Cordelia strode into the hotel, the bag of gnarly and smelly roots in her hand, her nose pinched at the odor.
“Wesley,” she whined. God not only was it was expensive it stunk to high heavens. Cordelia just knew that its particular aroma was permanently entrenched in every fiber of her clothes and her headache was back.
“Wonderful, good.” Wesley grabbed the bag immediately.
“How long will it take?” Cordelia yelled after the retreating man. Visions of dry cleaning and bills being paid tumbled through her mind.
“Now that we have the Xentel, moments.” Wesley slammed his office door shut.
Cordelia narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. “Have you ever wondered why he is always so happy to lock himself up alone in that little room?”
“No.” Fred peeked around the corner.
“Yeah.” Gunn tried to tone down his agreement for the shy Pylean refugee’s benefit.
“Hmmph.” Cordelia went to the magazine on her desk, slipping another pill into her mouth.
“Eureka.” A loud voice pierced the walls.
“Brain guy’s done it again,” Gunn got up and headed for the weapons cabinet.
“Choose another less cheesy word, wouldch’ya,” Cordelia said over her shoulder to Wesley as she took the small sword that Gunn handed her.
“Cordy, where do you think you are going.” Wesley’s self-satisfied expression dimmed as he walked out into the lobby.
“To ‘Eureka’ baby Gordons, duh.”
“I’m not sure that is wise.” Wesley hesitated. Angel, before he had left, had taken Wesley aside and emphasized that no matter what Cordelia was to be safe at all times- and since Angel wouldn’t be there that meant she was not allowed in any shape or form to be involved in any of the more dangerous aspects of their upcoming cases- Cordelia was to remain safe.
Actually, as Wesley thought back, Angel’s statement could’ve have been easily construed as a threat. But since Wesley and Angel were friends, Wesley liked to think of it as a very strong urging.
“Don’t care. Whatcha going do to about it?” Cordelia smiled, swing her small sword.
Wesley concentrated for a moment on Angel’s instructions; Angel had been pretty uncompromising in his tone and expression. It would probably be better not to take Cordelia out on their more ‘active’ cases. He and Gunn should be able to handle a bit of Gordon larva without a third person.
“Cordy, the office shouldn’t be left unattended. Someone should stay an answer the phones.” Wesley tried.
“Yoo-hoo, new member of AI, right down stairs, physics major even, bet she knows how to answer the phones,” Cordelia shot a look towards Fred.
Fred smiled back until she figured out what Cordelia was saying. “I ….I…. I…. don’t…. I “
“Pick up…or don’t, we’ve an answering machine.” Cordelia bit her lip. She was going on this job. God forbid, she just sat and did nothing.
It was bad enough, that Angel’s absence seemed to herald the no vision time. Cordelia inwardly grumbled. Why couldn’t the constant headache go away for as long as she remained vision-free?
Whatever. Cordelia wasn’t going to be totally useless. “Fred, maybe Angel will call.”
“Do you think he will?” Fred gazed at the telephone reverently.
“Got to stay downstairs and answer the phone to find out.” Cordelia smiled sweetly.
“I’ll do it.” Fred stood up with a burst of confidence.
Gee, that was a surprise. Cordelia directed the roll of her eyes to the opposite wall.
Wesley inwardly tensed. He knew he had many flaws but stupidity wasn’t one of them. If he even suggested that Cordelia wasn’t able to handle the job or god forbid Angel had ordered her to remain out of the fighting, Cordelia would go out and fight every vampire, demon and thug within the LA borders.
She would get herself killed trying to prove them wrong. Wesley sighed. He was letting his fear at Cordelia’s recent disappearance into Pylea as well as Angel’s slow reassertion of his authority within Angel Investigations affect his judgment.
Angel may have rejoined them, but Wesley was the boss now and Wesley saw, even if Angel didn’t, that Cordelia was an able addition in the field. Well as long as she stayed far a field. Anyway, Angel wasn’t there.
He was away mourning Buffy. Well, life and business went on and Cordy was a part of all that, an important qualified part. If she wanted to go, she had earned the right to go.
“Very well.” Wesley nodded. “But,” he added, “if fighting occurs you will do as we say.”
“Fine, as long as it isn’t telling me to run and hide,” she glared.
“Damn’t girl, run.” Gunn shouted as he swung his axe at the emerging Gordon.
“I haven’t finished the enchantment.” Cordelia yelled in between frantic recitations of butchered Latin. Damn, this was Wesley’s area of expertise. Cordelia threw more of the potion at the large spiny razor-edged beast busting through the slimy wrapped cocoon. Did Gordon’s have to come out fully-grown and deadly?
“Too late. Baby’s grown and swinging.” Gunn rolled as the demon pushed at his weapon.
“Hide.” Wesley yelled to Cordelia as he jumped onto the creatures back, his knife plunging into shoulders.
“NO.” Cordelia threw down the pouch and ran towards the demon swinging her sword.
The Gordon jerked to the side, one of his three heads biting at Wesley, driving the man loose from its back while its barbed tail kept Gunn at bay.
Cordelia nimbly darted in between the beast’s gouging claws, her sword striking at its neck. She screamed as the beast’s tail swung again, this time curling and driving a spike straight through her. The beast wailed as Cordelia’s physical reaction to its onslaught drove her sword deeper and wider. The demon fell to the floor as her sword thrust clean through. The beast shuddered in death, its huge body covering the young woman’s.
“Christ.” Gunn dragged his legs away from the fallen creature. “Cordy.” He yelled scrambling back to the grotesque body. Wesley joined the black man as he shoved and tugged the huge lifeless body away.
“Oh god,” Wesley said weakly. Cordelia lay motionless; the demon’s tail spike had ripped through her chest, leaving nothing but gaping flesh and a puddle of blood.
“Hospital,” he gasped as he yanked her smaller form into his arms.
Gunn nodded, leading the way grumbling nonsense and curses to the Cleavers as he passed them in the living room, running to the truck.
“Oh dear; oh dear.” Fred mumbled dropping the phone on the counter.
“What is it?”
Fred’s eyes darted quickly to the strange men in the lobby. “Oh dear.” They were still there. She told them that Wesley or Cordelia weren’t there. She told them that she would take a message. She even showed them the pad and pen she would use, but the men hadn’t left.
They made her nervous. The whole being alone in the big hotel made her nervous. But now this. No, she wouldn’t fall apart. Fred straightened her shoulders. “You have to leave. There’s been an emergency. Try back in a few days.”
“This is impor….”
Fred stood even straighter, her fingers nudging at her glasses. “No. This is an emergency, whatever your problem is it can wait.” Fred’s resolve to remain strong was faltering as she looked wildly around.
“I can’t drive. I…call a cab. Just call a cab. You can do that,” she said harshly to herself. She yanked at the phone book. Damn the words were all a blur. Where were her glasses? Her hand shot back up to the plastic frames.
Oh god, tears. She was crying. “Can you call me a cab? I need a cab, NOW.” She swung around to the strangers the phone book dropping to the floor as she wrung her hands.
“Yes. What is it?” Duncan said quietly, trying to soothe the increasingly agitated young woman.
“Cordelia, she’s….Wesley and Gunn have taken her to the hospital, she’s dying. She can’t die not without Angel here. He’s not going to like this.” Fred rubbed hard making her sniffling nose even redder. “I don’t like this. I need a cab.”
Duncan shot a look to Methos, his silent intense gaze questioning and demanding.
Methos took a deep breath. “We’ll take you. What hospital?”
Fred instinctively huddled into the sides of the men that escorted her into the emergency room.
The place was crowded and loud. The painful voices of the people settled into the seats or lying on the waiting gurneys scared her. There was too much commotion. Fred bit her lip. Fred straightened trying to gather any confidence that she had ever been blessed with prior to her five years in the hell dimension.
“There.” She pointed and started to run.
Fred skidded to a stop bumping into Methos as he came up behind her.
“Cordelia,” she squeaked to the crying bespectacled man and the angry black man huddled over the still form of the woman she called for.
“Dead.” Gunn said as he clinched his teeth to keep the roar from coming forth.
“No.” Fred whispered moving closer. “She can’t be. Angel won’t…She can’t be dead.” Fred said louder, staring disbelieving at the bloody motionless form before her.
Wesley straightened. “Fred. You shouldn’t have….” He looked back at Cordelia lying on the gurney. “Oh god.” His hand crept closer grasping the cold digits of the young woman. “What did I do? Cordy,” he clutched with his other hand hoping that his combined grip would bring Cordelia’s cold one warmth.
Methos looked away from the sad scene, studying the confusion of the emergency room. “When did she die?”
“What? Who are you?” Wesley’s head shot up.
Gunn moved closer his anger at Cordelia’s death directed now at the strange man.
“When? Just now? Or before? Fred got your phone call 20 minutes ago, when?”
“It doesn’t matter, we have to go now,” Duncan leaned up pulling down Cordelia’s shirt and facing the other immortal.
“Don’t touch her again or you’re dead.” Gunn moved aggressively towards Duncan.
Methos turned to Duncan grabbing at the black man’s shoulder bringing Gunn to a stop but otherwise ignoring him. “Already?”
“Soon, we’ve got to get her out of here.” Duncan shot a glance at Wesley. “Did you check her in?”
“What?” Wesley was too dazed. Cordelia was dead. Who were the strange men? What did they want? Did it matter? Did anything matter? Cordelia was dead.
“Did you check her in? Tell a doctor her name, fill out any forms?” Duncan repeated urgently.
“I…” Wesley winced. “Cordy was dead on arrival, they shoved her over here. They were coming back to get her information but then a shoot out happened on the West Boulevard- they said they were too busy. They’d get to it later. They just left her here. They left Cordy.” Anger, disgust and sorrow coated Wesley’s choked words.
Duncan nodded. “Good.” He bent down picking Cordelia’s body up in his arms.
“What? Stop.” Wesley moved forward.
Methos moved quickly. “She doesn’t need to be here. “
“Cordelia’s dead.” Wesley said his confusion as apparent as his sorrow and anger.
Duncan’s eyes saddened at the anguish of the other man’s cry. “Yes. But, she will be fine. Come, we have to leave here. We’ll go back to your hotel.”
Gunn gasped a breath. “Who? What? Wes, man?”
“I don’t know” Wesley ran following the figure that held Cordelia’s lifeless body.
Gunn slammed his fist on the steering wheel. His curse died in his throat as he noticed that his anger was making Fred even more nervous. The young woman was pressed up to the passenger side door, sniffling quiet tears.
But, god he was furious. Cordelia was dead. Gunn remembered his first impression of the young woman. What had he called her? A Skinny White Beauty Queen and a Stick Figure Barbie. Gunn had been right about the beauty, but everything else about the young woman had been very wrong. Cordelia was as strong as she was beautiful, both surpassed by her genuine compassion and belief in the mission to help others.
He halted his fist’s descent towards the dashboard. Who were those men? Why had they moved in taking control?
Gunn turned to the young woman huddled in the corner of the truck. Fred had entered the hospital with them. “Fred, who were those guys?”
The young woman gulped as Gunn’s attention was focused on her. She fidgeted and tried to tell what little she knew.
Wesley bit his lip, stopping his questions. The men that had confiscated Cordelia’s body and the subsequent moments of his life weren’t saying a word. Wesley kept glancing at the still form of his friend.
His sorrow was interposed with anger at the sight of the strange man cradling Cordelia’s lifeless body in the backseat of the strange car. Who were those men? How was Wesley going to tell Angel? Wesley slumped in his seat. Wesley didn’t even want to guess at Angel’s reaction at the news of Cordelia’s death.
Why did he believe that it would be of a more violent nature than his response to the death of Buffy? Wesley wasn’t even sure how to get a hold of the vampire. This was a nightmare that needed to end soon.
Wesley was torn between shooting questions at the dark man that placed Cordelia on Angel’s bed or arguing and pleading with the dead woman to wake up.
Methos pulled at Duncan as Wesley pushed to take the man’s place on the bed.
“This is not a good idea.”
“Leaving her there was?” Duncan harshly whispered. “Waking up in a hospital that had declared her dead wouldn’t have been discreet. The emergency room was a mad house, they’ve probably already forgotten about her.”
“Okay, sure, but now we will have to tell not only her but her friends. If I show up in a super market tabloid…”
“I’ll make sure that they classify you as an ‘alien’.”
“I’m comforted.” Methos rolled his eyes.