Title: Who Said You Only Live Once
Content: c/a is the goal, this is an Highlander cross-over.
Spoilers: ATS- takes place in between S2 and S3 (but- I’ve mentioned things learned in Birthday (S3-); However, the important part- no Connor (baby or otherwise) or reappearance of Darla or Groo or anything remotely S4 - or when Wesley and Fred decided to get eye surgery or contacts thereby not needing their glasses:
Highlander- I don’t know the episodes well enough to say- the series has ended so there is no chance of anyone being ‘spoiled’ but I have included a brief history of certain characters…and the mention of the demon Ahriman was an arch at the end of S5& S6-
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made. Highlander belongs to Gaumount/Davis.
Notes: if you don’t like crossovers or the Highlander you won’t like this- I hope that you’ll give it a chance but I’ll completely understand if you don’t.
Highlander Notes: (brief summary for those that are unaware-the Highlander was a show about Immortals- beings that were immortal except they could be killed by decapitation and their purpose was to live for the ‘gathering’ a final battle that left one with the power of all- main character- Duncan Macleod- Highlander- 450 years old-very nice looking- cool- (OK, my opinion) )
Methos- 5000 years old -yeah- that old. Really a cool character- history- (except- that he was one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Cassandra- almost as old as Methos- the history- Methos with his friends killed her whole village-and I guess her (except she was also an Immortal)
I read from the great feedback that either people know all about the Highlander or barely nothing….this part tells a little more in depth about Immortals. Anything that is wrong- sorry to the purist. I’m going on memory and a quick refreshing from episode guides.
Dedication: Dannyblue - Thanks for reading my spirited ideas- more importantly your encouragement.
Cordelia swore that she would scream if Fred asked one more time if Angel was going to return. Cordelia knew that she would slap the young woman if she followed up Wesley and Gunn’s reassurances with the whining question of when.
Angel had only been gone on his self-imposed grief- working through, working beyond-sabbatical for a week and every friggin day of that week the frightened young woman would scamper downstairs whimper her questions then shoot back upstairs or under the table with tear filled eyes.
Cordelia wasn’t completely unsympathetic. Fred had been through a lot. Five years of living in a cave as a fugitive after being a slave in Plyea wasn’t exactly first class treatment at club med. But DAMN'T, the young woman had survived, didn’t that indicate even just a little that Fred had some sort of back bone and sense. But if the physicist librarian had any steel in her it disappeared as soon as Angel left to go on his grief trip. Fred’s constant flitting around, jumping at every sound, starry-eyed gaze whenever Angel’s name was spoken, and her whining about the lack of the source of her hero worship was getting on Cordelia’s every last nerve. It was making the pounding of her head even more violent. Cordelia wished the young woman back to the hidden depths of her room and her fairytale walls.
Cordelia groaned and ran to hide in basement from the sight of Wesley and Gunn trying to tempt Fred from under the table with promises of tacos and Angel’s return. The boys could handle Fred- they seemed to want too.
Cordelia kicked at the stone floor, swinging Angel’s sword in a half haphazard motion. Angel never did say whether he’d teach her to fight. She tossed the weapon back on the bench and slumped down in the near by chair. Cordelia grimaced rubbing her face, forcing the pounding in her head to a manageable level. She chewed on one of the pills that now seemed her constant companion.
It wasn’t Fred’s persistent questions that were trying her nerves. It was the fact that Cordelia had them also that was driving her as nutty as the physicist-that and everything else. Angel promised he would be back but Cordelia wasn’t so confident. It was Buffy grief that they were talking about. Cordelia hoped that Angel was taking the time to do what he said- work his way through his sorrow. But, Cordelia wasn’t positive that he wasn’t just wallowing in his guilt and allowing his brood inclination to convince him that there was no hope in their mission or no reason to continue to try to embrace his humanity or god forbid he blamed her.
Damn, Cordelia and Angel had just gotten back to a friendship that she could revel in and believe and would’ve trusted with her new founded fears. But Noooo, another blonde trauma had to go and ruin it.
Cordelia knocked her head back on the wall, triggering a flare in her headache. Quickly with practiced ease, Cordelia squelched the burning down. God. How bitchy and selfish could she be? She was blaming Buffy for saving the world and dying, preventing Angel’s strong arms from encircling Cordelia and telling her everything would be okay.
Cordelia’s thoughts drifted back to her conversation with Xander. It had been awkward at first but she couldn’t avoid calling him. Cordelia knew that if she felt a sense of loss at the slayer’s death than her former boyfriend must have been truly devastated. Those were the truths she lived with, Angel loved Buffy, Xander loved Buffy- everyone loved Buffy.
Cordelia shook her head, relieving her skull from the ache and resentment. She didn’t want to feel bitter about the blonde young woman and her everlasting grip over the hearts of the men that Cordelia had loved and loved now. Cordelia didn’t want to give blame or accept any. It was life in all of its glorious unfairness, live with it, deal with it, and die with it-that was Cordelia’s motto.
Cordelia twirled her fingers against her temples, no matter her inner turmoil she did believe what she told Angel and Xander- Buffy’s death was horrible, but it hadn’t been wasted. Buffy died protecting the world and those she loved. Buffy needed to be grieved- yes, but she also needed to honored by those she loved by continuing to live and fight the good fight. Cordelia could only hope her own death would be so worthwhile.
Cordelia didn’t know if either man had heard her. She wasn’t sure that Xander even believed her attempts to comfort him, fortunately, Cordelia did know Angel had believed the sincerity in her words, he just hadn't reacted, just stared at her- his expression unreadable before telling her that he needed this time alone- away from her. Okay. Angel hadn’t actually said that last part, but it was obvious in his broody silence. The sudden hurt that sprung up at that realization had surprised Cordelia. She hadn't realized how much she wanted Angel to need her or how much she needed him beside her. God, in his guilt over Buffy’s death would he blame her? He hadn't been there to save Buffy because he was off in another dimension saving Cordelia.
"Errgh" Cordelia sighed out loud, yanking her hands from her head. The pain was manageable and hiding wasn't the answer, neither was self-blame. Willow had said that neither Buffy nor any of the Sunnydale gang had called Angel for help. They thought they could do it own their own and Buffy did, she just died. It wasn’t Cordelia’s fault for standing too close too whatever magic weird mishap that thrust her into Plyea. It wasn’t Angel’s for following to save her. He didn’t know there was a choice to be made- her or Buffy. Cordelia hid her head in her hands. She could never question what Angel’s choice would’ve been if he had known; and pray that he never did either. The answer could kill her.
Angel said he'd return and he that he did believe in the mission. Cordelia had to believe him. Angel needed her- she was vision girl after all. Cordelia silently sighed. She just hoped he remembered that she was his friend too. The young woman rose to her feet, pain managed and resolve solid for that moment.
Cordelia glanced around, grateful to see Fred sitting at the table rather than under it. The young woman actually seemed to be participating in a disjointed conversation with Wesley and Gunn.
Good, maybe now, Wesley could concentrate on solving their new case.
"Any luck on figuring out how to rid the Cleavers of- Cleavers can you believe it. I almost choked when the guy said his name was Ward- who thought someone would actually name his or her child Ward Cleaver.... I guess it could have been worse- Beaver anyone?"
"That just sounds nasty," Gunn made a face.
Cordelia rolled her eyes, "Gutter mind."
"Uh," Fred looked up in confused interest.
"Nothing, Fred," Wesley shook his head disapprovingly. "Yes, Cordy, actually, I've discovered a potion that will rid the Beaver...I mean the Cleavers' basement of all the Gorgon larvae. We just need some Xelent root."
"I'll go." Cordelia held out her hand.
"You'll go to a herb shop?"
"Why not, it's the only shopping I get to do now a days." Cordelia was happy for an errand that got her out of the hotel. Sitting around thinking and worrying about Angel was making her anxious and depressed, which was making her testy. If she didn't get her mind straight and under control or Angel didn't come back soon or at least send word, she was afraid that she would descend into true bitch mode. No one needed that. Cordelia quickly chewed another pill.
Cordelia browsed through the magic shop taking her time. Some of the crystals were pretty. Cordelia sighed as she put the shiny purple stone back. Wesley had practically ripped the lovely crystal she had bought off her neck and lectured her endlessly the last time she gave into the urge to by a piece of jewelry at a magic shop. It hadn't been her fault- how was she supposed to know that the necklace was a conduit for dark magic, the clerk hadn't told her. All Cordelia knew was that she could afford it and that it went perfectly with her new blouse.
Cordelia wandered over to the herb bins. Yuck, not so pretty all roots and no leaves or flowers. She fingered the dried gnarly Xentel root. Damn, they were expensive. Cordelia glanced back at Wesley's instructions. There went the rest of their not so much petty cash. Cordelia made a mental note to add the cost to the Cleaver’s final bill.
Cordelia turned. Her spine was tingling. Someone was staring at her. Cordelia’s gaze narrowed on the figures of two men. Her beginning glare turned appreciative. They both were very good looking. One, dangerously so, in the Angel-type way, all dark striking looks draped in a leather duster. His hair was longer than Cordelia usually liked, but the neat ponytail fit the man, just has the coat fit his broad shoulders and his dark eyes- they held as much knowledge and secrets as Angel's did, if not more, though the stranger's eyes looked liked they had laughed a whole helluva lot more- maybe even enjoyed life a few thousand times. Angel’s eyes couldn’t say that- the ensouled vampire dark eyes were too quick to cloud in his patented guilt broody mode. Cordelia drew her eyes away from the man to the other's companion. His eyes were similar in feel and content to the other, really 'old'- but not tired old, just knowing old. He was good looking as well, but not in the same striking way as the darker man, but in that kinda really cool scholarly way, he reminded Cordelia a bit of Wesley. Though, Wesley wasn't even close too being as comfortable in his skin as the stranger. This guy had confidence in his strengths. Wesley still had a lot to learn.
Cordelia scrunched up her face trying to guess their ages, both seemed several years older than her friends or at least in Angel’s case older than his physical appearance. Cordelia chuckled; trying to imagine how either man would look if they were actually 250 years old. Yeah, right, she got it-dead. Still, it was hard too guess. They faces were smooth but their eyes were full of so much experience giving the men an ease of confidence associated with much older and successful men, those two would’ve brought her father and his business partners to their knees in shame. Cordelia frowned again. Their eyes really did remind her of Angel’s when he was just remembering all that he had seen in his advanced life but not reliving the experience and guilt of Angelus.
Cordelia diverted her glance, blushing slightly, as the men caught her staring. Hey. There was no reason for her to be embarrassed they had started it. She had turned back to challenge their stares, but the men had moved their attention to the old books.
Cordelia looked at the men's backs. They were talking in a low whisper. Cordelia was curious about what they were saying. Were they talking about her? Oh. Nevermind. Cordelia went back to the bin of Xentel's. Strange men in an occult shop weren't her idea of quality dating material- no matter how good-looking or intriguing. They were probably evil or something. She just hoped that they had been staring because they thought she was attractive rather than a good choice of victim material for whatever evil ritual or thing they probably were planning. Cordelia shook off her interest and bought the necessary amount of Xentel. The sooner she got out of there, the sooner they could complete the Cleaver job and the sooner they could get paid.
"Are you sure?" Duncan said to his companion once Cordelia left the shop.
"Yeah." Methos continued to browse the book titles. He looked up when he sensed Duncan preparing to leave the shop. "Mac, what are you doing?"
"We should follow her."
"If she's a Pre-immortal...."
"What about it?"
"She needs to be..."
"What? Hand held? Mac, I can sense them, but I have no clue when she's going to experience her first death. Explaining to her before that wouldn't do any good except freak her out."
"I know she’s beautiful and you’re chivalrous,” Methos rolled his eyes. “But, Duncan, not every damsel needs to be saved. Anyway, we here for a reason, though I can’t see why Cassandra couldn’t do this little errand herself. Russia has airports. Another damesl you just had to help, uh. What a joke that is- Cassandra a helpless damsel.”
Duncan shot a look a look his friend. “She wants the book on Baba Yaga for her research and I don’t remember her asking you to help her. For that matter, I don’t remember asking for your company.”
“I was bored. Anyway, I like the idea of Cass across the globe writing an encopledia on Slavic witches and myths. If she’s preoccupied then she will be less likely to remember that she really hates me and wants my head. “
“She’s given up her revenge, Methos.”
“This cenurty. Damn. I can’t find it in these stacks. Are you sure this is the right store? Let’s…” Methos looked up as Duncan headed for the store clerk. Methos nodded following glad that Duncan was back to thinking about their orginal purpose. Methos had found that the many years his head remained attached to his body correlated to a major extent to the many times that he minded his own business.
Methos satisfaction took on a pessimistic spin when instead of asking about the book, Duncan asked about the young woman who had just left.
Methos shook his head. His ‘mind your own business’ rule was long adhered to, there were only a handful people that he would violate it for, if that many. However, the immortal highlander was one of them. Methos resigned himself to Duncan’s new quest even though he had a bad feeling that it was going to be a lot more complicated and involved than picking up a book for Cassandra.
The clerk’s eyes narrowed over the tortoise rims of his glasses.
“I’ve never seen you in here before. Who are you?” Walter asked suspiciously.
It wasn’t that he believed his client list was sacrosanct. But, the Bandox demon had a healthy respect for Angel. If Walter gave up any information about any of the vampire’s humans and harm came to them and the vampire found out, Walter would be out of business in one simultaneous beat of his two hearts. And the woman in question- sheesh, from what Walter heard on the street, anything happened to her, that one echoing beat would be stopped by his hearts being ripped out by way of his throat. Then again, Walter looked at the stack of business cards he displayed religiously by the register. Cordelia Chase had threatened on the pain of siccing the vampire on him to not only display Angel Investigations business cards but also to drop them in every customers bag before they left. Walter had to admire Cordelia Chase. She did what she promised, lying, but getting her point across.
He had refused indignantly after Cordelia refused to give him a kick back on any business generated. Walter quickly changed his mercantile mind when the next night, the vampire barged in the store frightening all his customers and threatening Walter’s life and every limb for hitting on his young employee. Walter shouted through choked breath that it wasn’t true. Even mentioning that the woman while okay was human and therefore only had two breast- Bandox females had four, why would he want the deficient human. Questioning the woman’s attractiveness caused Walther to be breathing out of his mouth for two weeks as his nose was broken. The vampire seemed to be violently bothered that Walter knew how many breasts the woman had.
Walter had put the business cards up the next day after the vampire’s visit. He also began to admire the woman more as a few months later, Cordelia offered him a small percentage of the business his actions brought the agency. It hadn’t been a large amount of money, but Walter admired her actions and she continued the payments every subsequent few months. The young woman knew the value of strong persuasion and compensation to others, abet it small. She’d have made an excellent Bandox, except for the two-breast thing, which if asked Walter knew nothing about, regardless of the snug shirts the young woman had a habit of wearing.
All of which meant, Walter was in a dilemma. If these strangers turned out to be bad guys and had plans to harm the young woman, Angel would kill him. But, if they were customers in need of Angel Investigation’s services and Cordelia found out that he turned them away, she would somehow get the vampire to damage him and Walter knew she would find out, Cordelia had an eerie talent for knowing when he’d forgotten to give a customer a card. And it was more than that she counted every card left when she came to restock and pay him, she some how calculated those that were gone with an amazingly accurate count against how many customers that had come in. That girl could smell profit.
Walter glanced up. The bigger guy was looking ready to burst, the other looked like he could care less. But the pony-tailed guy looked the more dangerous. Walter smiled- he had an idea.
Both men rolled their eyes. “And how much will whatever we ‘buy’ cost us.” The more dangerous asked contemptuously.
Walter pursed his lips. “How would I know until you pick it out? You were looking at the books. Find anything? No. Okay. Here.” Picking up a small-shriveled head key chain. “No special power but it does raise eyebrows. Five dollars.”
Methos took the key chain over Duncan’s glare.
“You’ll tell us for five dollars?”
“I give you what you need if you buy something, I don’t care what. What book were you looking for?”
“The Text of Baba Yaga”
“Ah, the Slav witch; one of the more popular powers in the Central and Eastern Mythology. Some call her a practitioner of the black magic, some claim she has links to the goddess of life, death and rebirth, the evil of her powers determined by those that call for it. Whichever, that book contains many spells and better yet, we’ve got no problem here.” Walter smiled and then frowned. “You better buy something just in case, got to cover my bases and protect my arms and legs from Angel.”
“You want the key chain?”
“Do you have the book?”
“Nope, sold it last week.”
“Fine.” Methos pulled a bill and slammed it on the counter.
“Very good purchase. Like I said no powers, more of tourist thing, but good enough for your particular questions.” Walter rang up the item, putting it in the bag, throwing an Angel Investigation card in it before handing it to the men.
“What was that?”
“That was this,” Walter held up one of the remaining cards in the holder for their inspection. “The young lady that was previously here and I have a standing arrangement, I keep them on prominent display for her and she keeps the…Angel form hurting me. She works there.”
“Angel Investigations? The Angel that you seem scared of?”
Walter grunted. “He’s known to be violent over certain things, the safety of his employees-that girl in particular- very violent. But, they do run a detective agency for those with special needs.”
“Like finding the book you’re looking far. Which shouldn’t be hard since Wesley, who I heard was now the boss, don’t understand how that happened, Cordelia has the business sense and Angel the enforcing manner, but then again I hear tell Wesley’s the brains. He does seem to know his stuff.”
“Since this brainy guy of Angel Investigations did what?” Methos commented realizing that the man hadn’t answered any of the questions about the book’s whereabouts.
“Oh, bought the book you want. He thought some of the spells looked interesting. He’s always buying books.”
Methos shook his head in the wind produced by the fast going convertible. “Looks like we’ll getting involved with your damsel.”
“Methos, she needs someone with her when it happens. The not understanding can drive a person crazy or get them killed.”
“Duncan, immortals have survived the changing fine without a babysitter. Mentors are found or not. Ritchie was more unique than the usual, especially since you didn’t know that he would become an immortal. You cared for him, taught him and…“
“Then killed him.” Duncan said roughly.
“Duncan, that wasn’t your fault and you know it. But, even so, you just may have had to kill him eventually. It’s the nature of the game. There can only be one.”
Duncan slammed his fist against the steering wheel.
Methos looked out over the fast passing horizon. Methos had been a killer, not a warrior, not one that fought for a cause, but just because he could, he continued his lifestyle after becoming an immortal. He had only stopped when he had been tired of it all. Those years were unimaginable to someone like MacLeod, the killing for pleasure not for honor or defense, consciously being the epitome of evil. The Highlander, the warrior, was so damn honorable and after all this time still so naive.
Methos sighed. He had spent thousands of years avoiding, hiding, just surviving, making no more connections with mortals and immortals than he had to, forgetting that living held an excitement of its own. Then he met Duncan at the height of his weariness. The Highlander had refused to take his head- that one act of mercy drew Methos to the other Immortal and that’s when Methos was reminded that there was more to living than just making it through another millennium.
Methos looked over to his friend. Someday, Methos may be destined to fight Duncan. He would regret that day but he would do his damnest to win, because ultimately, Methos would always want to survive. He chuckled. Methos would lose.
Duncan with all of his nobility and caring was also a survivor but more importantly he had one of the best sword arms Methos had ever seen. Five thousands years of use and technique didn’t quite beat the fire of a warrior’s heart and strength of pure talent. If Duncan were too die it would be because he was broken and the naiveté that made him strong was destroyed. Methos didn’t particualarly want to see the day another Immortal took Duncan’s head- which was why he was concerned about Duncan’s interest in the pre-immortal. Duncan almost broke when he killed Ritchie, his student, his friend and his family. It didn’t matter that it was under the influence of a demon, not Duncan’s own actions. Duncan was able to recover, but if he were inclined to take this new pre-immortal under his guidance, Duncan would be vulnerable again.
Cordelia strode into the hotel, the bag of gnarly and smelly roots in her hand, her nose pinched at the odor. “Wesley,” she whined. God not only was it was expensive it stunk to high heavens. Cordelia just knew that its particular aroma was permanently entrenched in every fiber of her clothes and her headache was back.
“Wonderful, good.” Wesley grabbed the bag immediately.
“How long will it take?” Cordelia yelled after the retreating man. Visions of dry cleaning and bills being paid tumbled through her mind.
“Now that we have the Xentel, moments.” Wesley slammed his office door shut.
Cordelia narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. “Have you ever wondered why he is always so happy to lock himself up alone in that little room?”
“No.” Fred peeked around the corner.
“Yeah.” Gunn tried to tone done his agreement for the shy Plyean refugee’s benefit.
“Hmmph.” Cordelia went to the magazine on her desk, slipping another pill into her mouth.
“Eureka.” A loud voice pierced the walls.
“Brain guy’s done it again,” Gunn got up and headed for the weapons cabinet.
“Choose another less cheesy word, wouldch’ya,” Cordelia said over her shoulder to Wesley as she took the small sword that Gunn handed her.
“Cordy, where do you think you are going.” Wesley’s self-satisfied expression dimmed as he walked out into the lobby.
“To ‘Eureka’ baby Gordons, duh.”
“I’m not sure that is wise.” Wesley hesitated. Angel, before he had left, had taken Wesley aside and emphasized that no matter what Cordelia was to be safe at all times- and since Angel wouldn’t be there that meant she was not allowed in any shape or form to be involved in any of the more dangerous aspects of their upcoming cases- Cordelia was to remain safe. Actually, as Wesley thought back, Angel’s statement could’ve have been easily construed as a threat. But since Wesley and Angel were friends, Wesley liked to think of it as a very strong urging.
“Don’t care. Whatcha going do to about it?” Cordelia smiled, swing her small sword.
Wesley concentrated for a moment on Angel’s instructions; Angel had been pretty uncompromising in his tone and expression. It would probably be better not to take Cordelia out on their more ‘active’ cases. He and Gunn should be able to handle a bit of Gordon larva without a third person.
“ Cordy, the office shouldn’t be left unattended. Someone should stay an answer the phones.” Wesley tried.
“Yoo-hoo, new member of AI, right down stairs, physics major even, bet she knows how to answer the phones,” Cordelia shot a look towards Fred.
Fred smiled back until she figured out what Cordelia was saying. “I ….I…. I…. don’t…. I “
“Pick up…or don’t, we’ve an answering machine.” Cordelia bit her lip. She was going on this job. God forbid, she just sat and did nothing. It was bad enough, that Angel’s absence seemed to herald the no vision time. Cordelia inwardly grumbled. Why couldn't the constant headache go away for as long as she remained vision-free? Whatever. Cordelia wasn't going to be totally useless. “Fred, maybe Angel will call.”
“Do you think he will?” Fred gazed at the telephone reverently.
“Got to stay downstairs and answer the phone to find out.” Cordelia smiled sweetly.
“I’ll do it.” Fred stood up with a burst of confidence.
Gee, that was a surprise. Cordelia directed the roll of her eyes to the opposite wall.
Wesley inwardly tensed. He knew he had many flaws but stupidity wasn’t one of them. If he even suggested that Cordelia wasn’t able to handle the job or god forbid Angel had ordered her to remain out of the fighting, Cordelia would go out and fight every vampire, demon and thug within the LA borders. She would get herself killed trying to prove them wrong. Wesley sighed. He was letting his fear at Cordelia’s recent disappearance into Pylea as well as Angel’s slow reassertion of his authority within Angel Investigations affect his judgment.
Angel may have rejoined them, but Wesley was the boss now and Wesley saw, even if Angel didn’t, that Cordelia was an able addition in the field. Well as long as she stayed far a field. Anyway, Angel wasn’t there. He was away mourning Buffy.
Well, life and business went on and Cordy was a part of all that, an important qualified part. If she wanted to go, she had earned the right to go.
“Very well.” Wesley nodded. “But,” he added,” if fighting occurs you will do as we say.”
“Fine, as long as it isn’t telling me to run and hide,” she glared.
“Damn’t girl, run.” Gunn shouted as he swung his axe at the emerging Gordon.
“I haven’t finished the enchantment.” Cordelia yelled in between frantic recitations of butchered Latin. Damn, this was Wesley’s area of expertise. Cordelia threw more of the potion at the large spiny razor-edged beast busting through the slimy wrapped cocoon. Did Gordon’s have to come out fully-grown and deadly?
“Too late. Baby's grown and swinging.” Gunn rolled as the demon pushed at his weapon.
“Hide.” Wesley yelled to Cordelia as he jumped onto the creatures back, his knife plunging into shoulders.
“NO.” Cordelia threw down the pouch and ran towards the demon swinging her sword.
The Gordon jerked to the side, one of his three heads biting at Wesley, driving the man loose from its back while its barbed tail kept Gunn at bay.
Cordelia nimbly darted in between the beast’s gouging claws, her sword striking at its neck. She screamed as the beast’s tail swung again, this time curling and driving a spike straight through her. The beast wailed as Cordelia’s physical reaction to its onslaught drove her sword deeper and wider. The demon fell to the floor as her sword thrust clean through. The beast shuddered in death, its huge body covering the young woman’s.
“Christ.” Gunn dragged his legs away from the fallen creature. “Cordy.” He yelled scrambling back to the grotesque body. Wesley joined the black man as he shoved and tugged the huge lifeless body away.
“Oh god,” Wesley said weakly. Cordelia lay motionless; the demon’s tail spike had ripped through her chest, leaving nothing but gaping flesh and a puddle of blood.
“Hospital,” he gasped as he yanked her smaller form into his arms.
Gunn nodded, leading the way grumbling nonsense and curses to the Cleavers as he passed them in the living room, running to the truck.
“Oh dear; oh dear.” Fred mumbled dropping the phone on the counter.
“What is it?”
Fred’s eyes darted quickly to the strange men in the lobby. “Oh dear.” They were still there. She told them that Wesley or Cordelia weren’t there. She told them that she would take a message. She even showed them the pad and pen she would use, but the men hadn’t left. They made her nervous. The whole being alone in the big hotel made her nervous. But now this. No, she wouldn’t fall apart. Fred straightened her shoulders. “You have to leave. There’s been an emergency. Try back in a few days.”
“This is impor….”
Fred stood even straighter, her fingers nudging at her glasses. “No. This is an emergency, whatever your problem is it can wait.” Fred’s resolve to remain strong was faltering as she looked wildly around. “I can’t drive. I…call a cab. Just call a cab. You can do that,” she said harshly to herself. She yanked at the phone book. Damn the words were all a blur. Where were her glasses? Her hand shot back up to the plastic frames. Oh god, tears. She was crying. “Can you call me a cab? I need a cab, NOW.” She swung around to the strangers the phone book dropping to the floor as she wrung her hands.
“Yes. What is it?” Duncan said quietly, trying to soothe the increasingly agitated young woman.
“Cordelia, she’s….Wesley and Gunn have taken her to the hospital, she’s dying. She can’t die not without Angel here. He’s not going to like this.” Fred rubbed hard making her sniffling nose even redder. “I don’t like this. I need a cab.”
Duncan shot a look to Methos, his silent intense gaze questioning and demanding.
Methos took a deep breath. “We’ll take you. What hospital?”
Fred instinctively huddled into the sides of the men that escorted her into the emergency room. The place was crowed and loud. The painful voices of the people settled into the seats or lying on the waiting gurneys scared her. There was too much commotion. Fred bit her lip. Fred straightened trying to gather any confidence that she had ever been blessed with prior to her five years in the hell dimension.
“There.” She pointed and started to run.
Fred skidded to a stop bumping into Methos as he came up behind her.
“Cordelia,” she squeaked to the crying bespectacled man and the angry black man huddled over the still form of the woman she called for.
“Dead.” Gunn said as he clinched his teeth to keep the roar from coming forth.
“No.” Fred whispered moving closer. “She can’t be. Angel won’t…She can’t be dead.” Fred said louder, staring disbelieving at the bloody motionless form before her.
Wesley straightened. “Fred. You shouldn’t have….” He looked back at Cordelia lying on the gurney. “Oh god.” His hand crept closer grasping the cold digits of the young woman. “What did I do? Cordy,” he clutched with his other hand hoping that his combined grip would bring Cordelia’s cold one warmth.
Methos looked away from the sad scene, studying the confusion of the emergency room. “When did she die?”
“What? Who are you?” Wesley’s head shot up.
Gunn moved closer his anger at Cordelia’s death directed now at the strange man.
“When? Just now? Or before? Fred got your phone call 20 minutes ago, when?”
“It doesn’t matter, we have to go now,” Duncan leaned up pulling down Cordelia’s shirt and facing the other immortal.
“Don’t touch her again or you’re dead.” Gunn moved aggressively towards Duncan.
Methos turned to Duncan grabbing at the black man’s shoulder bringing Gunn to a stop but otherwise ignoring him. “Already?”
“Soon, we’ve got to get her out of here.” Duncan shot a glance at Wesley. “Did you check her in?”
“What?” Wesley was too dazed. Cordelia was dead. Who were the strange men? What did they want? Did it matter? Did anything matter? Cordelia was dead.
“Did you check her in? Tell a doctor her name, fill out any forms?” Duncan repeated urgently.
“I…” Wesley winced. “Cordy was dead on arrival, they shoved her over here. They were coming back to get her information but then a shoot out happened on the West Boulevard- they said they were too busy. They’d get to it later. They just left her here. They left Cordy.” Anger, disgust and sorrow coated Wesley’s choked words.
Duncan nodded. “Good.” He bent down picking Cordelia’s body up in his arms.
“What? Stop.” Wesley moved forward.
Methos moved quickly. “She doesn’t need to be here. “
“Cordelia’s dead.” Wesley said his confusion as apparent as his sorrow and anger.
Duncan’s eyes saddened at the anguish of the other man’s cry. “Yes. But, she will be fine. Come, we have to leave here. Will go back to your hotel.”
Gunn gasped a breath. “Who? What? Wes, man?”
“I don’t know” Wesley ran following the figure that held Cordelia’s lifeless body.
Gunn slammed his fist on the steering wheel. His curse died in his throat as he noticed that his anger was making Fred even more nervous. The young woman was pressed up to the passenger side door, sniffling quiet tears.
But, god he was furious. Cordelia was dead. Gunn remembered his first impression of the young woman. What had he called her? A Skinny White Beauty Queen and a Stick Figure Barbie. Gunn had been right about the beauty, but everything else about the young woman had been very wrong. Cordelia was as strong as she was beautiful, both surpassed by her genuine compassion and belief in the mission to help others.
He halted his fist’s descent towards the dashboard. Who were those men? Why had they moved in taking control?
Gunn turned to the young woman huddled in the corner of the truck. Fred had entered the hospital with them. “Fred, who were those guys?”
The young woman gulped as Gunn’s attention was focused on her. She fidgeted and tried to tell what little she knew.
Wesley bit his lip, stopping his questions. The men that had confiscated Cordelia’s body and the subsequent moments of his life weren’t saying a word. Wesley kept glancing at the still form of his friend. His sorrow was interposed with anger at the sight of the strange man cradling Cordelia’s lifeless body in the backseat of the strange car. Who were those men? How was Wesley going to tell Angel? Wesley slumped in his seat. Wesley didn’t even want to guess at Angel’s reaction at the news of Cordelia’s death. Why did he believe that it would be of a more violent nature than his response to the death of Buffy? Wesley wasn’t even sure how to get a hold of the vampire. This was a nightmare that needed to end soon.
Wesley was torn between shooting questions at the dark man that placed Cordelia on Angel’s bed or arguing and pleading with the dead woman to wake up.
Methos pulled at Duncan as Wesley pushed to take the man’s place on the bed.
“This is not a good idea.”
“Leaving her there was?” Duncan harshly whispered. “Waking up in a hospital that had declared her dead wouldn’t have been discreet. The emergency room was a mad house, they've probably already forgotten about her.”
“Okay, sure, but now we will have to tell not only her but her friends. If I show up in a super market tabloid…”
“I’ll make sure that they classify you as an ‘alien’.”
“I’m comforted.” Methos rolled his eyes.
Wesley leaned back letting Cordelia’s cold hand fall to the bed. “Who are you? Why are you here?” Wesley turned solemnly to the two men.
“Wes.” Gunn barged in the room, Fred close behind.
“I believe that we are about to get an explanation of the recent events or so I hope”. Wesley gave a discreet nod towards the axe Charles was carrying.
Gunn returned the nod moving his axe in obvious view.
Duncan and Methos eyed the weapon. The implied threat was obvious and one they could defeat if it became necessary but neither wanted it to come to that.
“My name is Duncan MacLeod, this is Methos,” the pony tailed man indicated making his decision quickly. “You’re friend, Cordelia Chase is an Immortal that has just experienced her first death. She will live.” Duncan glanced back at the still form. Duncan hoped that a quick telling would help dissipate the tension in the room. The mortals many questions surely would alleviate the growing hostility that was being directed towards he and Methos.
The asked and unasked questions turned to gasps as Wesley, Gunn and Fred stared at Cordelia.
The exclamations rose higher in volume as Cordelia choked and her body jerked to sit up. The young woman blinked taking in her surroundings and the occupants of the room. Her eyes clasped onto to Wesley’s. “Why am I…I’m alive.”
Cordelia struggled, her eyes searching under the bloody and torn t-shirt she was wearing. “Wesley, I was killed…..I…” her hands feeling for the wound that she knew had torn her flesh before everything went black, the wound that was no longer there.
Wesley nodded, his eyes following her hands. “I…” Wesley looked up. A smile took over his confusion. “You’re not.” He exclaimed, pulling the young woman into a tight hug.
“I’m alive.” Cordelia blinked.
“You’re alive.” Wesley chuckled grabbing the woman into another hug.
“Whoa.” Gunn moved closer.
“Wow.” Fred pushed at her glasses and tittered on her heels. “Angel won’t be upset now.”
“Uh.” Everyone turned questioningly towards the young woman.
“Cordelia’s not dead. Angel would’ve been upset if he came back and she was dead, but Cordy’s not. See.” Fred pointed to Cordelia as the young woman pushed herself up. Fred shrugged. Geez. It was obvious. Angel wouldn’t be upset now or have to run off, leaving them again to grieve. Cordelia was alive. Fred shrugged again.
Wesley nodded as Gunn jerked his head, both men agreeing and grateful that particular conversation with Angel would never have to take place.
“Yoo-hoo,” Cordelia waved her hands,” thoughts off the guy who isn’t here, back to me- who is- and who happens to be alive when I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be- even if I should be, I’ve been gutted before. It hurt a lot longer than now. And why are the mysterious duo from the magic shop here,” her moving hand stopped to point at Duncan and Methos.
“ Did you do this,” her eyes rested suspiciously on the strange men. “Did you follow me? Am I a victim of some sort of weird ritual or something? Have you resurrected me as a monster or some demony evil thing?” Cordelia’s eyes widened as her hands and gaze traveled along her body. “I don’t feel like a monster. Do I look like one?” her hands went to brush her face. “Can you tell if I’m all evilly? Or are Gorgon’s like vamps, did it kill me only to turn me into…Auk,” her hands clamped on either side of her head. “I’ve only one head. Wesley, explain.” Cordelia called to her friend in increasing panic.
Wesley rubbed at his face. “I’m not sure, Cordelia. These men…” Wesley narrowed his eyes. “You followed Cordelia? Why?”
Gunn moved closer his axe pushing at the air around the Immortals. “Fred said they came asking about you and Cordy.”
Methos raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “The word ‘following’ connotes something unsavory in nature and nothing could be further from the truth. Duncan and I did see Cordelia in the magic shop earlier today. We were there searching for a book that a friend of ours, well more like an acquaintance in my case wants for some research she’s doing. While there, I noticed that Cordelia was a pre-immortal and we found out that Wesley bought the book we were looking for. The store clerk informed us that both Wesley and Cordelia were associates of Angel Investigations. So we came, found out from Fred that Cordelia was injured and going to the hospital. We thought we could help. All very simple, really.” Methos smiled his hands and stance still maintaining its original submissive posture.
“No, not really, not at all.” Cordelia scooted up studying the men closely. “What’s a pre-immortal and what do you mean sensed?”
“An Immortal that hasn’t experienced his or hers first death.” Wesley answered.
Cordelia shot a look to the man. “You knew? What do you know? Am I a demon now?”
“Only that. Methos was, I hope, about to explain more fully, but then you woke up and we got understandably distracted.” Wesley smiled.
“Oh. I guess that’s pretty distracting. Methos?” She looked at the two strangers.
Methos raised his hand identifying himself to the young woman. “And this is Duncan McLeod.”
“So, start explaining, Methos….Methos what? Do you have last name, he does..You said so..” Cordelia pointed to Duncan. “Why don’t you have one…in my experience only pop stars, models, vampires and certain demons only have “one name”. You’re cute, but not pop star material. Are you a vampire? Are they vampires or some other demon?” Cordelia shot a look to Wesley.
“Doubtful... about being vampires, I mean,” Fred piped in. “They both came with me to the hospital. He drove,” Fred pointed to Duncan. “ A convertible….” She pushed at her glasses. “It looked like Angel’s car. But the sun was out. Vampires can’t go out in the sun, right? Like they can’t come in without being invited….and here they are in Angel's room. Did you invite them in?" She nudged her glasses at Wesley.
“Fred,” Wesley held up a hand to gently stop her next flow of words. “Not vampires. As for demons,” Wesley turned and studied the men. “There are several species that can mimic human form, for example….”
“Wesley, I’ll I asked was were they demons. It’s a yes or no question, not an invite to go into lecture mode. Geez. I’m alive again, no reason to bore me too death.”
“Really, Cordelia, I find it very unsettling that you take demon research so lightly, considering it’s your JOB.”
“I’m not RESEARCH Girl, I’m VISION Girl.” She stuck her tongue out at her friend.
“Cordelia, it’s gratifying that death has given you a new founded maturity.”
“Hmmph.” She scowled then suddenly got wide eyed again. “Wes, I died.”
Her friend hurried back to Cordelia’s side, grabbing her wringing hands. “I know, but you’re alive.” Wesley smiled gently. “And I’m very grateful for that.”
Cordelia nodded, straightening her shoulders and facing the two Immortals. “I don’t think you’re demons but what are you and what am I and why is my head buzzing like crazy.”
“Audio hallucinations are a sign of mental illness. Maybe you are crazy?”
“What?” Cordelia shot to Fred. “Calling the kettle a little black, isn’t she,” turning to whisper to Wesley.
“Shh, Cordy.” Wesley chastised.
Methos leaned into to Duncan’s side. “I told you this was a bad idea. They’re all nuts or worse.”
Duncan didn’t bother to answer his friend. “Methos and I are Immortals, like you, Cordelia. The buzzing signals the presence of another Immortal. Pre-Immortal merely means you hadn’t had your first death yet. Methos, because of his age could sense you before then.”
“Immortal? Immortal what?” Wesley studied the two men.
“What- What? We’re Immortal.”
Wesley shook his head. “Beings aren’t just Immortal- Immortality is a characteristic for certain demons, for example- vampires, and other magical or supernatural creatures.” Wesley narrowed his eyes trough the rims of his glasses. “Or individuals that have access to dark powers and magic, rituals that require human sacrifices, primarily innocent infants and the bargaining of the individuals soul- why were you in the magic shop again.”
“Hey man, no dark magic or baby sacrificing done here.” Gunn moved closer his axe on prominent display.
“Great, just great.” Methos rolled his eyes,” Duncan, your good deed is going to get us killed.”
“Ha.” Fred pointed accusingly. “You said you were immortal, but you just said we could kill you, so you’re not immortal.”
“Fred, immortal beings can be killed, you just have to know how.” Wesley corrected. For example, Cyclopsit- pierce their third eye, Bowinons- cut the horn located on the fifth vertebra…vampires, ….”
“Wesley, shut up.” Cordelia rolled her eyes.
“I was merely…”
“Of course.” Fred nodded. “I should’ve thought about that.”
“It’s all right, girl, you’re still getting used to all the weird shit that happens around here. Nothing is ever normal.” Gunn said encouragingly. “And, I didn’t know about the eye and horn guys either, and I’ve been hanging around the craziness for awhile now.”
“Yes, but I did know about vampires. I should have used that knowledge as a basis for my conclusion, if I had I would’ve come to the same conclusion as Wesley and not made such a silly statement.” Fred pushed up her glasses.
“Guys, be quiet.” Cordelia yelled. “Geez, look I know I was a little freaky before, but I think its safe to assume Methos and Duncan aren't some followers of black magic.”
“How can we be sure?” Wesley continued to scrutinize the pair.
“They’re missing the requisite black robes and sacrificing baby.”
“This isn’t a joking matter, Cordy.”
“Who was joking?” Cordelia sighed.
“Excuse me.” Duncan held up his hand. “Exactly what does Angel Investigations - Investigate?”
“Why?” Cordelia asked.
“Why?” Duncan repeated. “Well, I’m a bit confused by all of your reactions to finding out that Cordelia is an Immortal and well…all this talk of demons, magic and vampires- you seem to believe all of it.”
“Duncan, don’t. We don’t want to know. We want to go and leave these crazy people to their imaginations.”
“Hey,” Cordelia sat up with her legs crossed. “Vampires and Demons are real.”
“Cordy.” Wesley cautioned.
“What? They’re Immortal, for god sake. Do you honestly believe that they never seen a vampire before, unless they were ‘reborn’ yesterday.” She shot a look from Wesley back to Duncan and Methos. “And I don’t believe that- how old are you?”
“What has that got to do....” Methos said.
“How old? Don’t be a girl about it.” Cordelia glared at both Methos and Duncan, her steady gaze resting on the Highlander.
“450.” Duncan responded at Cordelia’s demand.
“Wow, he’s older than Angel.” Fred blinked.
“Of course, he’s older than Angel. Now shush.” Cordelia warned Fred.
Duncan stared. “Who is Angel? The clerk at the magic store was frightened of him.”
“He should be.” Gunn chuckled. “I heard about him hitting on Cordy.”
“Gunn, I told you just as I told Angel at the time, Walter was not hitting on Cordelia.” Wesley shook his head.
“How do you know?” Cordelia switched her glare to her friend.
“Cordy, I’m not at all sure why you lied to Angel and almost got Walter killed but I do know it was a lie. Walter is a Bandox demon, he would never be attracted to you, you aren’t his type.”
“Why not? Are you saying a ….whatever can’t be attracted to me?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying….Bandox males like their woman to have four breast, something even with all your charms you don’t have.”
“Oh.” Cordelia looked down questioningly at her amble two-only breast.
“Yes. IF you ever researched you would’ve known that. Angel knew he just forgot and had to run to the rescue.” Wesley shook his head in disbelief and a smidgen of disgust.
“Eww, like I want to know how Bandyaid demons get it on. What kind of books do you read? Is that why you always lock yourself in the office, pouring over obscure yucky demon sex practices.”
“Cordelia.” Wesley shot over Gunn’s laughter and Fred’s small gasp.
“What? Anyway it worked, didn’t it?”
“Your plan to get Walter beat up, yeah. Why?”
“Angel didn’t beat him up, just threatened him a little.”
“He broke his nose.”
Cordelia shrugged. “He shouldn’t have tried to extort money from me. I’ll I wanted was him to place our cards on display.”
“Oh for god sakes, Cordelia.” Wesley shook his head.
“What? As much money you waste in that store, he should’ve jumped at the chance to help us out.”
“Food, salaries, rent…the money has to come from somewhere….and that means business which means advertising. Angel wouldn’t let me try doing another commercial- so what choice did I have and why are we arguing about this now. That was over a year ago. And Angel wasn’t mad.”
“That’s because he thought he was protecting you.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet.”
“It is not, Fred. Cordelia could have gotten Walter killed.” Wesley jerked to the brunette.
Fred shoved at her glasses, copying Cordelia’s shrug. “Maybe, Cordelia shouldn’t have lied, but she explained why and it is sweet that Angel rushed out to protect her honor.” Fred’s eyes glazed over a little as she turned to Duncan and Methos. “That’s what Angel does protect and save the helpless. He’s a champion.”
“That ain’t why our boy went busting in.” Gunn snorted. His snort turned into a choke at Fred’s glare. “ Girl, it’s just that Cordy ain’t ever been helpless.”
“She has to.” Fred argued. “She was helpless in Plyea….well, she was crowned the ruling Princess but she still needed to be saved and Angel saved me and he is too the Champion.”
“Hey, Wes man, didn’t we jump through that damn Portal too.”
“Charles.” Wesley grunted. “Cordy, please.” Wesley beseeched the young woman.
“What? Fine. Fred, you’re right I’ve been helpless plenty of times and Angel has always saved me, that is when he hasn’t been otherwise occupied by whining blondes…”
“Cordelia” Wesley chastised.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Sure, Fred, Angel is the champion; you don’t need to defend him to Gunn. Gunn knows what Angel is.”
“Damn straight.” Gunn grumbled. “Crazy hot to protect the oh so helpless- Barbie”. The black man mumbled under his breath.
Methos whispered again to Duncan. “We could probably sneak out without them even knowing. Who cares who this Angel is? Seems like a capable fellow, leave Cordelia to him. Sounds like he likes to save her. She’s his damsel, let’s go.” Methos urged.
Duncan swung around. “What’s your problem with being here?” The Highlander snapped.
Methos took a breath and answered as sparply. “My problem is we are in LA to get a book, not to become involved with a bunch of people, immortal included that spend their time investigating or whatever they do with demons. Not that I have a particular problem per se with demons, you leave them alone they leave you alone. But when you start messing with them you can end up dead. Do I need to remind of your last encounter with a demon?”
“No.” Duncan all but growled.
“What demon would that be?” Wesley said with interest. “Is it an on going problem, possibly we could help? We don’t just investigate- we’re quite good at eradicating them.”
“You could hire us.” Cordelia said brightly. “Unless,” she scrunched up her brow, “you haven’t managed to save any money either in your long lives. What is it about that? You think after being alive for a couple of centuries you would realize that you need an investment portfolio if you aren’t going rely on killing to survive.”
“Excuse me.” Both Methos and Duncan asked.
“Cordelia.” Wesley exclaimed, knowing that she was talking about Angel.
“What? Whoops, did I say that out loud? Ignore it.” Cordelia waved away her last statement. “You were telling us about your demon problem.”
“Have we even decided that they weren’t demons?” Fred asked.
“I think so.” Gunn whispered.
Duncan hesitantly shook his head. “There is no problem. Ahriman is dead.”
“Ahriman?” Wesley stood up. “The Zoroastrian Demon?”
“Yes.” Methos nodded and looked back to Duncan. “You know what defeating him cost you.”
“You defeated Ahriman?” Wesley gapped. “I translated….he wasn’t due until 2010. You fought him? Won?”
Duncan glared at the man.
“Wow. That’s good.” Wesley nodded, not noticing the Immortal’s look.
“Wesley?” Cordelia asked.
“Ahriman, the Zoroastrian demon, heralded a cycle of evil that would come to earth every one thousand years…” Wesley stopped and looked to Duncan. “You were the Avatar?”
“Wesley,” Cordy called.
Wesley turned, “ I translated the scroll, I thought Ahriman wasn’t going to emerge until 2010, I thought that it was a battle for Angel. If what Duncan says is true, I was wrong.”
“Gee, how surprising, have you interpreted any of the scroll right?” Cordelia scoffed.
Wesley waved away her comment. “This is good. I was worried about Angel facing Ahriman.”
“Why?” Cordelia said clearly offended for the absent vampire.
“Cordy, Ahriman could only be defeated when the championed called found the way to defeat the demon. I could’ve told Angel how, but he would’ve had to be able to accomplish it. And…”
“He would’ve, he always…”
“No, he hasn’t.” Wesley countered. “The key was for the champion, the Avatar, to recognize that Ahriman’s evil grows through hatred and violence. The Avatar had to reject all provocation of such emotion and accept peace as the resolution. He would have had to ignore his instincts and fear to defeat the Demon. He would’ve had to believe that good could over come evil. You defeated Ahriman," the regard clear in Wesley's tone as he turned back to Duncan.
“Has been less than spectacular in that regard- it hasn’t been that long Cordy." Wesley faced the young woman. "And I’m still not sure that he has the ability to ignore his instincts for revenge and violence, not if sufficiently provoked and Ahriman is a master at pushing buttons. It could very well have been Darla all over again, only thousand times worse. Possibly, if my calculations of the demon rising in 2010 had been correct Angel would’ve been able, though it would’ve taken more than one epiphany in my opinion but maybe. But, now,it is a trial that Angel doesn’t have to face. Which is a good thing.”
“Wesley, Angel said he was sorry.”
“No, Cordelia, he said that he was sorry for hurting you, he was frantic about how sorry he was about that, but he wasn’t sorry about letting the Wolfram & Hart lawyers die. You …and us, he felt guilty about, not them. Don’t confuse the issues.”
Cordelia shook her head. “He knows what he did was wrong.”
“Yes.” Wesley admitted. “But, he doesn’t really care- except how it effected you…and us.”
“Wesley,” Cordelia quietly refuted.
“Cordy, stop. Fred, I understand her devoted hero worship, but not yours. The beast shown in Plyea wasn’t the worse of Angel. We can disregard that blatant representation of his demon because Angel could. He fought it and won. But, Cordy, you’ve seen him - at his worse and his best- you know. You’ve seen Angel purposely ignore the mission and you’ve seen Angelus. We…you can’t disregarded that, because Angel can’t -not if he wants to reach his redemption.”
“I know he’s a good man. I know he’s trying now. He’s sorry. He said so."
Wesley took a small step towards the young woman. “He is a good man, but he is what he is. His struggle is a difficult one, one that you can’t fix by all your love and friendship, none of us can. Ultimately, it is up to him. We can only help if he lets us. But, Cordy, I’m not condemning Angel to hell. I’ve faith in him just as you do. I’m just gratified that Ahrehim isn’t a test he will have to face; he’ll have enough on his path. I'm glad it’s just a bit easier with that particular demon out of the way. That’s all. Okay?”
Cordelia smiled and nodded. “Sorry, I snapped at you.”
“Since when.” Wesley smiled in return.
“Jerk.” Cordelia’s smile got bigger.
“Hold on.” Methos stepped up. “Your Angel, the so-called champion, is Angelus- one of the most vicious vampires recorded?”
Duncan was the only occupant of the room that registered curiosity. The other’s expressions had closed into indiscernible stares.
“Oh, don’t look at me like that.” Methos rolled his eyes at their stony faces. “I’m not a vampire hunter. Your vampire’s safe.”
“Duncan, I cannot stress how much I think we should leave this drama. This is not our game. And Cordelia, I would also suggest you leave with us. Believe me, I do not do this because I want to- you will be trouble. But consider it my good deed.”
“What the hell are you talking about? How do you know about Angelus? He didn’t kill your family or anything, did he? You said you weren’t a vampire hunter.” Cordelia narrowed her eyes.
“God no. I’ve no problems with vampires as long as they keep their fangs to themselves. But I do have a problem with getting involved with the ‘vampire with a soul’.” Methos sighed.
“How?” The humans cried out.
“Methos?” Duncan’s question accompanied the other’s exclamations.
“Mac, have you been listening to them…. Granted, Wesley, here, maybe have been helpful a couple years ago, when you had to face Ahriman, but still have you heard them. They reek of the Power’s mess.”
“Who?” Duncan asked.
“The Powers, intangible, tangible, who knows, who cares, they’re a presence that have set themselves up as some sort of maintainers of the ‘balance’ of good vs. evil in the world or some nonsense. Stupid.”
“The Powers aren’t…” Cordelia stopped. She did at times think that they were stupid.
“Close to figuring it out aren’t’ you.” Methos nodded. “If you happen to live for a few more thousand years, you’ll really figure it out. You’ll realize that you can’t. And that whatever you do at the Power’s bidding doesn’t stop anything. They don’t want it stopped, they just want it balanced, and live long enough you’ll see the pattern. That’s why you should get out now. It's hard enough learning how accept the game you are now destined to play; it will be fatal if you remain caught up in theirs. They’ll use you and then spit you out. They do it do all their champions, but you…you aren’t even a part of it.”
“Methos, what are you talking about?” Duncan asked. “Start being clear.”
“Clear about the Power’s that’s an oxymoron.” Methos scoffed. “I’ve been alive for five thousands years.” He paused as all but Duncan gasped actually Duncan had gasped a little also. Methos knew that the other Immortal was surprised that he said his age out loud. "I’ve seen a lot. I’ve also read a lot. That’s how I know about the Powers and the vampire with a soul. It seems many books have been devoted to that particular subject.”
Wesley squelched his urge to interrupt and just made a mental note to ask the old Immortal about the books later.
“Thank you.” Methos acknowledged Wesley demonstration of will power. “I’ll try to make this brief, mainly because I want to get the hell away from all of you, anyway the Powers have their own agenda separate and apart from the existence of Immortals. Apples and Oranges. We live in a world they play in but they leave us alone and we leave them alone….”
“I’ve never heard…”
“Yes, you have, you just haven’t recognized it as such. It takes awhile, unless they actually pop in front of you.” Methos said to Duncan. “Every action of evil is countered with an action of good, for every bastard there’s a saint, for every threat of apocalypse there’s a champion. It’s a balance it’s a stalled chess game, no winner, but no loser. It’s life. It’s the world. It is also a crock of shit. I learned that when the Four Horsemen were chronicled on sanctified paper as the beginning of Armageddon. Well, guess what, the Four Horseman didn’t end the world- we just killed a lot-, and three out of the four are now dead, so no matter what the prophecies say it ain’t happening by us. But, it’s the Power’s game. The thing is it would be same if they stayed out of it. But they won’t. I don’t know who they are or what they are but they aren’t omnipotent. They are just manipulators. But that’s fine. They leave us alone.”
“How do you know that- you believe these Powers exist but how can you be sure that we are separate from them?” Duncan asked.
“Because, I was the example of ultimate evil and I’m still here.” Methos blurted out before thinking. He stood straight at Duncan’s stare, knowing that Duncan was remembering every act of destruction and death that Cassandra had recounted when telling MacLeod of her and her scant village’s victimization at Methos and his companion’s hands. “No champion came and challenged us, the Four ran rampant.” Methos said calmly. “I was ‘Death’ and if it was truly a war between good and evil and the Power’s the proponent of good, I’d be gone. Ultimate evil or not, the so-called Powers left us alone to create terror, murder and mayhem over centuries, we weren’t stopped by a great battle but by life and all its changes.”
Cordelia gulped, then stared steadily at the other Immortal. Methos had been alive for five thousand years. He claimed to be 'Death' one of the riders of the Four Horsemen that heralded the Apocalypse in the Bible. If what he said was true, he had been truly evil. "Is that why you are scared of the Powers?”
“I’m not scared.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not, I just don’t want to be caught up in their games. I’ve my own and so, now, do you. Don’t confuse your vampire with me. I know what I was, I’m not that person any longer, but I accept what I was. Angelus, obviously can’t if he’s been recruited by the Powers, he let his guilt and a promise of redemption rule him. I don’t and you shouldn’t. Cordelia, you are an Immortal. We’ve are own game too be concerned with. When the Gathering occurs maybe then the Powers will take notice of us, but you have to live that long to be concerned with that happening. You’re first priority is to survive and if you choose to stay in the Power’s sphere you won’t.”
“I don’t have a choice.”
Cordelia stared. “No. I’m Angel’s seer.”
Methos stared. “Are you? Remember I’ve been around. I’ve seen champions; I’ve seen the seers that accompany them on their path. None have been human or Immortals. The one human that I know of was killed in less then a year, her brain exploded. Immortals, like I said, aren’t brought into the Power’s game. We can’t be. We can be used at times, I imagined Duncan was with Ahriman, but we aren’t long-term fodder, we’ve our own priority. They know that, so they don’t tap us for their continuous chess game.”
“I am too, Doyle gave me his visions, I’ve had them for almost two years, my brain …..It hasn’t exploded.” Cordy bit her lip, paling not at Methos’ words but at her sudden realization- she didn’t feel any pain- none. No constant ache pounding between her eyes. She shook her head. It didn’t mean anything except that her Immortal healing abilities took away the pain of her condition. “ Angel needs me. We’ve a mission.” Cordelia said firmly, trying to shake away her unease.
“Cordelia, what is it?” Wesley asked concerned at Cordelia’s expression.
“Nothing.” She said biting her lip not wanting to voice the fear that she couldn’t stop from taking root in her mind.
“Cordelia.” Wesley demanded as the young woman’s face became ashen.
Cordelia chewed on her thumbnail, avoiding Wesley’s insistent gaze. “It’s nothing.” She shrugged, as Wesley steady inquiry remained. “It’s just that the pain is gone, that’s all. It doesn’t mean anything- the Powers wouldn’t do that to me.”
“Pain? Of course, it’s gone. You’ve healed. Wait…The Powers…The Powers wouldn’t do what?”
“Take the visions away…the vision hangover, it’s gone.” She said softly, giving into his unrelenting stare.
“Told you.” Methos shrugged at Cordelia’s responding glare. “They don’t use Immortals.”
Wesley ignored the old Immortal. “Cordelia, when did you have a vision?” Wesley tried to remember back. The last time she had a vision that he knew of was before Plyea.
“Fred, the university…” Cordelia mumbled.
“And you were still feeling the effects? That was weeks ago.” Wesley said sharply. “Cordelia, have you been experiencing pain ever since then? Why didn’t you tell us? How bad? Does Angel know? No, of course not he wouldn’t have left or at least would’ve told me before he left. Why didn’t you tell me? How bad?”
“Wesley,” Cordelia sighed. “It’s nothing, really nothing now. No pain.”
“Are these yours,” Fred asked picking a small prescription bottle off the floor.
Cordelia’s eyes widened. Shit. She felt her jacket pocket. Damn. She could’ve sworn that she zipped them up in her inner pocket. Couldn’t they have fallen out under the dead Gorgon? Cordelia took a deep breath as Wesley grabbed at the bottle.
"Seltrax? Cordelia?” Wesley demanded.
“I got headaches, Wesley, it’s fancy aspirin that’s all.” Cordelia shoved back against the headboard for the first time glad Angel wasn’t around to take over the yelling part of the soon to be inquisition.
“Aspirin?” Wesley practically shouted. “This is a highly powerful anti-migraine medication.”
“Migraine, headache, same thing.”
“Cordelia, this is classified as a controlled substance. You’ve had a prescription since,” glancing at the bottle. “Damn’t Cordelia, you’ve been getting refills for the last six months.”
“Okay, so I went to the doctors, big deal.”
“And what did the doctor say.”
“I’m sure he said more.”
“No, not really. Unexplained migraines. Couldn’t really tell him about the visions, now could I. He gave me the pills did some test, didn’t say much.”
“Test?” Wesley said coldly.
“Cat scans and stuff.”
Wesley closed his eyes. “Diagnosis.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Wesley, it doesn’t matter. I’ve already died and Poof, I’m back, and the pain’s gone.”
“You were dying from the visions and you didn’t tell anyone?” Wesley stared at the young woman.
“Who said I was dying? Anyway, there was no point. Angel would get all guilty and broody. He couldn’t do anything none of you could, so…” Cordelia shrugged. "I was going to tell him, maybe, eventually...Wesley, you’re are moving way off track here. The Gordon killed me not the visions. And guess what I’m ALIVE. Questions should be directed to that particular little issue. Like what’s this game thing?” Cordelia grabbed onto another subject.
Wesley glared for a full moment at the young woman and then turned to Methos and Duncan. “This condition being an immortal, will it cure any pre-immortal condition? Say, a pre-mortal has a life-threatening illness, will that condition be reversed once the person experiences his or her first death or is it still a threat.”
Duncan looked to Methos for the answer. Methos was the elder immortal.
Methos sighed not wanting to be drawn into the situation anymore than he had been. He rolled his eyes at Duncan’s glare at his hesitation. “I haven’t heard of any pre-immortal dying from a illness. The first deaths are accidental or deliberate, never from disease. Actually, most pre-immortals are very healthy. Their immune systems as well as healing abilities are quite good, even before their first death. If Cordelia was dying from the visions, she’s safe now.”
“ I wasn’t...”
“Cordelia.” Wesley demanded.
“Wes, the doctor said that I was experiencing increased neuro-electural deterioration, he didn't say anything about me dying."
Wesley took a deep breath. “Neo-…when would you’ve had us know this- after you were dead."
“I told you, the doctor didn't actually say I was going to die.." she started, but stopped at Wesley's glare. "Wesley, the pain is gone.” She said encouragingly.
“You are going back to the doctors, I will not be satisfied until we see new x-rays. Why, didn’t you tell us?”
“What would’ve you have done, what could you’ve done- nothing. Groo told me that humans couldn’t survive the visions, only demons. He….”
“Of course…he was part demon he could’ve survived the visions- that was what the comshucking was to be about. He was going to take the visions from you.…Damn’t Cordelia.”
“Wesley, I couldn’t give up the visions, Angel needs them.”
“Angel is going to be furious when he finds out.”
“Wesley,” Cordelia jumped off the bed. “You can’t tell him. You can’t tell him about any of it. Not even about me dying and living and stuff.”
“Cordelia.” Wesley shouted. “Of course, I will tell him. As soon as I’m assured about your new x-rays, I will send a telegram to the village surrounding the monastery. They have to be able to get a message to him. He will be told. “
“You WILL NOT.” Cordelia jumped in her friend’s face. “You will not throw it in his face that I got to live again and Buffy didn’t.”
“Cordy, that’s…that’s just stupid.”
“No. It’s bad enough that Angel was off saving me when Buffy died, he will not know that I died and came back while Buffy is still dead. Angel will stay where he is until he is ready to come home. He doesn’t need to know. Anyway, it’s already happened, it’s not like he can do anything, there’s nothing to do.”
“No.” She glared.
Wesley partially nodded. “I won’t telegram him, but when he gets back you will tell him or I will.”
Cordelia huffed swinging back to her former leaning position against the headboard. She would get Wesley to fully agree with her before Angel got back. It was just stupid for him to know now after the fact.
“Cordelia,” Duncan moved forward.
“What?” Cordelia looked suspiciously at the handsome man.
“You will have to tell Angel about you becoming immortal or you will just have to leave.”
“What?” Cordelia jumped back up. “I‘m not leaving I can’t leave Angel. He needs my visions."
"If you still have them. I’m betting you don’t. You haven’t had them in what weeks, that’s Wesley said.” Methos leaned against the wall his arms crossed, wishing he never stepped off the plane in LA.
“Shut up.” Cordelia glared.
“Cordelia, you are an immortal. That means more than just living forever and you can’t hide it, not easily and not for long, not from some one you’re close too.” Duncan shooting killing looks at Methos.
Methos slumped further back disgusted.
“Angel’s pretty clueless. Twenty years from now, he probably won’t even notice that I’m not gray.”
Duncan shook his head. “It’s not about the lack of physical aging. I don’t know anything about these Powers and whatever game or destiny they call for but I do know Immortals have a specific destiny that is unique to them alone. Their purpose is to survive to fight in the gathering. You are now living by a whole new set of rules. Clueless or not, I can’t believe this vampire wouldn’t notice you learning not only defending yourself but to kill to survive.”
“Kill?” Cordelia’s whispered word was drowned out by Wesley and Gunn’s shout and Fred’s squeak.
“Kill.” Duncan’s dark eyes bore into Cordelia’s hazel ones. “The Gathering- is the game one that has been going on since the first Immortal came into being. For centuries, millenniiums, Immortals have waited for the time of the Gathering, when the strike of a sword and the fall of a head will release the power of the Quickening. In the end, there can only be one. And as an Immortal, if you want to survive you must learn to fight and kill. There will be Immortals that live to hunt and kill you before the time of the Gathering, to narrow the field of contenders. You may want to continue your current life, but the reality is- the Game is your priority. Because the Game is how you survive. You cannot avoid it. All will be called, even those that do not wish to be.”
"Oooh, Angel isn't going to like that at all." Fred shook here head.
"Fred." Cordelia gasped. "Can we think outside the Angel box for a moment." Cordelia blinked. Damn. She did like the woman, but her fixation on everything Angel was annoying. And for once in what seemed like forever, Cordelia had to think about what Duncan said without worrying about Angel and his reaction. Cordelia shot her eyes back to Duncan. "You're crazy. I'm not killing anybody because of some stupid game. Sword...fall of a head. No way am I beheading a person. Evil killing demon, okay, I'll go for it. But na-uh." She shook her head purposely.
"I've never heard of Immortals or this Game. I'm afraid that I can't believe you without some proof." Wesley’s prior acceptance was completely circumvented by his shock at what Duncan claimed. Cordelia did not die to live again to be some player in a deadly game. No one was hunting for Cordelia’s head and she wasn’t going to be some sort of killer. Wesley wasn't even going to consider the truth of the stranger's ridiculous statement until he translated it from some authentic ancient scroll or book.
"Cordelia died, now she’s alive.” Methos shook his head.
“Which only means she’s not dead. “ Wesley countered. “I can recite at least five rituals alone that can cause that phenomenon. Granted they are all truly dark in nature, but still they have been recorded. Immortals, this Game, have not.”
“It’s not something to be publicized.” Methos rolled his eyes, not at all willing to tell the strangers how well Immortals were in fact documented.
Wesley shook his head. "That's not a valid argument. Demons, vampires, prophecies of apocalyptic import are recorded in various texts and scrolls, while not published.
“You know whether you believe or not, I don’t care. Duncan, let’s go.”
“Methos, we can’t just leave Cordelia alone. We need…”
“I don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to do anything. Anyway she’s not alone. She’s got all these friends,” Methos waved his hand toward Wesley, Gunn and Fred. “Hell, she has her own vampire champion. He’s a warrior, he can teach her- I’m sure, he knows how to use a sword, right?” Methos asked the group.
“The vampire’s not here.” Duncan shook his head.
“Angel’s coming back and he’s great with a sword.” Fred insisted.
“She needs to be trained as soon as possible.” Duncan insisted.
“She’s got the guy with the axe then.” Methos pointed out.
“An axe isn’t a sword. And he’s mortal. ” Duncan shook his head.
“So what, mortals have been known to fight. Can you use that thing or do you just wave it around?” Methos turned his gaze to Gunn and the gleaming weapon. At the black man’s angry nod, Methos turned back to Duncan. “An axe can decapitate someone as well as a sword.”
“I’m not…” Cordelia thrust forward.
“You will.” Methos interrupted sharply.
“You haven’t taken my head.” Cordelia refused to believe what the man was saying.
“We don’t do that. I avoid, he defends, and we don’t go looking for Immortals to behead. Duncan lets go. You’ve told Cordelia that she’s immortal; you’ve told her about the Game, you’ve told her she needed to learn to defend herself. I say we’re done here. Except.” Methos looked at Wesley. “You wouldn’t happen to want to sell the Text of Baba Yaga, would you? No.” Methos answered for Wesley, ignoring the former watcher’s puzzled expression at his question. “Well, okay then. Duncan, it’s time to go.”
“She needs to know the rules.” Duncan insisted.
“She’ll figure…fine” Methos swirled around to face Cordelia. “When you are challenged you have two choices run or fight. If you run, you better run fast and to a church. If you fight, you better be good enough, and you must fight alone. No one can fight for you or interfere with your battle. No one,” Methos emphasized.
“Why?” Gunn asked aggressively. “I ain’t standing by and letting some old maniac take Barbie’s head.”
“Church?” Cordelia piped in.
“That’s just the way it is.” Methos shot back to Gunn. “The rules have to be followed, without them it’s chaos and she’d be branded a murderer and legitimately hunted by all Immortals. Sanctuaries would be closed to her if she cheated. “Church- Holy ground of any denomination is off limits for fighting or challenging. Be a nun if you don’t ever want to lift a sword or a Buddhist or whatever, just pop a tent on any Holy Ground, who cares really which denomination.”
“A nun?” Cordelia whispered. A fleeting thought drifted through her subconscious- was Angel’s obsession with convents and nuns greater than his with blondes. Wait. Nuns, convents- Angelus. Nevermind. She grunted.
“Look, I’ m not being a part of this sicko game. So there.” Cordelia stomped and crossed her arms.
“So, nothing. You’ve no choice, Cordelia realize it- live or die with it.” Methos said bluntly.
“Methos.” Duncan turned on his friend.
“No, Duncan. We don’t belong here. She doesn’t belong here, but I’ve the feeling that we would never get her to realize it. She’s already claimed their mission as hers. She won’t believe otherwise until she realizes that the visions are gone.”
“They aren’t gone. I just haven’t one because Angel’s not here- that’s all. I’m Angel’s seer.”
“No, you are an Immortal, the Power’s games aren’t yours.”
“They aren’t games. We help people.”
“Right.” Methos rolled his eyes again. “Duncan, let’s get out of here. She’s stubborn and won’t listen, you’ve done all you could.”
“I AM not stubborn, I just believe in our mission and I’m not playing your stupid game.” Cordelia huff.
Wesley squeezed his eyes shut pinching the bridge of his nose. He didn’t want to believe the Immortals about this Gathering thing, but to ignore the possibility of its truth could be dangerous folly. As for the possibility of Cordelia losing the visions, he could give damn as long as she wasn’t dying. Wesley cleared his throat. “We’ll go to your doctor tomorrow to see recent X-rays and Gunn and I will train you in the use of a sword until Angel gets back.”
“You believe them about the Game thing.” Cordelia swirled towards Wesley.
“There’s no harm in training you.”
“I will train her.” Duncan said suddenly.
“Mac.” Methos pushed up from the wall he'd been occupying.
“No. I don’t minimize Wesley and Gunn’s skill, knowing now what they do, but she will need more.”
“More?” Wesley puffed up his chest as Gunn raised his axe again.
“More.” Duncan said again. “Cordelia?”
“Yes or no, Angel’s going to find out, right?” she nodded answering her own question. ”Fine,” grumbling. “Might as well. I wanted to learn how to use a sword anyway. But, I’m not cutting anybody’s head off. No way." She glared at the other Immortals.
"Angel's really not going to like any of this," Fred mumbled to herself.