“Angel,” the room called out. Gunn threw his body in front of the door. “Crispy vamp. Sun, man.” He tensed his frame as Angel moved forward.
“Connor, man.” Gunn said in a last ditch effort to prevent the vampire ramming into his body. The black man relaxed a little as the Angel stilled, suddenly realizing the small child in his arms.
“What’s wrong with her? Stop her. Gunn, go,” Angel ordered in a growl.
“I’ll go,” Buffy said, closing her eyes against the rising panic in Angel’s voice. “If Cordelia really was in heaven then she’ll need understanding and patience. It’s…difficult to be brought back.”
Buffy’s offer wasn’t altruistic, it wasn’t even conscious. She just had a burning need to get away from the vampire and his son. Buffy winced at Angel’s stare. It was as if he didn’t recognize her.
“Bring her back.” Angel nodded suddenly and turned back to the group from LA.
“What’s wrong with Cordy?” The vampire repeated harshly.
“Well, she did say she was dead. I wish she’d stop saying that.” Fred blinked. “Angel, maybe I should take Connor.” The young woman held out her arms. The baby was crying and Fred didn’t like the way Angel was looking right now.
He could very well do something drastic or rash. She looked in relief towards Gunn, her boyfriend was back to blocking the door.
“Cordy is not dead.” Angel was as sure of that as he was sure that Connor was alive. The beautiful woman he held had a heartbeat, breath and scent, all which he recognized. It was Cordelia and she was alive. “How did it happen? What happened to her?”
“Angel.” Fred urged. Connor’s cries steadily growing in accompany with his father’s increasing agitation.
The vampire growled and handed his son to the young woman. Once done, his glare shot back to Lorne, Gunn and Wesley. “Talk.”
Fred took the young child in her arms gratefully. “Where’s his…nevermind, I’ll find it. It would be the one with the crib,” she mumbled more to herself than to the others. She hugged the baby closer,” It’s okay, honey, daddy is just upset because your mommy isn’t quite herself, right now. Everything will be fine.” God, Fred hoped so.
The joy she felt first seeing Cordelia had dove quickly into a downward spiral and Cordy’s reaction to seeing Connor hadn’t stalled the spin in the slightest. Cordelia couldn’t be still dead.
Willow just stared. She didn’t know what to think about anything. She wanted to say something to Angel. But somehow, commenting on the vampire’s utter ignorance on how the last several minutes had effected Buffy, the love of his life, seemed out of place at the moment and could very well get her killed. So, the redhead sat on the couch wringing her hands and looking up the stairs.
When did Connor start calling Cordelia ‘mama’? How could a 15 month old who hadn’t seen a person in over 12 months recognize that person as their mother, even if she was the child’s mother?
And Cordelia wasn’t Connor’s mother. But, judging from Angel and the comments Fred was making to the baby, none of Angel and Cordelia’s LA friends thought it was strange.
What exactly had Cordelia’s relationship with Angel been? When they went to funeral the only thing anybody said was that Cordelia had been Angel’s seer, best friend and the heart of Angel’s Investigations.
But, that’s all they said. They hadn’t been a very talkative bunch. Obliviously they left a few things out. Willow had to be happy that Cordelia was alive, but she couldn’t help but be uneasy for Buffy.
And what did Cordelia mean that she was still dead? She didn’t look dead.
“We’re not sure, Cordelia showed up at Caritas earlier today just saying that the Powers sent her back to complete certain tasks and that she wasn’t really alive.” Wesley rubbed his forehead.
Angel glared and noticed, really noticed his former friend. “What are you doing here? I warned you.” Angel growled. “This is your doing.”
“Cordelia?” Buffy said softly. If the other young woman had been ripped from heaven, then she needed Buffy’s understanding.
Buffy tried to remember that and not the sight of Angel grasping on to Cordelia in desperation or Connor calling Cordelia ‘mama’.
Buffy had to remind herself Angel’s freaky uncharacteristic emotional reaction was the result of shock. That’s all. Cordelia had been his best friend who had died and come back. Buffy realized that the situation was completely different from when she had returned from the dead.
Angel had been forewarned, therefore he wasn’t surprised to see Buffy. But when they had seen each other, Angel had smiled and hugged her for a really long time. He just had been really surprised to see Cordelia, that’s all.
Cordelia looked up, her body still slumped against the hard bark of the tree.
“Were you really in heaven? I know how difficult it is to be grabbed out.”
Cordelia leaned up and studied the young blonde, Buffy the One. Cordelia shook her head. She was truly sorry for the pain that Buffy had gone through just as she was sorry for the pain she would cause Buffy. Yet, Angel was her priority and Angel needed to leave Buffy and return to LA.
“I wasn’t grabbed out, I was sent for a specific purpose by the Powers. They don’t want Angel here. His destiny is in LA. He has to leave and I was sent to tell him that. You two don’t belong together.”
Buffy stepped back. She had wanted to be supportive and understanding but Cordelia wasn’t letting her. Angel was her boyfriend. “We do too, we love each other. We’re soul mates.”
Cordelia shook her head. “Soul mates, ssmoul mate, Angel’s soul doesn’t need a date. It needs to be redeemed that’s what Angel’s mission in LA was all about. Help the helpless and redeem his soul. But, it won’t happen in Sunnyhell. Angel belongs in LA. He has to go otherwise he can never be truly happy. It’s his destiny.”
“He is happy here. Angel belongs with me. He loves ME, not you.” Buffy had to believe that.
“Me? I’m not the issue, Buffy, and neither are you, egocentric much? Angel’s soul is what’s important.” Cordelia tried to stop her next words but the indignant expression on Buffy’s face spurred her on. “And he does love me, but more importantly he will listen to me. I’m his best friend.”
“Was. You said you were dead.” Buffy glared.
“Oh, good, somebody’s been listening, I guess this means no flowers or ticker tape parade, uh.” The brunette shook her head.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m Angel’s best friend, dead or not. He’ll listen to me. You,” Cordelia paused and took a deep breath, her antagonism towards the blonde slayer disappearing. “I am sorry, Buffy, but the Powers don’t want Angel in Sunnydale and they control his soul’s redemption and his soul WILL be redeemed, if I have to….well, I’m already dead, but you get the picture, don’t you?” Cordelia said firmly.
Buffy shook her head. “Angel won’t leave me again. He loves me. His soul is bound.”
“That only means he can do the joyous pelvic thrust without the evil guy popping out, not that he’s been cleared by the higher ups.” Cordelia’s head jerked up. “Damn, stupid vampire,” running back into the house.
“Angel, put Wesley down, now.” Cordelia ordered as she slammed open the door.
Buffy shot passed Cordelia, grabbing at Angel’s arm, trying to help Gunn break Angel’s hold on the former watcher. Angel’s grip remained unmovable, oblivious to their actions or calls. Wesley stayed pressed against the wall, his face blue.
“Angel.” Cordelia repeated, her tone softer.
“It’s his fault.” Angel growled, his eyes landing on the young woman, his fingers still tight around Wesley’s throat. “His betrayal caused all of this. I lost you because of him.”
“And you got Connor back. Angel, I chose what happened. Without Wesley, we would’ve never found Connor. Angel, he saved Connor. You know that.”
“You DIED to save Connor…not him. Now, he will die for what he’s done.”
Cordelia walked up to the vampire, ignoring the others, her head slightly cocked. “Not that I wouldn’t enjoy having a friend in heaven, Angel, but you will not kill Wesley. He enabled Connor to be saved. Wesley is family. You need him. I need him. Put him down, now.” Cordy’s eyes remained fixed on the vampire.
Buffy stepped back as Cordelia demonstrated the truth of her hold over the vampire. Angel dropped Wesley letting the man fall to the ground.
“Cordy.” Angel started towards the brunette.
“Angel, stop. You’re being stubborn and all melodramaticy.”
“I’m not melodramatic.”
“You are too. But that’s okay, it’s just one of the things makes you so ‘grr’able. Now,” Cordelia stopped and scrunched up her brow. “Eww, that was just gross and eww, again.”
“Cordy?” Angel’s hands reached for the young woman.
Cordelia brushed him away. “No pain, still have the perks of being demonized.”
“You’re getting visions?” Angel dodged her hands and held her.
“Dead people get visions? You’re still part demon?” Fred said, coming back down the stairs. She suddenly smiled. “I knew you weren’t dead. Cordy, you really should go up to see Connor, he misses his mommy.”
“Fred, don’t call me that and I am dead. How many times do I have to say it? Geez. The Powers just need Angel to have a seer and I’m it for now.” Cordy retorted, momentarily sidetracked from her vision by Fred’s appearance.
“For now? Cordy, what do you mean? And you are Connor’s mother.” Angel interrupted.
“What did you do, brainwash him with pictures and mommy chants? I haven’t been around for a year. He can’t remember me.”
Willow nodded. She was glad that she wasn’t the only that thought it was strange.
“Cordy, of course, we wouldn’t let Connor forget you.” Fred blinked shocked that Cordelia would even think that was possible.
“He knows you’re his mother.” Angel said. “I wouldn’t let him forget you,” repeating Fred’s words.
Cordelia bit back the scream that was building in her throat. She closed her eyes, counting to ten. She barely got to three when Angel grabbed her.
“What’s wrong with you.”
“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you?” Cordelia jerked away. “You give your son another dead mother. How fair is that?”
“Connor is your son.”
“No, Angel. He’s your son, your and Darla’s. Not mine. Never mine.”
“Stop it, Angel. I don’t have time for this. Vision, remember?”
“I don’t care about…”
Cordelia smacked him. “You better start caring. Why, do you think the Powers brought me back? Wesley,” she shot her hand out.
Wesley dug into his coat and brought out the scroll.
Cordelia thrust the parchment at Angel. “You take this and remember. You have a mission; you have a Shansu to work towards. You’re screwing it all up.” Cordelia turned back towards Wesley. “Come on, we need to go. Buffy? The slayer would be helpful.”
Angel’s hand shot out again. “Where are you going?”
“To save the victims in my vision. You can’t go, daylight, duh. Gunn, please get the weapons, did you happen to bring my sword? I hope so, probably will need. It.
“You’re not going. The other’s can go. You’re staying.”
“No, I’m not. I have to go.” Knocking his hand away.
“Cordelia, what did you see?” Wesley gasped, still trying to find his voice.
“Major ickyness, baby sacrificing demon orgy …” Her hand shot out stopping Angel before he could freak. “Not Connor, okay. It wasn’t Connor. It was sort of demon hybrid baby, gold with really black eyes. Not Connor. I’m sure.” She repeated making sure the vampire understood her.
Wesley stepped up. “Cordy, could you tell if this ritual had anything to do with the on coming apocalypse?”
“Apocalypse?” Willow, Buffy and Angel stared at Wesley then back to Cordelia.
Cordelia shrugged. “Don’t know. But, we still have to hurry if were going to stop demon daddy and friends from staging hellmouth’s production of ‘Caligula’.
“Cordelia,” Angel said. “Apocalypse?”
Cordelia nodded. “That’s also on my list of things to do. Foretell another one and help stop it. Whatever happened to the promised ‘peacefulness’ of deadness?” This time Cordelia’s glance rested on Buffy.
The slayer stared back and slowly nodded. Feelings about Cordelia and Angel aside that was the same question she had asked herself and something she understood. Buffy just didn’t have a clue as to the answer. “I don’t know,” Buffy said softly. “But…”
“Right.” Cordelia sighed. “Let’s go.”
Angel held her back. “I don’t want you to go.”
“Angel, I don’t have any choices left. The Powers brought me back for one, well two,” she scrunched up her face. “Actually, three reasons and….Oh, look on the bright side, I’m already dead, so no danger of me dying. See ya.” Cordelia quickly ran out the door.
“Make her stop saying that,” Fred looked around for Gunn, but the black man already gone following Buffy and Wesley after Cordelia. Fred determined glance fell on Lorne. The demon just shrugged. Fred snorted with disgust and turned. “Angel, make her stop saying that.”
Angel blinked at the young woman. “I will,” going up the stairs to his son.
“Well, good, then.” Fred nodded. Finally someone gave her the answer she wanted to hear and it was Angel that had to be worth major accomplishing truth points. “I feel better.” She smiled.
“Um, Apocalypse? Not a feel good thingy,” Willow looked in concern at the door her best friend went out of.
“Pooh, Angel’s been through at least three, that’s what Cordy says.” Fred shook her head.
“Angel’s not with them.” Willow ventured.
Fred nudged at her glasses. “That’s because Cordy said she didn’t think it had started yet. Which makes sense. Cordy wouldn’t have a vision of the apocalypse during the daytime. How would Angel be her warrior, then? No, it’s just a demon orgy baby sacrificing ritual. Wesley’s there, he’ll figure that part out. And Gunn is really strong and Cordy said she was still demonized. They’ll be fine.” Fred smiled. “It’s like old times.”
Lorne rolled his eyes. “And praise be, we all know how grand those old times were. I need a drink.”
Angel smiled at his crying son, his hand gently cupping the small head. “Shh, Connor, mommy’s back. Da will make sure that she’s with us soon. I promise.” He smiled wider as the little unique person that was his son looked up, his cries lessening. “Mama.” A tiny voice asked for reassurance.
“Oh, Connor, She’s here. I promise you she won’t leave ever again. I won’t allow it, for either of us.” Angel’s vowed growl was masked by the gentle kiss he laid on his son’s brow.
Willow jumped up in relief as Xander and Dawn wandered in the door. It has been a half hour. Angel hadn’t come back down from Connor. Willow had been stuck with Fred and Lorne all that time.
Willow could swear that Fred had given no hints to her true babbling nature when they met at Cordelia’s funeral. Willow felt down right linear in comparison. The other young woman jumped from topic to topic.
Well, that’s not accurate, Fred jumped from Cordelia’s back, Angel will make everything fine, Connor’s gotten big, Connor missed Cordelia. Then the young woman would sigh, hoping that the apocalypse wouldn’t take too long, it was a good thing that Angel didn’t sell the hotel, everything would be fine, their family was back together again- Cordy said so- Wesley was with them, then Fred would sigh again and start all over. Her circular nonsensical babbling did have a point. Once Willow figured it out she was the one sighing.
Fred seemed sure that once the world ending crisis was over Angel would pack up Connor and head back to LA with his ‘family’ the most important of which was Cordelia. Willow had looked at the green demon for any contradiction to Fred’s babbling, but he gave none.
He only commented when Fred’s rambling gaze landed on him that he really hoped so, but it was up to the ‘Powers’, all the while calling the young woman lambkins or kitten. Then he would ask for alcohol. It was weird. Willow was very happy to see Xander and Dawn.
“Hey,” Willow’s other best friend sauntered in. “Look who I found wandering the streets.” He cocked his head towards Dawn. The teenager waved a hand and rolled her eyes, the stopped, looking back at Fred and Lorne.
“I know you. We met at…”
“Hi, I’m Fred, this is Lorne, in case you don’t remember. I know it can be hard to remember, new faces, new places. They can get all whirly in your head. I remember by assigning numbers to each new person I meet. Like, I know you, you’re Dawn- eight.” Fred turned to Xander.
“You got ‘00’ not because I automatically thought double zero, but Cordy mentioned ‘Zeppo’ and then I did automatically think ‘00’. You’re Xander, the ex-boyfriend that cheated with Willow, eleven’. How could you cheat on Cordy..I don’t understand, do you Lorne?”
“Whoa, leave me out of your ‘School house non-rock impromptu” Lorne shot a look at the young man.
“Though, I admit, it boggles the mind that anyone with half a brain and set of hormones would sing ‘Bye, Bye Dolly’ to the Princess. She’s a hot-a-rama as well as being an extraordinary champion. I can think of a few undead, demons and wannabe human types that would love the opportunity, okay only one real contender…” Lorne glanced up the stairs and sighed, suddenly becoming quiet.
Xander blinked. “Ah, Willow, why are they here?”
“Where’s Buffy and Angel?” Dawn asked.
“We’re here cuz Cordy told us to come and help stop the end of the world. Angel’s upstairs with Connor, trying to convince him that his mommy is all right. Buffy’s with Gunn, Wesley and Cordy stopping a demon orgy.” Fred supplied.
“Demon orgy?…Wait, Cordy? Willow.” Xander turned quickly to his friend.
“The end of the world? Connor’s mommy? I thought Darla was like dust, twice, right?”
“She is, I’m talking about Cordy. She’s been Connor’s mommy since that horrible night. Well, beautiful in that we got Connor, but horrible just the same. It was raining, Angel was so upset with Darla trying to kill Cordy and then of course the baby on it’s way, not to mention Holtz trying to kill him. Horrible, beautiful and sad.” Fred glanced up to the stairs.
“Not that I particularly cared for D..A…R…L..A, being all evil and everything, but she did stake herself, but she shouldn’t have bitten Cordy. There I said it.” Fred turned to Lorne. “That’s how I really feel.”
“Lambkins, safe to say that’s how we all felt.”
“Willow, why does…” Xander interrupted looking quickly at the pretty brunette back to Willow.
“Fred.” The brunette pushed up her glasses.
“Sorry, I don’t have your number system.” Xander replied.
“Gee, how about short term memory then, I just told you. And if you have a question to ask me, then ask, I’m here.” Fred narrowed her eyes.
Xander blinked. This was not the same fragile young woman that cried at the drop of a hat at Cordelia’s funeral.
“Okay, again, sorry, why are you speaking like Cordy’s alive?”
“Because she is.” Fred stated firmly and clearly.
“UM, Fred.” Willow stuttered to interrupt. “Cordy, said she is dead.”
“Right, Cordy died…wait did you just say Cordy SAID she was dead,” Xander turned to Willow.
“Yes, but Angel said that he would fix that” Fred glared.
“Lambkins, kitten, I’ll be the first… okay…last.” Lorne shot a look at Willow and Xander ,”in line of…”Lorne shot a look at Willow and Xander.
“…last in line of the LA brigade family conga line, which will be first, shouting for joy if Angelcakes can fix this. But Cordy keeps insisting that she’s dead, by the Power’s order and I can’t read her soul.”
Xander threw up his hands. “What’s with the present tense? I sent flowers and wore a suit.” He yelled. “Is Cordy alive or dead?”
“Alive.” Angel came back down the stairs. “It’s been 42 minutes. Why isn’t she back yet?”
Cordelia pointed. “Yucky sex death threat, there.”
Buffy, Wesley and Gunn stalled looked at the trees and bushes impenetrable in their mass and closeness.
“In there? Kinda of like clogged with leaves and birch.” Gunn asked.
Cordy glared. “In there, behind, if that makes you more inclined to do the machete thing.”
“Why didn’t you say so, girl?” Gunn started swinging his axe.
Wesley quickly followed suite.
Buffy stood behind watching. Even Cordelia was swinging a sharp blade against the overgrown foliage. Buffy cringed at the voice of the sixteen year old that was still present inside, growing with a vengeance ever since Buffy saw Angel and Cordelia together.
That young girl wanted Cordelia to look like idiot drawing them out on a wild demon chase. But, the older Buffy knew that wasn’t happening. Buffy just wished she had brought an axe. Then she would be swiping and not thinking, reliving a high school girl’s insecurities.
“Tunnel.” Wesley called, moving forward. Gunn and Cordelia quickly moved behind him. Buffy still remained motionless. Intellectually, she knew that Wesley had been helping Angel and that Angel’s now anger towards the man was real, not because Wesley had been inefficient or that some careless act on his part caused the tragedies of a year ago.
Angel’s very real anger was because Wesley had been a trusted friend, one with strength and skill that betrayed Angel and his family. A former friend that Angel hated but would allow to help…whatever, this was, because Cordelia said so.
Buffy was confused and really having a hard time correlating the idiot Wesley she knew from high school, to the one that she briefly heard about when Cordelia died, to the one that went straight into danger at the beckoning of the girl supposedly he killed because of his betrayal.
Gunn, Buffy couldn’t comment on. He had been silent and angry during her visit during Cordelia’s funeral. If the young man said a word, it was a grunt, almost beating out Angel for his stoic stillness. But, Buffy sensed his strength and could see why Angel trusted him to watch his back.
Those observations aside, there was Cordelia. Not a complaint from her, since she walked out of the house towards not really known danger. Buffy knew that Cordelia had been Angel’s seer, seeing awful visions of the helpless and such and being a sort of direction guide for the vampire while he was in LA, but she hadn’t expected Cordelia to grab up sword confidently and lead the group in an active type role.
Cordelia gave directions and Wesley and Gunn followed. Buffy noticed that Gunn had tried to engage Cordelia in banter of some sort. Buffy had been surprised that Cordelia hadn’t snubbed the young man or flayed one of her stinging comebacks that she had been famous for in high school.
And at her silence, Gunn, the tough man, looked sad.
Buffy was sure that she saw him smile when Cordelia finally responded to that dump drain shrubbery comment.
Now, Cordelia had stopped. “Are you coming, or what? Slayer, help, demon frenzy, kick ass girl. Geez.”
Buffy blinked her thoughts away and followed.
Cordelia laid a hand on Wesley. “You need to go that way.” She pointed.
“Cordy, the demon mother is that way. The victim of your vision.”
“I know.” Cordelia said softly. “Gunn and I will go. Buffy, go with Wesley.” She tugged on Wesley’s arm at his hesitation. “Wes, there is a marker or something a …shit, I don’t know, but it’s important, like really world ending type of important, that’s why you have to go. It’s round, stone with writing. Get it, you need to figure out what it means and Buffy has to go with you to make sure that you get there. Go.”
“You heard, man, you here for a purpose- your brains, go, dawg.” Gunn said.
Wesley ignored Gunn and stared straight into Cordelia’s eyes. “He’ll really kill me this time, if you don’t come back.”
“I’ll be fine, I’ve got demonizy powers and Gunn, that demon mommy chick is safe. Go.” Cordelia smiled lighting up the small cavern.
Wesley stared, reaching out a tentative hand gently landing on Cordelia’s face. “I missed you.”
“Go.” Cordelia ordered, her eyes suddenly becoming cold, her heart breaking.
Wesley nodded in acceptance at Cordelia’s look and moved in the direction she pointed.