They had been researching all night.
Ever since their latest client had shown up, offering to pay well –very well – for their services, the gang had been hitting the books, looking for information.
This kind of thing wasn't what they usually did, Cordelia admitted that. What with the visions and the whole 'mission' thing, fighting the good fight for the Powers That Be, they didn't really have time for personal requests. But this guy had some serious money, and boy, did Cordelia need a bonus.
She had been the first to accept the 'case', if that's what you could call it, before either Angel or Wesley could object. She knew they would probably have had doubts about the value of this particular project. The guy wasn't exactly hopeless, and that was who Angel Investigations had been set up to protect.
She'd had no choice.
She'd had to get in there, quick, before the others turned him away, or put him off.
See, what both Angel and Wesley had still failed to recognise was that she knew wealth; she understood style. She could tell, as soon as a client walked through the door, (and granted, that didn't happen very often), whether or not they could afford to pay, usually by taking a good look at what they were wearing.
This particular client, a pale skinned demon with kinda funny looking pink eyes, had carried himself into the Hyperion with a certain air about him. Cordelia had noticed it straight away, it just screamed sophistication. Wearing a neat and well-tailored navy suit and tie, there was no doubt that this guy meant business.
Cordelia had immediately presented him to Angel and Wesley in the office, not wanting to let this one slip away. He didn't take much encouragement from then on to tell his story.
Apparently, he was a descendant of a highly respected clan of demon and was currently the head of the family. Insisting from the beginning that he and his kind were of a peaceful nature, he went on to explain that his ancestors had built up their wealth by various respectable means, but always by taking advantage of a characteristic specific to their breed.
They were able to manipulate certain magical energies, depending on the unique strengths of the individual.
Only the clan leader was blessed with this gift, inheriting it from the previous by being the first born of the new generation.
Wesley had asked the demon all sorts of weird questions, clearly fascinated by the whole thing. Cordelia hadn't understood most of it, and Angel had just stood there, knowing when to keep his mouth shut.
When Wesley's curiosity seemed finally to have been satisfied, for the moment at least, Angel had broken his silence, encouraging the demon to get to the point.
This guy had been using his powers to run a company that provided protection for people, magical shields and the like, catering for only the most exclusive of customers.
Someone, he had no idea who, had found a way to cut off his access to the energy he tapped, rendering his power useless and putting his business at risk. This 'someone' was also then trying to blackmail him in return for the restoration of his gift.
The demon wanted Angel Investigations to find a way of breaking the spell, or curse, or whatever it was, but that they needn't look at catching the person responsible, he'd 'take care' of that himself.
When this last statement had raised a few eyebrows, he had quickly mentioned that he needed the operation to be discrete to prevent alarming his customers, and that he had certain 'connections' that could help prevent the problem from occurring again.
This guy could obviously afford to cough up the ransom and, as Wesley quickly pointed out, if he was already in the magic business, he surely didn't need their help.
Angel didn't look that eager to get involved either. Helping demons gain powerful magical abilities didn't really feature highly on his list of priorities.
Coredlia had sensed what was coming. They were going to shake their heads and say 'sorry, we can't help you'.
Images of that really tastefully expensive pair of shoes she had been eyeing up recently had flashed before her eyes, and she had jumped in to reassure the client, saying 'you can count on us' and ushering him out of the office door before the inevitable argument ensued.
'Come back tomorrow and we'll see what we can do', she had said, giving him her best sparkly movie-star smile and closing the door on him before he could protest.
'Cordelia!?' Wesley and Angel had shouted in unison after their initial shock at her eagerness had worn off, Wesley about to do his whole I'm-the-boss thing.
Sigh. They were never grateful. She'd rolled her eyes, ready to point out the obvious, starting with the fact that they had nothing better to do anyway.
She'd put on her best Queen C face, prepared to engage Wesley in a fight to the death conflict that both of them knew he could never win, when the door had opened again to admit the demon's head round the corner. He obviously didn't appreciate being unceremoniously hoofed out and left in the lobby.
He'd apparently forgotten to mention that he was being blackmailed for precisely $1 million big US dollars, and that he was prepared to pay the amount to them instead.
At that, Angel had slapped his hands together in an exaggerated palm rub, a huge grin on his face.
'Best get to work then, eh, Wes?'
Since then, it had been an all night book-a-thon. They'd called in Gunn to help, even though he was supposed to be having a night off. He'd been more than willing to join in, however, once he had been informed of the prize at stake.
Having asked the demon for a few more details, including his name, (forgotten in the confusion), Wesley had learnt that 'Mr. Harris' was a 142 year old Neshtu demon, or whatever the hell it was. Cordelia was never very good at remembering funny demony names, and she hadn't really been listening when Wesley had excitedly reported his findings to the group.
A load of old, dusty books had been dragged out from somewhere as they looked for restoration spells and any information about the kind of being that could be capable of blocking such a gift in the first place. It wasn't a case objective, but Angel had had his suspicions.
Just to make sure, Wesley had also looked up their client's breed to confirm that this wasn't some kind of set-up. The guy's story was sound.
At first, the group's enthusiasm for the money involved had fuelled their research, knowing that this simple task could set them up comfortably for a long while to come. After several hours had passed, however, it had become clear that this would not be as easy as it had seemed at first.
They could find nothing.
Cordelia closed the book she was reading; having found that it was a dead end.
What was the time?
She glanced at her watch… 4.00am.
They had been at this for early eight hours.
She looked round at the others to see if they too were feeling the effects of eyestrain.
Gunn, leaning on a pile of books he had stacked on the reception counter, had fallen asleep when no one was looking.
Cordy smirked to herself when she thought about going over there and shaking him awake. She thought better of it though, deciding that she'd have done the same had she not been assigned the lobby sofa from which to do her work.
She sighed and shifted round slightly to get a better view through the office door. Wesley was sat at his desk, looking through a particularly large volume. He always had to do those ones; he was the only one who could red the languages.
As she watched, he lifted a hand to his face and pulled off his glasses. He gave his eyes a rub with his thumb and forefinger before replacing them and continuing with his work.
He looked completely drained, his tired eyes and face looking strained and stressed. He always did fret too much if he couldn't find what he was looking for. Cordelia guessed that he didn't like to let them all down. He was supposed to be the one who was good at this sort of stuff, and he hated to fail them.
"Poor Wesley", Cordelia thought to herself. He had already stayed up half of last night, trying to tie up loose ends from their previous case. She wondered if he had actually gone home at all in the last 48 hours, let alone gotten some sleep.
For a moment, she felt a bit guilty for wanting to give up and go to bed. She'd only come to work at 6.00pm, having left Wesley in the office the night before. At least she had gotten some rest.
More than before, the urge to go and shake Gunn awake tempted her until she could no longer resist. Tip-toeing her way towards him, she halted abruptly when she realised that she hadn't noticed Angel around. Where was he?
"If he thinks he can sneak away and go to bed when we're all working down here, he's got another thing coming," she grumbled to herself as she made a move for the staircase. Her fatigue was making her feel irritable now, so Angel had better have a good excuse.
She'd be damned if she was going to carry on like this when Angel, a vampire, a supposed 'creature of the night' was giving up so easily, having already slept through most of the day.
"Just wait till I find you, you big quitter."
She was halfway up the staircase when she saw Angel turn the corner of the landing, making his way down towards her.
"Who says I'm a big quitter?" he asked with a slight smile, waving a hefty book at her.
Cordelia cursed Angel's vampire hearing, as she often did, and waited for him to reach her.
"I though you'd tried to escape us," she admitted, "Where did you go?"
"Well, we weren't having any luck finding a spell that would work on demons in any of the books downstairs. I'm sure I remembered seeing something in a book I had in my room, so I went to get it."
"Boy, you must have some real interesting bed-time reading up there, huh?"
Angel ignored her comment and walked straight past her. She followed him, trying not to trip in the dim light.
"So, you found something then?" Cordelia inquired when it seemed like Angel wasn't going to spill the beans.
"I don't know yet, I wanted t show it to Wes. Where is he?"
"Oh, he's in the office trying to translate some weird dark-age language or something, I think."
They moved across the Hyperion lobby and Angel motioned towards Cordelia's own pile of research.
"You find anything?" he asked her.
"You're kidding, right? Did you know that there are, like, 26 sub-species of Nestoo demon, or whatever, and that each one needs a different kind of spell? None of which are actually in the book. How helpful is that?"
"It's Neshtu," Angel corrected, "And yes, I did know that. It says something like it in here.
He waved the book again, ignoring Cordelia's groan of annoyance.
"Anytime you want to share that kind of info with me is just fine, but why don't you try and do it before I go thorough eight painstakingly frustrating hours of research, OK?"
"I guess Gunn couldn't handle the pace then?" Angel said, changing the subject.
"Yeah, he took the easy way out. Too bad now he'll have to forfeit his share of the money since he's done NOTHING TO HELP!"
She maliciously yelled the last part loudly in Gunn's ear when they reached the counter, making him jump and nearly fall backwards out of his seat.
"Hey, girl! What're ya tryin' to do, give me a heart attack?" he cried in surprise.
"No, but I thought I might deafen you to teach you a lesson." She grinned a satisfied grin and Gunn smiled back sarcastically at her.
"So, have you guys actually got something, cuz, I'm gettin' reeeal bored," he said, stretching and yawning.
"More than you have at any rate," Cordelia answered, "Angel's just gonna ask Wesley now."
"Hey, Wes?" Angel called.
He and Cordelia walked into the office and found that Wesley too had now succumbed to exhaustion. Arms sprawled out over the desk in front; he had collapsed over his book with his glasses pushed crookedly up his face.
"Wow, he looks like the dead," Cordelia commented, immediately regretting it when she remembered who was standing next to her. She shot Angel an apologetic look, but he didn't seem to be paying any attention. He had a slight look of concern on his face and was moving over to where Wesley was sat.
"He didn't go home again last night, did he?" Angel half-whispered to Cordelia.
"I don't know," she shrugged, "I guess I kind of left him here when I went home."
Gunn came over and stood in the doorway, smiling when he saw that he wasn't the only one to have crashed out on the books.
"Wesley practically lives in this offices," Gunn thought to himself. It wasn't the first time he had caught him pulling an all-nighter like this. He wondered if the man got more rest here than he did at home.
"You should probably let him get some sleep," he suggested, "He looks whacked. He won't go home if you wake him up."
Angel tried to prise a pen that was leaking ink out of Wesley's hand, but the slight movement woke him with a start.
He jerked upwards, knocking a glass of water over on the desk.
"Buggar!" he cursed, quickly moving some really ancient looking books out of the way.
E looked up and blinked stupidly, realising that everyone was standing in the room and staring at him.
He hastily corrected his glasses and turned bright red, an embarrassed look on his face.
"I – I'm sorry, I must have…" he began, trying to smooth down his ruffled hair. He winced suddenly, moving a hand to his side. The awkward movement had aggravated his wound.
"What time is it?" he asked, avoiding the questioning and worries glances his companions gave him.
"'Bout half past four," Gunn replied.
"In the morning?" Wes asked, as if to confirm his suspicions. "I didn't realise. I mean, I hadn't intended to keep you all here this long."
"It's OK, Wes," Angel assured, putting a hand on his friends shoulder.
The room sank into a sort of awkward silence and Angel shuffled uneasily. He pulled his hand away and stuck it in his pocket. He was never any good at the physical stuff, you know, showing affection. And since the whole alienation during the Darla episode, he'd made an extra effort to friendly. He wondered if his gesture had seemed sincere. He'd lingered too long again, hadn't he? Was the hand thing too much?
Wesley looked at Cordelia and Gunn in turn, becoming slightly uncomfortable when he saw the little half-hidden smiles on their faces.
"What?" he asked innocently.
The two glanced at each other, a knowing look in their eyes. Cordelia decided that she would have to be the one to say something.
She moved forward and perched on the edge of the desk, avoiding the puddle of water that had collected there.
"Wesley…" She'd tried not to use her nagging tone of voice, but it wasn't working very well.
"Don't you think you should go home now and get some rest? You don't have to prove anything to us, you know."
Wesley frowned, slightly confused.
"What do you mean? I'm fine, really. I want to get this done so that we'll be ready for when Mr. Harris arrives tomorrow…er…I mean later today."
Gunn gave Angel a raised eyebrow look that said 'I told you so'.
"I don't need to go home."
Cordelia sighed and bowed her head, closing her eyes for a moment.
OK. Time for the Cordelia serious face.
She looked back up and met Wesley's eyes.
"You're not fooling me, you know. I'm Cordelia, remember? Me. Seer. I know all."
Wesley's puzzled look only deepened. She continued.
"You can barely keep your eyes open. And you're not feeling 100% yet, are you? You promised you wouldn't work too hard until you were feeling OK. You're supposed to be resting and healing. This 'working overtime' isn't helping."
Again, there was a heavy silence that hung in the air like fog. It seemed nobody knew what to say next.
Wesley looked at the others for support, but didn't get any. He looked back into Cordelia's big hazel eyes and he visibly relaxed a little.
She was right; he hadn't felt completely up to this yet. It was going to take a while for him to regain the strength and stamina the gunshot wound had taken from him. He'd just wanted this to work for the so much, seeing as how it seemed to mean so much to them. Despite their best efforts, he knew that he was going to have to be the one to do this, since they had no previous experience.
Damn. He thought he ad hidden the pain and general lethargy well. Was it that obvious that even Cordelia could tell? He really didn't want to worry them. It wasn't worth it.
"Please, Wesley," Cordelia begged, "Just go upstairs to one of Angel's spare rooms. I bet after five minutes you'll be dead to the world… no offence, Angel."
Wesley couldn't help but smile. Good old Cordy. How could he resist her? There was not a day that went by that he wasn't thankful for his friends. He didn't know what he would do without them. Crumble into insignificance, probably.
"Hey, no problem," winked Cordelia as if guessing his thoughts, "What are friends for?"
She caught a glimpse of Angel pointing at his book.
"Ooh, before you go, just take a quick look at this. Sorry, almost forgot."
Wesley turned and took the book from Angel's hands without saying a word, an amused expression on his face.
Gunn was rolling his eyes and slowly shaking his head in disbelief.
"Sorry," Cordelia repeated, feeling slightly foolish.
Angel opened the book in front of Wesley and tapped on the appropriate passage.
" I must have found this a while ago," he explained, "I'd nearly forgotten about it. I can't read some of the text, but I think it should be helpful."
Wesley's whole face lightened up as he read through the page.
"Angel, you've found it!" he cried jubilantly. "Yes, this is it, a spell that can be used to 'return that which was lost to a being not of this earth and verily restore power to all'."
"What exactly does that mean?" asked Cordy. Well, someone had to. It was inevitable.
"Well, you know how we've been having trouble finding the right spell because they tended to rather disagree with demon physiology? It just so happens that this one covers all beings, humans as well. It's got a description of the procedure, and a list of all the ingredients we shall need. This is excellent, well done Angel."
Trying not to blush, Angel cleared his throat. "What about the ingredients? Can we get them?" He wasn't about to believe their good luck just yet.
Wesley gave the list a quick scan and nodded.
"Nothing too out of the ordinary here. Any standard magic shop should have what we need. I can go now, I know a good place that'll…"
"Oh, no. Not so fast mister." Cordelia rose to block Wesley's way out of the office and put a restraining hand on his chest. She took the jacket out of his hand that he had taken from the back of his chair.
"You're not getting away that easily. I can see what you're trying to do. You're going to bed whether you want to or not. I'm not having you sleeping on the job and drooling all over the spell when our demon guy gets here."
"Cordelia…" he tried to protest, but she just lifted her chin and squared her gaze a bit more.
"Me and Gunn can take care of it. Give me the book."
She snatched it from Wesley's hand and passed it to Gun behind her back before he could retrieve it. Gunn then gave it a once over.
"Nothing too out of the ordinary?!" he imitated in a surprise tone. "What do you call 'powdered skilosh bone' if not 'out-of-the-ordinary'?" He made an 'unbelievable!' noise as he turned to leave the office with the book.
"Whoa, I mean, I was expectin' maybe 'eye-of-newt', but actual body parts?
This is just too weird…"
Cordelia turned back to Wesley and gave him a stern eyeful.
"Now, we'll only be gone a little while," she said condescendingly, "You don't need to worry about anything. If I find you're not upstairs when I get back, there's going to be big trouble, understand?" She narrowed her eyes menacingly.
Wesley smiled and nodded. She relented and leant back a little, putting her 'pointy' finger back down by her side.
"All right then, good. We'll be back later."
She gave Angel a warning glance as if to say 'don't let me down' and left to follow Gunn.
Angel smiled to himself and shook his head before herding Wesley upstairs.