Buffy stretched out and felt the empty side of her bed, again. She pushed the blonde strains away from her face and went into the spare room, now a nursery.
The vampire looked up from his son. “Good morning.”
“How long have you been up?”
Angel shrugged. “I heard Connor cry. He still hasn’t been sleeping well.”
“Angel, the doctor said he was fine.”
“He can’t sleep through the night, Buffy, that’s not fine.”
Buffy started to say something at his sharp tone but stopped herself. Angel was a new father whose son had been kidnapped, threatened and Connor’s young life had been turned upside down, Angel had the right to be over protective.
She had the same tendency with Dawn. “I’m sure it’s normal one year old stuff.” She smiled encouragingly. “I’m just going to get breakfast for Dawn, okay.”
Angel didn’t even look up, his eyes back on his son.
Buffy turned and glanced back once more. Angel being all broody and quiet wasn’t abnormal. That’s pretty much what she remembered from their high school romance, but she’d hoped it would be different. Now, Angelus wasn’t a threat, they should be able to be happy.
It had been a year since Connor was kidnapped and Cordelia had died. If it weren’t for the infrequent smiles that she saw on his face when she would basically sneak up on him staring at his son, Buffy wouldn’t even believe that it was possible for Angel to be happy.
She would pay good money to make him laugh, but she’d settle for a smile, a real smile to her or anyone’s dumb joke.
Oh well. Lorne said that Angel had loved Cordelia. And Angel once in a very rare open moment, admitted that Cordelia Chase had been his best friend, of course that’s when he became quiet again.
Buffy still found it a hard to believe that the young woman she knew in high school had become her vampire’s best friend. But, it would explain Angel’s extra broodiness. He was feeling guilty about her death and over protective of Connor.
That was typical Angel, Buffy just needed to have patience.
Wesley was the last to arrive. He hadn’t wanted to come, but Lorne had said it was important, vital and basically every other over dramatizing adjective that he could babble.
It wasn’t the words so much, but Lorne’s tone that made Wesley come.
Wesley stalled as he saw Fred and Gunn in Lorne’s private room. He turned to leave at their expressions towards him.
“Don’t go.” Cordelia stepped out from the bathroom. She had used the time to take a shower and change into the clothes Lorne had brought her.
Cordelia wasn’t sure but she thought that Lorne must have raided a female version of Angelus’ closet. She was now decked out in black leather pants and t-shirt. No, if she remembered correctly Angelus liked at least colors on top, the one she was wearing was black.
She shook her head as she walked towards a stunned Wesley. “I need you, all of you to stay, listen and help.”
“Cordy,” all three newcomers whispered in awe.
“Yeah, me or at least sort of me. Dead version, faking the live bit for now, the Powers need your help and so do I, so I can get back to heaven.”
Fred was the first to move, running straight for the young woman. Cordelia’s hands shot out stopping the other young woman from engulfing her. “Fred, I’m dead just visiting and don’t have time for big hello’s. Don’t need them or want them. But, thank you for missing me.” She smiled as she sidestepped the young woman’s grasping arms.
“Cordy?” Wesley moved closer, his feet finally overcoming the shock to his heart and mind.
“Hi. Wesley, I need you to come with me to Sunnydale. I’m here for two reasons. One, to remind and hopefully get Angel back to LA where his redemption is, the Powers want him here. And second to foretell another apocalypse. And as the Powers are just as lacking in information in death as they are in life, I’ll need you to research the hows and wherefores. But, I do know it starts in Sunnydale, big surprise, and it will start soon. So, you’ll ready for a road trip?”
“You’re alive?” Wesley missing everything she said only noticing Cordelia’s presence in front of him.
“No, you weren’t listening. I’m dead, here for a specific reason and I need your help to get back to the dead thing. Heaven was really nice.”
“Heaven?” Fred asked.
“Yeah. But, it seems the Powers didn’t think I was following through with my guardian angel duties correctly, so I’m back for some actual hands on fixing. Hopefully, it won’t take long.” She wiggled her fingers.
“You want to be dead?” Fred asked. “We don’t want you to be.”
“That’s sweet, but yes, I do. It really is paradise. Fun, sun and coolness. I want to go back. So, road trip?”
Lorne grabbed at the retreating trio of humans. “Hold on to your excitement, Kiddies.”
“Dawg, what? Cordy’s alive, man.” Gunn’s amazed gaze settled on the young brunette at the bar.
“Charles, she said she was dead as in heaven dead and still dead. Heaven, wow. I don’t want Cordy to be dead.” Fred blinked rapidly.
“Lorne, what is it?” Wesley asked his eyes like the others fixed on Cordelia.
“The Princess said she was dead, does that look dead to you?” Lorne pointed to the young woman jabbing a finger at the bartender, arguing that Buffalo wings weren’t just the same as raw hot-spiced lizard eyes. Finally, Cordelia looked satisfied as the bartender stomped off and then came back tossing a plate of chicken wings on the bar. Cordelia ignored the demon’s disgust as she happily munched on the appetizers.
“She looks hungry.”
“Lorne, what did you read?”
“That’s just it, kiddies, I don’t know. First, it was Cordelia all beautiful soul and all, but now it’s nothing- like she’s dead.”
“She said she was dead-I don’t want her to be dead.” Fred repeated.
“So, is she dead or is she alive?” Gunn asked.
“Why would Cordelia lie about that- she said she was dead. I don’t-.”
“Kitten, dear, none of us wants her dead.” Lorne interrupted Fred from repeating the only words her mouth seemed to be capable of forming at the moment.
“How do we know that the Powers brought her back? Maybe it was a spell?”
Fred’s eyes widened. “Charles could be right. Maybe Angel convinced that Willow witch to do a spell for Cordy. She did it for Buffy. They did say Buffy was a little off when she got brought back. Maybe that is why Cordy is saying she’s dead. Maybe, she’s not dead, just off. I don’t want-“
“Fred,” Wesley shook his head. “Willow was adamant in her refusal to do the spell. I doubt she’s changed her mind. And, Buffy agreed. She told Angel that it wasn’t a pleasant experience being torn from the peacefulness of heaven. It seemed to convince him.”
“How about the evil shysters. They brought Darla back from dust to get to Angel. Maybe, they did the same with Cordelia.”
“Why would they? Angel isn’t in LA anymore. Furthermore, Darla was predisposed to harm Angel, Cordelia isn’t. Wolfram & Hart’s spell wouldn’t have the same results.”
“Cordy isn’t evil. She just said she was dead. I don’t-“
“FRED.” All three men shouted.
“Well, I don’t want her to be dead.” Fred glared and then her eyes suddenly widened. “What’s Angel going to do when he sees her looking all alive, but really dead?”
“Shit’s going to hit the fan.” Gunn shook his head.
“So, has everyone freaked enough?” Cordelia walked back over to the group. “Can we go now?”
“Cordy, I don’t want-.”
“Fred, please. I am, so just accept it. I’m happy or I was anyway. But, I will be again once I do a couple little things for the Powers.”
“Apocalypse is little?”
Cordelia shrugged. “It’s all relative to the last one and the one that will follow this particular current world ending drama.”
“Angel is going to be-be surprised.”
Cordelia scrunched up her face to Fred. “Why? He’s gone through at least three of them. Apocalypse’s are no big deal to him.”
“NO. About you being alive-I mean dead. I-” Gunn laid a hand on Fred stopping her next breath of words.
“Sure, for a bit. Come on, guys, it’s not like you all didn’t have time to get use to the fact that I was dead. Angel’s moved on-” Cordelia paused and looked away.
Lorne hit Wesley and nudged. “There it is again. Her aura’s back.”
Cordelia swung around. “No. Lorne, it’s not.”
Lorne hit Wesley again as the colors he saw disappeared into nothingness. “This isn’t right.”
Cordelia glared. “Of course it isn’t right. I’m dead, but walking and talking going to fight an apocalypse when I should be relaxing in heaven. Angel’s shacked up in Sunnydale when he should be here in LA striving for his Shansu. Things couldn’t be more wrong. But, I’ll fix it and then go. Geez, are you guys coming or what?”
“Tell her to stop saying she’s dead.” Fred whispered pulling at Gunn’s arm. “Tell her.”
Cordelia leaned back against the leather seat of Wesley’s SUV. “Did you get the scroll?”
Wesley looked up in the rearview mirror. “Cordelia, I’ve translated the scroll thoroughly; all the prophecies have been accounted for. There is no indication of an oncoming apocalypse within it, well at least not prophesized as coming soon or in Sunnydale.”
“That’s not why I want it.” Cordelia rested her head back. This was harder than she thought, which meant it was damn near impossible. She so much wanted to lean up and demand her friends to tell her everything that had been going on since she died. She wanted to tell them that she loved them, but instead she just ignored their attempts to speak to her or touch her.
If Fred tried to grasp her hand one more time Cordelia would either clutch the woman in a fierce hug or toss her out the door of the moving vehicle. Cordelia bit down her sigh. It was only going to get worse.
Cordelia was having second and third doubts about her ability to follow her choice of action as they traveled closer to Sunnydale. The anticipation and excitement that was building within her heart threatened to explode into a giant group hug. She wished Lorne would stop glancing back and studying her.
It took too much concentration to block his readings. Cordelia knew she would need every ounce of will power not to run into Angel’s arms to ensure that Skip had been right- that the vampire was really safe. Good lord, how was she even going to be able to look at Connor without breaking down? It had been a year. She missed a year of the baby’s life.
He could be walking now, definitely crawling. Cordelia hoped that Buffy knew about baby proofing a house. Angel would know. Cordelia had dragged him to Babies – R- Us to buy baby gates and electric socket covers.
Once, the vampire realized what the little pieces of plastic were for he spent hours covering the hundreds of outlets in the hotel, even the ones on the top floors. Cordelia choked on the smile that memory had caused. They had argued that afternoon, her logic against his melodramatic scenarios on how a baby could get his finger stuck in an outlet ten feet high up on the fourth floor. She let him win that one. But, she made him take the baby gate down from the hotel stairs.
Cordelia wasn’t going to get herself and the two-month-old Connor killed by tripping over the damn thing. Cordelia closed her eyes at the past. They immediately jerked open. Connor would be talking. What if he called Buffy mommy? Cordelia blinked at the pain that unexpected thought caused her. She was freaking out that was the only explanation for that panic attack. Cordelia glared as her eyes blinked up into Lorne’s hard stare.
“Stop reading me. I’m dead, get over your need for me to be alive, all of you.” She said harshly.
Lorne’s hard stare and the furtive glance of the others jerked away from Cordelia. A tense silence descended filling the confines of the suddenly too small vehicle. Cordelia couldn’t regret her outburst, though. She was going crazy. Cordelia closed her eyes again summoning the imagines of the clouds surrounding her.
It didn’t calm her, but it did remind her that she didn’t have a future with Angel and Connor or any of her family. For a brief moment an intense hatred flared up against the Powers. Why couldn’t they have let her remain dead?
This couldn’t be the only way for Angel to get a seer and return to his mission.
“Cordelia.” Wesley said softly. “We’re here. Maybe, we-well maybe Gunn or Lorne should go and explain it to Angel before you go in.”
The young brunette opened her eyes. “Angel won’t kill you, Wesley.”
“Cordy, you weren’t-” Gunn started.
“Let’s go and get this over with. I don’t want to be here any longer than I have to,” getting out of the car.
“I wish she would stop saying things like that, it’s like she doesn’t even care about us anymore.” Fred whispered tearfully to the black man.
Gunn shook his head and slowly followed along with the others.
Buffy answered the door and then gaped.
“Hi. Can I come in? Come on, Buffy, as the award wining twice doer of the Lazarus method, you shouldn’t be so surprised.” Cordelia smiled.
“Cordelia?” Buffy stepped back, opening the door wide as the young brunette and the quiet group the followed entered.
“How?” Buffy turned and suddenly yelled towards the kitchen. “WILLOW.”
The red head came running, only to skid to a stop, dropping the jar she was holding to the floor. “I didn’t do it, I swear, Buffy, I didn’t.” Willow’s legs and eyes moved towards Cordelia, her feet oblivious to the glass surrounding her.
“Angel asked you to.”
“I said no, you were there, I said no.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes at Willow’s stuttered response. “Stupid vampire. Where is he? I need to talk to him.”
Angel jerked up at the sound of glass breaking. He tuned his senses to the environment surrounding him attempting to determine if there was any danger to Connor. Humans and demons were downstairs. Angel got up ignoring the humans for now, concentrating on the demons. He narrowed his eyes.
They were familiar. Angel stumbled, waving away the more obvious demon and focused on the scent that was causing his palms to sweat and his dead heart to choke in his throat. Angel fell to the floor refusing to believe his senses, until he heard it. “Stupid vampire.”
In an instant he was out the door.
Angel paused at the steps scared to go down. What if it was a lie? The vampire closed his eyes targeting one heart beat and one scent- demon now, but so much still that of his unique and beautiful seer. It couldn’t be a lie. The sound and smell was swallowing him whole.
He stepped slowly afraid that if he moved to quickly, the source would be gone and he would know that it wasn’t real.
If Buffy and Willow didn’t stop staring at her and didn’t tell her where Angel was Cordelia was going to scream. She was ready to handle this first sighting, but it better happen soon because she was close to losing it. Cordelia just prayed that when she saw the vampire he wasn’t with Connor.
Cordelia closed her eyes as her stomach fell to the floor and a vice squeezed in her chest. She turned.
The banister cracked as Angel’s fist clenched around the wood. He gulped not knowing what to do.
The room disappeared as two set of eyes one brown, one hazel locked.
Suddenly, Angel knew what he needed to do. Sight, sound, smell all confirmed, now he had to finish it. He moved to touch and taste the truth of the miracle.
Cordelia knew what was going to happen. For half a heartbeat Cordelia thought she would have the power to stop it. She allowed herself another half of a heartbeat in the vampire’s arms. Then she moved, pushing at him.
“Cordy,” Angel refused to be moved, his hands reaching up to caress the skin of her face, his fingers trailing up and twirling into the dark strains of her hair. “Cordy,” he whispered, his lips moving closer.
Cordelia felt the brush of his voice against her breath. Her eyes widened. Angel was going to kiss her. Shit. Cordelia jerked her head away, “Personal bubble, buster, the dead need it, I mean, my type of dead need it too.” Cordelia said backing away, her feet stumbling over each other.
“Cordy,” Angel pulled her back.
“No, kissing,” she whispered moving her face away. Cordelia stilled. She hadn’t moved quickly enough to completely avoid him. Damn him and his ëgrr’ powers. Angel was still stronger and faster than she was or maybe he just made her weak.
Cordelia felt tears bubbling up through her throat. Angel’s lips grazed the softness of her cheek, tasting her skin, moving with his tongue to her throat. Cordelia needed to find her strength. Then she found it, in the petite form of a beautiful confused and surprised slayer.
Buffy, Angel was with Buffy now. He loved her. Cordelia had never planned on using femme fatale tactics to break them up. It wouldn’t have worked. She knew that.
“Angel, I’m dead.” She pushed. Cordelia knew that even with this rather uncharacteristic public display by the vampire, the love/jealous clichÈ method still wouldn’t work.
Angel wasn’t kissing her. Angel was tasting her just like she knew he probably already smelled her and did all the other vamp sensory types of detection on her.
“Alive.” He growled, yanking her back, cradling her face in his hands.
Cordelia blinked. Angel’s eyes glowed, not the gold of his demon, but with deep, fathomless brown. That’s when the truth finally hit her like a ton of bricks and the responding crash destroyed her heart. Cordelia waded through the love in his eyes and pushed.
Her hands burnt in a bright light, the heat throwing Angel back away from her.
“Cordy.” Angel stumbled then regained his footing quickly, moving forward.
Cordelia took a deep breath, she couldn’t play out the farce of love with Angel, not even to break Buffy and Angel up, not even now that she knew the truth. Cordelia couldn’t do that to either of them. Cordelia didn’t have a future with Angel and she couldn’t let him believe otherwise, even for the Powers.
“Damn’t Angel, growl some other name would you, please. And stay away. Personal Bubble. I’m dead, not undead, but really DEAD. I can’t love you, all right. Not here, not on earth. So, stop.”
“You are alive.” Angel growled. “I-“
“Can see, hear, smell, touch, taste-I know, but I’m not alive, not really. Tell him.” She shot to Lorne. “Tell him, about my soul, tell him.” She yelled, not caring about the scene she was creating or the hurt and doubt that sprung up in Buffy’s eyes. Angel had to believe.
“I can’t read her soul. I get flashes. But, I don’t know.” Lorne bowed his head.
“Well, I do know. Angel,” Cordelia grabbed his head firmly. “My soul is in heaven as it has been since I died, it will remain there waiting for this all to be over with, for me to return completely. I’m dead. I was killed in Quor-toth. I’m not here to regain my life or start over, just one last mission for the Powers before I can finally be at peace. I can’t-” Cordelia bit her lip; truth and lies were getting all confused in her head as Angel’s dark eye’s bore into hers.
“I love you, always, you know that but- I’m dead. I can’t be your future but I will guide you to it. That’s why I’m back- to guide you and to love you the only way I can in spirit and soul. The Powers promoted me from seer to guardian angel. I’m just not very good at it yet.”
Angel’s hands shot out one landing on her heart the other on the rapid pulse of her throat. “You are alive,” countering and ignoring Cordelia speech.
Cordelia eyes moved in unison with Angel’s to the small noise at the top of the stairs.
“You forgot baby gates, you stupid vampire.” Cordelia refused to let her feet fly up the stairs trusting that Angel would get there.
Cordelia needed to leave now.
Cordelia’s grip broke the doorknob. She couldn’t leave but she couldn’t turn to see Connor go into Buffy’s arms.
The little voice got closer.
“Cordy.” Angel said. “Your son wants you.” The little boy’s arms were waving in the air towards Cordelia.
Cordelia swirled ready to argue but she saw Buffy’s shocked expression. It wasn’t directed at her or Angel but at the small child in Angel’s arms. Buffy hadn’t heard it before. Cordelia turned back to the door. If she took Connor in her arms, she wouldn’t be able to maintain the lie. Cordelia didn’t have a clue which would hurt Angel more, her acknowledging the truth or her maintaining the lie.
But, she did know which would make her fight the Power’s wishes.
Cordelia bit her lip and turned. “Two dead mothers, really Angel, maybe it’s time for you to try for a third.” She walked out the door into the sunlight.