Title: This Time It’s Real
Content: Read the challenge, but also know I’ve never written anything but C/A and happy endings and I don’t plan to start now.
Spoilers: up to Sleep Tight. (maybe some mention of Cordy’s new powers) Oh, Groo doesn’t exist in the story for now, and if he gets mentioned, I’ll warn you and any mention will be a passing reference only.
Disclaimer: ATS, BTVS not mine never mine, I bow to Joss and Co. imagination and ownership.
Notes: none really except this is an answer to a challenge posted by Muff – April 2002 posted at Stranger Things. Oh, thanks to everyone that read VampSmack Down and gave feed back. And now it’s Muff’s turn to take the blame for one of my stories.
Feedback: Always good. Challenge: Issued by Muff
Buffy and Angel get back together but Angel is not happy
Cordelia comes back from the dead
Buffy and Cordelia fight over Angel but have to work together to save the world
Scooby gang accepts Cordy back while the fang gang is hesitant on her return: reason for this must be revealed
Optional: Connor, Fred
Take place in either LA or Sunnydale
Big bad is your choice
The group silently dispersed, each going in separate directions, each with their own thoughts about the young woman they laid to rest, expect one dark figure holding an infant. Angel’s eyes remained fixed on the freshly turned earth.
The blonde woman stopped turning back towards the vampire.
“No, Buffy.” Wesley shook his head, his eyes red from unshed tears. “Let him be for now.”
Buffy stared at her former watcher. “I’m not listening to you. They said this was all your fault. You caused this to happen.”
“Honeykins, Wesley is right about this- let Angel be.” Buffy looked up at the green demon. She had only known Lorne for two days but she did trust him. The demon had a way about him, flamboyant but all- knowing.
“He shouldn’t be alone.”
“He’s not. He has the little one back. Connor will keep him from waiting for the sunrise.” Lorne glanced over at Wesley. “You though should probably leave, he’s already tried to kill you twice, let’s not have a third attempt.”
“She was my family, no matter what happened. I loved her as much as he did.”
“No, Muffin, you didn’t.” Lorne said matter factually.
Wesley’s eyes flared then retreated to the ground. “I loved her enough.”
“Yes. But go. You were working in the red when you helped to get the little one back and any bonus points you won were wiped out when the Princess died.” Lorne turned and stared at the dark silhouette of the vampire. “Angel will need time, having you in his face right now won’t do anyone good right now.”
Wesley started to speak but stopped and then nodded. The former boss of Angel Investigation swept a redden glance over his family that he was no longer a part of. “Lorne, I…”
“Go and I know.” Lorne said sadly.
“How can you be nice to him? from what I heard it was all his fault.”
“Wesley did what he thought was right, he was just horribly wrong. But he didn’t kill the Princess. She sacrificed her life to save Connor, to bring him back to Angel. It was her choice.” Lorne shrugged.
“Wesley was a part of this family once and when everyone has healed maybe then he will be able to come back where he belongs.”
“Angel needs to come to terms with what has happened. You can’t help him now. No one can, except his son.”
“He loved her.” Buffy’s statement came out as a question.
“Of course, she was a champion. She was Cordy.”
Angel remained rooted to the spot. He wanted to say something, feel anything. He held the bundle in his arms closer; it was that small precious life that kept him from falling to the ground and giving up.
Cordelia Chase was dead. Her life was gone. That vibrant sparkle of light refreshing in it’s honesty, strength and love was gone. Angel didn’t want to be a part of a world where that light was absent.
But, he couldn’t leave it, not when he had Connor, not when she gave her life for his child. What were they going to do now?
About six months later…
“I…” Fred buried her head in Gunn’s shoulder. Gunn circled her crying body closer.
“Man, you need us…we’re there,” holding out his arm to the vampire.
Angel nodded as he clasped the young black man’s hand.
“Angelface, I…” Lorne shook his head at Angel’s gaze.
“Lorne, Connor needs a home, Buffy’s offered us one. I have to go. She can’t leave Sunnydale. The Hellmouth is where she is needed.”
“And your mission, Honey cakes, is in LA.” Lorne countered. “This is your home.”
“My home….my home was taken in Quor-toth…..along with my mission. I don’t have a seer.”
“Angel, you can say her name.”
For a brief moment, pain and anger flashed in Angel’s dark emotionless eyes. “I have to go, Buffy is waiting. Goodbye.”
About a month Later
Angel stood beside the crib, his strong finger clasped by tiny little ones.
He had done it. Angel had taken what Buffy offered, her love, her home and now the comfort of her body. Angel knew it was wrong to let her think that his soul was permanent. But, it really hadn’t been a lie. He had told her that it would be impossible for Angelus to return since Quor-toth.
Angel just hadn’t told her that it was because any chance of his true happiness had been lost in that battle.
Angel smiled a soft smile at his son. He had Connor so it was still possible for him to have joy and a future. Cordelia gave him that. Angel closed his eyes, imagines of the young woman flashing in his mind, memories of every other thing she gave him.
God, it still hurt.
The dark vampire turned to the beautiful blonde.
“Come back to bed,” holding her hand out.
Angel nodded. It really hadn’t been all a lie. He did love Buffy. She had been his dream for so long. She just wasn’t Cordy, but that dream was buried deep underneath dirt in LA.
Almost three months later…
Death was not certainly what she expected. Cordelia looked around the glassed room.
There were moments when she actually thought maybe she wasn’t dead. But, then the fact that she wasn’t ever tired, hungry or in need of a bathroom clued her in that she wasn’t exactly living.
Of course, the white flowing gown she was wearing, the absence of her pre-death acquired hairdo and the clouds the surrounded the glass walls also were a hint that things weren’t really normal. Gee, what a surprise.
Cordelia sat on the glass floor and looked down- more clouds. Cordelia peered closer, squinting her eyes in the hope of seeing some sign of the earth. Nope. She rested her chin on an elegant hand. She wasn’t tired but she was bored.
If this was heaven, it sucked. Where were the angels and harps? If she was floating in the clouds shouldn’t she have wings, halo and a harp? And what’s with the glass jailhouse. Wasn’t peace and serenity supposed to come with death? Cordelia didn’t feel at peace; she just felt bored and moving way past being beyond annoyed to angry at the silence and unanswered questions. She couldn’t even feel the satisfaction that Connor was alive because she was dead.
Cordelia remembered feeling fear as she saw the knife plunging for the small baby. She remembered the panic on Angel’s face as he realized he was too far away to stop it. But she wasn’t; not when she could float above the fighting. Cordelia remembered the knife entering her breastbone, the pain of her dying.
She heard Connor’s cries mingled with Angel’s yell of rage. She remembered smiling, as the last thing she saw was Connor in Angel’s arms above her fallen body. But that’s all Cordelia knew. Did her family make it back to LA? Had Angel saved Connor or was her death just a postponement to the ultimate horrible outcome.
It wasn’t fair. How could she be at peace if she didn’t know? Maybe she had been wrong- maybe she didn’t make it to heaven.
Cordelia was beginning to have the sneaking suspicion that she had ended up in hell.
Cordelia scrambled to her feet. “You again?” facing the demon that guided her through her vision killing coma birthday present.
Skip shrugged. “Sorry, it took so long but this time it wasn’t my fault. Big decisions had to be made and that can take forever. Bureaucracy is a bitch. But here I am.”
“Uhuh.” Cordelia scrunched up her face. “Can I assume that since you’re here wherever ‘here’ is, I’m not dead?”
“Oh no, your dead. This time it’s real.”
“Oh, somehow I thought it would be different. So, where am I? And why are you here? Are you dead too?”
“No, I’m alive and you are in limbo.”
“Waiting place between heaven and hell. But now the waiting is over.”
Cordelia scrunched up her face. “So, are you going to tell me- which will it be heaven or hell?”
“Young lady, you’re a champion. Champion’s don’t go to hell, please! Wouldn’t have any champions if that were the case. Risk, sacrifices fighting for the Powers only to end up in a fiery pit? Not really a great sales pitch to join our team.”
“Oh…okay. Um, when I’m in heaven will I know if Connor and Angel are safe? I really need to know.”
“They are and…. well..you aren’t going to heaven, well not yet anyway. That’s what all the delay and fuss was about.”
“But, Angel and Connor are safe and I’m not going to hell,” Cordelia asked to clarify.
“NO, get that talk of hell out of your mind. No, you just couldn’t go to heaven right away until a decision was made. You see, beings get a little freaked when they’re ripped out of paradise. So, you were put here to avoid that if the decision was made to return you.”
“I’m coming back from the dead? The Power’s can do that? Of course they can. No one stays dead anymore.”
“Dead is dead, well for most beings. But, in your case you screwed things up and the Powers want you to fix them before you can go to heaven.”
“What did I screw up? Connor and Angel are safe, you said so.”
“Yes, but no seer. YOu didn’t pass on the visions.”
“I was busy.”
“Don’t use your self-sacrifice as an excuse. You know the rules, when you know you’re going to die, you pass on the visions so your warrior will continue to have a seer.”
“Rules? What rules? I didn’t get a handbook, you know.”
“Oh, right. You were a mistake. I keep forgetting. You took to it so naturally.”
“Skip, dying, hole in the back of the skull, demonized prevention method, not real natural.”
Skip sighed. “True, but once you became part demon- a real natural.”
“Skip, what do the Powers want?”
“You need to return to earth find an appropriate replacement and pass on the visions. Otherwise, Angel won’t have a seer and his path to redemption will be halted.”
“Any suggestions? And what do you mean Angel’s path to redemption will be halted? He’s still fighting for the Powers, isn’t he? I mean, even without the visions there’s evil to fight and helpless to be helped. LA is filled to the brim with both.”
“He’s not in LA. He is helping the slayer, but that’s not where he needs to be.”
“Angel is in Sunnydale with…Buffy? They’re back together? How long have I been dead? Connor’s with her? What about Gunn, Fred and Wesley? Where are they? Are they in Sunnydale, too?”
“Young lady, one question at a time, please. Angel and the Slayer are together, but they aren’t supposed to be. He supposed to be in LA.”
“Together? As in really together? You do know what happened the last time they were ‘together’- pelvic thrust and wham bam soul gone, Angelus alert. Angel wouldn’t risk it. Buffy isn’t Darla. Happiness, joy, sex- a lot of dead people.”
“Angelus isn’t the problem. Angel’s deviation from the mission is. The Powers want you to go get him back on the right track and find him an appropriate seer.”
“Let me get this straight. Angel’s soul is bound, no threat of evil guy. He’s with the love of his life and you want me to go break them up? Again, I ask- any suggestions?”
“The Powers have faith that you can do it. That’s why they’re sending you back. Once it’s done you can go to heaven.”
“I’ll die again? Or will I be a ghost or something? I don’t want to particularly go through the dying thing again. You know it hurt last time.”
Skip shrugged. “No ghost. You’ll be alive. As for the pain of dying, it’s the price you pay.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “That’s not at all comforting.” She huffed. “Angel being with Buffy is really preventing his redemption? If he’s helping her, why can’t that count? She’s like the major good warrior. I mean he’s happy right? He’s with Buffy.”
“He’s not supposed to be, I told you that. The other vampire is,” Skip avoided her last question.
“What other vampire?…Spike.” Cordelia screeched. “He doesn’t even have a soul, just a chip.”
“Surprisingly, he’s turning out okay, been a big help…well not lately. It seems that Angel’s presence in Sunnydale has been putting a damper on his desire NOT to create mayhem and trouble.”
Cordelia flopped back to the ground. “Why can’t I even die normally?”
“Sorry, but you aren’t normal.”
Cordelia blinked up to the big demon. “Thanks for reminding me. I forgot,” rolling her eyes.
“Angel needs a seer.”
Cordelia shook her head. “Who exactly am I supposed to kiss? Not Angel, I saw what they did to him.”
“No, no. That version of Angel was not really effective. You’ll know when it’s time.”
“And then I’ll die, leaving Angel again.”
“To heaven. Well, after one other thing.”
“Just one thing. You will have to help the slayer save the world.”
Cordelia blinked again. She started to fall to the ground, but then she realized she was already on the floor, so she just let out a whoosh of breath. “Would that be before or after, I try to break up her and Angel. She may be a bit miffed and not at all cooperative.”
“The Powers have faith in you.”
“And this particular Armageddon will occur how?”
“On a need to know basis, only.”
“Since I’m supposed to help Buffy do the saving thing, I think I need to know.”
“You’ll know when it’s time.”
“You’re not very helpful, you realize that don’t you.” Cordelia glared up at Skip.
“Just doing my job, this time I’m the messenger only.”
“You were a better guide.”
Skip shrugged. “Ready? Oh, one more thing…”
“You’ve already said that.”
“This isn’t something you need to do, just know….”
“Couple of things, actually, well more than that.”
“Get on with it.”
“You’re going to need Wesley and the rest.”
“That may not be so easy. Angel’s already tried to kill Wesley…”
“I heard, but that was because…”
“Three?” Cordelia jumped up. “Why the other two times? They were getting along, not perfectly, granted. But, Wesley is the one that found the access to Quor-toth. Without him, we would’ve never found Connor.”
“True. But, It is my understanding about the situation is that if he hadn’t taken Connor in the first place, Angel believes that you wouldn’t have died.”
“That’s just stupid. Stubborn vampire. That won’t be a problem”
“I…” Skip said doubtfully.
“No, I can handle that- if Angel really wanted to kill Wesley, Wesley would be dead. So, what about the other things I need to know.”
“It’s about your new powers.”
“I’ve new powers?”
“Powers that were developing because of your demonization prior to you dying. They would be complete by now if you had lived. The Powers decided that you might need them, so you’re getting them fully formed and charged. Here,” handing Cordelia a handbook. “Read it, learn it, and know them.”
Cordelia held the heavy book, flipping through the small printed words. “I take it we’re not in a hurry.”
“Actually, we are.” Skip grabbed the book back. “We’ll have to do this the quick way. This will hurt.”
“Gee, another surprise, duh. So speed learn me, already.”
“You are really a courageous piece of work, Cordelia Chase.” A bright flash flew from Skip’s hand encompassing Cordelia’s body as she screamed.
Cordelia pulled on the door of the Hyperion Hotel one more time. She grunted as she hit the heavy padlock chaining the doors.
Damn. Cordelia sat on the front step considering her options. Skip said it had been a year since she died. Cordelia knew that Angel was in Sunnydale; she had just hoped that Wesley, Gunn and Fred were still at the hotel. Figures. She got up and brushed at her white flimsy gown and grunted. Skip could’ve at least dropped her in LA with some jeans and with everyone’s new addresses. She felt like a lost member of an airport crazy cult.
It was dark by the time she got to Caritas. She grumbled again, money for a taxi would’ve been helpful as well. Lord, she was hungry and needed a bathroom.
Cordelia paused at the door stilling her first reaction to run in and find Lorne. She imagined that the demon would be a bit surprised to see her and she supposed happy. But how much should she tell him?
Tell any of them? Cordelia bit her lip and considered. If she told them that she was only alive temporarily and would die again it may affect their ability fight the up coming apocalypse. And then what about her? Did she really want a big happy sad family reunion?
No. But, did she even want a happy one? It would make dying again all that much harder. No. Skip was right this was definitely on the need to know basis. Cordelia took a deep breath and pushed open the door thinking of the lies that she would need to get the job done.
Cordelia scanned the room pushing back her hair. Damn, she had been getting to really like her new short haired look, but obliviously limbos were hopelessly neglectful of hairdressers. Oh well. She had died. Cordelia looked again around the room.
She bit back her smile as she saw Lorne by the stage. He hadn’t changed at all. She moved gracefully through the crowd to reach his side.
“Lorne, buy a resurrected girl a drink?” Tapping the demon on the shoulder.
Lorne turned, gulped, blinked and dropped his drink. “Princess? Oh, Elvis and James Dean, you’re not dead.”
“Actually, I am,” Cordelia shrugged. “The Powers…”
“Come with me.” Pulling her into his private rooms. As soon as the door closed, Lorne grabbed the young woman in enthusiastic hug, pulling back once to get a good look at her “You are sure one live breathing beautiful corpse.” Starting to pull her back into a big hug.
Cordelia jerked away, not allowing herself the luxury of feeling her friend’s arms around her again.
“Lorne, we don’t have time for pleasantries and I AM dead, just not a ghostly type dead. I haven’t returned to life, I just have been returned for a specific task, that’s all. And I need you to gather the guys. I went to the Hyperion but it was locked up.”
Lorne blinked. “You’re alive.”
“No, I’m dead. I just seem alive. I wouldn’t be able to complete my mission as Dennis’ girlfriend, that’s all.”
“Is in Sunnydale. I know. But, I need Wesley and the rest before I can talk to Angel.”
“Wesley’s persona non gratis.”
“That’s going to have to change. The Powers need him. I’ll deal with Angel. Lorne, I’m surprised that you would feel that way. It wasn’t Wesley’s fault.”
Lorne nodded. “I know, he still comes here sometimes, but he hasn’t wanted to reconnect. Both he and Angel ran when you died, in wide separate directions. Princess, I don’t know what bill of goods the Powers sold you, but you aren’t dead. I can read you.”
“Really? What do you see? Let me help. Rockabye baby in a treetop….” Cordelia forced herself to remember and use chapter three of her new powers handbook that Skip blasted into her skull.
How to Block all ‘Readings’ of the Mind and Soul.
“Sing again.” Lorne said confused. He had sensed something, but now he saw nothing. It was if he was looking at a corpse. But Cordelia was breathing, heart beating, beautifully in front of him.
“It won’t matter, Lorne. You may be sensing something, but it’s not real, it’s just a manipulation by the Powers- I AM dead, killed and everything. Regardless, though, I need your help. Death has some limitations as the manipulations have some downfalls, like hunger and a bathroom. Do you mind?” She pointed to the bathroom door.
“I tell you, I can’t wait to get back to heaven. I was happy. Oh, do you have anything else I can wear?” tugging at her gossamer gown. “This was appropriate in heaven, but over the top on earth, at least they didn’t send me down with my wings and halo, uh.” She nodded and went into the bathroom.
Lorne stood stock-still. Something was definitely not right. The young woman was Cordelia Chase, he knew that with a certainty when he first saw her, but now he wasn’t sure what she was. Wings and a halo? Lorne shook his head and went to the phone.