Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Angel, and Buffy the series.
A/N: This is the second story in what I am calling the Soul series. The first story is The Price of a Soul. It's recommended you read them in order, but hey, who am I to dictate your reading schedule?
Three months had gone by quickly. So quickly no one had really noticed the date. Cordelia continued having visions, and the team, now consisting of another vampire and a slayer, would head out and deal with them. They had cases come off the street and thankfully, had found an office. Some old hotel that needed to be cleaned out in pretty much every way. Angel and Spike had even gotten rooms there, though both wanted to stay at Cordelia's, neither would admit it to her and she was more than happy to gloat about having her place to herself again. Faith got a room as well and she and Wesley seemed to be getting along, though she was still nervous around him.
Spike and Faith trained downstairs and even Cordelia asked to get some training. After plenty of arguments about why she shouldn't, and who shouldn't be training her Faith volunteered and the two were starting to get along a bit as well. They even went out a few times, just the two of them, for drinks and dancing. It wasn't the same as her girly nights out but since she hadn't had any of those in more than a year, they were quite important to her. Having another woman around, even one that had tried to kill her at one point, was refreshing.
So on this, relatively normal Thursday, they had no open cases and Cordy was working on filing while Spike and Angel were sparring. Faith was out getting food when Wesley took a phone call. Cordelia had perked up, hoping it was a case, but he waved her away. She would have left too, if not for the fact that his face had darkened and he removed his glasses. She knew something was wrong then and stayed at the front desk. His lips pursed and she moved, almost as if she wanted to take the phone and yell at whoever was upsetting him. She only moved when Spike and Angel came up the stairs arguing.
"Hey, quiet! Wes has a call and it's not good."
Both men stopped arguing then and looked over. Angel headed that way but Cordelia grabbed his arm.
"He wants privacy."
Spike raised a brow.
"So what you doin' here, luv?"
She smacked at his arm.
"Hey! I can respect people's privacy! Besides, he told me to go away."
She added with a pout. Spike and Angel exchanged a smile and thankfully she missed it. Wesley had finally hung up though and Cordelia tried to casually stroll over. Followed of course by Angel. Spike put weapons away before joining them.
"Wes? Something's wrong."
Cordelia reached for his hand. Wesley gave a reassuring smile and squeezed her hand. He waited for Spike to join the before taking a breath.
"That was the Watcher's Council. Our time, is effectively up. They will be here in two days time to evaluate Faith's progress. They want access to all of our records, case files, and client lists. They want to interview each of us, and then Faith. They also reminded me that their decision, is final."
Spike crossed his arms over his chest.
"So what? They don' like it, they take her?"
Wesley and Angel exchanged a look.
"If they feel we've failed, I will go back with her and go into an intensive, 'retraining', Faith will most likely be destroyed and Angel. . . "
"No way! They can't do that!"
Cordelia wasn't about to let him finish, because it didn't matter. She wasn't letting anyone take them.
"Cor, we agreed."
She shot Angel a look and put hands on her hips.
"Psssht. Agreed while I wasn't around, right? Figures. See what happens when you guys don't listen to me?"
"Cordelia, what else would have us do? It was this or let them take her then and there."
Wesley cleaned his glasses and put them back on. Cordelia of course, wasn't buying it.
"You let them bully you and I'm not going to let them keep bullying us. They want to come, fine, they want an interview, I'll give them a piece of my mind and if they even think about taking someone from this office they'll wish they never even heard of Angel Investigations!"
No one said anything about her threat and just let her head into the office, mumbling about her case files. They all looked at each other. Spike smiled and shook his head.
"Don' look at me. You lot know how th' cheerleader gets when she gets started."
Angel and Wesley both sighed. They knew, they knew even better than Spike but didn't mention that either.
"So who's going to tell Faith?"
Angel asked, both men hoping the other would handle it. Not that it was an issue. As usual, no one had anything to say when Cordelia was in a mood. Faith came in through the front doors with food and set it on the counter. One look at the guys' faces and she stepped back.
"Okay what happened. Hey did she have a vision or something?"
Wesley wasn't the only one to notice that there was a thread of worry in her question. Something they wouldn't have heard coming from her three months ago. Angel and Wesley exchanged a look but didn't have a chance to open their mouths when Cordelia came out with a pile of files and a frown.
"Please, it wasn't my vision that has them all pouty. That stupid Council is coming and they think they are going to scare us all with their little threats."
Faith glowered then.
"They threatened you guys?"
Wesley sighed and tried to give Cordelia a look but she shrugged it off.
"No, they did not threaten us. They are coming for an evaluation."
He ignored Cordelia's snort. Faith on the other hand looked more than a little frightened and Cordelia hated that. So she looked up at her and grinned.
"And they want all our files and cases, as well as interviews! So I'll need an outfit."
"Cordelia, this isn't an audition."
Cordelia waved Angel off and walked around the counter to wrap an arm through Faith's.
"Please, men just don't get it, every interview is an audition. Okay I'm starving let's eat then you and I are going shopping."
Faith opened and closed her mouth, a backwards glance to Wesley for help and he just shrugged.
"Oi! What abou' us?"
Cordy rolled her eyes.
"It's in the kitchen, already warmed up!"
She might have looked selfish, to someone that didn't know better. Talking about what colors looked good on her, what kind of outfit and how the poor men couldn't get along without them. For those that knew her, they could see her working quite hard at getting Faith to calm down and hopefully even cheer her up. Mostly to get her mind off of the possibilities that the Council brought with them.
No one said anything much that night. Trying to keep things as normal as possible as they prepared for what felt very much like an invasion. They were doing quite well until it was time to go home. Wesley grabbed a few books and promised to be in early. Faith shrugged as if it wasn't important and Spike just waved him off. Cordelia grabbed her purse and the shopping bag from when she'd dragged Faith out earlier and tossed them over her shoulder as she headed for the door.
"Wes, really, we've pretty much got everything ready. Other than your wardrobe."
She added with a pointed look. Wes frowned and looked down at himself.
"And what is wrong with my wardrobe?"
Cordelia went to roll her eyes then grabbed for her head. Wesley went to comment but suddenly Spike and Angel were moving.
"Really Cordelia it's not as bad as -"
He dropped his books and reached, but she was already flailing in Angel's arms. Spike crouched over them with a growl. Faith rushed into the bathroom and Wesley fumbled with his dropped pile to find a pen and pad of paper. Once Cordelia had stopped flailing she was breathing hard and Angel scooped her up and headed to a couch. Sitting next to her he looked at Spike and shook his head. Faith handed Cordelia the pills and some water.
"Here you go."
Cordelia tried for a smile and took the pills. Faith's eyes went wide and she opened her mouth, but Angel gave her a look to stop. Wesley reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. She took that as well and wiped at the blood from her nose.
"Thanks, it's, not so bad, honest."
She knew the looks being exchanged and didn't feel like going into it right now.
"It's um, underground. At a, a water station? Number, 34. Yeah, 34."
Spike lifted his chin and stood straight, looking down at her.
"Know where that is pet, jus' need a what now."
"Three of them, they, kind of look like vampires. But, not just bad fashion sense, more like, knights on a grunge binge. Biker boots, long hair, leather and metal armor. The whole bad ass thing. They had at least twenty people in cages. It's not good. Whatever they grabbed them for is going down soon."
Angel looked at Faith and Spike.
"Weapon up, we'll head out by sewer."
"Oh goodie, because I so don't get into the sewers enough."
Faith tried as she and Spike went to get weapons. Angel stood up and brushed the hair from her face.
"I'll stay with her, of course."
Cordy shook her head and put a hand on Angel's.
"Angel just go. The sooner you kill them, the better."
He nodded and headed over to get his own weapon and the three of them left. Wesley sighed and sat down next to her.
"You have to tell him."
Her eyes went wide and she looked up at him.
"Tell him, what?"
He gave her a sideways look.
"Cordelia, they are obviously getting worse, not better."
She relaxed a bit at that and shrugged.
"We've been busy. Don't worry about it Wes. I'll, see a doctor soon okay? Soon as we're done with the Council. Right now, I really just want to lay down. I'll be upstairs."
He nodded and patted her hand as she got up to leave.
"Of course, I'll get started on researching these vampires, just in case."
Cordelia wasn't particular and had as many times stolen Angel's bed as she had Spike's and even Faith's. Enough times, as a matter of fact, that they set up another room for her. Not for her to move in, though a couple might have been hoping for that, just for when she needed to rest, shower, or change clothes after a fight. Right now all she wanted was to remove her head and set it aside until it stopped hurting. Unfortunately, she knew that wasn't an option. So instead she kept the room hidden in the dark and crawled on top of the bed to collapse there. She wasn't going to lie to Wesley, she'd see a doctor. Or rather, another doctor, later. She already knew that Angel felt bad enough about the visions, if she told him that they were doing permanent damage that would be the end of that.
She felt so, useless, most of the time. Without them she would be. At least to her mind. After all, she might flounce around the office talking about how desperately they needed her to run things, but she knew that really, they didn't. Wesley was the brains, the researcher. He could find information on pretty much anything anywhere, any time. Faith, Angel, Spike, all fighters. They had the strength, the speed, the healing. They were the champions. Well, champion and two champions in training. Other than the visions that told them where to go and who to save, there wasn't a lot for her to do. A lot for her to help with. Warming up coffee and blood. Typing in numbers and filing. That was busy work. Sure it helped that they didn't have to do it, but it wasn't that they actually needed her for it.
Most importantly, she had to help. She had to help the people in her visions. The people she could help. If all she could do was point the way for the champions to do that, then she would do that. She'd do it until she couldn't anymore, and if that was when she died, then that was fine with her. She didn't think she'd really started being alive until she came here anyway. Xander, the 'Scoobies' they were a warm up. A chance to see what living, what friends, what family could be, but they weren't hers. They showed her what to look for, so she'd be ready when her friends, her family, showed up. And they had. So headaches, brain bleeds, bloody noses, weren't going to make her give that up.
Faith checked over the last of the humans and then let them go, telling them to be careful and stick to the light. Turning back to Angel and Spike she ran a hand through her hair. For being only three vampires against the three of them, it had been one hell of a fight. They had killed one when the other two started yelling something that Spike seemed to think was Latin. That's when Angel had told her to get to the humans. Right now, she only saw what looked like two piles of dust and her two companions.
"We get them all?"
Spike was wincing and holding his shoulder, his arm seemed a bit longer than it should have been. Angel wiped at his face and shook his head.
"One of them ran, I didn't see where he took off to."
"Bastard nearly took off me arm!"
"Okay, so we should head back, get you two patched up. Maybe Wes has found something?"
Angel took Spike's weapon and they headed off. Bickering more about who did the most damage and who had the most injuries they were unaware they were being followed.
Cordelia could feel the pain lessen and that told her that the humans were safe and the others would be home soon. Getting up she went and washed her face, applied a bit of concealer and headed down the stairs to get the first aid kit. None too soon as the bickering threesome came in through the front door. Her eyes went wide.
"Oh my god are you all right?"
"A little sore but I think-"
"Not you! Spike sit down, you're bleeding!"
Angel frowned and Spike smirked at him. Taking a seat Cordelia moved between his legs with the box to look him over.
"Off with the jacket. Angel, you are at least walking so get those weapons wiped up and put away."
He muttered and Faith tried no to laugh at them.
"Hey, Wes in the office? Got some questions about the guys we dusted tonight."
"We? Seems t' me the poof an' I did all the dustin'! Ow! Easy there cheerleader!"
"Yes, he's in the office, and you were told to get that jacket off. Don't even think about making some sort of comment about me and you undressed or that wound won't be the worst of your problems."
Cordelia pointed out and waved Faith to the office. Spike shrugged then winced again and let her deal with his injuries. The next hour was Angel and Spike getting patched up and trying to outdo each other on their play by of who did what. She just listened, getting more and more used to this little one up manship they had going most of the time. She finished and got up to go put the first aid kit away when Angel stopped her on her way to the bathroom. Grabbing her chin he looked her over.
"Are you sure you're feeling all right?"
She smiled and reached for his hand, giving it a squeeze and removing it.
"I'm fine. I think we could all use some sleep tonight though."
She blinked surprised.
Suddenly embarrassed by his outburst, Angel took a step backwards.
"I just mean, it's really late, you could just use the room here tonight. Easier than walking home."
"Oh, um, no I'm fine. Besides, Dennis will be expecting me."
She walked passed him to put the kit away and he shook his head muttering to himself as he headed back into the lobby.
He looked up at Spike.
"Please, vampire hearin' remember? Same as you. The cheerleader stayin'?"
"No, she's heading home."
"Don' like her headin' out there by herself. 'ts not safe."
"Yeah well you try telling her that Spike."
Angel bit off. There wasn't much the two didn't argue over but Cordelia was a real soft spot for both. Luckily she came back out before either of them could get to the point of growling at each other. Bypassing them she hit the office then came back out with a sigh.
"All right, well Wesley is staying up, says he's worried about the third one. You could have mentioned that you let one get away."
"Let? Look 'here-"
Cordelia waved Spike away and grabbed her bag again.
"Now now, no reason to get cranky. So they got the better of you. Wesley will find out where he could be hiding out and you guys can go do the bonding over violence thing. For now, I'm beat and heading home to a hot bath and bed. You two get some blood, especially you Spike, and then some rest. I'll see you tomorrow."
Before they could argue she kissed Angel on the cheek then Spike and headed out the front door. The two vampires both had hands to their faces watching her leave then looked at each other. Suddenly they looked away and lowered their hands from their faces.
"Right. See you tomorrow."
"Yeah, gonna grab a mug o' blood first."
"Don't forget -"
"Rinse out, yeah yeah I got it."
Angel headed upstairs and Spike went to the kitchen. Soon enough followed by Faith making tea for Wesley as he looked over 'just one more thing' before he was going to get some sleep.
Cordelia was always careful going home. She knew several ways to get there, and the most lit path so well she could walk it without thinking. Which was great since all she wanted was to collapse again. She wasn't paying attention to anything but putting one step in front of the other. She wasn't paying attention to the vampire in armor that really should have been making some noise following her. After all, it was the least he could have done, make some noise for her. He didn't though, so she headed home, called for Dennis to open the door and walked inside without a worry. Other than how quickly Dennis could get her the ice cream and pain pills.
"They better not think I'm coming in on time. I'm so sleeping in."
She muttered as she flopped down on the couch to eat the ice cream and wait for the pain pills to kick in. She never did make it to bed and Dennis grabbed a blanket and turned off the television for her. He even closed the curtains when he saw the tree outside her window moving.