Authors Note: Well,we come to it at last... the last chapter of 'Belief'. I have to tell you, I went through hell writing this - so many different drafts, just trying to find an end. And, to be honest, I'm still not sure I like this one, but its the best I've got in me right now. And it kinda leaves things open for another story - but one that will not be written in the immediate future, as I'm still working on two other stories (my Angel-fic 'Evermore' and my CSI-fic 'Valentine' - plug plug).
Hope you enjoyed the ride, I know I did (right up to the writer's block during this chapter). Thanks to everyone who reviewed - it really meant a lot. Let me know what you think about the ending, if you feel so inclined... Take care and I'll catch you on the flipside.
-shannon (aka forensicsgirl)
Willow and Tara rushed through the doors of the Hyperion at top speed, closely followed by Angel, carrying Kathy in his arms. She had regained consciousness only briefly, in the car on the way to the hospital. When she learned where they were taking her, she insisted they return to the hotel. She mumbled something about Cordy not having much time.
Angel didn't need to be told twice. Urging Gunn to turn the car around, he looked back at his sister, only to find her unconscious once more. He hoped he was doing the right thing by listening to her.
Gently, he set her down on the couch that, until a few hours ago, had been Cordelia's resting place. Still worried about having left her alone in so vulnerable a state, he asked Gunn to go upstairs and check on her, while he and Wesley helped the girls rouse Kathy.
The two witches were flipping through spell books and pulling out ingredients as fast as they could.
'So, what exactly are you planning?' Angel asked them, more than a little worried.
Willow looked up from the text she was looking through and tried to give him a confident, comforting smile. She failed miserably. 'I remember seeing a healing spell in one of Kathy's books. Hopefully it will fix her up enough so that she can bring back Cordy. Then we can get her to hospital.' She paused, not wanting to worry him, but then decided he had a right to know. 'She's lost a lot of blood. She might need a transfusion.'
She resumed flipping. Wesley moved to her side to help. Tara, meanwhile, was crushing various herbs with a pestle and mortar, before going to Kathy's side. At Angel's inquiring look, she smiled softly. 'A poultice. It'll stop the bleeding and ease her pain.' She proceeded to apply it to Kathy's numerous wounds.
Ten minutes later, Willow and Tara were ready and standing at either side of Kathy's limp form and each holding a quartz crystal. Slowly, they began to pass the crystals over Kathy's body.
'Gia, Goddess, Mother. Restore your daughter to full strength,' Willow said in a strong voice. 'Our hearts as one, we beseech you, hear our cry.'
'Goddess, do not ignore our supplication,' Tara continued. 'Send your energy through the earth to your fallen daughter. Restore her to health. So mote it be.'
They felt the crystals grow hotter for a moment, before the heat passed out of them towards the sleeping witch. After a few more moments, they heard Kathy groan softly.
Angel was immediately at her side. 'Kathy?'
Her eyes fluttered open, and closed again, as though the light hurt her eyes. She swallowed painfully. 'Hey,' she said in a hoarse voice.
'How are you feeling?' he asked.
'Like I've been tortured and cut open.' Kathy's eyes opened again and she attempted a smile. 'I wish I could say I've had worse… But I'll live.'
She tried to sit up, but immediately sunk back down again, barely stifling a yell of pain. She swallowed again, before looking at Angel more urgently. 'Where's Cordy?'
'Is she… still unconscious?'
Angel nodded. Kathy closed her eyes, this time at the news of Cordelia's condition. 'Damn it. I should have been more careful. Can you bring her down here? I don't think I can make it up the stairs.'
Angel nodded and looked at Gunn and Wesley. Both men understood at once and hurried off up the stairs.
Kathy attempted to clear her throat, which resulted in a painful coughing fit. When it ended, she looked over Angel's shoulder. 'Willow? Tara?'
'Hey Kathy,' Willow replied, trying to sound upbeat. 'What can we do?'
'Set up the circle as I had it before. When I was working with Cordelia. Quartz, sodalite and agate. Candles,' her words came in short bursts, as if each syllable caused her a great deal of pain.
As the girls hustled off to do as Kathy asked, Angel crouched down closer to his sister and gently took her hand. 'Are you sure you have strength for this? You should be in a hospital,' he told her.
'I'll go later,' she replied. 'I need to take care of Cordy first. The longer she is out of her body, the more dangerous it is.'
The sound of footsteps alerted them to Gunn and Wesley's return. Gunn was carrying a still unconscious Cordelia. As Angel watched them carry her to the circle, he felt his unbeating heart ache. If anything happened to her. If they couldn't get her back…
'Can you get me to the circle, Angel?' Kathy's voice brought him out of his reverie. 'My legs seem not to want to work right now.'
Mindful of her wounds, Angel picked the witch up and carried her to the circle. 'Where…?'
'Just beside Cordy,' she replied. He gently laid her on the ground beside the seemingly lifeless Seer.
Reaching out, Kathy clasped Cordelia's hand in hers. Closing her eyes, she sent out a heartfelt plea to the Goddess. 'Hecate, help me.' Softly, she began to chant. Moments passed.
Suddenly the Seer gasped, and as her eyes flew open she sat bolt upright. Angel was there immediately, putting his arms around her for support. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her head in his shoulder. 'Angel,' she said softly.
'Hey. Welcome back, Cordy,' he said, relief overwhelming his voice. He helped her stand on shaky legs. Looking down, Cordelia saw that Kathy had been lying beside her. The witch's eyes were now closed.
'Kathy?' Cordelia asked, worried. Forgetting her own disorientation, she crouched down beside the wounded woman and checked her breathing. 'Angel! We need to get her to hospital.'
It was a tense 24 hours. For a whole day, the AI team waited, either in the hospital or by the phone, for news of Kathy's condition. Angel had been told that she was highly critical when they first brought her in. Over the course of the day that was downgraded to critical but stable, and subsequently changed to stable. The entire time, Angel and Cordy sat outside her room in ICU, with Cordelia holding his hand in both of hers for support.
The doctors had given Kathy three units of blood, followed by a saline drip to avoid dehydration. She was also given high doses of antibiotics to combat possible infection from the burns and open cuts that covered her body.
On the fifth hour of their vigil, Wesley arrived to inform them that Victor had been found by the police at the warehouse (due, for the most part, to an anonymous tip phoned in by Wesley himself) and arrested on three counts of murder and one of attempted murder. The police would have to interview Kathy, Wesley warned. When she woke up.
When he was eventually allowed to see her, Angel was startled by the change in her. She looked so small in the bed, her wounds covered in gauze, so helpless and almost frail. At the same time, the swelling had already started to go down in her face, and she looked almost peaceful.
'She almost looks like she's sleeping,' Angel said softly, looking back to the doorway and Cordelia, who stood framed in it.
'She is,' Cordy replied just as softly, coming into the room and laying a comforting hand on Angel's arm. 'She just needs to rest. She's been through a lot. But she's going to be okay, Angel.'
The next thing Kathy remembered was waking up in a hospital bed to the sound of a wry female voice.
'Well, glad to see that I'm not the only one who's been catching up on her beauty sleep.'
Kathy turned her head slightly to reveal Cordelia Chase sitting at her bedside, beaming.
'Hey,' she managed to croak.
'You need to lay off your voice for a while,' Cordy told her. 'By all accounts, you've worn it out.' The Seer smiled at the witch. 'Just as well I can do enough talking for both of us.'
Kathy let out a soft chuckle at that and opened her mouth to reply.
'Oh no you don't,' Cordelia scolded her. 'Before you ask – I'm fine. Feeling very rested actually. And non-headachy, for a change. Angel is fine. Almost totally healed from his fight with the big bad. Willow and Tara got called back to Sunnydale – some kind of emergency to do with Buffy's little sister. They're sorry they couldn't stay, but Will says she'll call you next week to check up. Wesley and Gunn are on a case. They stayed until the doctors told us you were out of the woods.'
Kathy smiled at Cordy's almost manic energy as she filled her in on the last 24 hours. Evidently she'd had too much rest… Swallowing, she disregarded Dr Cordelia's instructions and spoke. 'Where's Angel?'
'Getting us coffee,' Cordy said with a smirk. 'It's kinda been a long night. Well, a long night and day and now night again. He was becoming a cranky vampire.'
The drugs were making their presence felt again. Kathy's eyes began to close, but she struggled to keep them open. 'I'm sorry the spell didn't work properly…' she said in a groggy voice.
'That's okay,' Cordelia said. 'Like I said. I feel better. And we can always try something else. When you're feeling up to it. Now, you should get some rest. If Angel knew I was keeping you awake talking, he'd skin me alive.'
'Oh, Cordy, you know I don't do that. Anymore,' Angel's said as he entered carrying two cups of coffee.
'Hey,' Cordy said brightly. 'Not talking. Letting her sleep,' she told him with her most innocent grin. 'Coffee?'
She accepted the cup he held out to her. Looking down at the bed, Angel noticed that Kathy had drifted off to sleep again. Seeing this, Cordelia got up and gathered her jacket and bag.
'Okay, so I'm going to use this opportunity to go home and take a shower,' Cordy said. 'Cuz right now, not so much April fresh.'
'Get some sleep too,' Angel said.
'Oh, please. I've had enough sleep to last me at least a week,' she told him. 'I'll grab a shower and change, and when I come back, you can go home for some rest. You look dead on your feet.'
She swatted his arm. 'Enough of the comedy, broody-boy, before you hurt yourself.' She smiled. 'I'll see you later.'
Once Cordy had gone, Angel settled into her vacant chair with a sigh. Taking hold of Kathy's hand gently, he smiled for the first time in days. After so much worry, the two most important women in his life were safe, and Kathy was on her way to a full recovery. It was a new sensation, worrying about his sister. He hadn't experienced it in more than two and half centuries and, truth be told, he actually kind of liked the feeling.
Slightly more unsettling was another feeling that had begun to creep in, without him even noticing at first. The worry he had felt for Cordelia these past few days was more than just concern for a co-worker, or even for one of his best friends. What he was feeling was so much more than that, and he tried to work out when it all started. He thought of how she had clung to him when she had woken up from the coma, and how that had felt - like his stomach had performed a triple somersault. Without realizing it, he gave his sister's hand a soft squeeze in response to the memory. She stirred slightly in the bed.
'She loves you too,' Kathy muttered to him softly, somewhere half-way between sleeping and waking.
The End... (for now)
Big cyber-thanks to all my reviewers - angel-cordy;rcaqua;fllnangel;Moonjava;Rachael; and Caritas. You guysROCK!