Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, anything that involved Joss Whedon. (The closest I come is owning copies of Firefly and Serenity ... and Toy Story ... but that's it!)

AN: This takes place in the episode "Sanctuary." I always thought it needed more Cordelia.

Lilacs on the Air

(1/2)

Cordelia eased the office door open, balancing case files and a box of doughnuts in one hand while holding a crossbow in the other. The waiting room was clear, as was her office. She pushed her sunglasses up and angled her head around the door to Angel's office. No one to be seen. She sighed and set her burden on her desk. She glanced at the elevator as she went to make the coffee, setting the doughnuts by the paper cups as she did. She'd already had two cups that morning but she figured Wesley might want some if he came in. And then there was their guest ….

Cordelia's hand clenched around the bag of beans, luckily they were low enough that none fell out. She hadn't slept well or at all, really. Dennis had kept her in icepacks and stayed up watching infomercials with her. She thought he was probably feeling guilty for not doing a better job of protecting her and she'd tried to sooth him. It was her fault. She should have known Dennis wasn't stupid enough to think she was dating Wesley.

She shook her head at the thought and winced. When Faith had decked her (well, when she woke up, at least) she'd actually been kind of surprised. Oh, it hurt like hell, but it was actually comparable to vision pain and vision pain she could handle. She could push it aside and do what needed to be done, then, when the guys ran off or the research started, she settled back and wallowed. Of course, this time the wallowing lasted much, much longer and she'd never been more thankful for her house ghost.

The coffee made she was heading for the elevator before she realized what she was doing. Odds were she was down there. Of course, assuming Wesley's quick message on her machine last night had been correct, she wasn't in a murdering mood. And Angel would be with her. If she hadn't staked him. Something deep inside Cordelia cried out at the thought and she wondered when the Ice Queen of Sunnydale had started slipping away.

She whirled and pulled a dagger from the left middle drawer of her desk. She'd borrowed it from Angel's weapons cabinet during their first week of business and he'd simply watched, a slight rise in his eyebrows the only sign of approval she was going to get. It was enough.

She also poured a cup of coffee, figuring a bit of common courtesy might lessen the chances of murder, even if the bitch didn't deserve it.

The elevator had never seemed so loud as it did when she took it down that morning. She pushed the doors open with her dagger hand, figuring a cup of hot coffee to the face would be a good first defense against a slayer. With all her fears and preparations she was almost disappointed when Faith didn't come lunging at her the minute she stepped into Angel's rooms. A cursory glance and she didn't see either of them. That was -- frightening. She stepped further in, dagger and coffee at the ready.

"Faith," she whispered into the apartment, not at all ashamed of how terrified she sounded. "Come out, come out wherever you are, Faith. Olly olly oxen free."

The comforter on Angel's bed moved and she started, coffee sloshing over the side of the mug. She cursed, not wanting to mop up the floor, before focusing enough to see who was laying in the bed.

"Well!" she said and Faith sat up, eyes wide and looking for trouble. She saw only Cordelia and settled. Cordelia could see the night before coming back to her and the weight of it made them both shrink a bit. "Did you stake him?" Cordelia asked, slipping the dagger through one of the belt loops of her jeans and letting her hand rest there.

Faith simply stared at her for several seconds before letting out a quiet, "No," and turning away. At least she seemed to have that much decency.

Cordelia glanced at the entrance to the sewers. It was open just a smidge and she figured Angel had gone down there. She sighed, it looked like she was on psycho murderer duty. As she walked into the bedroom Faith shuffled closer to the wall but Cordelia ignored her, simply setting the mug on the bedside table before backing up a few feet. "I didn't know how you liked it, so it's just black."

Faith looked from her to the mug and back again. Cordelia fought the urge to roll her eyes. She was still terrified of the slayer, but somehow seeing her like this -- all grungy and miserable -- it made her less scary and more pitiful. Like Angel. The man knew a thousand ways to torture her to the brink of death and never let her cross that line. He'd been the Scourge of Europe for heaven's sakes! With a capital S and everything! But he was still somehow pathetic Angel and she couldn't be afraid of him when he needed her so badly.

She pushed those thoughts away, knowing that her staring was bothering Faith. "I'm just gonna make Angel's breakfast," she said, leaving her alone.

She moved around the kitchen on autopilot. It wasn't like it was difficult. She used the same pan every morning and every morning it was right back in its cupboard, cleaned as if by magic. She pulled it out and grabbed the first tupperware of blood she touched in the fridge. It all went in the small pan and then got set on a back burner on low. She let the top hit the pan with a slight clang and turned, completely unsurprised to find Faith standing on the far side of the small table. Though, the mug of coffee on the table's corner, that was a shock.

"You cook his blood." Faith's voice was raw and Cordelia focused on the pain around her eye to keep her perspective.

"Someone has to. He's like a helpless puppy when it comes to taking care of himself." She pulled a mug from a cupboard and reached to set it on the table, kitty-corner to Faith's. She missed, the mug scraping the edge as she crumpled to the floor, pain blossoming in her head. There was running and fear and the smell of lilacs in the air and, distantly, she heard her own whimpering cries, punctuated by a mug shattering on kitchen tile and felt Faith's tentative hands holding her shoulders, just tight enough to keep her from hurting herself as she threw her head back in pain.

The pain subsided and she took deep, gulping breaths, lowering herself to the ground and leaning her head back against a drawer. Faith backed away, wiping her hands on her hips. Seeing the look of wary confusion in Faith's eyes Cordelia sighed.

"Jeez, you'd think you were the one who just had the PTBs hit her upside the head with the Mallet of Precognition."

Faith's eyebrows rose slightly in a gesture of confusion.

Slowly, as if she were speaking to a particularly slow child, Cordelia said, "I. See. The. Fu-ture."

Faith's eyes widened and her head fell a fraction in disbelief.

"Yeah, I know. Cordelia Chase: conduit to the powers that be. Not exactly where I imagined my life going either." She forced herself up, using the back of a chair for support as she did. "Could we not tell Angel about this? I'd sort of prefer not to burden him with a mission while he's in the middle of --" Cordelia gestured to Faith with a frown especially for the woman's ruined boots.

Faith nodded and Cordelia breathed a sigh of relief. A demon that smelled like lilacs when it was hunting. They'd fought one a few months ago. It would take some money and quite a bit of luck, but if she handled things right she could take care of this on her own. She hoped.

Faith stood to the side, watching while Cordelia grabbed the dustpan from under the sink and swept up the broken mug before she checked the blood. She pushed aside the feeling of disgust that welled up when she recognized properly heated blood just by looking and poured the thick liquid into a new mug. Nearly the moment she did Angel came up from the sewers.

"Look who finally decided to show up," Cordelia said, holding the mug out to him. He glanced at the contents, his Adam's apple bobbing, and grabbed her arm above the elbow.

"We need to talk," he said, dragging her towards the stairs and setting the mug down beside Faith's as he passed. Once they were out of Faith's hearing he stopped and Cordelia took an extra step, just so she could be the teensiest bit above him. "How are you doing?" he asked, looking at the bruise.

"I've been better," she said, sarcasm dripping from her words and making him wince. She let out a breath and added, "But I've also been worse. What happened last night?"

Angel leaned against the wall, letting his head fall back as he relived it all. "She tortured him."

Cordelia winced.

"She had him tied up when I got there. We fought and -- she told me to kill her." He looked up and Cordelia could see something desperate in his eyes. She knew this wasn't going to end easy. "She just kept telling me that she was evil. She was …," he shook his head, "helpless."

Cordelia nodded. "And we help the helpless. I get it. Well, not really, but I can pretend."

"Thanks, Cordelia," he said.

"Go drink breakfast," she ordered. "I'm gonna go see if there's anything we absolutely need to do today." She hurried up the steps, intent on looking up the lilac demon before Angel finished drinking.


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