ImMortal part 8: What Now?
“I don’t get it,” Cordelia stood in the lobby of Wolfram and Hart and continued to stare at the alien space around her. “Why would they just give this to you?”
“We haven’t figured that part out yet,” Angel gestured towards his office. “We’re working on it. Wanna see my office?”
“Cordy?” Harmony squealed with delight, “Cor!” She hurried over and took Cordelia into an exuberant hug, much to the apprehension of the receiver.
“Harmony? You work here?” Cordelia asked, politely pulling away with a nervous smile.
“I’m Angel’s secretary. Pretty cool, huh?”
“It’s all just so… so overwhelming.”
“Right there with you,” Xander agreed and Cordelia glanced over, pleased to see the old familiar Sunnydale faces.
“And it gets better,” Dawn added. “Trust me.”
“Dawn? Look at you. You’re so… so grown up?” Cordelia’s already happy expression seemed to brighten even more as she pulled Dawn into her own enthusiastic hug. “You’re just as cute as ever.”
“Thanks. I didn’t know you where in town.”
Cordelia pulled back and shot a glance to Angel who, with a slight shake of his head, warned her to go along with it. “Yeah… so, you guys work here too?”
“ Willow is the only one officially on the payroll,” Wesley explained. “But Buffy and the original Sunnydale team have been kind enough to offer their help.”
“Wanna see my office?” Angel asked again, displaying a hint of childlike eagerness. Everyone went on, ignoring him.
“Why are you here? Isn’t there a Hellmouth to protect? Speaking of which, where did Buffy go? And how is Giles?” The exchange of worried glances made her even more nervous. Angel was especially disturbed by the mention of the Slayer and Watcher. “Okay, not so much with the Slayer update. Then, where is Connor…?”
“You really should see my office now,” Angel gripped her arm and whisked her off, guiding her away into his office. He closed the door, making it clear he wanted privacy.
“Connor?” Wesley asked Fred who gave a shrug.
“One of your old Sunnydale friends?” Gunn asked Xander.
“Not that I know.” He responded with a curious shrug.
A kiss, so tender and mild, contrary to the stony thickness of his flesh tempting her. Silken, plump and moist, the inviting tip of his beautiful cock danced and she wanted it, craved it with every fiber of her being. Gliding along her flesh, splitting her as it teased, promising to delve deeper. Buffy wanted to thrust to him, to sheath him within her safely. He wouldn’t let her, pinning her beneath him, holding her at bay as he played.
“What do you want, love?”
“I want you.”
He dipped within her; a cruel taste of the punishment to come, and withdrew, leaving her wanting. She would scream if she could.
“But you can’t have me.” He kissed her softly, sinking to a shallow depth, never reaching that place inside she begged for him to touch. “You know that…”
“I love you…” she pleaded.
“But it’s not enough...”
Another kiss, slow and intense. Then a nibble at her tongue, drawing blood and she pulled back. Giles was gone, replaced by the beast stared down at her, crackling flame in his eyes, crinkled brow, twisted smile revealing grisly fangs drooling with anticipation.
“You need me, Slayer.” He snarled, his long tongue stretching out to lap up the tint of red on the crease of her lips. Buffy couldn’t move, her body stiff with shock as the demon skin rubbed against her, invading her.
“You will have me!”
He drove into her, spearing her and she cried out her noiseless prayers.
“Buffy?” Lorne gave the Slayer a gentle shake, breaking her out of her daze. “You back with us?”
“What?” Buffy shook her head for a moment, clearing her mind of the webs left from the disheartening vision. “Just lost in thought.”
“Must have been a pretty scary place ‘cause your aura is doing a serious eclipse of the dark there. Want to talk about it?”
“I’m fine. Why aren’t you joining in the Cordy welcome back wagon?”
“I’ll get my chance later. Figured I’d hang back at the moment, see what’s got you all distracted. You’re glowing, sweetheart, and I’m not talking the warm, beautiful glow of pregnancy. I’m talkin’ the day after, break out the radiation suits, nuclear fallout glow, darling. And this isn’t the first time.”
“I’m fine. Really.”
Lorne nodded suspiciously. “Okay. You’re off this time but the next time I get the serious waves of willies breaking on your ocean, I will come calling for answers.”
“I need to go see Giles.”
Lorne' expression grew concerned. “I bet you do.”
Buffy walked as quietly as her sneakers would allow on the hard tiled flooring. But even with the gentle footsteps, her movement was announced by the sole's squeaks echoing down the practically vacant medical wing of Wolfram and Hart. She'd told herself she'd never step one foot on that floor. It was the place where betrayers dwell, where Giles' murderer sought refuge from her acting out her revenge. She would never forgive Spike for what he'd done, on all accounts, though some compassionate part of her wanted to. It would lift the burden keeping such blame can weigh.
The perfectly kempt, sanitarily prepared and empty beds made for a scene right out of some bad horror film and Buffy half expected to confront some demon lurking in the shadows or under the uninviting bunks. But with the high level of Wolfram and Hart security, she knew the only demons she would face were her own. And as she finally approached the foremost occupied bed, she saw the first demon she didn’t intend to confront.
At first glance, she didn’t recognize him; his face scarred and worn. She thought it so strange that they would have a corpse connected to monitors, though there was some slight dip in the continuous line feeding across the screen. What was it reading there? Was that the remnants of his useless soul? She stepped closer, wondering if he could hear her approach, smell her with his sharper senses. There was no change.
All the anger, all the regrets, all the pain came washing back to her. A thought crossed her mind and she took a quick look around, assessing if there were any onlookers. She noticed the camera fastened to the wall above the bed, positioned down to capture the scene. She moved closer to it and with a yank, disconnected the feed. Coolly, she reached into her jacket and removed her wooden stake, placing it perfectly over Spike's chest.
"You don't want to do that," Giles gentle voice called from beyond the curtained wall.
"You have no idea just how much I've wanted to do this." She said apathetically, holding the stake determinedly over Spike's silent heart.
"Wanting and acting are two separate things. You don't want to cross that line."
"It's his fault all this happened. He's responsible."
"That's not entirely true. Each of us must claim accountability in this."
"He murdered you, Giles."
"And I've forgiven him for it."
"How can you?"
"The name Faith springs to mind, as well as Angel and Willow for that matter," he fell silent for a moment, "...and me. In all these years, I know you've learned to forgive, Buffy."
"I can't forgive him."
"Can't or won't?" She could hear Giles shift within his bed. "If you won’t see it in your heart to forgive him, at least offer him mercy."
"Because I see the possibility of good in him. You did once, remember. You almost sacrificed our friendship to it. Has your need for vengeance so blinded you that you can't see what drew you to him in the first place?"
"When I think of how he hurt you..."
"Then don't think of it." Giles suggested easily. "This isn't about Spike and me. This is about Spike and you. Make sure that you have made peace with that reality before you doom him to dust."
She pulled the stake away and after a deep breath, she returned it to her jacket pocket and strolled around the curtain to finally see Giles.
“Is he okay?” Giles asked, trying to push himself to sit upright. A pain cut across his chest as the puncture tore from the slight motion.
“I didn’t dust him,” Buffy took a seat on the edge, her eyes staring at the cold, grey tiled floor.
“I was referring to Angel.”
She let out a deep, frustrated sigh and folded her hands in her lap. “He has a new lease on life, thanks to the unannounced and timely return of Cordelia Chase.”
“Return? I wasn’t aware she gone?”
“A long, very complicated and mysterious story that Angel and apparently no one else are willing or able to share.”
“That sounds curious. You don’t seem particularly pleased.”
She turned toward him and though her words were aimed at him, her thoughts seemed miles way. “You should have seen his face when he saw her. He was like a kid on Christmas morning.”
“And that bothers you? I would think you’d be happy to see her as well.”
“I was, we all were. But it was so… so fast and weird. I don’t know what’s going on and no one is telling us anything. It’s like a conspiracy or something.”
“What did the doctor say?”
“Again with the nothing, but Cordy looked fine. I didn’t even know she was in the hospital in the first place.”
“I meant about you.” Giles corrected with a subtle grin. “Have you been to a physician?”
There, she was with him now; a new worry flickering in her uncertain stare. “Not yet. Wes has already set up an appointment with the doctors here.”
“No. Not here. We’ll find another place.” Giles raised his hand to brush his hair from his face and was reminded yet again of his grisly wound. Buffy slipped closer, reaching out to finish the job he’d started, drawing the wayward curls back with a gentle caress.
“You don’t trust Wes?”
“I don’t trust this place.”
“Yeah, well… free health care is a tempting benefit. And none of those pesky questions that seem hard to answer like who’s the father and what’s a Slayer.” Buffy glanced shyly over at him. “So, are you completely wigged?”
He smiled as he nuzzled to her attentive hand stroking his hair. “Delightfully terrified, I’ve never imagined the possibility of becoming…” He paused, eyes suddenly falling to his folded hands. “It’s astounding. Then again, so are you.”
Buffy’s smile melted to apprehension. “We’re having a baby. Everything is going to change. I don’t know if I’m ready.”
“We’ve faced change before.” He reached out and took her hand in his. "We'll do it again… together."
"I love you, Giles." Buffy leaned down, placing a tender kiss to his lips. Damn the irritated wound, he wanted to hold her. Giles delicately wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in closer, deepening the kiss as she made her place with him on the bed.
“I love you,” he whispered, returning the favor and gently drawing his fingers along her hair as she settled her head to his chest and drifted off to a well earned sleep.
“They don’t remember anything?” Cordelia asked, surprised.
“And I want it to stay that way. It’s safer for everyone involved and… and easier… for me,” Angel answered softly, staring contemplatively out the sun glistening window.
“So you haven’t seen Conner since then?”
“No. Well… I have someone looking out for him. Surveillance mostly.”
“Not that I’m miss-know-it-all or anything, but this doesn’t sound like the best of a best laid plan to me. Especially since you’re trusting a evil corporation like Wolfram and Hart to keep this little charade from collapsing in on itself. Not to mention Buffy. Which, by the way, what’s with the doe-eyed glances? Anything you care to tell me?”
“Sunnydale is gone, the Hellmouth is shut. Buffy and the others have made their home here for now.”
“And…” she prompted.
“And what? End of story.”
“Don’t try and tell me there isn’t any epilogue here, buster. I know you. I can see when the brooding brow is stirring up trouble.” Cordelia leaned forward in her chair. “What is it? Talk to me.”
“Things have changed, Cordy. People have changed.”
“But some things never do, huh.” Cordelia smiled sympathetically. “You and Buffy, you were… you are…”
“No… not anymore.”
“She’s found someone else?”
“Not found so much as finally recognized,” Angel rolled his eyes in frustration. “I don’t know which is worse, having let myself fall back within that trap or not seeing it through.”
“Who is this guy? Obviously you don’t approve, though I can’t honestly see you approving of anyone else but you being on her arm.”
“Doesn’t matter, she doesn’t need or want my approval. Neither does he, for that matter. Besides, who am I to judge?”
“Oh, god no! I can’t believe it! After all these years of working together side by side, researching together, patrolling together. The knowing glances, the come hither smirks, the coy remarks…” Cordelia gasped, “It’s Xander, isn’t it?”
Angel gave her a sideways glance, oddly amused by her assumption.
“I knew it! He never got over her. Always with the hots for miss Slayer thang,” Cordelia continued to rant, “Over her my ass. He’s just been biding his time, waiting till the moment was right and…” she stopped when she saw the smiling expression on Angel’s face. “What?”
“It’s not Xander.”
“It’s not?” Cordy repeated, confused. “Oh,” she thought for a moment, “Huh…” she stared at Angel, trying to decipher the look in is eyes. Then it struck her. “Oh!”
Angel nodded with the stunned look in her eyes.
“Oh,” she sighed, not sure of how she felt about the news.
Angel’s head bowed forward and he added softly, “And she’s pregnant.”
“What the fu…?!”
A few days later…
“What on earth is this?” Fred asked as she examined the large stone box positioned in the center of the lab.
“That would be our new pet project,” Knox answered. “Neato, huh? I think it’s some kind of sarcophagus.”
“Must be someone large in there.” He smirked, gesturing to the etchings on the top of the stone. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
“I’m not sure I have time for this, now. Wes has me working on some samples from Mr. Giles. He wants to make sure that his corporeality isn’t temporary.”
“We’ll make time. This is important, Fred.” His serious gaze threw her, she’d not seen such intensity from him before.
“Have you opened it?”
“Nope.” There, the good-humored grin was back. “You get that honor. I’m just the overpriced note taker.”
“Maybe I should call Wes…”
“Um, naw… scratch that. He’s busy with that whole prophecy thing lately. Let’s not bother him. Overachieving type, remember.”
“Um, yeah, you’re probably right. I’ve got to finish Giles’ blood work but I’ll try to get around to this later.”
“Sure…” he offered a disappointed smile. “Later.”
Giles opened his eyes to the statuesque form of Angel standing silently at the end of his bed, face set firm like stone, void of emotion. He didn’t say anything, just stared down at him and Giles wondered if he needed to say something as a way to crack his shell of indifference.
“What do you know about Trakindo Noyal?” Angel asked softly. At least it was something.
Giles thought for a moment. “A demon cult originating from the W’rine region of the Epinshe dimension. Cannibalistic beasts that use humans in their ritualistic sacrifices to their God of war, T’ref.”
“Pretty much what Wes had,” Angel responded concisely. “Up for a bit of action?”
The Watcher didn’t really know the centuries old vampire, at least not as well as Buffy could claim to, but he’d learned how to read some of his more subtle unspoken language. The offer was his way of apologizing, not entirely, but just enough to postpone further discussion until a later time. Giles felt it was enough. He owed Angel his own regret for the way things had gone. So he sat up, feeling only a slight ache from his wound from days before, and gave Angel a confident smirk.
“Thought you’d never ask.”
“Cordelia, how’s it going, adjusting to being back?” Dawn asked, taking a seat cross from her at the cafeteria table.
“Yeah. I’m, um, good. A lot to catch up on.” She suddenly found herself surrounded by her old gang; Xander, Willow , and Buffy along with her old acquaintance, the vengeance demon Anya. The setting, the cafeteria-like lunchroom of Wolfram and Hart, made the scene even more reminiscent of the good old days. “Wow, enter the yesteryear. Hey guys. What’s up?”
“We were hoping you might tell us,” Xander said, taking a seat next to Dawn as the others followed suit.
“Haven’t seen you around. You been busy with Angel?” Willow asked, the slightest hint of suspicion in her tone as she ripped open her bag of cookies and nibbled on one, offering one to Dawn who accepted.
Cordelia glanced over at the distracted Slayer before answering. “Yep. Busy as a bee.”
“It gets that way around here,” Anya said, taking a sip of her diet cola. “But it can get quiet in-between apocalypses.”
“Good to know.” Cordy nodded politely, feeling very nervous about being in the spotlight.
“Who’s Connor?” Dawn asked innocently, crunching into her cookie.
“Oh… he’s… he’s just an old friend, is all. So how are you Buffy? You’re being uncharacteristically quiet. Not very forthcoming with the quick wit and talkativeness I remember. Kinda preoccupied, on account of the baby and all?” Cordelia smiled, pleased at how she’d managed to redirect the focus of the conversation.
“Angel told you?” Buffy glanced uncertainly over at her.
“He doesn’t like to keep things from me. A sort of agreement we have between us,” she’d said it with a spark of jealousy, as if trying to make Buffy aware of how close her and Angel had become. “We had a little talk.”
“I’ve got a lot on my mind,” Buffy answered softly, not wanting to admit her curiosity with Cordelia’s relationship to Angel.
“Who wouldn’t? It’s a colossal step in anyone’s life, having a child,” She agreed, unwilling to admit any more of her personal experience in the matter, thank god for mind sweeping spells. “So when are you and Giles tying the knot then? Spring’s coming and I know some great bridal shops in town?”
“Married?” Buffy squeaked. “Who said anything about marriage?”
“Angel told you about Giles?” Dawn asked carefully then realized Buffy’s overly defensive reaction to the suggestion of marrying Giles. “Wait a second. Why the wiggins over the idea of marrying Giles?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t want to rush into anything,” Buffy said nervously.
“Aren’t we all rushing this a little. I mean, Giles hasn’t proposed or anything,” Willow suggested. ”Has he?”
“No. He hasn’t. Thank god,” Buffy sighed with relief.
“So marrying Giles is rushing things but marrying Angel was all well and good?” Dawn argued.
“Marrying Angel?” Cordelia protested.
“Guess he didn’t tell you everything.” Xander smiled.