To be Alive or to Live. 26-30

Chapter twenty-six

Angel paced agitatedly back and forth waiting for Spike to return. The next steps in his plan raced through his mind. It would work. He just needed to get to LA as a vampire with a soul and the spell in hand. Wesley would take care of the rest. A slight unease settled over Angel.

Maybe Wesley wouldn’t think…No, Angel’s mind veered from any doubts that were starting to circle around his head regarding Wesley’s or…Cordelia’s reaction. They would see that this was the only way.

They didn’t need Groosalugg. Angel would protect and save Cordelia. That’s what he promised he would always do and that was what he would do, no matter the cost.

***

Spike easily opened the Magic Shoppe’s front door, grinning at the new, now useless lock. Giles, the intellectual smart-arse, couldn’t seem to figure out how to keep the shop free from his unwanted visits.

Spike wandered around the dark front room, his cigarette the only light flicking in the room. If he was a balmy ass gypsy curse where would he hide, Spike ruffled through some old books and papers. Nah, the Angel worshipers would want to keep it somewhere safe.

Safe, now that was a smack on thought. Spike sauntered over to the iron box underneath the counter. Really, watcher, Spike hummed as twirled and listened to the resulting clicks.

Lovely, Spike thought, as the door swung open. In 24 hours, his world would be rid of the specter of Angel and he would have a hearty meal. Spike smiled as he pulled out the boxes and papers tucked away in the body of the safe.

He quickly glanced through them. His smile got bigger as he caught the word ‘soul’ on a computer print out. Spike scanned it. Yep, gypsy stuff, soul stuff, eureka. Spike hurriedly closed up the safe; he stubbed out the fading embers of his cigarette. Time to go.

Spike opened the door, pulling it wide.

“Spike?”

“Red, um good…night,” Spike scrambled. Great the witch.

Willow quickly pushed past the blonde vampire, glancing suspiciously around. “What are you doing here?”

“Um, nothing.”

Willow glared. “Try again or I’m calling Giles and Buffy.”

“Tattletale.”

“Spike.”

“Gee, Red, like I said nothing, well nothing much anyway. I left my smokes here.” Spike held up his crumpled pack. He really hoped that the witch didn’t notice that it was almost empty.

“Smokes? No, really why are you breaking into Giles’ shop.”

“Why are you, pet? Um? What dastardly witch brew are you brewing outside the know how of the rest of the watch patrol. You’re dabbling, aren’t you?” Black magic, is it? Whoa, wait, sex magic. Are you and your little girlfriend getting a little bored, lost the excitement have you?”

Spike pursed his lips. “Why didn’t you just call me? No reason to go all felon.” Spike’s brows wriggled as his lips smirked.

“You are disgusting. I left my books here.”

“Sure, right red. I won’t tell. But, if you need me.” Spike winked as he pushed past Willow into the darkness.

Willow watched as Spike blended into the night. Damn, vampire, she grumbled, shaking her head. Sometimes, she almost really liked the sardonic bleach blonde, but other times. Willow glanced into the main room of the magic store. Nothing seemed out of place. She went to the cash register, nope, no money gone. Willow shook her head as she picked up her books.

Spike had been up to something, but he hadn’t shown any signs of evil lately, just the normal annoying stuff, she would give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, the money was still there and nothing else looked disturbed. Though, Willow would have to mention to Giles to change the locks…again. Willow chanted an easy lock spell on the shop and left.

Chapter twenty-seven
Angel stood in the cemetery watching as the first morning rays bathed the head stones. His face remained expressionless as the sky around him brightened.

Spike had returned a couple hours earlier, smug, and satisfied at his night’s work. The blonde vampire urged Angel to lay bare his neck and for them to get on with it. Angel refused.

Angel wanted to see the sunrise one more time before he sentenced himself to an eternity of nights. The sun rose higher, heralding a new day, choices to be made, hopes to be realized, and dreams to be had. It could be his for the rest of his mortal life, if he just stayed and basked in its warmth.

His future. Angel blinked as the moisture formed in his eyes. This was what he always wanted. Life, real life, not the parody that he had been practicing ever since he first was cursed with his soul. Angel strained his eyes staring, trying forever to capture the glorious sight.

The new day, it would be the last time he ever saw one. Choices? As a human, his choices would have been limitless. Hopes, dreams? Angel sadly smiled closing his eyes. He would be giving them up. Or would he?

Angel’s smile became real as his heart grew lighter. His hopes and dreams weren’t wrapped up in the glowing ball in the sky, but in the warmth of Cordelia’s smile, in her very life. She was the one that gave him the hope that fueled his dreams of the future, not the sunlight.

The day was beautiful and a novelty, but it might as well be night, if Cordelia no longer smiled. Angel’s choice was made without regrets or doubts, just with a surety that his decision was the right one. The only one possible.

Angel swiftly returned to the dark crypt without sparing another glance at the sun. It wasn’t the brightness he needed.

***

“Change your mind, did you?”

“Do it.”

“Guess not.” Spike moved awkwardly towards the dark human. “Um, how to do what to do this?” This was decidedly weird. Spike could smell the blood flowing underneath Angel’s skin; he wanted to taste it, to have it fill his mouth and throat. But, there was just something strange about feeding from a willing human, it kind of took the fun out of the whole experience.

And then when you top it off with the fact that the non-victim was Angel, it was just really weird. Oh well, the Poof was carrying around a skin bag full of fresh human blood and Spike was hungry. Spike stalled, maybe if he pretended that he was actually really killing Angel.

“Spike”

“Don’t be in such a bloody hurry. Give a vamp a moment, will you.”

“No.” Angel ripped off the makeshift bandage on his forearm. “Now.” Angel pressed on the wound until fresh drops of blood appeared on his skin.

Spike’s nervousness was gone as soon as the scent of the blood hit the air. The blonde vampire growled as he grabbed at the limb bringing into his lips.

Spike sucked greedily, expanding the cut with his incisors. Angel fell to the ground as the blood drained from his body. His last thought before the blackness overtook him was that he should’ve called Wesley. Spike could very well screw up.

Spike leaned in encircling Angel’s limp form in his embrace. Spike’s lips and teeth tugged on Angel’s flesh, becoming more urgent as Angel’s heartbeat weakened until it was barely negligible. The life was draining from Angel’s body as quickly as the blood. Spike pulled away as the heart encased in the empty body stopped. Spike bit into his own wrist drawing blood, he shoved it in Angel’s lax lips.

“Come on Peaches. Drink, you damn poof, drink. Don’t die, you bleeding idiot.” Spike sighed as Angel started to suck automatically on Spike’s arm. Spike didn’t even want to guess why he was relieved. If anyone ever asked, he would deny the feeling.

Spike pulled his arm away from the increased pressure Angel was exerting on him. The damn old fledgling would suck him dry and end up killing them both.

Angel’s eyes glowed yellow as Spike jerked away. “Time to nap,” Spike grumbled. Angel blinked as the new vampire blood filled his body, then wearily he slumped. Spike cushioned Angel’s descent. Then the blonde vampire picked up Angel’s unconscious body and laid it on the stone tomb. Spike quickly grabbed the chains nearby and tightened them around Angel’s still body.

Then he sat and waited. In one hand, he had a glowing cigarette in the other the computer printout.


Chapter twenty-eight

“How is she?” Wesley nodded towards Cordelia’s bedroom.

“Out like a light, thank god,” Gunn said.

“And him.” Wesley nodded towards the pacing Pylean warrior.

“Unfortunately wide awake. If that fake Kevin Sorbo type goes towards that bedroom one more time, I’ll kill him, warrior for good or not.”

Gunn turned as he felt a soft tug on his sleeve. “Who’s Kevin Sorbo?” Fred said.

Gunn rolled his eyes. “A better actor, with better hair and understands the words ‘hell no’”

Fred remained puzzled. “Groo is just worried, he wants to help Cordy.”

“Groo is just a buffoon” Said Wesley. “Regrettably, he may also be the only way to relieve Cordelia of the increasing pain of the visions.”

Wesley ducked as a book flew towards his head. “Believe me, I don’t like it either.” Wesley dodged another text that bounded by his head. “I read everything I could think of. Damn’t, now I’m defending my failures to a ghost.”

“Wesley, don’t. We know you have been trying. Don’t we Dennis.”

The books fell with a loud slam to the floor.

“This is ridiculous.” Wesley yanked off his glasses and rubbed his brow.

Wesley slammed on his glasses as a loud scream came from the bedroom. “Cordy.” Wesley ran towards the closed door. “Gunn, watch him.” Pointing to Groo.

“Got it, man,” Gunn body blocked the Pylean warrior from barreling into the bedroom. “You stay here.”

“The Princess…”

“Will call you if she needs you. Until then stay put.” Gunn remained directly in front of the warrior.

***

Wesley dropped on the bed beside the trembling, crying young woman.

“Cordy.” Wesley gently placed his hands on her shoulders. His tone strained and full of emotion.

The young woman didn’t acknowledge him. Her convulsing form strangled the short painful gasps that emerged from her heaving chest.

Wesley leaned in attempting to gather Cordelia in his arms. Cordelia struck madly at his hands. “No, No, No…” Her eyes wide with untold fears.

“Cordy,” Wesley sharply pulled her to him.

“No…” Her body shook and the sobs choked in Cordelia’s throat.

“Tell me,” Wesley said. His arms tightening around her.

“Nooo, no, Angelus…no,” Cordelia pushed with all of her strength, breaking free from Wesley’s hold.

Wesley sat up stunned. “Cordelia?”

The young woman curled up into a small ball in the corner of the bed, her tears dampening the covers.

Wesley’s eyes started to blink rapidly as he thought. Maybe it was just a bad dream, not a vision. Because a warning of Angelus was impossible. “Cordelia?”

***

Cordelia tried to compress her body into a smaller circle, willing herself to disappear. She wanted to disappear, to be gone. Cordelia sobbed louder as she tried to push back the vision of Angelus. But the demon with the face of Angel pressed forward his mocking evil smile causing a slash of pain through her skull.

From somewhere far away she heard Wesley’s concerned voice. He was calling to her, begging her to respond. Cordelia cried harder, the pain, her head felt like it was going to erupt, her heart felt like it was shriveling, and dying, and she was dying. Cordelia wanted to die. Again, this time a little closer, she heard Wesley.

Cordelia struggled. With the ruthless, delicate skill of a surgeon, Cordelia began to cut away at the pain, sectioning it off, shoving it to the corner of her mind that had been built to house it. The walls were waning, the lock weakening, but the room still stood. Cordelia pushed her pain inside and slammed the door. Cordelia attempted to do the same with the ache in her heart, but the ache wouldn’t budge, it never did.

It never left, not since Angel left. Now it was just harsher, bigger, but still manageable she willed.

Cordelia sat up and blinked away her tears. “Angelus.”

“Im…” Wesley stopped. He was about to say impossible, but as he stared at the weak, trembling young woman trying so hard to maintain a semblance of her normal strength, he stopped. If Cordelia saw Angelus, then Angelus was back.

“Where.” He would not bother with why or how. Cordelia’s visions had never been so helpful before. That’s what he was for.

“Sunnydale.” Cordelia’s weak voice trembled.

Wesley nodded. “Dennis.”

The water and prescription painkillers were already floating beside Wesley’s hands. The water threatened to overflow from the glass as Dennis’s ghostly presence pushed it frantically towards Wesley.

“Thank you.” Wesley grabbed at the items. He placed the huge pill up to Cordelia’s lips.

Cordelia shook her head.

Wesley snapped his head forward. “Yes. I know you hate it, but you will take it. It helps…”

“Wesley?”

“Don’t worry. We will go to Sunnydale…And so will you.” Wesley answered the beginning of Cordelia’s strangled demand. “But, if we are to face Angelus, there are certain things we need to gather, that will take time. We will leave within the hour,” he said, at Cordelia’s anxious jerk.

“But until then you will take this and rest.” Wesley glared at the young woman, his tone, and expression accepting no argument.

Cordelia’s wide pain eyes filled with new tears. “Promise.”

Wesley smiled sadly. “I won’t leave you.”

Cordelia’s lips disappeared as her tearful eyes closed in trust and gratitude. She slowly opened her mouth as Wesley gently pushed the huge pill to her tightened lips.

“Now, drink.” Wesley gently held the glass of water up to Cordelia’s mouth. He smiled as Cordelia grimaced, then swallowed. “Good, girl.”

Cordelia grumbled and gave a slight smile as she lay back down. “I’m not two, you know.”

“I know, but this is the only way I ever get to win.” Wesley uncharacteristically placed a tender kiss on the young woman’s forehead.

“Big softy,” Cordelia mumbled as she tried to relax and let the medication take effect.

“Sweet, brave child,” Wesley said.

“Ummph.” Cordelia’s eyes closed as the numbing attributes of the medicine took over.


Chapter twenty-nine

Wesley got off the bed. Angelus, how…. Not the problem right now, he veered his mind from its natural inquisitiveness. Angelus had to be stopped. He would be a danger to all of them, especially to her. Wesley glanced at the young sleeping girl.

Cordelia hadn’t seen or hadn’t been able to tell what Angelus would do. Probably the Powers didn’t think it was necessary, after all, nothing Angelus ever did was not evil. Wesley took a deep breath and headed to the other room.

“What’s up, what did Barbie see.” Gunn rarely called Cordelia that nickname anymore. It had started as a term of annoyance, but now was saved for times of great stress. Gunn had been nothing but stressed and worried since this whole thing began.

Wesley stared at the room. Gunn was tense, ready for battle. Groo wasn’t tense, just ready for battle. The Power’s new warrior seemed to be nothing but ready for battle or com-shucking. Wesley shook his head.

For one brief, contradictory moment, he wished that Angelus would meet the longhaired buff buffoon. Wesley shook his head at the not nice thought and glanced at Winifred. The innocent young woman looked concerned, frightened, and determined.

“Cordelia’s vision…I’m going to Sunnydale so is she. I would like it if you would also go.” He nodded to Gunn.

“Like I wouldn’t? What’s up?”

“Gunn…wait…Fred I think you should stay and Groo. I don’t want you anywhere near.”

“Where the Princess goes I go.”

There was really no point arguing with the Pylean. He only seemed to know a few phrases. All of which began with the Princess.

“I’m going.” Fred said with as much anger as she was capable of. Fred may be scared, but she wasn’t abandoning her friends.

“It’s Angelus.”

Gunn was the only one in the room that was startled. “How? Angel is human, how does Angelus enter into the equation?”

“I don’t know. But Cordelia saw him in Sunnydale.”

“Angel?”

“No, Angelus, Angel’s soulless vampire counterpart.”

“The beast.”

“Yes, Groo, but not the beast that you met before, this is the real beast, the beast that could destroy her.” Wesley nodded towards the bedroom.

“I will kill it.”

“No.” Wesley said. “Kill Angelus before I or Cordelia say to, you will die. Remember that.”

“English?” For once Gunn had to agree with the buffoon. All that Gunn ever heard about Angelus was bad news, real bad news.

“No, Gunn. Now, we will need some things.” Wesley went to the kitchen table and started to comprise a list.


Chapter thirty

“I don’t believe you” Buffy said. She had listened to Wesley’s startling pronouncement and then promptly disregarded it. There was no way Angelus was back. Angel was human.

And really, what did Cordelia know about anything, visions or not. Buffy had never even heard of the Powers. And she couldn’t believe if they were all so important, they would have given Cordelia such power and responsibility.

It’s not like they could count on her to prevent the forecasted evil she supposedly saw and experienced. Cordelia would never put the fate of others before her own physical safety and comfort. No matter what Angel had said. It just wasn’t possible for a person to change that much, just like it was impossible that Angel had somehow lost his soul as well as his new gained humanity.

None of it was possible.

And who were all of these people with Wesley and Cordelia? Buffy stared at the young black man glowering and the young timid woman standing, almost hiding behind him. The longhaired handsome man was pacing and snapping a deadly whip against his thick thighs mumbling something about no time and a princess.

Buffy didn’t know who they were, didn’t want to know, she just wanted them all to leave. Especially, Wesley and Cordelia. In Buffy’s world, Cordelia always looked just as beautiful as she was self-centered and incompetent. Those were tenets that Buffy knew and believed in; it was one of the few stable things in her world.

But, that stability was being rocked to its core by the agonized look on the pale former cheerleader. Cordelia looked awful. And then there was the confident urgency in Wesley’s tone. Wesley wasn’t supposed to be confident; he was and always would be an accented duffus Giles want-a-be with delusions of intelligence. But here he was without a stutter or a stammer, just looking exasperated and disgusted…at her.

Buffy shook her head and looked again at the strangers. They were all looking at Wesley for something…leadership, Buffy realized. They were also casting protective, concerned glances at Cordelia. Buffy’s eyes widened, Cordelia wasn’t wearing any make-up.

The unease in Buffy’s stomach grew larger. That just wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Her beliefs were being shaken. If she was wrong about them, than maybe they were right. No, Buffy thought. They couldn’t be.

Buffy narrowed her eyes toward the huddled form of the former cheerleader. Cordelia hadn’t said a word, neither confirming nor denying Wesley’s explanation and warning. She just stayed motionless, as if she was just able to only concentrate on staying upright.

But, now, even in her disheveled and hurt stance, Buffy saw a spark of the former cheerleader in Cordelia’s clouded eyes. Cordelia was getting angry.

“We don’t really give a damn whether you believe us or not, Buffy. Just tell us. Where is he?” Cordelia finally spoke.

“He is not Angelus, I tell you. He is human.”

“Was.” Cordelia’s eyes flashed, her anger overcoming her pain momentarily.

“This vision, if you can explain how? And who or what exactly are the Powers to Be?”

“We don’t have time, Rupert.” Wesley shot, no longer burdened by his former insecurities concerning the older former watcher. Wesley had gone through too much and done too much, to ever allow Giles previous prestige as a watcher make him feel timid and apprehensive.

After all, they had both been fired and Wesley had learned much from that experienced and every single one that had followed. “Believe it or not, but realize at least- Angel is human, therefore he can be turned back to a vampire. And without a soul, he is Angelus. So, where is he?”

“With Spike,” Willow said.

“What?” Both Wesley and Cordelia looked shocked.

“It’s okay, Spike can’t hurt anybody, he’s neutered. The chip…” Willow started.

“Where.” Cordelia said

“Buffy,” Giles said softly. “It is better to be safe.”

“Fine, but they’re wrong.”

“Yes, right, of course, but Willow, please- the spell, just in case.”

Wesley spoke quietly to Gunn as Willow hurried to the safe.

“It’s gone.” The redhead ran back to the waiting group.

“What?”

Willow’s eyes widened. “Spike was here last night. He had broken in again. He said that he left his cigarettes. Why would he take the spell?”

“We’d better go.” Giles ushered everyone out of the shop.

Chapter 31

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