Notes: This chapter takes ideas from That Vision Thing (S3). There will be a pay off to a certain lawyer’s asshattyness. Yus.
It was surprising how easy it had been to get him on side. She’d expected months of wheeling and dealing, reams of paperwork as far as the eye could see… And Angel himself had provided her with an out the minute he’d visited Cordelia Chase at her apartment.
From then on Lilah’s plan had been set in stone.
She hadn’t batted an eyelid as Cordelia was sent the first vision – she’d devised it herself, why should she?
When her demon friend had sneered that the message had been received loud and clear? Lilah had sat down for a round of mini-golf on her computer.
The second and third messages were somewhat more difficult to send. The details had to be precise, exact. The girl had to know exactly what she wanted, why she was receiving the visions, if Lilah wanted to be paid a visit from the second in command at Angel Investigations.
He’d catch on soon enough…
“Of course this hasn’t happened before,” Cordelia snapped, “Don’t you think I would’ve told you guys?” She was met with blank gazes all around the lobby, eyes that looked at her, took in what she was saying but didn’t quite believe. She couldn’t blame them, really.
As frustrated as she was, Cordelia knew that if the last vision hadn’t resulted in this whole Elephant Man look she’d had going on, she’d never have told them what was happening, no matter how scared she was.
The only reason Gunn found out was because of the blood, and eww, by the way. Her favourite shirt was ruined, her head was pounding more so than normal and her body felt like it had gone 800 rounds with a very large, very clawed demon – which technically it had, but only in her head and how the hell did that work, anyway?
Were the PTB’s somehow under the impression that she didn’t get the point with the pain and the smells and the rest of it? Visions? Had to be solved quickly – she knew that – geez! So the whole side effect thing? Kinda pointless!
“If the Powers are seeing fit to hit you with a vision this hard then we have to assume that this takes precedence over everything else and…”
Cordelia tuned Wesley out. She loved the guy, really she did, but did he have to state the obvious all the damned time? And if the Powers were seeing fit to scar her up and make her bleed now, instead of the normal debilitating visions and the drool-fest, what came next? Eyeballs popping out of her head?
Real knife in the eye instead of just a vision-head one?
Great. Wonderful. Now the visions could outright kill her instead of doing that oh-so-wonderful slowly-but-surely thing.
“You think it was a good idea to send Gunn out on his own?”
Cordelia’s head snapped up. She instantly regretted the move as a blistering bolt of pain shot from her temples, to the back of her brain and then to her eyes again, but she spoke anyway, “What do you mean ‘out on his own’?” She asked, frowning, “I thought Groo was meeting him?”
Fred looked flustered. “I-I mean… What if Groo’s late? He could… I mean… Traffic! He could hit traffic!”
“It’s 6.45, Fred,” Cordelia shook her head, “The only traffic he’s gonna hit is people flitting from work and since Caritas isn’t that far away anyway, I don’t think that– What?”
They were all looking at her, which, in itself, wasn’t unusual. It was just… Call her crazy? But something was going on. Something they weren’t telling her… And Cordelia was getting annoyed. “Okay, I get that you guys are the epitomy of vague tonight, really,” she snapped, “But whatever it is you’re keeping from me? Getting old. Fast.”
Wesley sighed, moving towards her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder, “We’re not keeping anything from you, Cordelia, we’re just worried, that’s all. I’m sure once Gunn and Groo get back the vision effects will disappear.”
Cordelia looked at him. Either he was trying for the award of Most Unconvincing Argument ever? Or Wesley really wasn’t sure that they would go away. Either way, she didn’t like it.
“I’m sure you’re right,” she said after a moment, forcing a tight smile onto her face, “I mean… It’s not like the Powers are gonna keep doing the whole Elephant man thing on me, right?”
They seemed reluctant to answer and Cordelia, reluctant to even continue with that argument, stood up. “Okay, back to work…”
Alarmed, Wesley turned his gaze back to the brunette. “Work? Cordelia…”
“What? So I got a few little scratches from a vision, big deal. It’s not the end of the world or anything.”
“Honey, I’ve seen scratches,” said Lorne, shaking his head, “And those aren’t few or little. You should be in bed.”
Cordelia’s eyebrows shot up, “Doing what? Lying there worrying about Gunn and Groo and making my headache worse? I don’t think so.” She probably could do with lying down a while. Her entire body felt like it were on fire, the back of her eyelids burning insistently.
Vision pain? Not fun. Especially not today with the added extras. “I’ll be fine, okay? I’m just…”
“You’re just nothing,” Wesley interrupted, “Every Time you say you’re fine that blatantly means you’re not. You either go home to lie down or you stay in your room here. I’m not arguing with you on this, Cordelia.”
Sighing, Cordelia ran her hands through her hair, “Wesley…”
“Resistance is futile, Plum-cake.” Said Lorne, patting her shoulder gently, avoiding the scars, “He looks like he means it.”
Cordelia sighed, dropping her hands back to her sides. “Okay, fine, whatever.” She said, annoyed that she had to forgo the actual helping out part and not answer the phone that was ringing behind her, “But if this ever comes up in conversation or we have to turn that customer away ‘cause of a few scratches? On your own head be it.”
As it turned out? It wasn’t a customer. For the second time that night, the phone clicked and right there in the lobby, Cordelia went down like a ton of bricks, skin exploding into a mass of boils…
“I don’t care what bloody time it is, tell him to call me back.” Wesley growled, slamming the phone down into its cradle, his brow creased with worry. He’d called as many of his contacts as he could – anyone who he thought would be able to help, shed some light on the physical manifestations of Cordelia’s visions.
So far none of his contacts had proved helpful. It had been two hours since Cordelia’s last vision, two hours since those God-awful boils had appeared on her skin and Wesley was reaching the end of his tether.
He looked up from the phone to find Gunn at the door to his office, shooting a nervous glance every once in a while at the stairs. “Nothing.” Said Wesley, “In fact, I’ve got less than nothing. In fact–“
“I get the picture, Wes…” Gunn cut him off, raising his hand. “There ain’t nothin’ else I can be doing?”
Sighing, Wesley sat down at his desk, pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, “Like what? Lorne’s contacting as many of his mystical consorts as he can muster, Fred’s hovering with chicken soup and I’m…” Wesley paused.
What was he doing? Other than getting frustrated by an ancient artifact? “I can’t help but think I’ve missed something.”
“Like what?” Asked Gunn, shaking his head, “We’ve been through everything, English. It’s not like the answer’s gonna just jump up and bite us in the ass.”
Wesley glanced over his notes again. Gunn was right. He’d spent the hour chasing down contacts, praying that the answer would just suddenly be there, right where he didn’t expect it.
“I hate to say it, man,” Gunn continued, “But I think we’re looking at another vision and girlfriend upstairs ain’t exactly lookin’ like she can handle it, y’know?”
Cordelia’s first vision, the one with the claw marks, had been about a coin. Her second, in which her skin had exploded into a mass of boils, had been about a key. They had both articles in their possession now… And no idea what the hell it was they were supposed to do with them.
Gunn had suggested putting them together, seeing what happened until logic (or at least a semblance of it) had prevailed and Wesley had told him he didn’t know what he was going to be walking into, that despite Cordelia’s current state, they should wait – only time was running out.
“There ain’t nobody else you can call?”
Wesley shook his head, gravely. “Everyone on my list is either too busy to talk or has nothing. I’m rather afraid that we’ve hit all the dead ends we’re going to on this side. Perhaps Lorne can turn something up when– What?” He looked over at Gunn, sitting there with an odd look on his face. “What is it?”
“You said the phone rang when Cordy had that second vision, right?”
Wesley nodded. “Yes, we just assumed it was a wrong number, they didn’t talk…”
“Let me guess,” Gunn interrupted, “High pitched squealing noise? Not much else?”
“How did you–“
Gunn steepled his fingers underneath his chin and leaned forward, “Something’s going on, Wes. And unless the Powers That Screw You started sending visions through the telephone? Then we got a phantom vision giver on our hands…”
By the time the third vision had been sent, Wesley Wyndham Pryce had burst into Lilah’s office, marched right past her PA, and tossed the artefacts he’d retrieved from Cordelia’s visions down on the desk.
“I don’t know what you want with Cordelia,” he told her, darkly, “But this ends. Now.”
Lilah smiled. “Wesley. Can I offer you some tea?”
Wesley had never before wanted to hit a woman, had never had the urge to raise his hands except when in fight, but now? He wanted to wipe that smirk right off her face. “Cut the crap, Lilah, what do you want?”
She looked at them for a couple of seconds, head tilted to one side, her expression curious. “Actually, we have another mission for you. You’re not done.”
His expression darkened. “So you send Cordelia debilitating visions, make me track halfway across the city to find out it was you who caused her unnecessary pain and you think I’m about to help you more?”
“I don’t think, Wesley,” she shook her head, “I know. You’ll do anything to help your girl and we want something from you.”
“What could you possibly want from us?” He asked, breathing out a sigh. He was weary now, running on less than four hours sleep. Cordelia, his main concern, hadn’t been hit by another vision but he understood that all that could change in an instant.
“You have your coin and your key. Be thankful I didn’t just offer them up to the highest bidder…”
He turned to leave, pulling the lapels of his jacket closer.
Time for the bait. “That’s a shame,” said Lilah, heading back to her desk, “Give whats-her-name my regards when we send the next vision.”
It had worked. Wesley spun, angrily, eyes ablaze, grabbing her by the throat. He could kill her in an instant in this office and, honestly, didn’t Lilah get off on that a little?
“Her name is Cordelia.” He snarled, “And you will help her.”
Lilah smiled, tightly, her expression one you’d expect to have accompanied with a pat on the head. “Of course we will. But first? Your mission.”
“I don’t have a bloody mission.”
“Oh you do.” Lilah affirmed with another smile, “At least, if you want to help Cordelia you do.”
Wesley sighed, his grip on her throat slackening somewhat. “What is it you want, Lilah?”<
The thing about Wesley, and certainly Gunn and Fred along with him, was that if they could give Lilah anything in place of Cordelia and the seemingly killer visions? They would hand it over without question.
She’d received another one in the time it had taken for Wesley to reach the hotel. This time, there’d been no phone call. That, apparently, had only been necessary to lead Wesley right into Lilah’s path. Now, Cordelia was covered in burns – skin cracked enough to contend with the worst burn victims of an ER unit.
He paused outside the Hyperion, glancing into the lobby where Fred sat on the ottoman, flicking through the pages of a book, trying to help Cordelia still, no doubt.
His heart felt heavy as he trudged inside, head downcast.
“Wesley! You’re back!” She jumped up off the seat, sandals clicking on the floor as she ran to greet him. “What’s happening? Is Lilah going to help Cordelia?”
From the corner of his eye he noticed Gunn, carrying a glass of water and a bottle containing Cordelia’s most potent pills. “How is she?”
“Same.” Gunn frowned, shaking the bottle, “Up to one every hour now. What’d Lilah say?”
Wesley blinked. What the hell was he supposed to do, exactly? Go to Angel, grovel, beg him to take on a mission that had nothing to do with him and pray that he, a once soulless demon, was a much better man than Wesley could ever be?
That would go down a treat, he was sure.
“The visions aren’t meant for us.” He said tersely, heading down into the lobby with his two colleagues, “They’re a tool. Not only to free the man in Cordelia’s last vision but for Angel.”
“Angel the-vampire-I-don’t-like, Angel?” Gunn asked.
“The very same.” Wesley nodded, “She wanted to… Get Angel in the game, so to speak. Apparently he plays an important part in the future of Wolfram and Hart.”
“So they go through Cordelia? What’s that gonna achieve?” Gunn’s expression grew dark. “Angel has nothing to do with us, man. What the hell–“
And this was the difficult part, Wesley supposed. Telling them that they had to believe that Angel was the better man, that he’d come through for Cordelia. Telling him that they, apparently, didn’t matter.
Cordelia didn’t matter because she was just a tool, a card to be played when Wolfram and Hart were lacking in things to do.
The ex-watcher sighed, sinking into one of the chairs, head in his hands. “Lilah said that Angel would get involved because… Because that’s who he is. That’s what he does. He helps people. Especially one’s he’s connected to.”
Neither noticed that Fred had stayed silent through all of this. She shifted nervously, foot to foot, knowing the conversation was about to take a turn for the decidedly worst.
“I’m not sure,” Wesley answered, “I can only assume his past with her in Sunnydale, but we can’t afford to wait around until this plays out. I knew Lilah meant business already but sending her another vision–“
“Can’t we just kill her?” Gunn interrupted, “Seriously. My hub-cap axe would really like to have a meeting with her neck, know what I’m sayin’?”
Despite himself, Wesley smiled. “If only… Lilah assured me that should anything happen to her Cordelia’s visions would only get worse.”
“So what you’re saying is that there’s a rock, a hard place and then there’s us?” Gunn ran a hand over the back of his head, “Great. Meanwhile Cordy’s stuck upstairs with those fucking killer visions and we can’t do a thing.”
Wesley’s hands tightened into fists by his side. “We can contact Angel. Hope that he’ll be willing to help Cordelia…”
“Yeah but how?” Gunn pressed, aware that he was asking all the questions no-one wanted asked, “It’s not like we can shine some big vampire light in the sky and hope he comes to the rescue.”
Wesley frowned. In hindsight, he should have asked the vampire for a contact number, should they need it. Of course, he hadn’t been so welcoming to Angel, had he? Reluctant to rock the boat even slightly, Wesley had turned him away, lest he destroy the one instance of sanity they managed to bring to Cordelia’s life.
Now, he wished he had asked him for a number. Especially now they needed it.
“I’m not sure,” he answered, slowly, “I was thinking we could ask Lorne to talk to his patrons, perhaps? See if they know where he lives?”
“That could take hours.” Gunn frowned. “And wouldn’t half of his patrons have tried to kill him already if they did?”
“You have a better suggestion?”
Fred, having listened to all this with a ball of nervousness growing in the pit of her stomach, looked up. “I might have a better suggestion.” They both turned to look at her. “I mean, I’m not sure it’ll work, I… It’s just his cellphone. His address…”
“You have his cellphone?” Wesley questioned, once Fred tailed off. His mind was already working overtime in ways he didn’t want to imagine – each one of them concerning Cordelia. “How? Why?”
“Because,” she sighed, “Because I asked him for it.” It was the simplest answer she could give and yet when they both continued to stare, Fred felt compelled to offer more. “He’s not a threat to us, Wesley. He can help. He can help Cordelia and he’s not gonna give up when the goin’ gets tough.”
There was a flash of anger in Wesley’s eyes, a flash of misunderstanding in Gunn’s. They just didn’t get it, did they? “You didn’t see what I saw that first night,” she continued, folding her arms across her wiry frame,
“The way Cordelia smiled when she talked about Angel. And y’all have been saying how much happier she’s been lately.”
“This hasn’t been just a one time thing, has it?”
Fred shook her head, determined, “No. Angel’s been seeing her on and off for the last three weeks. I gave him her address.”
Wesley’s temper flared. He wasn’t sure what he was so angry about – the fact that Fred had done this? Or the fact that she’d gone behind his back.
“You had no right to do that, Fred,” he snapped, “There are things about Angel that you don’t understand, can’t possibly. Things that Cordelia shouldn’t have to deal with.”
“What, Angelus?” She asked, folding her arms in front of her, “He told me! Even offered me a list of books to go read in case I had any doubt about what he was. I even asked Cordelia one night, before she went to meet our snitch. He’s not a threat to her.”
“And you’re qualified to make that decision?”
Fred looked at him, incredulously, “Excuse me?”
“You heard me.” The ex-watcher intoned darkly, “You can make that decision all on your own?”
Gunn, who’d been watching the exchange silently, tried to step in, “This isn’t the time guys…”
“I’ve kept the peace for a long time, Charles,” Fred looked at him, “Maybe this is the right time.” She turned back to Wesley and though her voice was strong, her eyes were sad,
“How can you ask me if I’m qualified to make decisions for Cordelia? None of us are!”
“And yet that’s exactly what you’ve done.”
“And what you do every day!” She yelled, past the point of frustration, “You make the decisions. You tell us that we have to keep up the charade and yet it stopped being about Cordelia a long time ago. It started being about you, about how living a lie was easier than facing up to the truth. Groo’s dead. Cordelia thinks every day is the same. And that’s easier for you because you blame yourself.”
Wesley’s eyes were dark, pinning Fred to the spot, “Feel better?”
“This isn’t about me and you know it,” said Fred, her voice never wavering, “We lost a lot the day of Cordelia’s accident, Wesley, but we didn’t just lose her. We lost part of you too and I’d do anything to get that back.”
“And Angel’s the answer?”
“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully, rolling her shoulders in a tiny shrug, “But for Cordelia? I’m willing to give it a try.”
Wesley didn’t stop her when she went towards the phone. He barely looked up when Gunn turned his gaze on him, not agreeing with Fred but not having disagreed either. The atmosphere in the hotel thickened even more so and Wesley, true to form, felt uncomfortable.
Casting bitter recriminations wasn’t the key to helping Cordelia get better but for what had happened was out in the open. They had a way of contacting Angel, a way of getting help. It should have pleased Wesley… But Fred’s words had left a hollow ache deep inside him.
She was right, he could admit, walking towards his office and closing the door behind him. So much of what he’d done this last year had been in Cordelia’s best interests – starting over, letting her live that day again.
He didn’t want to see her hurt, didn’t want to spend the day explaining that Groo was dead, that Cordelia’s life, in effect, was over.
It killed him to see her cry and Fred was right, he did blame himself. How could he not? Every day that Cordelia was happy was a constant reminder of how much she’d lost.
“It’s Fred,” he heard her say from behind his door, her voice muffled, “Something’s happened… Wolfram and Hart… Okay… Bye.”
And that was that, apparently. She and Gunn didn’t talk when Fred had hung up the phone, but then Wesley wasn’t much fond of the art of eavesdropping.
He busied himself tidying files and folders on his desk wondering when he’d lost sight of what he thought was important.