Fred wandered around the empty hotel. She probably should just go upstairs to bed and try to catch a few more hours of sleep before the dawn turned into late morning.
The problem was she wasn’t really tired but rather kind of anxious. Fred frowned, she shouldn’t be anxious. Everything was turning out all right; in fact, things were better than they had been in forever. Angel was back, soul soon to be secure permanently, Cordelia was back, they were in love -and could be happy, Wesley was back, Lorne was back, Connor was sort of back, hanging around and watching, but at least not trying to dump his father in a deep hole or ocean anymore.
Things were on the way up.
Fred paced in wide circles, her frown still pronounced. All should be good, except Cordelia hadn’t been happy. Fred was more than a little surprised that when Cordy asked her to take her home the other woman meant her apartment rather than the hotel.
Shoot, Cordy had been spending most nights at the hotel with Angel when he didn’t have an anchored soul, now that he did, or would as soon as Wesley did the spell, she didn’t want to. It didn’t make any sense and Fred didn’t like it when things weren’t logical. Even the most supernatural and weird things had some sort of logic to them, but Cordy being so sad now wasn’t logical.
Fred blew out a deep burst of air. Well, she wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyway until she knew that the guys were safe. Fred flopped down at her computer. If she couldn’t decipher Cordelia’s long sad silence, then Fred would focus on something productive rather than the confusing and worrisome.
Determined Fred sat at her computer and re-registered for detective classes, though this time she would stick with the on-line course. She didn’t want to be kicked out again for missing too many classes. Fred grimaced. She hated that. Fred never-ever-ever had skipped classes before. Fred sighed. Of course, she hadn’t had demons to investigate or zombies to trap when she was in high school or at the university.
Fred looked up as Wesley and Gunn entered the hotel. Her eyes widen when she saw Connor follow then her brows scrunched. “Where’s Angel. Shouldn’t he be running in- or did he go the sewers, but I didn’t see him come in. Where’s Angel?”
Wesley put down his bag of weapons. “He’s not here?”
“No one’s here. Cordelia wanted to go her apartment, which I don’t understand and Lorne’s not here either- I guess, he wanted to stay with the Furies,” Fred shrugged. “Which I don’t understand, either.”
“I do and so not the picture I needed,” Gunn grumbled from the weapon’s cabinet. “Told you, Wes, Angel took the sewer-cut to Cordy’s.”
Wesley rubbed at his forehead. “I just commented that I didn’t think he would as the spell hasn’t been performed yet.”
“Man, I wasn’t saying he was jumping her bones and bumping and grinding.”
“Charles,” Fred cocked her head towards Connor’s narrowed stare. “Connor, are you hungry, we’ll could go get breakfast, or Charles, maybe you could go get some breakfast burritos. Connor, you’ll like them, they’re delicious.” Fred finished quickly, hoping to divert the teenager’s attention from Gunn and his comment.
“I was hoping to get some sleep, girl. Oh, all right,” Gunn shrugged at Fred’s stare, perching on the corner of her desk.
Connor tugged on Gunn’s sleeve. “Why would Angel jump Cordelia’s bones, you said he didn’t lose his soul. What do you mean? What’s bumping and grinding?”
“He didn’t- that-,” Gunn cleared his throat. “Look, kid, I’ll teach you how to drive, but the ‘jumping bones and bumping and grinding’ that’s daddy talk.”
“Charles, really,” Wesley shook his head. “Connor, what Charles meant was….that…..that,” Wesley started to stutter, “that is a topic that should be explained by your father.”
“That’s what I said.” Gunn gestured in the air.
“Charles, weren’t you on your way out to get breakfast,” Fred cut in shaking her head.
“Sure, probably won’t see Angel or Cordelia until tonight.”
“No,” Wesley shook his head. “The spell must be done if they….”
“Wesley, Geez, calm down. Why are you always so paranoid.” Fred chastised.
“I’m not, it’s that….”
“Wes, they aren’t going too risk anything now.”
“I would feel more secure if….”
“Right, I would feel…. OH,” Wesley turned to where Fred was pointing. “Angel, you’re here.”
Angel ignored Wesley and stared at his son. “Connor,…..you…are you staying, are you hungry? How are you?”
Connor pulled back at the direct questions.
“Of course, he’s hungry, Charles was about to go out and get us all some breakfast.”
“Oh, okay, good.” Angel nodded. He moved towards the stairs, pausing before he went up. “If you’re tired after you can stay.”
“Angel, when do you want to do the spell, it isn’t something that should be put off too long.”
Angel paused again. “Later.”
“Not now, Wesley. I’m not in a happy mood, so don’t worry.” Angel said sharply continuing his ascent up to his room.
Gunn smacked at Wesley’s arm. “Dawg, told you that something was wrong with him.”
Wesley’s puzzled gaze followed the somber vampire. “Probably still just a little overwhelmed about the concept and mad at Wolfram & Hart.”
“Right, keep on telling yourself that.” Gunn said. “Hey, kid, you want to go with me to pick up the grub, I’ll go over the basics of driving my baby on the way.”
“You’ll let me drive?” Connor tore his eyes from the retreating back of his father.
“I didn’t say that, I said I’d go over the basics.”
Angel turned away from the sight below. His son was home- well, at least going to stay and eat breakfast with his family. His son was slowly accepting them, and maybe also Angel. The vampire should be happy. But, all he could think about was Cordelia.
The brief flicker of hope that descended over him when Cordelia couldn’t hide her worry about him going out in the sun disappeared as he wandered the sewers back to the hotel. Like he thought before not wishing him dead wasn’t the same as forgiving him and still loving him.
The heavy curtains blocked out all light, sinking the room into darkness. Angel stared at the wall of his bedroom remembering and reliving each action and each word that he used as a weapon against Cordelia too make her fear real.
Was it possible she could understand why he did it? Angel thought back to the sight of the hurt and angry young woman, first terrified chained to the bed, and then watching him with untouchable pain and coldness at his attempt to explain. Angel winced his eyes closed at the imagines. Cordelia in pain was never a sight he could stand and to know that he was the one to cause that look of betrayal on her beautiful face had him wishing for the sun’s blaze.
Angel’s fingers clenched into tight fists, truthfully though he didn’t have much doubt that Cordelia could understood why he did it. What he was truly afraid of was that it wouldn’t be enough for her to forgive or to accept. Angel swore when he was allowed into Cordy’s apartment that he would tell the truth, no evasions, and no excuses.
But god, Angel wished he hadn’t explained about his mark and its implication. How was Cordelia ever going to accept that? Angel should’ve just let it remain as a meaningless act done under the guise of Angelus.
Angel’s intense gaze centered on the clock, Cordy said he would see her tomorrow. It was tomorrow now, so when did she mean? Angel leaned back in his chair. He had to be patient.
Cordelia pushed at the brick wall, kicking at the solid barrier when nothing happened. She read the slip of paper again. Scrunching up her brow, Cordelia scanned the red bricks closer; taking another look at the paper she placed her fingertips on the obscure marks and pushed reciting the words written.
Cordelia fell forward meeting no more resistance as she tumbled downward.
“Ow,” Cordelia pulled herself up to her feet, brushing off her pants as she looked around. It looked exactly the same as when Skip showed her Angel pleading to the Conduits. Well, actually, when he called her weak and not a hero. Cordelia scrunched up her face…Angel called her a rich girl from Sunnydale. Hmmph.
It was that show and tell which convinced her to take the Powers offer of her life as it should’ve been in an angry hurt huff. Cordelia rolled her eyes. She should’ve known that Angel hadn’t meant it like she heard. She wondered why Skip even brought her there to only show a misleading portion of Angel’s conversation. Geez, had the Powers not wanted her to choose Angel.
Cordelia’s head spun around and her body twirled as words floated on a sudden brisk breeze.
“It does not belong here, we did not call it. Leave.” The chanting repeated.
Cordelia pushed against the wind that pressed her towards the wall. “Hey, stop it. I’m not going anywhere until I get some answers and I’m not an ‘it’.” She shouted.
“Answers can not be told but must be realized. Choices must be made as choices have been made. We can not help it.”
“ Choices, what kind of choices. I’ve made choices. I chose demon DNA. I chose the visions. I chose the mission. I think I deserve some answers and stop calling me IT.”
“ Its value to the mission has been compromised. Its strength has been compromised.”
Cordelia narrowed her eyes, picking a spot in the empty chamber to glare at. “Compromised? What are you talking about? And stop shouting in the wind, you’re making me dizzy.”
“Cordelia.” Skip emerged from the wall, the wind and voices stopping at his appearance.
The young woman blinked backing up. “Oh, no you don’t. I’m not falling for that one again. How do I know you’re real and not some other Disney version of cute evilness?”
The large bronze demon rolled his eyes. “Cordelia, you are in the presence of the Conduits, the good guys.”
“Hmmph. Right. And Wolfram & Hart abducted me with major glowiness and floating. I’m not reassured.”
“Cordelia, would Wolfram & Hart know that my favorite movie is Matrix with Trinity all dodging and kicking and that Gladiator was overrated,” Repeating parts of his and Cordelia’s conversation when he was guiding her in the construct of the Mall, during her birthday coma.
“Maybe, how can I know for sure?”
Skip let out a deep breath. “How about this… Small town girl/In the big time world- kuh-kuh-kuh- Cordy/kuh-kuh-kuh-Cordy/Design’ fashion is her life’s passion Kuh-kuh-kuh-Cordy/kuh-kuh-kuh-Cordy/Forget Gucci, Prada and Versace…..,” singing the words to opening of Cordy, the TV show that had made Cordelia famous in her alternate life.
Cordelia covered her ears. “Eww, you suck, you’re worse than Angel in the singing department.”
“Hey,” Skip huffed offended.
“Skip, why are you here?”
“You were getting dizzy, so, here I am.”
“Look, all I want to know is what did my visions mean, the one of me and the one of Angelus.”
“What do you think they meant?”
“If I knew, I wouldn’t be here.” Cordelia rolled her eyes.
“Cordelia, I can’t tell you, the Conduits can’t.”
“Won’t you mean.” Cordelia kicked at the ground.
“Whatever,” Skip shrugged.
Cordelia starting pacing and shaking her head, “ the vision of me- how could that possibly be interpreted as a warning about Wolfram & Hart. How? It was just me saying I love Angel.”
“Who says Wolfram & Hart was the threat?”
“Ah Duh, little evil Pollyanna, torture for a month. Definitely a threat that should’ve been avoided.”
“Really Cordelia, have warnings about Wolfram & Hart’s plans been the norm?”
Cordelia scrunched up her face trying to remember one time she had a vision of an actual plan of the law firms, one where she ended up as the victim. She couldn’t remember getting the big old warning when Vocah or that big-headed-freak messed with her brain. “If it wasn’t that…why would I be warned about loving Angel? Was the vision telling me that I don’t, reverse psychologically crap- but that’s stupid, I do love Angel. That doesn’t make any sense.” Cordelia looked to the big demon for answers.
Skip shook his head, shrugging.
“Damn you.” Cordelia grumbled. “Why would I be warned about loving Angel or that he was Angelus? Sure, I could understand getting a vision of Angelus to warn us not to go to Anita’s if that was what happened, but it’s not. Angelus didn’t make an appearance.”
“You didn’t heed either of them.”
“I know, but the first made no sense as a vision and the second, well, I just….was wrong in that I thought it was a nightmare. I was having a lot of them at the time….anyway, that’s beside the point, the question is why have a vision warning me of a non-existent danger.”
“Was it non-existent, Angelus did appear.”
“No, that was Angel pretending to be Angelus, he never lost his soul.”
“He didn’t lose his soul.”
“But was he pretending to be Angelus?”
“He…” Cordelia started to repeat her statement, but huffed instead at Skip’s meaning behind his question. “No. He was and is Angelus. Fine, I get that. But, Angelus or Angel or THAT vampire- if you really want to be simple-, isn’t a danger to me or the mission, if THAT vampire has a soul and Angel did, does, and will for good now.”
“What’s with all the questions? Angel has his soul, he wouldn’t….” Cordelia took a deep breath and studied Skip. “I wish I could believe that last question of doubt was a warning that Wesley’s spell wasn’t any good but it wasn’t was it. The Powers were warning me about Angel- short and simple. They want me to doubt him- even with his permanent soul, they want me to doubt him.” Cordelia shook her head. “ Wow. Little evil Pollyanna wasn’t so far off in her impersonation of the Powers. Why do the Powers want me to doubt Angel? They chose him as their champion- nobody could argue he begged for the job.”
Skip shook his head. “Not to doubt, Cordelia, but to prepare you and to give you the chance to choose NOT to set certain unpredictable wheels in motion, to choose NOT to love the champion. It has been foretold that the vampire with a soul will play a major role in the upcoming Apocalypse, but his exact role has not been defined. It will be defined by the choices he makes and now by the choices you will make.”
Cordelia blinked, wondering if she was the only sane person in the world. “The Powers wanted me NOT to love Angel- that’s what the first vision was about? Uh? A lot late and NOT effective in getting the point across.”
“Had you understood, you could’ve chosen not to tell him.”
“Whose fault was that…the vision wasn’t actually clear or scary rather it was pretty damn encouraging and bringing to light what I had been denying for god knows how long. Maybe they should’ve sent the ‘Angelus’ vision first. At least that would’ve been scary.” Cordelia rubbed her face. “But even if they had it wouldn’t have really changed anything. I would still have loved Angel.”
“Yes, unfortunately. Loving the champion has complicated and compromised the mission. The Power’s feel that a wrong choice on your part now could affect the vampire’s future choices possibly detrimentally.”
“Hold on- The Powers didn’t WANT me to love Angel, but now that I do- they’re emotionally blackmailing me to forgive him so as not to upset any future decisions on Angel’s part regarding the mission, that’s what your saying isn’t it? Geez, I thought you couldn’t tell me what my visions meant, I wish you had kept to that story.”
Skip shrugged. “You love the vampire with a soul- the Power’s champion, you told him, he now needs you in a way that was not expected or acceptable, yet, it has been done. In your decision to love the champion, you have allowed yourself to become his greatest weakness. You must be prepared to live with the consequences of your choices. You must not upset the balance of matters anymore than you already have.”
“I’m so outta of here, you can toss me through the walls anytime now.” Cordelia waved angrily into the air.
“Cordelia.” Skip cautioned in a loud stern tone.
“Skip, you were right the first time, the Powers have no comprehension about love. Angel won’t accept a forced forgiveness from me.”
“I thought you understood the warrior’s need for you. He did tell you did he not. It is your rejection that must be feared -that is what could upset the balance of things as they are.”
“Get me outta here. It was a mistake to come.”
“Cordelia, your choice….”
“Is my choice, free will and all that if it screws up fate or destiny, tough. You’ll know my decision when I make it.”
“Cordelia.” Skip warned.
“I’ve heard and now I’m ignoring.”
“Cordelia.” The big demon repeated.
“Skip. I’m not listening.”
In a flash Cordelia was back in her apartment.
Cordelia stomped around, mumbling and kicking the sofa. Stupid Powers. Cordelia flopped on the cushions. She wasn’t going to be forced into anything, not by the Powers or by Angel.