Wesley used to enjoy being the first one into the office. He would get to watch his makeshift family arrive one at a time. Each entrance would bring a smile to his face.
Smiling now felt unnatural in the hotel. Everyone was in pain and nobody was talking about it. Gunn was still angry. He wanted to release that anger onto Angel but he couldn’t bear to upset Cordelia. Fred was a mess. At least she had stopped writing on the walls. She wrote in a notebook instead.
Cordelia had barely spoken except a word or two about Connor. She only allowed Angel and Fred to hold him. Mainly she would rock him in her arms and wander aimlessly around the hotel. She seemed lost in her own world.
Wesley wanted to get her help but he didn’t know whom to get. Lorne said he would look for someone who would believe what she had to say. Angel had barely eaten or slept. He constantly watched Cordelia and Connor.
The only time he left them was to shower after which his skin always looked rubbed raw or whenever he got them food. He would put a plate of something or a bottle on the counter near them and she would pick it up. They didn’t talk to each other. Cordelia would on occasion speak at him but not really to him. He would immediately do whatever she asked.
It was always something for Connor. Whenever she used the bathroom or showered, she would hand Connor to Fred who in turn handed him to Angel and vice versa.
Wesley dreaded another day in the suffocating fog of despair that had settled over the hotel but giving up was unthinkable.
Fred wandered down from her room. Her eyes were puffy from crying. Her clothes were wrinkled and she had dark circles under eyes. She sat down on the red sofa with her notebook and continued writing. He had tried asking her about it but she would only say she was trying to figure out a formula.
Gunn soon walked in with a box of donuts. No one squealed in delight and no one fought over who got what. He set them on the counter and started cleaning his axe. Again. Wesley had made a previous comment about the weapon not needing anymore cleaning. Gunn had responded that he wanted it to be spotless when he finally took the vamp’s head.
Cordelia came down the stairs carrying Connor. She sat down on the red sofa with Fred but there was no talking. There was no giggling between the two women. He wasn’t entirely sure if she knew there were others in the room. Regardless of the conversation going on around her, she would rock Connor and whisper only to him.
Wesley had no idea what to do. There were no answers to be had in any of his books. When it came to emotions, Cordelia was the boss. She was the heart. He glanced at the doorway. He knew without a doubt his world had gone from bad to apocalyptic. “Hello Buffy.”
“Hi Wesley.” The petite blond scanned the room for Angel. “I came as soon as I could. Life has been crazy in Sunnydale. There are these three… It doesn’t matter anymore. Everything is going to be fine now. Where’s Angel?”
She spotted Cordelia with a baby in her arms. “Is that Angel’s son?”
“Oh my god he’s so cute.” She crossed the lobby intending to hold him but Cordelia turned away from her. “Hello to you too. C’mon Cordy let me hold him.”
“Buffy, please don’t. Cordelia has been…”
“I heard. Willow told me.” She watched in disbelief as the brunette walked away with the baby. She was about to follow her into the courtyard when Wesley’s voice stopped her.
“I don’t think you understand. You cannot hold him.”
“Says who? What’s her problem? She didn’t even say hello. I mean rude much.”
“She has been through a lot.”
“She looks fine to me. Sure she has a bite mark but hey been there, done that.”
Wesley stilled Gunn from approaching the intruder. “This really isn’t a good time for a visit.”
“Don’t worry I can’t stay long. I just wanted to meet Connor and ask Angel in person when he was coming back to Sunnydale.”
“I don’t understand. Is there some oncoming battle you require help with because he isn’t..”
“No. Willow fixed his curse. He can be happy now. We can be together. You know everyone has been so worried about how dependant Willow has become on magic and I was too but I’ve seen the light. She’s become uberpowerful. First she pulled me… but now she’s given Angel back to me. Everything was so messed up. Giles left and Spike… I really needed some good news.”
Wesley removed his restraining hand from Gunn’s shoulder. “Buffy, I’m sorry to hear things have been difficult for you but I’m afraid…”
Everyone jumped at the sound of Angel’s voice. It had been so long since he spoke to any of them, Buffy included.
“She’s outside being rude.”
Angel glanced at Buffy but turned to Wesley for an explanation.
“Buffy is here to pay us a visit. I’m afraid she tried to hold Connor shortly after her arrival.”
“And you let her?” His tone was accusatory.
“I told her to stop. Cordelia took him out into the courtyard.”
“Did she upset her?”
“I think Cordelia is…” Fine was not an appropriate word. “She didn’t seem upset, just protective.”
“OK.” He moved so he could look out at them. She was sitting on the bench with the sunlight streaming down on them. She gently rocked Connor in her arms. It frightened him how much she resembled Drusilla with one of her dolls. He had done that to her. He had done that to both women.
Buffy stared at everyone in confusion. “What’s the big deal? I just wanted to hold the baby. I wasn’t going to drop him or anything.”
It finally registered with him that Buffy was in his hotel. “Hello Buffy. I’m sorry but Cordelia won’t allow anyone but Fred and I to hold Connor right now. You’ll have to meet him another time.” He returned his attention to his duties as their sentinel.
Buffy didn’t understand what was happening but that didn’t matter. Her life would make sense again once Angel told her he loved her. She needed him to say he was happy about their future together.
“I came here to see you too. My life has been so hard lately. When Willow told me about the changes she made everything fell into place. I didn’t think I could be happy again but I was wrong.”
Angel nodded occasionally while Buffy spoke. It was comforting to know that someone he had once tried to break had found happiness again. It gave him hope for Cordelia. It had only been a week since they had returned to the hotel. His despair was so consuming that he had intended to walk into the sun but Cordelia stopped him. He sat curled up in his room waiting for the sun to rise. He heard his son crying.
Fred had placed him on the bed but he couldn’t hold him, not after what he had done. The internal moving picture show wouldn’t stop playing over and over again. Cordelia had sacrificed herself for his son. He had managed to commit so many unforgivable acts in only a 24-hour span. His demon had chosen its gift well.
Cordelia suddenly appeared in his doorway. Her scent made his senses go crazy. His demon stirred which only proved to intensify his guilt and shame. When he finally managed to look up, he saw her curled around their son.
Their eyes locked for a moment before she rested her head. He watched the two most important people in his life sleep. He couldn’t believe she would come so close to him after everything he had done to her, let alone sleep near him. She allowed herself to be vulnerable near him.
He knew then that his despair didn’t matter. He had to protect them. He had to protect her. There was something broken inside her and it was his fault. He had to do whatever it took to help her. He would do anything she asked of him. She didn’t speak in words but her actions told him she didn’t want him to go, at least not yet.
Buffy’s words started to intrude on his thoughts. He glanced over his shoulder at the people he would have killed if not for Cordelia’s selfless disregard for her personal safety and emotional well-being. They looked angry and the anger seemed to be directed at Buffy. It should have been directed at him. Everyone should hate him.
“So who’s the lucky guy?” Everyone stared at him like he’d grown a second head.
“That’s not funny, Angel.”
He realized she must have said the guy’s name only he hadn’t been listening. “I’m sorry, Buffy. I’m distracted right now but I really am glad you’ve found happiness. It’s in short supply around here.”
“Angel, I don’t think you’ve understood Buffy’s intentions in coming here. She’s under the impression that you will be returning to Sunnydale with her.”
“Because you no longer have a happiness clause in your curse.”
“Don’t you get it, Angel? We can be happy now. Aren’t you excited? Isn’t it wonderful?”
It was the first time since his return that he felt rage directed at anyone but himself. He tried to reign in his emotions. If he reacted now, he wouldn’t be able to control his actions. His body grew completely still.
“I think it would be better if you moved back into the mansion at first. It will take Dawn some time to get used to the idea of you living at the house. Willow agreed to go over to the mansion and clean it up for you. She’s way powerful. It’ll only take her a spell or two to get the place ready. I’ve told everyone and they’re all happy for us. Well Xander isn’t but he’ll come around. Spike wasn’t… but he doesn’t matter anymore. I have you now. I don’t need him or his… approval. I called Giles in England. He was cautiously optimistic. He still has his reservations but he wants me to be happy. I haven’t been myself since I came back.”
Wesley couldn’t take it anymore. He glanced at his friends. He noticed Gunn had snapped the handle of his axe but he remained silent. Gunn didn’t know Buffy; he only knew their history from stories. Fred was scribbling at a furious rate and tears were streaming down her face. Wes was going to put a stop to this if Angel couldn’t.
“Buffy, excuse me for interrupting your jubilant plans, but how exactly do Connor and Cordelia figure into all this?”
“Well Connor would come too of course. We’ve never had a baby around before. Anya, Willow and Dawn are all excited about it. I know Tara would be too but she’s been a little scarce lately. That might change though. As for Cordelia, I’m not the boss of her. If she wants to return to Sunnydale, no one is stopping her. I doubt Anya would be too happy since she and Xander are getting married soon. Besides what does Cordy have to do with anything?”
“Cordelia had been through a terrible ordeal and her only comfort is Connor.”
“I’m sure it was horrible but let’s get some perspective. She had to deal with Angelus for one day. I had him stalking me for months. Hell even Giles had more of an ordeal than Cordy. Look at her. She’s got a bite mark on her neck and one faded bruise. Which I’ll grant you is on her face so that’s probably traumatic for her lordship but I think she’ll be fine.”
Buffy spun around to face Angel.
“I’ve been trying to control my temper but you have pushed me way too far. You don’t know the first thing about Cordelia or what I put her through.”
“Angel, in case you forgot”
“I haven’t forgotten anything. Everyone is always telling me I need to share. I can’t keep things bottled up inside. Fine here goes. After I lost my soul, I asked Cordelia who I should kill first, Fred or my son. She offered herself in their place. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up so I let them go. She didn’t fight me because she needed to buy enough time for them to get away. Do you have any idea what I did next?”
“You don’t have a clue, Buffy. I raped her.” He didn’t notice Gunn picking up the top half of his axe or Wesley restraining him.
“That was the first time I bit her. I only drank until she was unconscious then I wrapped her in a blanket, got dressed and put her in the trunk of my car. I drove us to a neighborhood she once said she wouldn’t mind living in. I picked a house that had a few lights on, wrangled myself an invitation, drained their staff and locked the family in the one teenage son’s room. I took Cordy up to the master bedroom and waited for her to wake up.”
He turned away from their horrified faces and stared out into the courtyard.
“When she woke up, I took her to meet the family. I told her that every time she said no to me I would kill one of them. I put their lives in her hands and she did exactly what I knew she would. She put their safety, six strangers, ahead of her own. I raped her again and again and again. It wasn’t just what I put her body through; the things I said were… I broke her.”
Buffy wiped her tears away. She couldn’t think about any of that now. She would deal with it later. First she needed to convince Angel to come with her. He was going to make everything right. That’s what she had been counting on for a week. She had finally started to feel like her old self and she wasn’t going to lose that because of Angelus.
“Angel, it wasn’t your fault. It was Angelus not you.”
“You can tell yourself that if it helps you, Buffy. I can’t dismiss it so easily. Even if I could lay the blame on Angelus, he did it because I’m in love with her. He did it not only to break her but to break me too. Like I said, you don’t have a clue.”
“Stop saying that! OK. I didn’t know that youhe… raped her and I truly feel sorry for her but it is NOT your fault. You can’t let Angelus win like this. Don’t you see? This is our chance for happiness and you’re letting him take that from us.”
Something broke inside of Angel, cold eyes locked with Buffy’s. “No. You don’t get it. You aren’t my idea of happiness anymore. If you were, Cordelia would be okay right now. I am in love with her and that is why she was made to suffer. My love cost her… so much.”
“NO! Go home Buffy. There’s nothing for you here and if you say one more time how happy you are for us I swear I will beat you down.” He walked into the courtyard, careful to stay in the shadows.
Buffy stood in the middle of the lobby, her entire body shaking. She tried to wipe her tears away but they kept flowing. “He doesn’t understand. He loves me. He’s just feeling guilty right now.”
“You really are stupid.” Fred rose from the couch.
“Excuse me? Who the hell are you?”
“I’m a member of this family. Do you even know how Angel lost his soul?”
“Something about his son.”
“That was a part of it. Cordy and I were upstairs with Connor. We were talking. We didn’t know Angel was listening. I was asking her about the night before. She and Angel had fallen asleep together. I pushed her into admitting that she wanted to be Connor’s mother but she would never try to replace Darla. I assured her he could love them both. Then I pushed her into admitting she was in love with Angel. She said it aloud for the first time and Angel heard. He told he loved her too and he wanted them to be a family.
He told her he knew Connor could love her like a mother and Darla as well. They were going to be happy. They were happy and it cost Angel his soul. Angelus blocked our only escape route. Like Angel said, he was trying to decide which of us to kill and Cordy promised she would do whatever he asked if he let us go. She let him… and I just walked away.
She is a hero. She is my hero and right now she’s hurting. We, her family, are going to do whatever we can to help her and if that means kicking your ass out then that’s what we’ll do.” The skinny Texan folded her arms and stood tall.
“Get out of our home. You don’t belong here. You obviously don’t care about our problems so don’t expect us to care about yours.”
Buffy stood there closing and opening her mouth like a fish. She couldn’t understand what was happening. She couldn’t understand why Angel wasn’t making everything better.
“Buffy, will you be all right driving home?”
She slowly shook her head. “I didn’t drive. I took a bus.”
“I can drive you to the bus station, if you like?”
“I…I don’t understand! He’s supposed to love me! Nothing makes sense anymore. Why couldn’t they just leave me in heaven? Why did my friends have to rip me out of there? How much more can I take? I don’t understand any of this!”
The other three stared at her in confusion and the beginnings of pity.
“Buffy, I believe I know someone who might be able to help you. He’s a friend of ours who helps to set people on their path. He’s staying at Cordelia’s apartment right now. The rampant emotions in the hotel were too much for him to handle. I can drive you over there. I should warn you though. He is a demon but he’s harmless. Well not harmless but he isn’t dangerous. He may make you wish you were colorblind though.”
He offered a slight smile to his former charge. He had no idea what she had been through. It had to have been a traumatic transition. He didn’t know how to help Cordelia but at least he could help someone. He grabbed his keys. “Shall we go?”
She glanced towards the courtyard. “Maybe I should…”
“I think it’s best if you leave them alone. Perhaps another time.” He looked directly at Gunn. “Do NOT do anything while I’m gone.” He received a hesitant nod in response.
He walked over to Fred. “It wasn’t your fault. Please believe that.” He kissed her forehead before leaving with the still shaky Slayer.