(See Chapter One for notes.)
Chapter Six: Awake

For the first time in forever, it felt almost like old times. Messages from the PTB, work to do, people to save…worrying about the greater good and not stupid personal drama. Hell, if Gunn squinted, he could almost make out the slightest resemblance between the old crew and the new one. Souled vampire, demon, kinda geeky white guy, cute girl with long brown hair, and Cordelia holding everything together.

There were a few marked differences, though. This vampire, for one, wasn't exactly jumping for joy at his newly-conferred "Champion" status. In fact, Spike was stalking around Xander's apartment, coming dangerously close to Axle Roseing the room, all the while muttering to himself. Gunn could only make out the occasional "sodding," and the rantings had a general "been there, done that, leave me alone" vibe.

Cordelia, meanwhile, was curled up in one of the chairs, holding an icepack to the back of her head, which had smacked against the ground when she'd fainted earlier. Gunn was still kicking himself for not catching her in time. She'd just finished filling them in on everything the Oracles had told her, and now it was up to Xander, Faith, Illyria, Spike, and Gunn to decide what to do next.

Frankly, Gunn thought Spike had the right idea. The PTB had screwed with them plenty, and only an idiot would start blindly following their orders again.

"Well," Xander said, clapping his hands together, "bright side? Cordelia's not evil."

"Not by the demony definition, but the way she hogs the bathroom in the morning is definitely criminal," Faith said with a smirk.

"Ha ha," Cordelia drawled, rolling her eyes. "Anyway, I'm as glad as the next person to be declared human, but there are definitely more important things we should be focusing on."

"Like what?" Gunn asked.

"Rescuing Angel, for starters."

A kind of strange stillness descended over the room. Only Illyria, eating a banana - peel and all – remained unaffected. Even Spike had stopped his relentless pacing, and seemed unable to come up with the proper response.

Thank god for Faith. "Um, Cordy, you know I loved – love – the big guy and all…but he's in Hell. Like, literally."

Cordelia shrugged. "So what? Buffy sent him to Hell years ago, and we got him out."

"We didn't get him out," Xander said. "He just kind of, you know, appeared, because the Powers That Be wanted him to."

Gunn nodded. "And from what you told us, about what the Oracles said, I'm thinking they're not gonna pull the same trick twice."

He noticed Cordelia's bra strap had fallen down, slipping from under her shirt to rest on her upper arm. Without thinking, he used his finger to nudge it back into place. Cordelia shot him a startled look, which gave way to grateful, followed by confused. Equally confused, Gunn blushed and quickly moved his hand to the back of her chair, his hip, the back of her chair, and finally his side. Spike caught his eye, and a glimmer of a smirk graced the vampire's face before he turned towards Cordelia.

"Angel knew what he was getting into, pet. Went down like a—"

"Champion?" Gunn supplied helpfully, smiling. Spike answered with an obscene hand gesture.

Cordelia wasn't having any of his attempt to lighten the mood. She crossed her arms and glared. "So, what, you're saying we should forget about him, just because The Powers That Screw You told us it's a lost cause? Nuh-uh, not buying it."

"No one's saying that," Xander said.

Spike raised a hand. "I am."

"No one but Spike."

Illyria spit a mouthful of banana onto the floor and said, "Angel made a choice."

"Yeah, we got that, Smurfette. We're not idiots." Cordelia snapped.

Illyria gave her a withering glare. "I disagree with that statement, because you obviously do not understand me. Angel made a choice. Hell cannot hold onto those who chose a noble death. Not for long." She raised her chin slightly. "That's how I know my Wesley will return to me."

"You sure about that, Blue?" Gunn asked. He wanted to get his hopes up, god help him – Wesley, Angel, back from Hell and okay again? – but Illyria wasn't always the most reliable source of information.

As if reading his mind, she said, "I saved you from a pathetic death in that alley, I led you to your precious Powers, and still you doubt me?"

Fair 'nough. "So what do we do? Wait for them to re-appear?"

"Charles Gunn, were I in Hell, I would not wish to return."

Gunn figured that was Illyria for 'Damned if I know.' He noticed Cordelia wincing as she adjusted the ice pack on her head. "Listen, why don't we all just call it a night. Get some rest, get some food…hell, get some beer. Anything. Not like we're gonna do anything tonight but jump down each other's throats."

"Finally, a sensible plan," Spike said, clapping Gunn on the shoulder and turning towards the door. Faith and Xander grinned at each other and took off towards their bedroom with an enthusiasm that made Gunn both envious and a little frightened.

"Are you okay?" he asked Cordelia, helping her up from the chair.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I mean, okay, I feel like I got smacked on the head with a frying pan, and that's physically and emotionally speaking, but I guess it beats being dead, right? Anyway, thanks for coming with me today." She grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze.

Gunn smiled, and was about to leave when he noticed she hadn't let his hand go. "Uh, Cordy?"

She just looked at him for a moment before finally, softly, saying: "Stay?"

"Stay…?"

"Here. Tonight. Please?" She dropped his hand. "I mean, I'm not gonna see the Conjoined-at-the-Pelvis twins until tomorrow night at the earliest, and…it would be nice, knowing you'd be here when I wake up." Before he could fully process the rather odd question which had just popped into his mind, she cut him off with a winsome smile and said, "I promise the couch is super-comfy, and you can barely hear the squishy Slayer sex sounds from here."

"Oi! Charlie boy! You coming or what? I wanna show you this great strip joint only a block away from our apartment!"

Gunn raised an eyebrow at Cordelia and said, "That is a pretty hard offer to top. Got a counter?"

"Pancakes."

"Blueberry?"

"Buttermilk."

"Cooked by?"

"Me."

"Pass." Cordelia smacked him in the chest, hard. Gunn laughed and said, "Okay, okay. I'll stay. But I'm making the pancakes in the morning."

"Deal," Cordelia said, walking towards the bathroom.

To Spike and Illyria, Gunn said, "I'll catch you two tomorrow."

Spike smirked, but said nothing to Gunn. Instead, he looped his arm around Illyria's shoulders and said, "C'mon, little lady. We'll rustle up enough singles to buy you a nice lap dance."

"Lap dance?" she said.

"You'll love it," Spike assured her, closing the door behind them.

Gunn sat on the couch and pulled off his boots. A few seconds later, Cordelia reappeared, bearing a blanket and a Superman pillow.

"Sorry," she said, grimacing as she plopped the latter down on one end of the couch. "I'll let you guess who did the decorating around here."

"It's a'ight. You just go and get some rest. It's been a long day for you. Like, two years long."

"Okay." She stood there looking awkward for a minute, like she wanted to say something. Finally settling on, "Thanks for staying," she gave him a quick peck on the cheek, then hurried off to her bedroom.

Gunn tried to get comfortable on the couch. It's definitely been a long day, he thought, pulling the blanket over him and closing his eyes.


After two hours of counting sheep, frogs, hamsters, and any other animal he could think of, Gunn finally gave up on sleep, kicked the covers off, and sat up. The sudden movement caused the still-healing wound on his stomach to send webs of pain shooting through his body He grimaced and leaned back, waiting for the wave of nausea to subside. He was about to get up and try his luck raiding the bathroom for pain meds when he heard a door open and footsteps start down the hall. When Cordelia stepped out of the gloom and into the pale moonlight, Gunn felt…relief? Yeah, relief. Cordy made the dark less dark, managed to quiet down those damned ghosts in his head. For a while, anyway.

"Hey." Her eyes drifted to his hands, which were clasped over his stomach, fingers digging into his shirt. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Gunn said, shrugging. "Hazards of the job and all."

"Let me see." Cordelia walked over and sat down next to him, brushing away his hands and lifting up his shirt. "Ouch."

"Not as bad as it looks. Illyria wasn't lying when she said she saved my ass. Coulda been a lot worse."

"Still…is there anything I can do?"

He watched her small hand trace the lines of his skin, scars new and old, and felt his skin warm under her touch. "No, I'm…I'm good."

"Good." She smiled.

The silence went on for about a minute too long, and finally Gunn said, "Yeah, good."

Cordelia withdrew her hand and pulled his shirt back down. "Listen, Gunn, there's something I've been meaning…."

"Yeah?"

"Something…." Her eyebrows knitted together. "Something I've – aaaaaaaugh!"

Now there was a sound he hadn't heard in ages. Gunn grabbed Cordelia by the shoulders to keep her from tumbling off the couch. After a few seconds she quieted down, and a few seconds after that, Xander and Faith came scrambling down the hallway in various states of undress.

"Jesus, C, what happened!" Faith said, hastily buttoning up her shirt.

"Vision," Gunn answered in her stead. "And I'd suggest getting her some Tylenol, now."

"Ay ay, captain, coming right up," Xander said, heading towards the kitchen. Gunn noticed that Xander had his eyepatch on, and given the fact that he hadn't had time to even pull on pants, he had to guess that Xander slept with it on. Weird.

"So what gives? There some big evil to fight?" Faith asked.

"Yup, big evil," Cordelia said. "But I'll feel better about filling you guys in once everyone's wearing pants."

Faith smirked and turned around, shaking her thong-clad ass in their direction before heading back to their bedroom to get dressed.

In what was certain to be their last few moments of quiet for a while, Gunn turned to Cordelia and said, "So, what was it you were gonna tell me?"

"Mm?" She stared out past him into the nothingness.

"Before the vision, you said there was something you'd been meaning to tell me?"

"Oh, that? Nothing, just…that I'm glad you're here and all. Anyway, I'd better get dressed."

Her expression was unreadable as she got up and headed towards her bedroom. A few moments later, Xander came back with a glass of water and a bottle of Tylenol.

"Where'd Cordelia go?" he asked.

"I'm not exactly sure," Gunn replied, watching her retreating back. "But I guess it's time to go to work."