Chapter 8

Crawford Street Mansion Grounds, same time as Cordy/Wes talk

Faith stood watching over the graves of the 9 girls they had just buried, they had decided to quickly bury the girls tonight and have some kind of formal memorial the next day, none of the adults wanted to extend the pain of today for the other girls, between the fight at the docks, the Angel and Cordy show, and the sneak attack the day had been extremely difficult for everybody, after the burial the adults had retreated inside all except Faith. She couldn't make herself leave the girls she felt the need to stand guard 'a little too late' the cynical part of herself said. She remembered why she never liked attachments, even as a child, but Angel and prison had shown her that she needed people, but standing over the graves of 9 girls that she had taught and promised to protect served as a painful reminder why she hated attachments. Pain, Guilt, Anger, Remorse, Fear, Shock and Despair she knew them all intimately. She wished she could revert back into the stone-cold bitch she used to be at least she didn't have to deal with all the emotions that came with caring.

"It wasn't your fault"

Faith didn't even react to his voice, part of her knew he hadn't left with the others, he had made himself her self appointed guardian, and he wouldn't leave her alone. But she was the guardian for those girls, Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies had dealt with the First Evil, Bringers and the big picture so she had decided to focus her attention on the potentials, to train and guide the girls so hopefully they would stay alive and not make the mistakes she was famous for, but she had failed, again. They didn't even get the chance to fight, not in the main battle; instead she was looking at 9 graves.

"Faith, you couldn't have done anything, we were all downstairs with you, none of heard a thing." Angel tried once again to reach the brunette slayer.

"I don't know how to deal with this Angel, all these feelings, I thought after everything I had done I could never feel as bad or as guilty as I did then, but this is so much worse."

"It's their innocence, 9 innocent girls were murdered tonight, to prove a point. None of can deal with that. 9 girls under our protection, Faith your not alone, we're all feeling the same way."

"It's ironic". Said Faith as she lay down on the grass and gazed at the stars.

"What's ironic?" Angel asked as he joined her.

"Me and you, here now, feeling like we do, there was a time when we wouldn't have bat an eye at what happened, and now. Now it seems like the end of the world."

"Faith- It is the end of the world." He replied deadpan.

"It's not just that. There are some things that I thought would never change, you know. Sunnydale – hellmouth, Tom and Nicole, Spike –evil, Willow- cuddly, God Giles, I never thought Giles could leave Buffy, but he left. Spike is now fighting for the white hats; Willow has flayed someone alive, what the hell happened when I was in prison. Everything has gone loco, your previously shallow, self centred, high class secretary is now some sort of higher whats-it, Wesley, tea drinking, book loving Wesley has a darkness that scares even me. It's like we're the sane ones and that worries me."

"I know what you mean; I'm worried about Willow, Cordy and Wesley too. And don't even get me started on Spike."

"Do you ever wonder-" Faith stopped abruptly.

"What?"

"Whether, their lives would have been better off if they hadn't have been dragged into this life, no Buffy I mean. I've thought about what my life would have been like if I hadn't been chosen, but then they'd probably be dead. I don't know if that worse or not."

"I understand Faith, but then the selfish part of me kicks in, I need them in my life Faith, I learnt the hard way what my life would be like without them, but they all chose to stay Faith, that's what you've got to remember they all chose to stay and fight."

"These girls didn't get to choose Angel, it was fight or die, none of those girls got a choice. God Angel they're called chosen, but they don't get a choice, at least Buffy and I got superpowers in the deal or they get are big targets on their backs. How are they expected to deal, survive let alone defeat the First Evil?"

"They have potential, every single one of them has potential or they wouldn't have been chosen, and they'll survive because we have to, because there is no alternative. We'll figure out a way to defeat the First. Giles and Wesley will find a way."

"Wesley- God Angel have you even seen him, do you really think he's up to this?"

"He'll get it done, he always does."

"But at what expense Angel, he's already so cold and distant."

"So he's harder now, that's not necessarily a bad thing."

"Angel in 4 years he's gone from the cowardly lion to the tin man. How can you not be worried?"

"He's had to deal with a lot in the last couple of years; it was going to change him."

"I know, I'm just afraid that the loss of the council will be proverbial last straw, they slaughtered his entire family Angel. How does someone deal with that and figure out a way to save the world at the same time. It's too much Angel; he needs you now more than ever."

"He's not alone; he has Fred, Gunn, Lorne, Me and…everybody."

"Everybody? You mean Cordelia."

"She'll take care of him."

"I was wondering when you were going to bring her up, how are you dealing with-"

"Drop it Faith" replied Angel with a tone of finality.

"Not a chance, I was in your mind remember; I know how much she means to you."

"I can't deal with all that yet, maybe after all this-"

"After the apocalypse we don't know how to beat, if you both survive and if she stays, then you'll deal with it! God Angel grow up! You have the opportunity to fix this, don't waste it. You know why she went now, you know she never betrayed you, isn't that a good thing?"

"It doesn't change anything."

"Why?"

"Because…"

"Because what Angel! She didn't do anything wrong, she…"

"She still LEFT! Damn it, she still left me."

"And that's the problem, when you needed her, she wasn't there."

"She promised to stay with me once, she promised to stay until I 'shansued', and I believed her, I mean she's always been there. These last couple of years she's always been there, she's nagged me, annoyed me, fixed me up, made me laugh, stopped me brooding, she got me into colours, she's fixed me blood, made me family and even though I pushed her away so many times, I never once thought she would leave me. Not really, I mean we're linked, bonded by the powers I didn't think she could leave me. But she left and I realised it was never about me, it was the mission, it's always the mission first, help the hopeless, my atonement. It scares me sometimes." Angel went off on another tangent.

"What does?" Faith asked trying to keep track of the conversation.

"I'm a vampire, I'm used to obsession, addiction, I mean I'm compelled to drink blood to live. But it scares me how much I need her, want her. I don't know when it happened, or how but somewhere along the line I became so dependent on her I don't know how to exist without her. Even when it was 'evil' Cordy I still thought it was her, so I was ok, but now I know its her, the real Cordelia, my Cordy, and I know she left me. She actually left me and I don't even know if she's gonna stay this time. I hate that she has so much control over me, I can't even lock her in a room somewhere…"

"Whoa, there Angel, you can't just…"

"That's what your not getting Faith, what you don't realise, if there was a way to make her stay, I would do it in a heartbeat, regardless of what she wants or the fate of the world. That's what terrifies me; I need her more than blood."

"Wow, that's kinda sick Angel"

"What's sick is that she knows this, she has to. And she still left."

"It all comes back to that doesn't it, the fact that Cordelia left you, even if it was for the greater good, even though she never meant to leave for good, even though she's back, you still can't get over the fact that she left you."

"What can I say, I'm a vampire."

"You're supposed to be the vampire with a soul fighting for good, stop being so…"

"Selfish, obsessive…"

"Yeah, she has the right to live her life how she wants to Angel."

"I get that, I do. It's just so hard with her being so close, part of me wants to hold tight and never let her go, and the other part of me wants to kill her for leaving, for not recognising the fact that she belongs with me, belongs to me. I just don't how to reconcile the two."

"Hey there, Big Guy, Cordy doesn't belong to anyone."

"She's my seer."

"Angel, maybe you need to deal with these ownership issues, Cordelia Chase does not belong to you, she is her own person."

"It works both ways Faith, I belong to her too, I'm her champion, her warrior. It's hard to explain."

"So, what are you going to do? She's not going anywhere, not for the moment at least, and we need her. So are you going to be able to forgive and forget? We need you both to be able to work together, if we're gonna beat this."

"I want to Faith, I really do, I just don't know if I can, I let her down as well. We've hurt each other so much I don't how we're supposed to come back from that."

"We'll find a way"

"Hey, wasn't I supposed to make you feel better, not the other way around."

"You did, Angel just talking to you reminded me why I'm here, what we're here to do, the First Evil drew 'first' blood tonight, its time we got back in to the game. We will win Angel, we have a full team, we know what's at stake, we'll fight till we win or die trying, tomorrow we shelve all our personal crap, and discuss how we're gonna reply to the 'First Evil's' message."

"Sounds like a plan, let's go".

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Crawford Street Mansion, the next day, post memorial

"So let's summarise what we do know about the First Evil" Fred began in front of her trusty white board.

"Can take the form of anyone dead" Dawn added helpfully. Fred dutifully noted it on the board.

"Damn, I was gonna say that!" Anya pouted, Dawn just made a face.

"Apparently it's still incorporeal, so it's unable to touch anything or anyone." Giles related.

"That's good, we can use that." Wes remarked.

"How do you mean?" Buffy asked.

"Well we can initiate a protocol of sorts, for example we make sure that we all touch something or someone, to prove that we are who we are."

"We'll need that." Spike added abruptly.

"Spike?" Giles questioned.

"The First Evil can take the form of the dead, any of the dead or undead, but it can also take the form of anyone who has died."

"You mean…" Wes trailed off.

"It's appeared to me in the form of Buffy" Spike answered Wesley's unasked question.

"So the First can appear as Buffy, Spike and Angel has anyone else here died?" Anya asked in her usual manner.

"Actually that means the First can appear as any vampire…" Dawn added.

"Taunted me as Drusilla as well." Spike absentmindedly added.

"The First Evil is malicious, so we should expect familiar forms…" Cordelia stated joining the discussion for the first time.

"So it was the First that…" Dawn asked.

Cordy nodded, "took the form of your mother, I'm sorry."

"The First Evil used the form of Jenny Calender amongst others when it came after me 4 years ago." Angel stated.

"I'd expect the First to use our own personal demons against us, so anyone we knew is fair game, for example for me I'd expect a visit from a family member…"

"Or Lilah" Cordy reminded him.

"Or Lilah, Faith the First will probably take the form of the Mayor or one of your victims, Anya you would probably have a visit from a victim from your time as Anyanka, Dawn and Buffy I'm afraid the First will probably reuse your mother's form. Gunn, the First will most likely choose Alanna, Willow…"

"…Tara" she finished for him.

"Ok, we get the idea; we all get a visit from our closest dead." Buffy summarised.

"Connor, I'm sorry but you should anticipate an appearance from Darla as well as…" Cordelia added quickly.

Connor just nodded and looked at his father. "As well as?"

Cordy took a deep breath "Angelus".

The table stilled. That name still struck fear into the hearts of most at the table.

"Even though we know that it's the First masquerading as these people, doesn't mean that they won't be accurate impersonations or be able to harm, maybe not physically but psychologically and emotionally definitely." Cordelia reminded the table.

"Let's just hope the First can't reanimate the dead, because then we'd be screwed." Faith added unhelpfully. "What, I wasn't the only one thinking it…" She saw Wesley, Anya and Giles all exchange a glance. "What? What was that look about?"

"Er- there are some speculations that reanimation is within the scope of the First's powers. But that is unsubstantiated." Wesley answered quickly.

"Oh crap"

"Thank you, Cordelia that was exactly what I thought." Wes smiled back. "Now Xander and Lorne are due back from Willy's soon, we'll see what they have to add."

20 minutes later…

"So guess who's got a new army coming into town? Come on, no guesses? I'll give you a clue… begins with the letter F…"

"Alright, Xander, settle down. Do you have a description of the army-"

"Lorne what's with the pale face, you okay?" Gunn asked as the green demon ignored his question and began mixing a seabreeze.

"Lorne?" Fred asked this time. Lorne just drank.

"Well they're apparently organised, because Willy said they wore these grey uniforms, and that they were demonic, just in case I didn't mention it before…" Xander carried on.

Cordy began to get a sinking feeling, her stomach began to tie up.

"And Willy say's their faces are all stitched up," Angel drew an unnecessary breath, "like a mask and that they kinda looked like weird demon…" Xander went on.

"Nazi's" Angel filled in for Xander, as his gaze never left Cordelia's.

"Yeah, how'd you know?" Xander asked, oblivious to the tension that was rapidly increasing in the room. Angel didn't answer nor did his gaze wander. The room fell into silence as Angel slowly approached Cordelia.

Cordelia's eyes had filled with tears and heartbreaking memories, she wasn't in Sunnydale anymore, she was stuck in that ship at the shipping port in LA, as she was forced to watch Doyle jump to his death, every agonising second as his demonic face melted off in front of her eyes, his screams still ringing in her ears, a flash of light…and then nothing, no piece of Alan Francis Doyle, nothing to show that he existed, that he died to save so many, and in the end he gave her the greatest gift he had, his visions. But Cordelia was stuck in a cycle, her memory/vision was replaying over and over, non stop his declaration, 'you never know till you're tested', his jump, and his agonising death. Over and Over all because of the Scourge, and she couldn't make it stop.

"Cordy, Cordy, come on Cordy, come back to me, it's over." Angel whispered again and again.

Cordelia could hear Angel's voice faintly in the background, she focussed on it and suddenly the room snapped back in to focus, she looked directly in Angel's golden brown eyes "oh God, it's them, they're back Angel, it's The Scourge" her voice filled with pain, a tear slipped down her face as both Seer and Champion remembered.

First Soldier Down

Suddenly Cordelia broke from Angel's intense gaze, her eyes swept across the room; she quickly picked up her sword and moved towards the door. She had some vengeance in mind.

Within seconds Angel had realised her intentions and blocked the doorway, he knew because they were so similar, it was his initial reaction to the news as well. Revenge was on his mind too, but not like this, it was too reckless and it would get Cordelia killed, so he had blocked her exit.

"Move" her tone was glacial, hard and cold as ice.

"No, Cordy, I promise you they will pay, but not right now, we need to plan, strategise."

"I have a plan, so move. I'm not asking again."

"What's the plan?" Angel asked; if she really did have a plan to eradicate the Scourge, he'd be right alongside her.

"I kill them all, one by one, or by the dozen I don't care, they all die today at my hand." Cordelia's detached tone scared even the Fang Gang.

"Good plan, now sit down, let's figure out how to implement it."

For a while they just stared at one another, she with a slight nod Cordy took a seat.

"Are the Scourge...?" Wesley trailed off.

"Yep" Angel replied.

"Oh" and Wesley took a seat next to Cordelia and held her hand.

"Okay, who the hell are…what did you call them?" Faith asked Wesley.

"The Scourge" Cordelia spat out the name as if it was the vilest epitaph she could think of. "They are like demonic Nazi's, they believe only pure blood demons should exist, and that all others should be exterminated, including Vampires. Angel and I have encountered them before in LA."

"It's how we lost Doyle" Angel added.

"Who's Doyle?" Connor asked.

"He's a friend your father and I worked with before your Uncle Wesley joined us; he used to have the visions, he passed them on to me before he died." Cordelia answered Connor's query.

"The Scourge are notoriously hard to kill" Lorne added.

"Oh God, Angel, What if they have another beacon!" the fear in Cordelia's voice could be heard by all.

"Then we'll stop it." He looked directly at her "I'll stop it."

"No, I can't go through that again Angel, I won't lose you too, not like that, I won't survive it."

"Cordy-"

"NO!" The vehemence of Cordelia's exclamation shocked everyone especially Angel, who tried to reason with her.

"Cor-"

"I said no, and I meant it, we'll find another way, we don't even know if they have a beacon, the First is using a lot of non pure demons and vampires, he wouldn't want them destroyed."

"So now you're telling me to wait." Angel was amused at how quickly they're positions had been reversed.

"Oy! Poof! How about filling the rest of us in on the situation." Spike quickly diverted their attention, when all of a sudden Fred's mobile rang.

"Hello…This is she…WHAT? HOW? WHEN? Are you sure? Oh God" Fred quickly began to have a panic attack as Gunn took the phone from her and began speaking into it as Spike held on to the panic-stricken Texan. Trying to get her to breathe, "Someone go get a sodding paper bag, for God's sake" Spike was quickly trying to help the woman who had made him family.