Disclaimer: Joss owns all the characters, story is just my way of playing with them!
Spoilers: A few, anything past season 3 and the episode Waiting in the Wings
Feedback: Welcome! Love my reviewers and will talk more about that later!
Distribution: Not so sure just yet, so ask first please!
A/N: So this is it. The final 'episode' in my season three. I can't believe I got here! Thank you so much for coming with me! I do have plans for the first part of season four at least, so keep an eye out! It's still in development in my head.
"He is not ready. He is not finished."
"His trial is coming to an end. He will need her to guide him."
"Do you think it wise? To put the seer so close? Or do you still hold hope out for the other?"
"Should he get back on his path, they could cross paths."
"You hold out too much hope sister."
She smiled up at him. Finally he gave in and shook his head.
"Very well. Should he be back on path, then he can start with helping free one he does not trust."
"A test so soon, brother?"
"Do you worry for him? Should he pass the test, we will send him guidance."
I am confident we will find you and return you home. In the meantime, I thought my notes might provide some insight into why we are looking for you so hard. We are sure you are safe. Angel told us all about his trip to the Powers, they find you valuable and so we know you are safe, if not lost. Of course, as soon as Fred, Gunn and I came out to ask where Frances disappeared to, he told us. He left immediately to speak to the powers again, but they have refused him entrance. So the search became more mystical, though Gunn and his crew took to the streets as well. I returned to the Hyperion, Fred and I did as much as we could to finding champions and seers. It seems it is a great honor to be called a champion and from the spell we performed, Angel no longer qualifies.
Before you worry yourself, I do believe we have finally gotten through to him. It wasn't easy of course. It was only a day later that my usual outwardly calm demeanor became an issue. Calm was the last thing I was feeling. I looked around the office and could only feel failure at finding a way to contact you. However, that was not what Angel saw and an argument ensued.
Angel slammed the book down, and Wesley glanced up at him then back down to his own book.
"How can you be so calm?"
"Because I am useless to her otherwise."
Taking pity on the vampire Wesley raised his eyes and removed his glasses.
"Perhaps, if you were to patrol . . "
"I told you, I'm not doing a damn thing until they bring her back! They want me to play champion, they need to bring her back first!"
"A strike then?"
Angel simply nodded.
"And what would she say about that?"
It was the last thing he needed to hear. Angel growled and leaned forward, dangerously flashing eyes at Wesley.
"I know. I know you are in love with her. I get it, you took care of her in the hospital, and took care of the baby, but that is my family. I'm not going to just pretend it doesn't matter that she's gone!"
Wesley blinked, surprised at Angel's outburst and looked out the door to see no one else noticed. Clearing his throat he set his glasses down and closed his book.
"I, am fond of Cordelia yes. I love her very much. Like a sister. She's the closest thing to a family I have. We, got closer I admit, but much of that was from what we had in common."
"Like being in love with someone that could not reciprocate our feelings."
His voice went soft and without meaning to, he looked passed Angel to Fred and Gunn. Angel frowned but followed his gaze then turned back to him. The surprise and apology in his eyes.
Wesley's ears went red and he quickly grabbed his glasses to replace them.
"Yes well, it's too late for me, obviously, but I had hoped, it wasn't too late for her."
Silence descended again and Angel looked down, his body relaxing from the slightly threatening look before.
"She told me she loved me. I should have told her first. Before Holtz, before, all of this. I didn't, and now I'm not sure I'll get the chance to."
Wesley was quiet but nodded. Taking the chance he tilted his head.
"Perhaps we are looking at things the wrong way."
"What do you mean?"
"We are looking for a missing seer. To bring her back to her champion. Perhaps, we need to bring the champion back to the seer."
Angel sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"I need to keep fighting. Without her."
Wesley corrected. Angel nodded. With a smile of thanks he got up and headed out to the lobby. He called for Gunn and said they were out on patrol.
Looking back, it's sort of amusing that Angel thought we could be an item. My mind immediately went back to Sunnydale and our disastrous attempt at dating. I thank the powers for the chance to get to know you again. We make much better friends. As family, we are unbeatable. I look forward to getting to prove this to my new niece. So yes, Angel is back at work. Patrols the first few nights and even a case or two that showed up at our door.
So far, things are going well. Other than finding you. You are here of course. Even if you do not realize it. Fred was right, you are our heart and you keep us moving. Gunn was pulling away, we could see it, and were helpless to do anything. Fred was heartbroken and my own heart was torn in two. Part of me wanting to help her, comfort her and a small part, a rather petty part, hoped that she would be free and I could finally voice my emotions. I've learned the folly of waiting. However, even without physically being here, you are the glue that keeps us together, that keeps as fighting.
I hold out hope that you are resting and on your way back to us, to Angel. Connor still calls for you, and Angel is trying but it is obvious something is missing. I have not mentioned it, but I did find something. Some sort of hope. It seems champions must survive a test before they are considered worthy. I am using that to find this new champion of yours. I also believe that there is a test for Angel. That there is hope. Perhaps I should explain. It was a case that walked in. No bigger test could I imagine to see if Angel was truly going to continue to help those that need it. Deserved or not.
Angel was reading, as was Wesley. Of course Wesley was reading a book in hopes of finding more information. He had a lead, but didn't want to get anyone's hopes up. Not now. Not when it had been a few days and dead ends already. Angel was reading to Connor. Wesley glanced up to check on them.
"Things quiet then?"
"Yeah, no cases right now. I was going to go patrol later. Just because we dont' have cases I don't want, anyone, thinking we arent' still working."
"Then maybe I can help."
Both men turned to the front of the lobby and Angel was on his feet instantly. Dropping the book he held Connor to the side and turned to protect him from the man. Wesley stood slower and walked forward.
"What do you want Lindsey?"
Lindsey shrugged. His hair was longer than last time they saw him, but his clothing was more relaxed. He took a step down the stairs to come closer, stopping only when Angel tensed.
"I need your help."
"We've heard that one before."
"Yeah, and I meant it Angel. Look, I left, I tried to start over, there's just one problem. You join Wolfram and Hart, and they own you. They pulled me back and it wasn't pretty. I've been working with shamans and gypsies all over to try and hide from them but I'm running out of time. I need out of the contract. And before you say it, even dead wouldn't work. They've got me for five years after death if I can't get out of the contract."
It was a surprise to say the least, but it was a case and I believe, a test. I can not say for certain and I was afraid that by saying so it would null the results. So I was silent as Angel decided to give him the chance. Unfortunately, even the best of intentions can not save a soul. As you well know. This was a more difficult case, as it did not mean a battle, there was no demon to destroy, no vampire to stake. It was all legalities. In the end, the best we could hope for was a meeting with them. Lilah gave her word that we would all be safe, Lindsey included, but how much is someone's word worth?
At first, the discussion turned to Angel. How he could get Lindsey out, and they even offered to add in bonuses if only Angel would hand over the 'miracle child'. Well from there negotiations went down hill fast. I finally stepped in, but I will never know now, if that was the mistake that cost us.
Angel glowered at Lilah. Then he glared at Lindsey, sure he set this up. Instead Lindsey frowned and shook his head.
"Nice try Lilah. Good to see those instincts of yours are still going strong. I want out, but Angel and his son are not on the table. So try again."
Lilah shrugged and sat down, crossing her legs.
"Then I can't help you."
"Cut the crap Lilah. A contract can be renegotiated, bought out, so work with us, and I won't have to break that pretty little neck of yours."
Angel smiled, more a baring of teeth. It of course looked like it had no affect on her. It did but she was old hat at keeping her composure. Lilah looked them all over and then nodded.
"All right. I'll talk to Lindsey about a renegotiation. On one condition."
Wesley held a hand up, he didn't like this either but he knew to be careful.
"I want an interview. With all of you."
Angel snorted and crossed his arms sitting back.
"We're here so ask your questions."
Lilah raised her finger and shook it before standing.
"One at a time. Alone. First, I need to check in with my superiors on what I'm allowed to offer. If you'll step out please, I'll call you back in one at a time."
They all stood and looked at each other oddly as Lilah led them out to the hall. Once outside they looked at each other and Lindsey. Lindsey frowned and lowered his voice to speak to them all.
"She's up to something. Listen, I appreciate this but whatever she has planned, it can't be good. I'm not having anyone sign their soul over for mine. I learned that lesson."
"What makes you think that's an option?"
Lindsey looked at Wesley then Angel. He knew they didn't trust him and that was fine, they were still trying to help him and he appreciated it. He also knew that as much as he wanted to be free, he couldn't get that freedom at the cost of someone else's soul. It wouldn't be free then.
"Because I know how these people think. They still want to take you down, all of you. So they'll try and make it sound good, but trust me, they'll destroy you if they can. If that's by killing you fine, if it's by getting your soul and adding you to their collection of indentured servants then they will. That's all these people are. They aren't lawyers, they don't have power, not really. Just, be careful and don't. Sign. Anything."
Angel was amazed at his little speech but was still unsure of him and nodded to the others. It was agreed, as the door opened and Lilah called in Fred. The rest sat. It was horrible, waiting. Wesley knew he'd never feel so separated as he did then, all of them one by one facing this alone. One by one they went in, one by one they came out. No one said anything, all looked away. All nervous. Until Lilah summoned them all in. Taking their seats from earlier she picked up a file and slid it across to them.
"Well, Lindsey, you're free to go."
Surprised looks were exchanged and Lindsey slowly reached for the file unsure. He looked through it and shook his head.
"You made changes to the contract and exchanged souls. With who Lilah? What did you do?"
He glared at the woman and was out of his seat almost immediately, but before there could be an answer, Gunn stood.
"She didn't do nothing. I did. Look, I get what you said out there. I do. It's my soul, but I know what I'm doing. I can do some good here."
Fred stood in shock and Gunn just shook his head. He took a step from her and it broke her heart. Angel pointed at Lilah.
"You fix this NOW!"
"Hey don't look at me. Your boy was more than willing. Even bargained for his old crew. Papers are signed and it's a done deal."
Gunn looked at them all, no apology in his eyes.
"I can do some good here. They're gonna hook me up with some knowledge, and I'm free to do work on the side on whatever cases I want."
"Yeah, look I'm a grunt at best. Not that I don't like gettin' my hands dirty but, I'll never be as much help as Wes, or Fred. Hell even Cordy had. . "
He stopped and sighed.
"I can do more here, I be more."
Lindsey frowned and shook his head. He knew a loosing battle when he saw one.
So, in the end, we lost Charles. I can not say that what he did was wrong. For awhile, there was grief, and anger. Fred especially, was hurt. Lindsey, of all people, was the one to get through to her. He explained the allure of it. Not riches or power even, but the idea that you were worth something. I can still hear her proclaiming that he was worth something to her. And Lindsey's soft reply that he wasn't worth something, to himself and that was what they preyed upon.
Lindsey, for his part, doesn't seem too happy about his freedom. He hung around and finally asked to stay and help. Angel was unsure at first but we agreed, in the end, that Lindsey is searching for his own redemption. Isn't that what we are here for? His expertise with Wolfram and Hart will come in handy I am sure. We never discussed what was offered us each in that room alone with Lilah. For my part, I was offered quite a bit. Knowledge, books, and even Fred's affections. How they know is beyond me, but it worries me. It worries me what else they know.
I only hope that by saving Lindsey's soul, Angel has passed this test and you will be on your way home. It's true we lost Gunn, but Angel could not have prevented that. We are all coming to terms with it. Even Fred, and we realize it was in the end a test for us all. What we all gave up the chance to is private and weighing heavily on our hearts. I can not hope to guess what it was, but in the end, Gunn was unable to resist. He chose his path and my fear is, our paths will cross again.
Wesley finished the letter and set it aside. He had always been in the habit of keeping a journal, notes. It was one of the things he picked up from the Watcher's Council that he could not let go of. He would continue his letters, in a way it helped him feel closer to Cordelia, and it brought him hope. He told himself that she would be glad of the update from what she missed. Taking off his glasses he rubbed at the bridge of his nose and sighed.
Opening his eyes he blinked surprised and then nodded for Angel to enter and take a seat. He did and was quiet for a moment.
"What did they offer you?
"Me? er, "
"Cordelia. They offered me Cordelia. They could find her, bring her back. All it would cost was a few tests on Connor. I was so close to giving in Wes. So close."
"But you didn't."
"No, I couldn't do that to Connor. Or to her. Could you imagine what she'd say if she found out that's how we got her back?"
A small smile shared by the two.
"I do believe you might not survive that tongue lashing."
"Yeah, she'd kill me. Still. . . "
"It was hard."
Wesley cleared his throat.
"Knowledge. Quite a bit of it actually. Any prophecy, language, book, and of course, "
The silence stretched out.
"They seem to know us pretty well."
"A little too well."
Lindsey came walking in and took a breath before announcing his thoughts.
"It was a test."
Both men stared at him, but Wesley with a bit more caution.
"I was talking to Fred. She, told me about Cordelia, I'm sorry."
"What does that have to do with anything Lindsey."
Angel was back to his suspicions. Lindsey took a seat and nodded to them both.
"I don't know what you two were offered, but we know what Gunn got, and Fred told me what her meeting was about. With Cordelia gone, it just fit. You lost your seer. A champion without a seer is a champion on the way down. Wolfram and Hart are going to try and use that."
"How was that a test?"
"It was a test to see if they could get Angel to give up, they couldn't. But what I'm wondering is, was it a test for the powers too?"
Angel watched him, it seemed to make sense, but then he looked at Wesley. What he saw didn't make him happy.
"Wesley? Did you know something about this?"
"I, was aware that it was possibly a test by the powers, but by saying something I could have ruined the test. If the champion passes, he could possibly get a seer, or, a seer back."
Angel frowned but got up and began pacing as he thought.
"So, by continuing to fight and passing this test, I could prove myself again, and get Cordy back?"
He looked back at them when a light burst in the corner. They all stood and backed up, all except Angel who stared at it expectantly. As the light faded a woman stood there shyly smiling.
"N-not exactly. The Powers, kind of sent me. S-sorry."
A/N: Okay I know, an odd place to leave it, but I promise it's not all bad! I was originally going to give you a glimpse of where Cordy was but decided better to leave it open! Mirroring the series where she ascended but leaving out the ascension and evil Cordy mess afterwards! Feel free to make guesses as to the new girl! And look for the next season story!