Chapter Twelve – Or Not
"Nice going. Little messy for my tastes. I am so glad I wasn't there. Blue? I can't even imagine what that would do to my new silk blouse. No dry cleaning bills really make my day."
"Cordy, why are you babbling?" Angel asked her.
"Who the hell knows," she shot back to him, throwing her arms up, almost beaning Angel on the head.
Cordelia sat on the bed right beside Angel. In his dreams, she was always there. Only she hadn't been there in a while. Probably because he hadn't slept in a while. It was so nice to dream of her once again.
"What's over? You mean, that Well thingy being closed? Yep. Good triumphs over evil. Angel slays the bad guys."
Angel made a wincing face. "More like Wes slays the bad guys. I kinda felt like the muscle."
Cordy punched him in the arm. "And what nice muscles they are. Sorry I missed it."
Angel rubbed his arm, hoping that Cordy could answer all the questions he had. Whatever had happened out there, it wasn't over by a long shot.
"OK, Mr. Pensive Face. I feel a brood coming on," Cordelia grinned.
Grimacing, Angel tried to gather his thoughts. "Something's wrong with him, isn't there?"
"What makes you think?" Cordelia started.
"Tell me the truth. Something is wrong with Wes." Not a question this time.
Cordelia turned away from Angel, not wanting him to see her reaction. Evasive maneuvers for Cordelia Chase, even when she's dead, Angel thought. It must be bad, really, really bad.
"Angel, I can't lie to you. You think Buffy didn't come back right? You ain't seen nothin' yet."
"What'll we do?"
"You'll know when the time comes."
Angel slammed his hands down on his legs and got up to pace. He really didn't understand this Cordy. She was so cryptic, while the alive Cordy told him exactly what was on her mind, well, most of the time anyway. He just wished that she would be straight with him once and for all.
"I am not killing him."
"I didn't say you would have to. All I'm sayin'," she managed to get out before Angel interrupted her.
"He's not dying. No one's killing him. He's staying here. Do you understand? You go tell your bosses, those Powers That Suck Big Time that it stops here. I am not sacrificing anyone else for their fucking schemes."
Cordelia had backed away from him slightly. Maybe that was because he had gotten in her face. She hated it when people invaded her personal space. Even if that personal space was in his dream.
"I understand," Cordy replied quietly. "I'm not willing to go down that path again either. I'll do everything in my power."
"No, you'll stop it. Don't come back here, talk to me, if you don't have any answers. My friends, no, my family isn't going anywhere. Got it?"
He could see the unshed tears in her eyes, but he couldn't back down. He had backed down before, when she had given him that one nasty little vision to take down the Circle of the Black Thorn. He had believed that what he had been doing was for the best. In the end, he had been proven correct, except his best friends had died in the process. But when he had first taken on the deal from the PTBs, it wasn't supposed to be at the expense of everyone that he held dear. He had learned his lesson the hard way.
"I get it," Cordelia solemnly agreed, getting up from the bed to walk away.
She must be done with him. He was definitely done with her.
"Am I still a part of that family?" she quietly asked right before she walked out that door.
"If you want to be. I miss you."
Cordy swallowed visibly, then smiled brightly to cover her emotions. He wondered why she did that. He could always read her like a book, if he tried hard enough.
"I miss you, too," she choked out. "I want that. To be a part of the family. Take care of what you have. And I'll take care of the other contingent. Deal?"
"Among others. One day this will all be behind us."
"One day," Angel agreed.
Angel rolled over in his bed, willing the vision before him not to go away. Cordelia was gone, again. But he would always have his dreams.
Spike felt, well, he had to think about it, settled. His mind wasn't playing tricks on him. He had seen Fred. She looked well. As well as a ghost could be. Her companion had tried some mumbo jumbo on them to make all of them forget what they had seen, but it didn't take with him. Must be because the vampire thing, he concluded. Everyone got out of there almost unscathed, although it looked like Percy's hair would need some work.
Starting over. Ah, what a concept. Spike had done it many times. Drusilla leaving him for that Chaos demon, Buffy pushing him out of her life, Fred deciding that Percy was the one for her, even Illyria sacrificing herself for the greater good (hey, that greater good did involve him, not complaining or anything). Women just did not stay with him. Did he have some vibe going? Maybe he should adopt Faith's saying, 'Get some and get gone'.
Faith of course wasn't listening to her own saying, because she was attached as ever to her watcher, damn wanker. It was for the best. They probably deserved each other.
Spike sat on the top of the bloody Watcher wanker building, smoking a cigarette. He hadn't had one in way too long. It felt good to be outside, breathing in the fresh, clean English air. Los Angeles smog just made him choke sometimes.
"Predictable," Buffy called from the stairway.
Just when a bloke wanted a cig and some peace and quiet, a woman had to come and screw it up. He hadn't really spoken with Buffy yet, since they first saw each other in that conference room. Too many things left unsaid between them. He had wanted to leave it that way. Going out with such a send-off certainly wouldn't impress her anymore.
"Person have to die around her to get some peace and quiet?"
"Always with the quip."
"Hey, you're the one who can slay and play at the same time. I'm just in it for the chicks."
"Chicks? Man, you are old."
Spike smiled at Buffy. He had missed sparring with her, verbally and physically.
"You all right?" he asked her quietly.
"Will be. Giles has Mark locked up. Seems that daddy Giles didn't tell anyone that he had an illegitimate son."
"Oh, that's gotta hurt."
"You're tellin' me. Giles was in total sulk mode."
"Kind of like when I found out that Angelus had left the building. Get's ya right here," Spike said, pointing to his undead heart.
"Yeah," Buffy nodded, one eyebrow raised.
Both paced around the roof, not talking for a while, just looking at the twinkling lights below.
"So?" Buffy started.
"So?" Spike continued. This was not getting them anywhere. "Thank you."
"For caring. Never told you that."
"I do. I mean I do care, for you. It's just," she gulped out.
"You've moved on. I understand. See, I'm off women, completely. They either fall in love with someone else, or they die. Kinda takes the romance out of the situation."
"Bummer. I'm kinda feelin' that way too. All my boyfriends have been evil, at one point or another."
"It's not you, Buffy."
"It's not you, Spike."
Both laughed at the same time. "We're a bunch of sodding fuck ups."
"Uh, maybe. I'm glad you're back."
Buffy moved closer to him, putting out her arms to take him into a hug. Beats being totally alone, he thought. At least she still cares. That's something. He could deal with it. Oh, bloody, buggering hell. She could still make him feel that way. Even him dying hadn't changed that. As he stroked her hair, he thought of what could have been. They were both wiser about each other, about what they wanted. So why couldn't he get over her?
"Did you love Illyria?" Buffy said as she pulled back slightly.
Oh, bloody, buggering hell.Indeed, as Percy would put it.
"What are you doing down here?" Faith called to Wesley as he paced in a training room.
She had wanted him to stay immobile, but the guy must have that hyperactivity disorder, since he was always moving. The hands in the pockets indicated he was in full brood mode. The head bowed, looking at the ground, feet shuffling against the floorboards, meant that he was thinking way too much. What's a slayer to do?
"Yep, that's me. Slayer, killer body, killer hands. Loves to pummel things. Looking for her watcher, who should be lying up in bed recuperating, thank you very fucking much."
"You're not the boss of me," he shot back.
"Condescending bastard. Have I ever told you that?"
"On several occasions and with much glee."
She got a small smirk out of him. There was only one dim light on in the place, but with her slayer abilities, she could still see how much his brow was crinkled up, how pensive he was.
"So, you wanna tell me why you insist on injuring yourself again?"
"I'm just taking a stroll."
"Yeah, says the trouble magnet." Wesley laughed a little. "You had some serious moves out there."
"Faith," he interrupted her. "It's not gone. The power that I unleashed to seal the Well? It's still there. Putting Illyria back where she belonged didn't make it go away."
Faith's borrowed power had gone away, and she was pretty sure Angel's had too.
"So you gonna go all evil on us and blow up Sunnydale or somethin'? Oh, wait. Too late. Sunnydale's history. Look, nothin's gonna happen."
"You don't know that. The power was quite enticing."
Faith cackled out a laugh before she thought better. She would know how enticing power could be. Without another word, she made her way over to Wesley and grabbed his head in her hands. Covering his mouth with hers, she leaned into him. Before she knew it, his hands snaked around her back. This is what she wanted, what she had been feeling for quite some time. Did he want the same? By the way he kissed her, he wanted something.
As he turned his head to deepen the kiss, she opened her mouth to let him in. She didn't know whether she groaned first or he did. By the time she let go of his mouth to actually breathe, he had one hand fisted in her hair and another hitching up the back of her shirt.
Immediately his eyes went wide. He was backing away from me, she thought. He can't, he can't. Grabbing his shirt, she dove in again, before he could change his mind. Then he literally devoured her, like she was his lifeline and if he weren't joined with her, he'd not survive it.
Wesley was the one who broke that knee-shaking kiss. A look of apology crossed his face. She wanted to wipe it off of there as quickly as possible. When she reached for him again, he pushed her away.
"I can't," his voice came out in a whisper.
Would she plead with him? Not her style. But she'd do anything to get that look off of his face. "For fuck's sake, can't you just once not think too much?"
"I can't," he repeated, backing away this time for real. "You, Faith. I can't."
"Stop saying that. You can. How long did it take for you to ask Fred out, huh?"
That did it, Faith thought. A look of fury crossed his face. He marched out of the room before she could say anything else. But she wasn't going down without a fight. She had too much to lose. Running to catch up with him, she spun him around in the corridor, pushing him into a wall. Luckily it was fairly quiet, with no one around to question them.
"You didn't answer my question. Took you forever. Thought too much about it. Then when it was too late. Damn it, Wes."
The look of horror on his face was unmistakable. But she wanted to reach him, to tell him to feel instead of analyze. Sometimes it was better that way. He leaned back against the cool stone of the wall outside, putting his hands back in his pockets.
"I waited too late. And then it was too late. I'm always too late. I was too late the first time and Gunn got there before me. The second time she died."
"I know you don't want to get hurt."
"Hurt? You don't know the meaning of that word," he ground out.
Touché, she thought. He knew how to hit her the hardest. Knew where her weak spots were. He was the only one who knew where they were, what to say to her that would make her weak in the knees.
"I do, you know, know the meaning of it. Cuz, I'm feelin' it right now."
"Sorry to disappoint you," Wesley bit out.
Faith stood directly in front of Wesley right then, but he wouldn't look at her. There were too many interesting things on the ground than for him to look into her eyes.
"I can't believe I'm standin' here right now, tryin' to convince you, that, I'm, I don't even know how to say it," she faltered, trying to be honest.
"What do you feel, Faith?" he said as he finally looked her directly, blue eyes blazing.
"You're askin' me? Gotta say, I didn't see any of this comin'. It just was there and I don't know what to do about it."
"What's there?" he swallowed.
"I'm not the word person here, dipshit."
Standing up on her tippy-toes, she placed a light kiss on his lips. At least his look of surprise was a little more encouraging. She didn't exactly want him to walk away without knowing how she felt. Leaning over, he moved his mouth against hers very gently, like she was the most fragile person in the world to him. And she melted against him.
"Slow," he sighed against her lips.
"Sure. We'll take it slow," she got out between kisses.
Running her hands up to his neck, she could take slow. Just as long as he was around to go slow with. Only his hands started to roam, making her catch her breath.
"I thought slow," she managed to get out as his lips traveled to her throat.
"I lied. Don't leave me."
If Faith could cry, she would have right then. Jumping up, she wrapped her legs around him, making him grunt. She gave a hearty laugh in return.
"Not plannin' on it."
"He's become dangerous."
"Giles. There's things that we can do," Willow exclaimed.
Willow knew exactly what Giles was feeling. He had gone through the same thing with her. OK, maybe she didn't, she groaned inwardly. He wasn't exactly the sharing type of guy.
"He'll have to agree to extensive training."
"The witches. They'll help. I mean, did you see what he could do?"
Willow was rather impressed at what Wesley could do. She and Giles sat in his office, drinking too much tea late into the night. Now she'd be up for hours just to get rid of the shakes that the caffeine caused. Right after she had tried to end the world, she had similar shakes. Shakes that would have taken her under if Giles hadn't been there for her.
They had been there talking, trying to figure out what to do with Mark. Giles was hurting because of that. Having an evil brother sure did put a damper on things.
"I did see. I felt it, Willow. The darkness within him."
"We'll ground him. It'll work."
But by the look on Giles's face, he didn't entirely believe her. He hadn't entirely believed that she could learn to control her magicks either. And now look at her. She was under control, mostly.
"Willow, I believe that he may become even more powerful than you have become."
Damn, that was a bummer. It was kinda great to be the all powerful one. But she knew the allure of the dark side. It sometimes solved things when nothing else worked. But come on, she thought to herself. Wesley was a watcher, much older than she was when it happened to her, and nothing bad had happened to him in a while, if she didn't count a few of his friends dying. Who was she kidding? He was a watcher to a slayer who tended to get herself into heaps of trouble and friends to two souled vampires that were being hunted by an evil law firm. Lots of chances to lose control if things went wrong.
"Maybe. Not that I'm sayin' that's bad or good. It's just, the way it is. We'll help him."
"Yes, since that's what we do. And we really have no choice."
"No, I guess not."
Fred tried to remain calm after all that had happened. She sat in the field, breeze floating around her. The smells were intoxicating. This was where she liked it best in this dimension. It smelled like home.
"Hey," Cordelia softly called out.
"Hey. What's up?" she replied, opening her eyes.
"Nothing. Pretty quiet. Thought we could talk."
"I'm in trouble, ain't I?"
"No more than I am. Don't worry. I have an in with those Powers that Bug Us."
"They, um, they suck sometimes, don't they?"
"Oh, sometimes," Cordelia smiled down at her.
She lowered herself beside Fred and put her head back to look at the lazy clouds go by.
"So, how are things?" Fred finally asked after another moment of silence.
"Angel, he hates me, I think."
Fred immediately picked up on Cordy's hitch in her voice. "No, no. He may be frustrated with you, but he'd never hate you."
"I miss him so much. I try to help when I can, you know."
Fred hadn't seen Cordy cry that often. But a tear escaped down her face. She hurriedly wiped it away. Why are some women beautiful even when they cry, Fred thought?
"You do help," Fred said to comfort her. "But sometimes, well, a lot of the time, he doesn't listen. He's a stubborn man, um, vampire. All our boys are stubborn."
"You got that right. Stupid jerks. Sometimes I really just want to go and kick their collective asses. Makes me feel better to know that I really could."
"You could? No fair," Fred pouted.
"Well, none of this is any fair, but here we are. Why don't we go look in the freezer and see if there's any Ben and Jerry's?"
"Are they OK, Cordy?"
"Yeah, for now."
That satisfied Fred. Not only was she keeping an eye on the guys, so was Cordy. And obviously Cordy had a lot more influence than she would ever have.
"Hey, if you ever get to go down there, you know, to kick their asses, can I watch?"
Cordelia smirked the younger woman's way. "As if. I'd get my ass fired so quick, I might end up with Lilah."
"Eww. Don't even want to know. Skank."
Both dissolved into a fit of laughter as they walked back to the cottage. Things were stable, for now. Fred was fitting in nicely, had Cordy there to guide her, her boys were alive, and Lindsey, well, she'd have to see about Lindsey.
Author notes: The end. Wow. It's been fun. And unfortunately, or fortunately for you readers, I'm not done. I hadn't intended for a sequel, but half way through, I knew I couldn't finish it in this one. All these issues to resolve. I left a few things (OK, way too many things) hanging too. Lots to explore still. I hope you had fun reading this. I sure had fun writing it. Look for it soon. I have to go and finish my other fic, Snow. Not as long as this one and no sequel, yay.
I want to thank all the people who took the time to review and all the ones who actually opened it up and read it. There are so many great writers out there, I'm glad you chose mine to spend your time on. Thanks to Shawooshy, I.B. Slackin', Imzadi, Velara, ka-mia2286, Uberwicca, Wav, Doza, pari106, Fionabeam, alex4ever, psychotic chaos, Faith-Catherine, kaliflower, Darklight, Maineiac, Kat, Cayt, tp96, wondertross, CC, Illyria639, Kick A Woman Warrior, futurelyfamous, Ruth Quist, Wendy, Icepop, Solrana, goldenshadows, jaxhh, mandie, Tanya and everyone else. Don't hesitate to drop a line any time. I also have a LiveJournal, so visit me there too. The link is in my bio.