Season of Solace. 44

44:     Mercy Hospital, Westside, Sunnydale

For the second time in the space of a day, Cordelia escaped from the clutches of darkness holding her in its ethereal grasp. Consciousness returned, this time to the sound of muddled voices and distant beeping. Even before she opened her eyes, she knew where she was: Sunnydale’s Mercy Hospital.

“She’s awake,” Faith’s voice sounded even before she could get out a decent groan of discontent. This was the last place she wanted to be and she did not care who knew it.

Buffy let out a dramatic sigh. “It’s about time.” Oh, great, just who she wanted to see right now. Not.

“Thank heavens,” Giles’ relief was clear, which made her feel a teensy bit better. Until he added, in typical no nonsense fashion, “I should probably pop back to the cemetery soon. I wasn’t quite finished gathering rubbings off of the obelisk.”

Gee, thanks. Abandon me for an old rock why dontcha. The incentive to actually open her eyes was not overwhelming at the moment.

Willow yelped, “Ouch, you stepped on my foot.”

“Sorry,” Xander muttered from close by. “Are you sure she’s awake?”

Maybe if she kept her eyes closed, they would all go away. Cordelia tried it for several seconds, but could feel the weight of their concern looming over her. Lifting one eyelid, she peeked out. Nope, it wasn’t just the angsty vibes. It was them leaning over her bed staring at her.

“Geez, give a girl a little breathing room.” Cordelia smiled until she had them all smiling back at her. “Not that I don’t deserve the attention, but why am I here?”

Xander gasped instantly jumping to worst case scenarios. “Oh no! Cor has amnesia.”

She raised an eyebrow, glancing around at the faces in the room noting that there was one face conspicuously absent.

“The doctors said it was probably just a concussion.” Willow hit him on the arm. Asking Cordelia just in case Xander was right, “Do you remember your name? Your address? Us?”

Cordelia flicked a look toward Faith who stood cross-armed, staring at Willow as if she was the one who had been hit in the head by a meteor fragment. “I think…,” she lifted a hand toward the small bandage covering her wounded head. “Yes, I’m almost sure my name is…Buffy Summers. Who are you people?”

“What!” Buffy, Xander and Willow parroted their shocked reactions.

“Perhaps you should try that again, Cordelia,” Giles pursed his lips in response. “Without the drama, this time.”

Glancing up from the IV tubing that had caught her attention, Cordelia grinned at him. “You’re no fun.” Then to the rest of them, “I don’t have amnesia, you dorks. I just don’t remember how I got here.”

Faith supplied her with an answer. “Angel carried you to the car. We brought you here.”

“We got Giles’ Code 6 page,” Buffy shifted so that she was sitting on the edge of the bed. It sucked that they had a code for meeting at the hospital. “They told us what happened.”

Cordelia eyed Giles and Faith. “Um, they did?”

“It’s cool, Cor,” Faith immediately alleviated her fears in that direction. “We just went over the details about the meteor and the creep who attacked you.”

“Oh, good.”

Buffy gave her an odd look. “What’s so good about it? You’ve been marked as the next sacrifice in some demon ritual.”

“I have other plans. Demon rituals are out this year.” Cordelia squashed the fear that threatened to bubble up.

“Angel & I won’t let anything happen to you.” Faith’s confidence bolstered her up a bit, but she was quick to see the way Buffy reacted.

The two Slayers stared silently at each other until Buffy finally broke down to say, “The rest of us aren’t exactly cheering for the demon. We’ll be around.”

Cordelia’s eyes shifted around the room again as if half expecting to see Angel stepping out of the shadows. He was not there. She had not missed him the first time. “Pfft. Like I want you guys hovering over me all the time.”

Although, a little hovering would not be so bad if it was the right person. Even if he was kind of a jerk at the moment.

She half-listened as Willow reminded her that it was not just this kidnapping demon she had to watch out for. Drusilla and Spike were still out there somewhere, too.

“So where’d the big guy run off to?” Cordelia tried to sound casual about asking. “Did he decide to go to the Blood Bank for a snack?”

The room fell silent for a moment until Buffy admitted to being a little confused about Angel’s whereabouts. “Angel’s not here. Left about an hour ago. Said he had something to do.”

“So much for being concerned about my safety,” Cordelia huffed. Part of her stubbornly determined to stay angry with him. He’d had the nerve to compare her kisses to Buffy’s. “Wacky and Blondie could come in at any second, no invitation required.”

Faith let out a short laugh. “C’mon, Cor, give the vamp a break. You started it.”

“Did not.”

Then Buffy asked, “Am I missing something?”

They both responded, “No.”

Giles scrubbed a hand over his mouth and jaw, cleared his throat and walked over to stare out the window. Frowning at him, Cordelia wondered how long it would be before Buffy whined her way into making him tell her everything that happened at Shady Hill.

“Angel asked me to stay until he got back,” Faith explained that he planned to return all along. “That was right before these guys showed up.”

“We ran into him in the hall.” Xander shrugged it off uncertain why it seemed to be a big deal to any of them. “Dead Boy’s always been the mysterious type. He didn’t say what he was up to.”

Willow gripped the side rails as she leaned in, “He looked kinda upset. I tried to ask how you were doing, but all I got was a grumpy growl. He just told us where to find you, said he had something to do, and then stalked off without another word, even to Buffy. That was rude, dontcha think?”

“Typical,” Cordy plucked at the neckline of her hospital gown, trying not to think about the way she could not get enough of him. Just the thought of those kisses and the way his big hands molded her body against his made her warm all over.

“You’re looking kinda dazed,” Willow pointed out, concerned.

Xander agreed, “And flushed.” He put a hand to her forehead. “Maybe I should get the nurse.”

“Sheesh! I’m fine, Xander. My head hurts a little, but I promise not to pass out on you.” Cordelia pushed his hand away. “Where was all the concern the last time I was in this joint?”

Ducking his head, Xander looked hurt. “Hey, I tried.”

Cordelia sighed and squeezed his hand. “Yeah, you did.”

They were still holding hands when Angel walked in the door. He met Cordelia’s gaze, looked for an instant as if he was going to rip their hands apart, and then simply stepped out of the way.

“Bev!” Cordelia smiled instantly upon seeing her grandmother standing there.

Xander was standing in her path as Beverly Quinn made her way to Cordelia’s bedside. “Out of my way, young man. It’s rude to stare.”

They all backed off and stared at the older woman sitting beside Cordelia, almost alike except for the passage of years between them. “Who is she?” Buffy had to ask as she moved over to stand beside Angel.

“Cordy’s grandmother.”

The two of them were talking, caught up in Cordelia’s explanation of interrupted picnics and a meteor shower. Buffy wasn’t sure what unsettled her the most: the idea that Cordelia actually had a grandmother or the fact that Cor had explained away patrol as some kind of a picnic with Angel.

“Did you know?” Buffy asked Xander and Willow. After all, they had known Cordelia most of their lives even if it was as their childhood nemesis.

No, they answered with the shake of their heads. Xander leaned in even closer. “I always assumed aliens dropped her off at her parent’s house,” he said loudly just to gain their attention.

“You must be Xander Harris,” Beverly surprised him. He grinned until she seemed to be inspecting him from head to toe. Apparently, Grandmother Bev had the same ability to make you feel like a squashed bug just by looking at you.

“Uh… yes, Xander, that’s me.”

“I understand that you used to date my granddaughter.”

Suddenly nervous under her scrutinizing stare, Xander shoved his hands in his pockets and shuffled his feet. “Yes ma’am.”

“Call me Bev,” she told him. “When young men call me ma’am, it always makes me feel like a naughty school mistress.”

“Grandmother!” Cordelia gasped through the noise of Xander’s squeaky response.

What was it with guys? Bev technically qualified as a senior citizen even though she still looked about twenty years younger than her actual age. They got flustered and gawky around her.

One by one the introductions were made. Though Giles was pleasantly polite in his very proper English way, Bev found him a little starchy. That made him an easy target for a little teasing. “I think I’d prefer it if you called me ma’am, after all.”

Giles fiddled uncomfortably with the tie that seemed too tight around his neck, let his gaze wander from face to face— all of them amused— and finally pointed at the clock. “Oh dear, is that the time? I really must be going. And you three,” he ushered Buffy, Xander and Willow toward the door, “need to finish that project… for school.”

“Project?” Xander asked then let out a choked cry as Buffy elbowed his stomach and Willow stepped on his foot. “Ow— of course! The school project.”

They exited with hasty goodbyes and well wishes. Cordelia was relieved to see them go. Who knows what they would have said. Or what Bev would have said considering those oh-so-wrong conclusions about dating Angel. Although, it might have been worth it to see Giles pass out on the floor if Bev kept up with her flirtation. Bev might be nearly twenty or thirty years older than the Watcher, but she obviously still had it.

Cordelia was still smiling at the thought when Faith caught her attention. “Cor, I think I’m gonna grab a coffee, give you guys some time.”

Faith closed the door behind her leaving Cordelia alone with her grandmother and Angel. Her grandmother sat beside her, still holding her hand, looking back and forth between them. “I could cut the tension with a knife. What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing,” Angel answered. After all, Cordelia had been the one to say they forget all about it.

Cordelia huffed, “Nothing! Ugh, that is just… oookay, it’s nothing.”

It wasn’t ‘nothing’ she felt when she looked at him. Anger, frustration and a whole slew of things, but it definitely was not ‘nothing’. Cordelia saw that he had stopped to change before picking up Bev. “You changed clothes.”

Though Angel was surprised by the subject change, he was grateful for it. “Yes, I didn’t want to show up at Bev’s home looking—”

“Like you’d just been hit by a meteor?”

“Well… yeah.”

Bev admitted, “Though I was surprised to see Angel standing on my doorstep without you, I’m glad the news came from him in person and not by a phone call.”

She held out her hand to Angel, who stared at it for a few seconds before taking it. Bev pulled him down so that he sat on the opposite side of the bed and then casually moved his hand so that it covered Cordelia’s. “Whatever happened to upset you two, I’m sure it’s nothing that can’t be forgiven considering tonight’s events. There are far more important things than lovers’ squabbles. One of you might have been seriously injured.”

Cordelia remembered how she felt seeing Angel lying unconscious as the demon picked up that pointed branch. Still angry, a nasty thought flashed by. Too bad she saved him. If she had not interfered, he would be a big cloud of dust.

“I know you wouldn’t want that,” Bev went on, forcing Cordelia to face the truth.

“Not really.” Her gaze slid up to meet Angel’s inquisitive one. Since he seemed so eager to hear her answer, she tagged on, “Well, I wouldn’t want you permanently hurt. Not seriously, anyway. Maybe just tortured a little. By me, of course.”

That only brought a smirk to that handsome mouth of his. “Cordy, there are some games we shouldn’t talk about in front of your grandmother.”

Snorting, Bev simply said, “Don’t mind me,” while Cordelia slapped her free hand over Angel’s mouth.

“Omigod! I cannot believe you just said that.”

It wasn’t anger that caused her to hold breath, pressing her lips closed tight as she leaned closer. She was barely containing her laughter. What was it about Mister Usually Monosyllable Guy and his ability to turn their relationship— in her grandmother’s eyes anyway— into a kinky romance?

“Bev knows I’m kidding.” Angel reached up to drag her hand down.

Cordelia snatched it out of his grasp. “Pfft!”

He was not kidding. There were probably many ‘games’ vampires liked and it did not surprise her that pain was one of them. While the spark of her own curiosity made her tremble, it left her wondering what else Angel liked.

When Bev lifted her hand away from theirs, Cordelia expected Angel to extract his own. He curled his fingers around Cordelia’s hand, turning it, his thumb circling her palm. Then his other hand reached up, fingers threading through her hair and edging the tape holding her bandage in place before he dropped it down to his thigh. “If I could take back what happened, I would.”

Did he mean the meteor, the fact that some creepy demon cop planned to kidnap and sacrifice her to his demon god? Or was he taking back the fact that he kissed her and had the gall to compare it to being with Buffy?

“It’s that easy, Angel.” Considering that he’d saved her life twice tonight, Cordy figured she should cut him a little slack. She offered him a way out, “Go ahead. Take it back.”

Angel stared back, sorely tempted to respond to her little dare in a way that did not involve words. “It’ll have to wait.”

“No, it won’t.”

“Trust me, it should wait.”

They glared at one another until Bev finally broke the silence. “Sheesh! Young people nowadays have to complicate everything. What is so blasted difficult about kissing and making up?” She threw her hand up in surrender and then changed her mind about it, stubbornly crossing her arms. “Go on. Say you’re sorry. I don’t care about what, just do it and mean it.”

The amusement in Angel’s eyes was apparent. Cordelia could not really blame him for succumbing to her grandmother’s wishes. After all, Bev certainly had a way of getting under your skin.

When the bright glint faded, Angel’s expression turned serious again. He pressed a brief kiss into the palm of Cordelia’s hand before closing her fingers around it. “I’ve never known the kind of fear I felt tonight. Seeing that meteor coming down at us, knowing what might happen, what it meant, I suppose I just reacted.”

“You suppose?” Cordelia’s huff was followed by her grandmother’s soft, “Ahem.”

“Cordy, you know I want you safe. I’m sorry that you’re here, that I couldn’t stop any of this from happening.” Angel got off the bed, standing at her side and Cordelia knew that his apology was not going any further tonight. Not with Bev at their side.

Even though it wasn’t exactly going to give away any Vampire or Slayer secrets just to admit he was a jerk for kissing her and comparing her to his ex. He was so going to pay for that later. She was already making a list when Bev reminded her that it was her turn.

Prompting her to say something, “If you take much longer, I’ll be happy to show you how it’s done.”

Cordelia was about to say, “Go ahead,” when she realized that Bev might actually take her up on it. Instead, she irreverently stuck her tongue out. “You wish,” to which Bev merely laughed in response. Then she could not resist adding, “Better grab the chance while I’m bruised and tied up to an IV pole. Just tell me I’m not gonna be in here for a week and I’ll let you have your wicked way with him.”

Rolling her eyes, Bev promised, “Darling, I may be in great shape, but even I don’t have that much stamina.”

Snorting softly, Cordelia turned to speak to Angel only to notice that he was no longer at her side, but had taken up a position by the door. “Hey, where are you going?”

“Faith’s coming,” he nodded toward the door. “I should go.”

“I’m not done with you yet. Come here for a sec.” Cordelia pushed the bed covers aside and climbed out of bed. “Whoa!” She grabbed her IV pole with one hand and the flap of her hospital gown with the other. “Kinda breezy back there.”

Bev coughed, “There wasn’t much to see anyway. In my day, that was called dental floss, not underwear.”

Angel mused that if he asked what color, Bev would be happy to supply him with the information. She made Cordelia seem tactful in comparison. Standing beside Cordelia again, he told her, “Take it easy for a day or two. I’ll see you around.”

“You’re leaving me?” Cordelia could not hide the surprise in her voice. Okay, okay. So what if she’d wanted to stake him a while ago? That was then, this was now.

She wanted him here with her.

“I’ve asked Faith to keep an eye on you tonight.”

Cordelia glanced toward the door where she knew Faith was going to show up at any second. Angel had already said he had heard her outside in the hall. It was not that she did not trust Faith when it came to taking care of unwelcome visitors. She just preferred Angel to be there.

“Okay. Faith. Great.”

Though she tried to sound enthusiastic about it, Angel looked a little suspicious, or at least confused. “Was there something else?”

“Not really,” Cordelia answered evasively, adding a casual shrug. “I just wanted to thank you for bringing Bev to see me.”

“That reminds me,” Angel pulled out the keys to the Plymouth, tossing them onto the bed where Bev could reach them. “You’ll need the car to get home tonight.”

Cordelia did not need to ask what Angel was up to, though he confirmed it when Bev suggested that he stick around long enough to get a ride home. “Thanks, but I’m just going to look in on… some relatives.”

“Can’t you wait for that?” Cordelia grabbed hold of his arm when he started to move away again. “Geez, Angel, you’ve just missed being hit by a meteor. You’re not invulnerable. I know you’ve got to be banged up and bruised, so don’t tell me this is the right time for a family reunion.”

A little lost with the whole conversation, Bev chimed in, “It is almost two a.m., a little late for social calls.”

“They’re night owls,” Cordelia explained without turning away from Angel. “Please don’t go tonight. Wait for Faith and Buffy.”

She knew he was going to refuse. Dark intent filled his eyes. There was no use in trying to change him mind about it. Cordelia closed her eyes as Angel curled his hand around the nape of her neck, his thumb rubbing at the spot behind her ear. He leaned forward, his forehead touching hers. Then she felt the cool press of his lips against her cheek.

“Maybe I should’ve had a second cup,” Faith nearly closed the door again when Angel called out to stop her.

“I was just leaving.”

Faith stepped back in. “Does she know the plan, GQ?”

“If you mean that you’re staying and he’s going,” Cordelia climbed back into bed and yanked the blankets up, “then I know.”

“Cool. So it’ll just be us girls for a while.” Faith moved past Angel and took a seat in one of the two bedside chairs.

After a brief look back at the three of them, Angel gently closed the door behind him. A second later, one of Cordelia’s pillows crashed against the doorframe and plopped onto the floor.

Bev patted Cordelia’s hand. “It’s not likely that the hospital would let Angel stay the night instead. Give him a break, dear. He’s obviously concerned about those relatives of his. With all of the meteors that came down, maybe he just wants to check in on them.”

Cordelia crushed her only remaining pillow between her hands and looked like she was going to fling it at the next person who mentioned the name Angel.

When Bev’s words sank in, Faith dropped her feet to the floor from their resting position at the bottom of the bed. “Damn.” She held up her hands and vowed, “I swear I didn’t know about that, Cor. Angel didn’t say anything about it.”

“Now ask me again what I think of the plan.”

Scene 45

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