Written: 01-19-02 through 02-02-03
Takes Place: Directly after "Offspring" in season 3.
Summary: With the birth of Darla's baby fast approaching, Cordelia interferes with an attempt on Angel's life, but the consequences of her actions send her back to 1999...mere days before Doyle is to die on the Quintessa.
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and all images found on this site are the property of Joss Whedon, the WB, UPN, Mutant Enemy, and everyone else in the world who is not me. I claim no rights or ownership over anything more than the idea for this story. It was done purely in my spare time (Ha!) for recreational purposes; I make no money from it, nor am I in any way affiliated with the aforementioned television shows, networks, or representatives. No infringement is intended. I did not inhale.
Special Thanks: To Liz of Fangirl, my beta goddess. A year is a long time. You put a lot of time and effort into this for me, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Special thanks also goes to Anya of the Sanctuary for answering that vital question for me for chapter 10.
( There is a cover to this book. Take the spaces out of the following address to view it:
htt p: (remove this)/ (remove this, too)/ dittdo . homestead . com / impact . html )
Author's Note: I put a lot of work into this. It was a year-long project that was constantly juggled between two full-time jobs, building and running nearly a dozen websites, and a trip to Europe. Through it all, though, I just had this overwhelming desire to finish, and finish it well, because at the heart I think it's a good story. All I ask of you is that you read all the way through the first chapter. If you like what you've read so far…read on, it gets better. If you don't, then thank you for giving me the time that you have. I appreciate (most) all feedback. So please give the fic a chance, thanks for staying with me this long, and enjoy "Impact"…
The stars above L.A. shone brightly, for anyone who might've been able to see them. Not much of their light managed to make it down to the street, however, after being filtered through the smog, and drowned out by the garish city lights. The hotel was a beacon, brimming with light, keeping the gritty darkness at bay beyond the windows.
With all of the shades pulled down, Cordelia could almost pretend that it wasn't dark outside. And while she was at it, she could pretend that she wasn't working for a big, hulking, brute of a brooding vampire boss (who paid her nowhere near what she was worth, by the way), and who hadn't gone all dark last year and somehow managed to knock up his cheap, skanky blonde vampire ex-lover. She could even almost pretend that the cheap, skanky blonde in question wasn't currently gestating some sort of demon spawn that – naturally – had been prophesied to have something to do with the destruction and downfall of mankind.
She could almost pretend all of it, that is, if Darla weren't such a pain in the ass.
Ever since Angel had taken her in and sequestered her in a room at the Hyperion, Darla had been a nuisance and a half. At first Cordelia had been suckered into feeling sorry for her, sympathizing with her because of her own experience of being the mother of an unborn demon-child. But all of that changed the first time Darla had gotten the munchies for Cordelia's neck. Now, she was kept under constant surveillance by one of their group, who was always equipped with a crossbow, until such a time when Wesley and Fred might be able to glean some answers about this whole prophecy thing, and what exactly was going to be born.
But until that happens, Cordelia thought, I'm suddenly stuck playing nursemaid to the skanky undead. Hm...It's interesting how the word "skanky" just keeps on being the best adjective.
With a long-suffering sigh, Cordelia pulled a stool over against the counter and stepped on its lowest rung; reaching into the cabinet above her head. Her hand searched blindly along the shelf in the cabinet until she touched something smooth and cool. Grabbing hold of the mug, Cordelia pulled it out and shut the cabinet.
"She break another mug?" Angel asked suddenly from the doorway.
With a startled cry, Cordelia lost her balance and started to trip off of the stool. Before she could fall, however, Angel was at her side, supporting her and keeping her upright. Settling herself firmly on her feet, Cordelia let go of him and immediately whacked his chest with her free hand. "Hey! I just kept you from breaking your neck!" Angel protested.
Cordelia took a deep breath, feeling her pulse slowing after the initial adrenaline rush. "If it weren't for you, Stealthmaster 2000, I wouldn't have fallen off to begin with. Jeez! You've spent at least the last six years of your life around humans, and you still haven't figured out how to make a little noise when you enter a room?"
Angel shrugged. "Old habits die hard."
Cordelia raised a perfect eyebrow. "Yeah? Well I wish your 'old habit' upstairs would die hard."
"Cordelia," Angel started.
"I know, I know," she forestalled him. "I know what you're going to say. She can't help what she is, she didn't have any choice about being turned back into a vamp again, and right now she's carrying your demonic child, which may or may not be evil. And until we're sure, we just have to wait and put up with her. But she's going through our mugs like some kind of...of...going-through-mugs-machine." Angel just looked at her, and Cordelia sighed. "Yeah, I don't know either. I'm too tired to be witty right now."
"You seem tense." Angel observed.
"Gee, I wonder why?" Cordelia said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "You go crazy and fire us. You go all dark and let people die in your bizzarro quest for vengeance. You come back and tell me that you didn't sleep with Darla, and now we're taking care of a woman who occasionally likes to chow down on the hand that feeds her. I'd say things couldn't rate much higher on the Suck o' Meter."
Angel glanced away and tried for an innocent expression. "So, you're still mad about all of that, huh?"
Cordelia sighed. "No, I'm mostly over it. But the lying part still bothers me, yeah."
Angel looked contrite. "I am sorry about lying to you. I just...didn't want you to think less of me, again. Things were rough for awhile, there, and I finally felt like you guys had forgiven me for...you know, the whole firing thing. I didn't want to bring up something else that would cause a rift between us."
"But that's not for you to decide, Angel. Remember a long time ago when we all decided that secrets are bad? We're your friends, as long as we're all honest with each other we can work through anything." Cordelia paused as Angel absorbed that, and then turned toward the refrigerator. She opened the door, allowing its light to spill out upon the floor, and removed a container of fresh blood.
Angel scrutinized her in silence, noting the tension in her form as she popped open the microwave door and set the timer for the blood to heat. "It's more than that," he said finally. "What else is eating you?"
"You mean besides Darla, when she gets the chance?" Cordelia asked pseudo-innocently. Angel looked at her blankly, and Cordelia dropped the act. "It's nothing."
Angel arched an eyebrow. "You know, someone told me once...it wasn't all that long ago, either...that as long as we're honest with each other we can work through anything."
Cordelia glared at him. "Oh sure, use my pearls of wisdom to fit your own devious purposes."
He smiled faintly. "Whatever works." He watched as she sighed took the blood out of the microwave, avoiding his eyes. "Hey," he said gently, concerned but pretty sure he knew what was going on. "I know. It's the day after tomorrow." Cordelia looked up, surprised. And then she saw the understanding look on Angel's face and felt bad for assuming he'd forgotten. Of course he'd remember. It had been almost two years, and it was never really discussed, but they'd both always remember. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked quietly.
Cordelia seemed agitated over her own imagined weakness, and tossed her head in annoyance. "No, I'm fine. I mean...it's not like I'm going through the fresh pain of it every day, or something...but I just think about it sometimes. I think about him. About how things would've been if..."
"If he hadn't died," Angel finished for her.
"Yeah." Cordelia looked at the floor. "And right now I'm just thinking about it more because...you know."
"Because two days from now is the anniversary of his death."
"Yeah," Cordelia said again, softly. She looked up again; her eyes meeting his and she smiled a little. "I still miss him sometimes."
Angel smiled back. "I do, too." The private moment was suddenly interrupted by an ear-splitting scream from upstairs. Cordelia nearly dropped the mug again, which would have been disastrous, considering that it was filled nearly to the brim with thick, heated pig's blood. "God!" she exclaimed. "Does she have to keep doing that!"
Angel winced. "Wesley says she could deliver any time now."
As they walked out of the kitchen and started climbing the stairs, Cordelia said "Yeah, and who died and made Wesley the resident O.B.G.Y.N., anyway?"
"Well, he's the closest we've got right now; we can't exactly take her to the hospital."
"Right, because Mommy Dearest and her little hobgoblin might get hungry and turn the nurses into big fleshy chew toys." Angel just glanced at her as he opened the door, and they were met with another shriek as Darla screamed again.
Inside, Gunn leaned against the wall opposite Darla's bed, a crossbow trained upon her with a steady hand. Wesley stood near the window, lost within a book and already accustomed enough to Darla's ravings that he didn't even look up. Rolling her eyes, Cordelia crossed quickly to Darla's bedside and thrust the mug at her. "Here, already! Screaming about it's not going to heat the blood any faster, you know! And if you would quit shattering our mugs, I wouldn't have to keep going downstairs for new ones, now would I?"
Darla snarled and knocked the mug out of Cordelia's hand, sending it flying across the room to shatter against the wall. The blood splattered against the beige paint in a large stain, rivulets of it running down toward the floor. Some of it also splattered on Gunn. "See, now that's just nasty." he stated, disgustedly shaking blood off of his sleeve.
Cordelia sighed in exasperation, and Darla looked fierce. "I'm not screaming because I'm hungry, you idiot, I'm screaming because I'm in labor!"
Angel quickly looked to Wesley for confirmation. "Labor?"
"Labor?" Cordelia repeated. "We have labor now?"
"It would appear that she is in the early stages, yes," Wesley answered, snapping the book shut briskly.
"Well shouldn't we be doing something, then?" Angel asked worriedly. "Shouldn't we be getting blankets, or boiling some water?"
Cordelia leveled a gaze at him. "Yeah, and when the baby is born – if whatever gets born looks anything like a baby - we can hold it up by its feet and spank it, too." she said sarcastically. "I realize that you actually were born in the eighteenth century, but that's not exactly the most efficient way to deal with birth anymore." A crease suddenly furrowing her brow, she turned to Wesley. "And would we actually have to boil? Couldn't we substitute mineral water, or something?"
"In fact we need not worry about it for quite a while, yet," he replied. "The first stages of labor have been known to take hours, sometimes even days before actual birth."
"Then what's with all the 'woe is me'?" Cordelia asked, her withering gaze falling once again upon the pregnant vampire.
"You have no idea what I'm going through," Darla gritted her teeth at the ceiling.
"It's true we don't have an exact basis for comparison in regards to vampiric birth," Wesley admitted, "due to there having never been one before. We can only make the most educated guesses possible, based upon all of the factors and the limited available resources."
"'Cause not only has nothing like this ever happened before, it shouldn't even be able to happen at all." came a small voice from the doorway. Cordelia looked back to see Fred lingering there, thin and waiflike, still shy and uncertain enough to remain on the very edge of the doorway, not yet brave enough to enter. "All the books say this shouldn't even be possible," she continued in her wavering voice. "and that a vampire could never give birth. I mean after all, vampires are dead. Well, undead, really, but you know what I mean. They don't even have heartbeats; how could they have contractions? And with no heartbeat, no blood should be pumping around in her veins, ergo no oxygen or nutrients would be able to flow along the umbilical cord to the baby, ergo it wouldn't be able to breathe or grow or even live, ergo it's just not possible."
She suddenly stopped, as if she'd only just realized that her babbling held everyone's attention, and quickly ducked out of sight beyond the doorjamb. "Though, obviously she is," they heard her muffled voice say from beyond it as she hovered there out of view.
"Indeed," Wesley said. "And therefore we can only do our best under the circumstances, and prepare as best we can. However…" He stopped suddenly, and looked at Angel meaningfully, nodding his head toward the door. Cordelia trailed after them as they left the room, shutting the door firmly behind them. Fred was still lingering in the hall, not as jumpy now that she wasn't the center of attention. She obligingly walked with them down the hall back toward the stairway. "However," Wesley continued as they descended, "I am worried about any potential Wolfram and Hart involvement."
"Why would they have anything to do with this?" Angel asked warily. The devious law firm had been no small source of struggle and frustration to all of them, but Angel in particular had much reason to hate them. It had been their interference in his life – somehow impossibly bringing his sire, Darla back to life as a human, using her to taunt him, and then turning her forcefully into a vampire again, among other things – that had led him to embrace the darkness within himself and strike back at them; doing more damage to his own conscience for his misdeeds than to the evil he was trying to stop. They seemed to make it their business to provoke him at every turn…for what purpose Angel wasn't sure. But whatever this was with Darla…whatever was going to be born of their ill-fated night of hatred and passion…it couldn't bode well if Wolfram & Hart was interested.
Wesley squinted his eyes imperceptibly as he thought. "For whatever reason, they've always been very interested in you. And let us not forget that they're the ones who not only brought Darla back from the dead, but wanted her turned again, as well. It's possible that this is the result they've sought from the beginning. It would behoove us to be on the lookout in the next few days for any odd behavior that may have originated with them."
"Like maybe the big funky horned demon in the lobby?" Cordelia asked suddenly. Angel and Wesley's heads shot up, and indeed there was a strange demon standing before them. Its horns were like those of a ram, wide and curling forward. In general appearance, however, it was more reptilian, being covered entirely in iridescent scales that changed color depending upon which way it turned, and the amount of light reflected upon it. Upon one of its arms it wore a gauntlet which covered the entire forearm, beginning just below the elbow and encompassing the hand entirely. All of this Cordelia took in at a glance, and then there was no more time for observation, as the demon raised the gauntlet and aimed as if to fire at them.
"Down!" Wesley shouted, and they each dove for cover. Cordelia felt a blast of heat behind her as she picked herself up off of the floor, scrambling into the open elevator doors to the side of the staircase, and heard wood shattering as the demon missed his mark. Panting, she peeked out around the lip of the elevator entrance and saw the demon stalking forward. She could see that Wesley and Fred had been able to make it to office, but Angel had had the misfortune of being stuck behind one of the circular, outward-facing lounges that spotted the lobby. The cover it provided was far from adequate, and he was forced to move accordingly as the demon circled around it to find him.
It was apparent that the demon was there for Angel…it hadn't even glanced toward Cordelia's hiding place; nor had it seemed to care what had happened to Fred and Wesley. It focused on Angel with single-minded determination. Unfortunately, the weapons case was against the wall behind Angel. Even with supernatural speed, he wouldn't be able to get to it, choose a weapon, and use it in time before the demon could fry him with that gauntlet. And with each step the demon took around the lounge, Angel was forced to take a step further away from the cabinet to keep the sofa between him and certain death. As the demon stalked him, it came nearer Cordelia, but was facing away from her. She could see its broad back tensed, as it kept the gauntlet level, ready to burn Angel down. Its back. Its back was to her.
Cordelia stood and, silently slipping the fire extinguisher out of its mount on the wall, hefted its weight and crept toward the demon. Okay, so Angel had been teaching her swordplay, and not "Introduction to Hitting Demons Over the Head with Blunt Objects", but it would have to do. All she really had to do was distract it long enough for Angel to get to it without fear of being charbroiled, and then he could take care of it.
Suddenly there was a noise at the top of the stair, and Cordelia looked up to see Gunn skidding to a stop. "Whoa!" he shouted involuntarily when he saw the scaled demon. He recoiled, recovered quickly, and immediately fired off a bolt from the crossbow. Even as the creature screamed in pain when the bolt embedded itself in its chest, Angel was leaping over the lounge. Whether Angel miscalculated his leap, or he hadn't noticed her behind the demon, or he simply just couldn't control what happened at all, they all ended up in a heap on the floor. Cordelia landed on the bottom, and with a forceful "Huh!" the wind was knocked out of her as the weight of both the demon and Angel came down upon her at once. She felt them roll off her, struggling and punching at each other, and she gulped air reflexively. She heard crashing sounds, and shouts, and finally she recovered her senses enough to roll over and push herself to her feet.
Standing unsteadily, she saw that Gunn had joined Angel at the base of the staircase and they fought the demon side by side. Even as she watched, Wesley came barreling out from the office and joined the fight. Suddenly the creature gave an enraged cry and straightened, throwing its attackers off. Gunn stumbled back across the bottom steps, and Wesley fell, skidding across the floor. Angel was flung over the demon's shoulder, and he landed beside Cordelia. He rolled upon impact, and was on his feet in seconds.
Too many seconds, Cordelia saw. The demon tracked Angel with its gauntlet, and even as the vampire rolled and jumped to his feet the demon prepared to fire. Too late. No thinking. No stopping. Just act.
"No!" Cordelia reached out blindly, only half-turned toward Angel. She shoved against him, knocking him out of the way.
Off balance, he fell, and could only look on helplessly as the demon's blast overtook Cordelia. In the same instant, it enveloped her, Angel hit the floor, and there was a sound like a sonic boom. All of the windows and glass in the Hyperion suddenly shattered violently, as the loud WHOOMP! pounded at them from the walls, the floor, from the very air around them. All of the lights went out at the same moment, and in the sudden darkness Angel bounded up to catch the demon.
From his place on the floor, Wesley heard the quick sound of running feet, and then a grunt and a thud as someone fell. From the entrance, he heard the door open and close once, and then there was momentary silence. He blinked twice, trying to acclimate his eyes and make sense out of the shapes he saw in the gloom. "Is everyone all right?" he ventured.
The emergency lights suddenly snapped on, and Wesley saw near him Angel sprawled on the floor. It looked as if he had tripped over the edge of one of the circular lounges in his haste to catch the demon before it could escape. "Damnit!" Angel shouted, pounding a fist into the floor. He angrily pushed himself up and turned around. Behind him, Wesley could see Gunn still looking bewildered but none the worse for the wear on the steps. But Cordelia…
Angel ran to Cordelia's side and took her wrist in his hand to check her pulse. To his great relief, it was steady and strong. He took in her unconscious form and looked for cuts, burns, or breaks, finding none. Worried at what the demon's strange device might have done to hurt her, Angel at first didn't notice anything different about her when he turned her over. He checked again for any broken bones, or burned skin from the blast, but found nothing. Her eyes were closed, and as far as he could tell she was in no pain; just unconscious. Then he noticed her hair.
Wesley, Gunn and Fred had come up behind him as he examined her, and they each peered over his shoulders at Cordelia in confusion. "Uh…" Gunn was at a loss for words. Fred merely pointed.
Wesley arched an eyebrow at Cordelia's long dark brown hair, which tumbled down across Angel's arms where he held her; trailing to the floor as she lay there. "Oh my."
The first thing Cordelia was aware of was that she wasn't dead. That was nice, and certainly not what she'd expected after jumping in front of Mr. Kill, Crush, Destroy and his little gadget, back there. The second thing to be noticed was that she wasn't in the lobby anymore. In fact, she noticed as she looked around, she wasn't even in the Hyperion anymore.
Cordelia looked down at her hands, which held a pot of coffee in one, and a half-filled mug in the other. Before her was a small coffee station, perched on top of a miniature refrigerator. A strong sense of surrealism overcame her. She could still feel the places where she was going to get bruises later from being tackled by Angel and the demon, and there was almost a sort of electric charge running through her body from the blast she'd taken from the demon's gauntlet. Yet suddenly she was standing here, pouring a cup of coffee, somewhere that wasn't the hotel. Okay, this is just too weird.
Cordelia squinched her eyes shut suddenly, and tried to clear her head. When she opened her eyes again, she really looked at the room around her. And to her overwhelming shock, she knew it. Oh my…. she thought, as she looked at the desk, the computer, the ugly yellow walls that she'd always wanted to re-paint, the coffee pot that they could never afford to make fresh coffee in….Oh my God…
Suddenly someone came into the room, and no way was this happening. He couldn't be here…his being here was even less possible than her being here was, and any minute now she'd wake up on the floor of the lobby and tell Angel all about the weird dream she'd just had with…
"Did ya hear that?" The man asked, looking briefly at Cordelia and then back toward the rear office. When he got no response his dark head turned back to Cordelia. "Surely ya heard it," he continued. His blue eyes became speculative. "D'ya think they might be makin' up in there? Pity we can't afford real spy equipment."
Cordelia's breath came in ragged gasps, and all of her extremities suddenly felt cold. The feeling of surrealism intensified as she looked at the man, no stranger to her, and it wasn't until she heard the crash that she realized she'd dropped the mug and coffee pot. Concerned now, the man stepped forward. "Y'all right, Princess?" he asked.
She felt sudden tears spring to her eyes, and they stung her as she stared at him, disbelieving. Hesitantly, so tentatively as if he might disappear if she moved to quickly, she reached out to him. Her fingers met the supple leather of his jacket, and she didn't pass through him, and he wasn't cold. He was real. He was there, and she was too, and he was real, and he was alive.
"Doyle," she whispered.