grimace. “I still can’t believe neither of us won.”
“I’m sure you were the most beautiful woman there.”
“Actually I looked horrible. My dress was torn and covered in grass stains but,” she shrugged, “we lived to tell the tale.”
“Again and again.”
“You ready to stake me? That thing is made of aluminum and plastic. You can’t hurt me.”
“I’m feeling a little better about wood at the moment.”
“I love you too. Now try to stake me.”
“So you ready to play demolition man, Giles?”
“I believe so.”
“I guess a part of your decision about the future has been made for you. I don’t think the school’s going to need a librarian after you blow it up.”
“It seems we’ve both had decisions made for us.”
“Buffy told me that Angel’s leaving and taking you with him.”
“Actually leaving was kinda my idea. It’s graduation day, Giles. Time to grow up. Move on. Make with the life outside of high school.”
“And you can’t do that here?”
“Not really. Working together wasn’t exactly working out. Throwing Xander, Buffy, Angel and I together will only make us miserable and everyone else uncomfortable. Angel and I intend to make a fresh start. Eventually Buffy will move on and Xander… will still be Xander.”
The corners of his mouth twitched into a weak smile. “Do you know where you’re going?”
“Los Angeles. We’ll stay at a hotel until we find a place to live.”
“If you need any money, I’ll—”
“Angel has some and I already contacted an art dealer in LA. I plan to sell the artwork my grandfather left me. As it turns out, those paintings are the only real ones in my parent’s house.”
“You shouldn’t have to do that.”
“I want to. My grandfather and I weren’t close. He spent over fifty years making my grandmother miserable. He once told me the artwork was a sort of dowry because whatever man I tricked into marrying me should get at least something out of it.” She waved away the concern she saw in Giles’s expression.
“My grandfather on my mother’s side more than made up for the other. Grandpa Jake was a sweetheart.”
“I’m going to miss you terribly.”
“I’ll miss you too, but I’ll only be a couple hours away.”
“And we’ll talk on the phone.”
“Absolutely and you can visit. After all, you’re about to become unemployed.”
They shared a laugh. Giles pulled her into a brief hug. “You better get out there. The ceremony is about to begin.”
Cordelia kissed his cheek. “Don’t forget me, Ripper.” She rushed out of the office before he could respond. With her head down, she crashed into Wesley in the hallway.
“Cordelia, are you all right?”
“I was just saying my goodbyes to Giles.”
“Don’t. I don’t think I could survive saying goodbye again. You have my number in London. Be sure to call me once you’ve settled in Los Angeles.”
“So you’re still going back?”
“Buffy hasn’t changed her mind. She doesn’t intend to work for the Council any longer. I hope I will be allowed to help Faith.”
“A bit of advice, I wouldn’t mention to her that you helped arrange her capture. She might not take it well.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Well it’s time to graduate. Be careful out there, Wes.”
Angel held Buffy’s gaze for a moment through the smoke. The battle was over. So too was a chapter in his existence. He’d come to Sunnydale to help the slayer and he had. He’d also loved, lost and tried to have the world sucked into hell. He turned on his heel and walked away.
As he approached the Plymouth he’d only hours before taken out of storage, he realized he wasn’t walking away. He was walking toward a life he knew he didn’t deserve. The woman he loved wholeheartedly, a woman who loved and accepted him completely, grinned at him from the driver’s seat.
He leaned against the door and captured her lips in a searing kiss. She was a little mussed from the battle but beautiful nonetheless. As the school was about to explode, he’d rushed Cordelia to the safety of his car before going back to make sure it was truly over and that Buffy had survived.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yes. I saw all of them. Wesley was on a stretcher but at the rate he was whining, I’d say he’ll be just fine.”
“I guess this is it then. Goodbye to Sunnyhell.”
“No.” Angel smiled at her confused look. “It’s hello to our new life together.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Angel.”
“You’re not driving my car.”