Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Angel, and Buffy the series.
A/N: So I am glad this is going so well! I've been just getting the plot together and letting the characters take me where they want to go! So for specifics:
Skittles: Lindsey I love, and I was hoping to just fold him into the world and the group with this story. He and Xander, I'm not sure why, just worked for me. So there they went! Glad I'm not the only one that thinks it makes sense here!
Jeremy: I hope I'm not ruining things but no, that person is not evil. I can't do it! I can't make them evil! Heck I made Buffy nice and she's my least fave character!
Sheshe21: Willow, is just awesome. I should probably do a story with her as the main person some time soon! The sharing vision thing, was planned. I don't want to mary sue it up but I thought it interesting how much mirroring there is in those four characters. Like in so many ways they are different sides of the same crystal! Not to mention how often they end up needing each other! As for Francis, I cried when it came out she was a potential! Silly huh?
And now onto the story!
Lorne followed Wesley and Lindsey into the other room with Cordelia and grabbed Willow to go with him. Fred was torn but after a nod from Angel she hurried after them. Xander and Dawn were left to help the slayers and vampires up and back into the living room. While none of them were too badly hurt, all four felt incredibly worn out. The two girls were slumped on one couch with Dawn hovering over her sister, while Xander went to get some water for them. Faith looked around.
"So that was the First. Fun."
Her voice was almost raspy, devoid of emotion because she was too tired and the sarcasm barely evident. Angel closed his eyes, a bit longer than he thought and gave a short nod.
"Not my first time."
"Me neither, pet."
"So it likes vampires, why does that seem a bad sign."
The others came back now, all except Wesley and Fred who stayed behind to keep an eye on Cordy, Lindsey went to the kitchen to help Xander and Lorne flopped down on the couch between the two vampires. Dawn sat on the arm next to Buffy while Willow took to the third couch. Lorne sighed and let his head drop back.
"It's a soul thing, cupcake. Think it was trying to get to our two champions here when they were weak."
Spike and Angel both tried for a nod but weren't able to get far. Faith forced herself to standing and stretched. A little off balance she took the water from Xander as he passed and sat back down.
"Okay so what's the deal? Was that just for fun or seriously is it after Cordelia?"
Lorne gave puppy eyes to Lindsey who, after handing Buffy the other glass of water, rolled his eyes and took Lorne's empty glass to make him another drink.
"I think it's more to do with the kids. We didn't all get a visit, just all of you guys upstairs it seems. I'm thinking however it pulled that disappearing act, it wasn't through the front door because we were all fine down here."
Lindsey glanced to Dawn and Xander for confirmation that they hadn't gotten a visit themselves. Lorne gave him an appreciative smile and took the drink.
"Oh that was a definite attack. I didn't get a visit first hand but just getting the backlash from all your little adventures was enough for me thank you very much. Which means, I got a nice little glimpse into everyone's head."
There were a few looks exchanged and as Xander sat next to Willow, Lindsey moved to stand behind him, thinking someone should remain standing and ready. Wesley and Fred entered the room but stood in the doorway watching. Fred moved under Wesley's arm and listened. They kept up their position to be able to hear if anything happened upstairs and be in on the discussion. Lorne shook his head groaned then sighed and tried again.
"No worries kiddies, we aren't going into everyone's deep dark demons tonight."
Angel asked slowly sitting up more, he needed to get his feet under him, he needed to find his children. Lorne glanced at him, then at Spike. Spike frowned.
"Go ahead, lemon-pie."
All eyes went to Spike and he shrugged a shoulder, careful not to look at Buffy or Angel.
"Can hear the niblet."
Angel's head whipped around and he hid the dizzy feeling to glare at him.
Spike sighed and looked at him.
"Told ya, th' cheerleader got an upgrade from that demon Skip yeah?"
Angel narrowed his eyes and it was the only sign to go on. Spike looked at Lorne, both a glare and an entreaty to help explain. Lorne nodded and leaned forward.
"All right, listen up my little pumpkin pies. Our Princess made her own choice, Angelcakes here is her champion, so that little mind to mind thing is between them. But. . . the powers set Spike here as the protector of the little one so he's going to be able to find her when he needs to. Find out when she needs him, all of that. Until she's needed."
Buffy frowned, a quick glance to Spike before looking to Lorne.
"Needed for what?"
Lorne licked his lips and looked at Angel nervously.
"Well crumbcake, it's going to be her job to restore the slayer line."
"So, we're going to all die, is what your saying. Slayers are pretty much done for until she's old enough to bring it back?"
She was incredibly calm. She'd known, slayers didn't live long, so she thought she'd die. It was actually a relief to know when. Lorne gave her a smile.
"Now I didn't say that. . . "
"Do not call me a pastry."
Lorne held up his hands and sat back again. Faith gave him a smirk and a wink before relaxing a bit, rolling her shoulders as she felt slowly better. It was Lindsey that brought them back on track.
"Okay, so we can tell the kids are safe, because Spike can hear the baby and find her. Which makes the search party easier. That doesn't explain what happened in that room."
Lorne sighed and looked at Angel. Angel's head dropped and he looked down, a definite brood coming on. Willow licked at her lips and slowly raised her hand.
"I, think I know what happened."
Lorne leaned back, nursed his drink and frowned as it was empty. With a roll of her eyes but a small smile Faith got up to grab his glass and get him a refill. Xander gave Willow a smile to continue and she looked around.
"Um, well, when Lorne asked me to come in it was, to put a spell on her. To, protect her. There's, no one in her body right now. But when I was doing the spell I could kind of feel it. There was, a battle. I think, it was fighting to take over, but not just, push her out of the body."
"Then what Will?"
Xander reached for her hand sensing she was getting upset. Willow took a breath.
"It's hard to explain since it was kind of, just what I felt. But um, if you walked into a room and found scorch marks, that's kind of what it was."
Buffy frowned and looked around, Angel was still glaring at the floor, but Spike was interested and he glanced to Buffy to show he was also worried.
"You sayin' it was tryin' t' burn her out pet?"
"More, trying to burn away her soul. It's, a more permanent kind of killing. I think, she lured it away, that's why she ran. Nothing can get to her body now, but I don't know where she is."
"She's with the children."
Even Willow looked surprised and stared at Angel. He didn't bother raising his head.
"She, told me. When I shook her, shook that thing inside of her. She told me to find Giles and the slayers. She said she wouldn't leave the kids. Then, she was gone."
Fred turned her face into Wesley's chest and he stroked her back to soothe her. Wesley glanced to Buffy and Faith then sighed.
"Right, then we need to first of all get some rest. I know many of us are worn out and for those of you that had physical contact with the First, it seems to have drained your energy. We should meet back here tomorrow."
Angel's head snapped up then.
"We're going out tonight. I'm not leaving them out there."
Lindsey stepped around the couch.
"None of us want to leave the kids out there, Angel. The problem is we have no idea where they are right now, and even if we did the major fighters of our group are incapacitated. Spike, you can hear the children, do we know if they're safe right now."
Spike licked at his lower lip, and didn't bother acknowledging Angel's glare.
"Can only hear the li'l niblet, yeah? She's calm though. Think the cheerleader might 'ave sommat to do wit' it."
Lindsey nodded and Wesley frowned.
"Angel, you could hear Cordelia, can you hear her now?"
Angel shook his head, but Spike looked at him.
"Gotta try it, poof. You her champion, should be able to talk t' her if ya need to. Kinda wears ya out, but can do it if you need to."
Angel stared at him then at Lorne.
"He's right champ. Might have to focus, hard to do when you're staring daggers at as all, but you're our best bet for making sure everyone is safe."
He sighed and closed his eyes. He had to concentrate. On her, on Cordelia. Not on the empty shell of her stuck in the room. AN empty shell that he had no idea would survive long without her, the fear that she wasn't going to ever wake up again. He pushed those thoughts away and tried again. Cordelia, with their children, keeping them safe, back and remembering now.
"Angel? Are you all right? Is everyone okay?"
He almost smiled to himself. She was nearly killed by this thing and forced from her own body yet she wanted to know if they were all right. If she was there he'd probably shake her.
"Here? Everyone is fine. Tired. The kids. . ."
"They're safe. Whatever they want Connor for, they are waiting. They keep saying it's not time and if anyone gets too close I stop them. It, takes a lot of energy though. Remind me to thank Dennis again when we get home."
"We'll find you, find you all and. . . "
"Not now you won't. You aren't up for it Angel, I can feel it. Giles is on his way and you guys have to protect the girls. The slayers."
"Angel, believe me, if the kids are in trouble you'll know. I'll wake you up if I have to, but right now, this is as safe as we are going to get. Tell Wes to make you get something to eat, all of you, and sleep. Please."
He swallowed hard and opened his eyes. "They're safe. As safe as they can be. She says they aren't doing anything with the kids. She sounded, distant."
Spike's jaw ticked.
"We goin' out t'night then yeah?"
He was worried about the kids and if he was honest, Cordelia as well. Angel looked at him then the others. Faith gave a nod.
"Up to you, I'm up for kicking some ass if that's the plan."
Angel gave her a smile. She wasn't, he could see she wasn't strong on her feet, he looked around and everyone was exhausted. Beaten down. His eyes landed on Wesley and Wesley smiled.
"Even without a body she's quite bossy isn't she?"
"She's consistent I'll give her that. No, Faith. Not tonight. We aren't up for it, if we try we could get people killed. Whether we like it or not, and believe me I don't like it, Cordelia was right. Right now, we all need food and rest. We meet tomorrow. Find Giles, find the slayers."
Faith raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, food, nap, rescue some potentials and the watcher, then?"
He smiled and unpleasant smile, Spike mirrored it almost immediately. They both looked at Buffy and she nodded.
"Then we go kill us some cloaked baddies."
Cordelia felt, different. Talking with Angel had taken too much energy and she wasn't sure she had it to spare. The battle with the First had been, unexpected. She'd heard Spike, heard his fear at seeing Drusilla around and without trying to she searched for her. It took a different kind of sight but as soon as she did, it wasn't Drusilla she'd seen. Oh there had been the outline of her, but inside, it was darkness. Void. Not just the dark that you got with lights out, but a living thing, it scared the hell out of her. This void that felt like it was trying to suck her in. Then just as suddenly it was moving towards her, into her. She felt the cold, an ice pick cold that penetrated her bones and sucked her breath, her heat from her. It burned it was so cold and it burned at the edges of her mind. It was trying to burn through her, consume her. She'd fought it, but it was so cold.
It only lessened when the others had taken a hold of her. She tried then to push through but she didn't have control anymore. She'd panicked, she was going to die. Not ascend, not move on, she was going to be burned away by the void. When she heard Buffy scream at her it was the last thing to get through. Her children. Her family. She'd just gotten them back, she wouldn't lose them now. Staying would have killed her. It was going to win, straight on like that, nothing could stand against the First. So she fled. Ripped herself from her body and ran. It had followed, left her body just after her, and while she was afraid her body would then die and she'd be stuck as some sort of weakened wandering spirit, she felt the kids' fear, and could only follow.
Now they were sleeping. A room set up for them, in angered her that the First had been so sure of itself that it had prepared for her children to live there. She could sing to them, calm them. She found if she tried hard enough she could make the air thick enough to stop the Bringers from getting through and to the kids. What she couldn't do anymore, was feel that connection to her body. She hadn't told Angel, she didn't need him worrying about her when so much more was happening. She didn't know about the spell, had no clues on it. She just felt, weaker, because of it.
She moved between the sleeping forms of her children and rested with them. She could still hear the Bringers, learned what they were, and knew that rescuing them, was not the priority right now. Giles was on his way, and the First knew it. It wanted all slayers dead. All potentials. It wanted the line eradicated, in any way possible.
Her ears perked up. Well, if she had ears, and she moved a bit farther away to hear. It was chanting and she rolled her eyes, but, not really. Being body less was confusing. It was always chanting. Not that she understood it all, but she'd listen. Perhaps she'd learn something to help, because they'd need all the help they could get.
It looked like Buffy, it dressed like Buffy, but it's smile betrayed it. Arms crossed it watched from a distance.
"She's here you know. The seer."
Out of the darkness behind her a priest stepped forward.
"This seer you keep telling me about? Would love to meet her."
The Buffy shaped version of the First turned her head towards him.
"Hoping to save her soul? She's in love with and mated with a vampire."
The priest smiled back and shook his head.
"I don't believe in lost causes, you know that."
"Yes I do. Anyway, she's not physically here. She thinks we don't know, but she's here. Out of her body and by the feel of it, almost out of time."
"Pity. Cleansing her soul, would be a real challenge. I do like challenges."
"I know you do Caleb. Not to worry, there's one left from the council. He's bringing more girls here. He's sent out word, they'll all come here."
"Like lambs to a slaughter. These slayers, they don't even realize how much evil they've allowed into their souls."
The first smirked.
"Not yet they don't. Let's hope they're slow learners."
"There's always hope."