Authors Note: This is a story I wrote a long time ago. I used to have it on my website but my website no longer exists, so I'm putting the story here. Enjoy it!
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters. I merely use them for my own amusement. This story however, belongs to me, Shoshanna, and my website, Fool For Love. If you'd like to archive it, just ask me.
Author's Note: This is a series I've titled Fortune Favors The Brave. This is part one, A Price For Everything. It's set in my imaginary season five of Angel. BtVS characters crossover, making one big, not so necessarily happy, family. Spoilers for BtVS and Angel up to the finales. Eventually the story will take a Buffy/Spike turn—but I'm working up to it. Be patient. J These things take time.
Summary: Angel tries to come to grips with some tough choices he's made, and possible consequences for those actions. Willow arrives in LA with a purpose, and Buffy grapples with her place in a world full of Slayers.
:: Fortune Favors The Brave ::
A Price For Everything
Nothing is an accident
We are free to have it all
We are what we want to be
It's in ourselves to rise or fall
~ Fortune Favors The Brave-Aida
He felt like he was drowning. He could feel the waves of panic and despair overcome him.
Something isn't right...He thought to himself. Why do I feel so lost?
Then he saw the man. He was always there, lurking in every shadow. Only he wasn't really a man, he was some kind of fiend; a monster.
"I love you Connor." The monster said to him. "I'll always love you."
Connor? Why was he always calling me Connor? I need to get out of here. He thought to himself.
He turned to run, but before he could make it more than a step, the monster was on him. He tackled him to the ground and pulled out a large knife.
"I love you, Connor. And I'll prove it." He said as he brought the knife down across his throat.
Steven woke up with a panicked gasp, as he clutched at his throat. He was having the dreams again. The same dreams he'd been having all summer. They made no sense to him, but they were always the same. The same brooding man, the same professions of love, and then...and then the knife. Slashing across his throat... He could feel the burning pain even now.
He pulled himself out of bed and went to the bathroom. He switched the light on and stared into the mirror. It was the same face he'd been staring at for the last eighteen years. The same bathroom mirror he used to make silly faces in, when he was only five. It was the same bathroom his mother used to comfort him in, when he was ill. She'd sit there and press a cool washcloth to his forehead, murmuring that he'd be better soon and that she loved him.
So why did all of this seem unfamiliar to him right now? Why did the face staring back at him seem to belong to another person? And the man...the man from his dreams... Steven had his eyes.
You're being ridiculous! Stop doing this to yourself, he scolded himself. It's just a dream. A nightmare. It means nothing.
He tried to tell himself it was just nerves. He was excited, but afraid of the future. He was starting college in less than 3 weeks. It was normal he'd feel a little out of sorts. He was leaving home, and his family, for the first time. Maybe everyone went through this? He wondered. But this seemed like something more.
He took a drink of water from the sink, and splashed some cool water on his face. He then headed back to his bed, determined to dream of anything else but the mysterious stranger.
"This place sucks." Kennedy pouted to Willow, over breakfast.
"Kennedy, we've only been here for a short time. Give it a chance." Willow sighed.
"I know. But now that I'm a Slayer, I guess I expected there'd be, I don't know, actual slaying involved."
"Well, the fact that there hasn't been anything evil going bump in the night, is usually a plus." Willow explained with a small smile.
"Yeah... I mean, it's not like I want bad things to happen. It's just, Giles said there was a Hellmouth here. I guess I expected to see some actual Hellmouth-y things."
"I'm sure we will. Things never stay quiet for long. But one thing I've learned from growing up in Sunnydale is evil seems to take a holiday over the summer." Willow said thoughtfully.
"It does?" Kennedy laughed, disbelieving.
"Well, things do seem to slow down. I mean sure there's your random vamp, or demon slaying...But it seems like the fact that the days are longer, there's less actual nighttime for the creepy crawlies to come out. I guess they do a lot of evil planning, and less doing, in the summer."
"Well, I can't wait to kick some ass. I mean, I've got all these powers, and the only thing I've managed to do with them since we left Sunnydale, is rearrange furniture in this apartment." Kennedy said with a pout.
"I'm sure things will pick up, believe me. But for now, why don't we just enjoy the quiet time?" Willow suggested, with a raised eyebrow. "I can think of some other things you can do with all that power."
"I like the way you think" Kennedy smiled, as she leaned over and kissed Willow.
Angel sat at his desk, reclining in the heavy leather chair. He folded his arms across his chest and looked out the window. He'd gotten used to watching the sun rise each morning, without fear of bursting into flames. One of the perks of his new position was the wonderful necro-tinted windows. He wished he'd known about these before.
He still lived at the hotel, but anyone would be hard pressed to find him there. He spent most of his time in that office, and no one was quite sure what exactly he did in there all day.
He owned the Hyperion outright now. It was another part of his deal with Wolfram and Hart. He didn't find much use for the place anymore, but he wanted the others to have a place to call home. He figured since he was dealing with devil, he may as well get everything he wanted, no matter how trivial. He had really only wanted one thing, and they had delivered that. Owning the hotel was just a small bonus. All he had wanted was Connor's happiness. A fresh start; free of the burdens that Angel never would have wished on his son.
Connor's happiness was the only thing that mattered to Angel, but not a day went by that he didn't wonder if he'd made the right choice. Connor didn't remember him, and nobody remembered Connor. It was as if the last two years didn't happen. It was something he hadn't considered when he'd made the deal.
Everyone else had very different memories of what happened. Darla had come back, but not pregnant. Holtz had come back, but Connor was never part of his vendetta against Angel. Wes and he had still had a falling out, Justine had still attempted to murder Wes, but it had nothing to do with Connor. It had been all about getting to Angel. Cordy was still comatose, but no one remembered that Connor and she had slept together. No one knew that Jasmine wasn't only Cordy's pseudo-child, but Connor's as well. It was something only Angel knew, and carried with him. Much like the twenty four hours he became human, and had a perfect love with Buffy. Only to have it reversed. And again, he was the only one who remembered.
Twice he had given up something he wanted more than anything, to do what he perceived as the 'right' thing. Lately he was beginning to question his judgments. Was he really any better than Jasmine was? Altering people's minds, just to make things 'right' in his own eyes? To make things fit what he thought they should be? He couldn't help but doubt himself now.
"Good morning, Mr. Angel." Paula smiled. She was Angel's new secretary. She held out a tray, offering him a cup of coffee and a fresh pint of blood.
"Just leave it on the desk." He said absently.
"Certainly, Mr. Angel." She smiled dutifully.
"You don't have to keep calling me that." He said with a sigh.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Angel." She said sheepishly, not realizing she'd made the mistake again.
"Paula? That is your name, right?"
She nodded quickly.
"Okay, Paula, call me Angel. Please. Drop the 'Mr.' it's just Angel. You know? Like Prince or Madonna." He explained.
"Of course... Angel." She smiled at him happily.
"Great." He nodded.
She stood there staring at him, with a blank smile on her face. Angel went to drink his coffee and noticed she was rooted in her spot.
"Can I help you with something?" He asked her curiously.
Flustered, she stammered, "No. I'm sorry...I was just waiting for my instructions."
Angel sighed wearily. He wasn't used to all this formality. He should have stated in his contract that he wanted a casual atmosphere. No more of this "Mr. Angel, I'm waiting for my instructions" crap.
"You can go now." He told her finally.
Paula hurried out of the office and shut the door behind her.
Sometimes Angel just longed for the way things were before. It all seemed simpler then. He was still doing the same things as always, only now if he needed something researched, he had an entire evil law firm at his disposal. Anything he needed, it was his. Most people would appreciate and enjoy that, but Angel always preferred to do things the hard way. It was years before he'd even use a computer, preferring to rely on instincts and ancient texts to guide his way.
But the rest of his crew seemed more than at home here. For that he was pleased. He was over two hundred years old and he supposed it was a lot harder for him to adapt than everyone else. But he'd do it.
He thought about Connor again, and tried to remember how happy he had looked with his new family. Then he remembered how much Connor had despised him. It pained him greatly, even now, but it was the only way he could go on. He had to remember the hate Connor had for him and his life, or else he could never justify what he had done.
Willow was sitting at her computer doing some mindless internet surfing. It was actually nice to relax and to not have an impending apocalypse breathing down her neck. Kennedy had finally gotten some Slayer action, and was out now patrolling 'her Hellmouth' as she liked to call it.
Willow chuckled to herself at the thought of her girlfriend owning her own Hellmouth. I mean, isn't that what every little girl dreams of? She wondered sarcastically to herself.
She and Kennedy had moved to Cleveland after Sunnydale became a crater. Everyone had gone their separate ways. Xander went to Minneapolis where he had a cousin. He had promised him a job at the hardware store he owned there. Xander had needed to think of a new career path when he had lost his eye. There wasn't a big demand for one eyed construction workers, whose credentials got sucked into a Hellmouth. It was either his cousins hardware store, or be forever relegated to playing a pirate at children's birthday parties.
Giles had gone back to England to try and rebuild what was left of his life there. He had taken three of the new Slayers with him. He was trained as a Watcher, and with so many new Slayers out there, he wanted to at least do a small part to help them.
Faith and Robin had moved to Mexico together. She wasn't willing to go back to jail, and Robin had nothing else to do. Faith was a challenge to him, and vice versa. They both agreed it was just convenient that they happened to be going the same way and decided to share a bus ride. Last thing Willow had heard, Faith and Robin had opened a cantina on the beach. They were just 'friends' but Willow knew better than that. They also hadn't given up the good fight. Faith knew she still had a lot to atone for, and she hadn't forgotten that. It turned out that there were quite a few evil things lurking by the beach at night. There was a reason they told tourists not to venture off alone away from the resorts. But what the travel bureaus didn't tell people was why. Somehow vampire infested beaches weren't in any of the brochures.
Buffy and Dawn had headed elsewhere. Willow wasn't exactly sure where. Buffy said she didn't want to have a plan. She was done with plans, because they never turned out the way she wanted them to. They had said their goodbyes, and Buffy promised to get in touch with her once she'd settled in somewhere. She was fully ready to start living again, this time as Buffy, and not the Slayer.
Willow understood. Buffy had been the only one for so long, it must have felt nice to not have anything to save or a sacred duty to fulfill. Kennedy had not shared Buffy's view. But then again, Kennedy and Buffy had never seen things the same way. Kennedy was energized with her new power, and a sense of purpose she'd never had. She'd always been the spoiled little rich girl, which had suited her just fine, until now. Now she knew what and who she was, and she embraced it, rather than run from it. She was no longer spoiled brat Kennedy, she was a Slayer.
Although Willow had to admit being a spoiled rich girl had its perks. Their apartment for instance. Kennedy's parents had no idea why she chose to move to Cleveland, but they supported her fully. This meant a furnished apartment for them to live in, rent free. And now that Kennedy had found some evil to fight, she was really thriving.
Willow on the other hand spent most evenings surfing the internet, or visiting Wiccan chat rooms. She knew she could patrol with Kennedy, the way she always had with Buffy, but it didn't seem her place now. Kennedy had met up with two other Slayers in the city, and Willow was the odd man out. She may have been a powerful witch, but she wasn't a Slayer. That fact was beginning to bother her quite a lot lately. She wasn't quite sure why. She'd always been the 'sidekick' of a Slayer. It was a club she'd never get to join. And she thought she was okay with that. But when she had met the two other Slayers, Willow had flashbacked to how it felt when Faith first strolled into town.
Willow had been threatened by Faith, thinking that Buffy didn't need her because she wasn't a Slayer and wouldn't understand. Willow had grown a lot since then, and had spent several months 'sharing' Kennedy with other potential Slayers. It shouldn't have been any new thing. But now they weren't potential, they were actual Slayers. And with that came a whole new attitude.
This time it was more than just jealousy. In fact she wasn't jealous at all, really. She merely felt lonely. She wasn't a part of Kennedy's circle. She desperately wanted someone else to talk to about magic, because it was so important to her. It was times like this, she missed Tara so much. She had understood her so well. And knew what it was like for Willow to have this power inside her. A power that she needed to harness and control. Kennedy still didn't understand it fully. She tried, but she couldn't understand. Not any more than Willow could fully understand what it meant to be a Slayer.
Willow disconnected from her computer and stood up. She was going to read for a little while, and then get some sleep. She walked over to the couch and suddenly got a blinding pain in her head. She grabbed her temples and crumpled to the floor.
Images of an office building, and souls in torment, plagued her. Nothing was clear, but she felt their pain. Flashes of people bustling around, papers everywhere, and a man behind a desk. She felt his torment the most. It was crippling. Willow cried out, but there was no one to hear her. The man in the chair swirled around, and she saw his face. It was Angel.
Then as quickly as it had come to her, it was gone. The images went away, and the pain in her skull subsided. She lay on the floor gasping for breath.
"Angel..." She whispered to herself. She knew something was wrong with him, but she didn't know what. She didn't understand what had just happened to her.
She pulled herself together and made it to the couch. She looked around for the phone, and realized she had no one to call. Who would she call? Buffy was unreachable, Giles was in England...There was no one. She could call Angel, but what would she say?
"Hey Angel, suffering much? Why don't you tell me all about it?" She shook her head. That wouldn't work. Of course Angel was suffering. That was kind of his job. He was the brooding master, with the curse and everything.
She leaned back into the couch and shut her eyes. It must have just been some kind of weird psychic thing. She was so tapped into the energy around her, that sometimes she felt other people's thoughts and pain. This must have just been a long distance reminder of that. But, why now? Why Angel? She wondered to herself.
She was still feeling confused, and nursing her migraine, when Kennedy waltzed in the front door.
"I'm back!" Kennedy proclaimed loudly. "I had the best time!"
Willow winced, "Great. Can you keep it down a bit though?" She said miserably.
Kennedy dropped her weapons bag and sat on the couch next to Willow.
"What's wrong?" She asked her, careful to be quiet about it.
"I've got a migraine. I'm ok though. I think I just need to sleep it off." Willow said, as she slowly got up and made her way to the bedroom.
"Well, wait up, I'll come with you. I'll make it all better." Kennedy said with a smile.
"Really, I think I just need a nice quiet room." Willow said, trying not to hurt Kennedy's feelings.
"Oh...okay. Well, I'll try not to wake you when I come to bed." She said softly.
Willow didn't even look back as she closed the bedroom door. Kennedy wondered what was really going on. Willow seemed odd to her. But she knew she was probably being silly. Willow had a headache, of course she seemed odd. She was in pain. Kennedy shrugged off the feeling and went to make Willow an ice pack for her head. She'd appreciate that, Kennedy thought to herself.
Willow woke up to the sound of the phone ringing. She glanced at the clock and realized it was nearly 11:30am. She never slept that late. Her head was still pounding when she rolled over and grabbed it off the receiver.
"Hello?" She said sleepily.
"Did I wake you?" Buffy asked cheerfully.
Willow pulled herself up and tried to pretend to be awake.
"Buffy? Is that you?" She was startled to hear her voice after all this time.
"It's me. Sorry I didn't call you sooner, but-"
"You were busy?"
Buffy was silent for a moment.
"Yeah, I've been busy. Settling into my new life and all. You know how it is." She said softly.
Kennedy rolled over and pulled the pillow over her head. It was still early for her and she didn't want to be disturbed. Willow had forgotten she was there for a minute, and made an attempt to speak in a quieter voice.
"So how have you been? Where have you been?" Willow asked her curiously.
"Well, I've been okay...Good actually. Dawn and I are living in Oregon."
"Oregon? Why Oregon?"
"I don't know...It's pretty. Quiet. It's nice." And completely boring...Buffy thought to herself.
"Well that's good. I-I mean, quiet is good." Willow assured her.
"It is good." Buffy agreed, not feeling the enthusiasm. "So how is Cleveland? Hellmouth-y?"
"Yeah...It's alright. Kennedy made some new Slayer friends. They've been busy, you know, with the slaying of things." Willow said awkwardly.
"Great. So then it feels like home then?" Buffy laughed slightly.
"Very homey." Willow lied.
"So it's really just like old times. I mean, Hellmouth, Slayer..."
"Slayer's." Willow corrected her. "And yeah, I guess it is like old times. Except for the you not being the Slayer part."
"Well, I still am. I-I mean, kinda. I am a Slayer, just not, the Slayer anymore." Buffy said a bit wistfully.
"Right. Of course. It's just, well, you wanted to give it up right? Live for Buffy, now?" Willow reminded her.
"Yeah, absolutely. I'm all about Buffy now. It's Buffy time. And it's good. I mean I'm busy, I have a job, and—"
"You have a job? What're you doing?" Willow asked interestedly.
"Um, just some secretarial work. I answer phones and stuff. It's great."
Actually I'm a telemarketer, people hang up on me all day long, and my life is so dull I want to scream...Was what Buffy really wanted to say.
But she wanted Willow to think she was doing well. More than well, she wanted her to think that she finally had everything she ever wanted. She was a normal girl. Ordinary in every way. Except for the fact she'd only recently averted another apocalypse, aided in activating all the Slayers of the world, lost the man she loved as he burned to death from mystical energies, and watched as her entire city got sucked into a Hellmouth. Oh yeah, she was completely ordinary, she thought sarcastically.
"I'm really glad to hear that you're doing so well. I'm happy for you Buffy." Willow said sincerely.
"Thanks. I'm happy you're doing well too. You are right? I mean, things still all happy with you and Kennedy?" Buffy asked her.
Willow glanced over at Kennedy and smiled slightly.
"Yeah, things are good. We're good."
Willow turned her head towards the window. The light streamed through, and she got a pulsing pain in her head. She suddenly remembered the strange vision she had had of Angel last night. She wondered if she should tell Buffy. This was just the sort of thing she'd run straight to Buffy with, back in the day.
"Willow? Are you still there?"
"Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking." Willow apologized.
"Something kinda strange happened last night." Willow began, "But it's nothing. Never mind."
She decided that if Buffy so happy now she didn't need to know about her silly vision. It probably meant nothing anyway.
"Will, you can tell me. I mean, I know I'm not around now, but we're still friends, right?" Buffy inquired.
"Of course we are. It's nothing. I mean, I am living back on a Hellmouth. 'Something strange happened' is kinda the motto, remember?" Willow pointed out with a smile.
"Right. I forgot."
Buffy hadn't forgotten at all. In fact some part of her was hoping Willow would tell her something major was brewing. Something that required her attention. Buffy was desperate for a reason to go back to the fight, but she didn't want to admit that to anyone. Especially not herself. She was no longer needed anymore. She had to face that. There were plenty of other Slayers who could take care of the world, should it need saving again. But that was the problem. She wanted a way out, and she got it. And now that she had it, she didn't want it anymore.
Buffy had hung up the phone and sat staring out the window. The apartment they had rented was nestled in a wooded area, with a clear view of the mountains. It had been just the type of place Buffy had wanted. Quiet and a little secluded. At the time, all she had been after was a break. A vacation from everything she had dealt with for so many years. But after four months of escapism, she was already bored. And lonely. Very lonely. She knew no one here, and aside from Dawn, she rarely spoke to anyone outside of her job.
Her intention had been to sign up for the fall semester at the local university. But when she realized how expensive that would be, and that it wouldn't allow her to work full time, she had to let that idea go. Also, it didn't help that she had none of her school records, or even her high school diploma to prove she had graduated. So much for getting her life back. The truth was nothing could ever be the same. She could never go back to being just Buffy. She hadn't been 'just Buffy' since she was fourteen years old. From now on, she was always going to be a Slayer. She was fully aware that evil had only been averted back in Sunnydale. It hadn't been stopped. It would be stalled for a time, but could never be gone.
She knew exactly what lurked in the shadows, in every town, and every city around the world. It was true she no longer had to carry the burden of stopping it alone, but running away from her destiny had proved fruitless. She tried to distance herself from that time to no avail. She had even attempted to cut off all contact with Willow and Xander and anyone else who had been a part of that lifetime. She couldn't do it. She couldn't forget. This had been why she finally broke down and made the call to Willow. She was desperate to connect with what she had tried to erase from her mind.
"It's official." Dawn said, as she walked in the front door. "Life sucks."
"Dawn, what are you doing? Why aren't you at school?"
"I missed the freakin' bus. First, I tripped on the curb and ripped my favorite pair of jeans." She said indicating the large hole in the knee of her pants. "Then, I dropped all my books into a mud puddle. And to top it all off, I get there just in time to watch the bus drive off without me."
"I'll drive you." Buffy said with a small sigh.
"You know, this could all be solved if you'd just let me get my drivers license." Dawn said casually.
"You're not ready. Besides we only have the one car."
"I'm seventeen, Buffy. And I could borrow the car when you didn't need it."
"We'll talk about it later. Go change your clothes; I'll be waiting in the car." Buffy said, trying to put her off.
Buffy sat out in the old Jeep she had bought with the money Giles had given her. He had written her a check, and told her to follow her dreams. He had wanted Buffy to finally be free to rest, at last. He had encouraged her in her pursuit of happiness, and somehow Buffy felt she had let him down. She wasn't happy. She was miserable. She was finally free to pursue her dreams, and now she realized that she had no dreams.
Beyond trying not to die too incredibly young, she had had no other goals. She had never allowed herself to think of the future. Believing she never would have one, she had seen no real need.
Just then, Dawn came bounding into the Jeep, jolting Buffy out of her reverie.
"If you drive fast enough, I'll only miss first period, Trigonometry. And it's not like I'm ever gonna need that anyway." Dawn said flippantly.
Buffy pulled away from the apartment building, accidentally backing into some shrubbery.
"Oops. When did they put those there?" She asked sheepishly.
"They've always been there. God, Buffy, you say I'm not ready for my drivers license? I'm way better than you are."
"Mom never let me drive at your age. Except the one time when she did...But that was because she was under a spell. Evil Band Candy." Buffy remembered. Then she looked at Dawn, "Besides it was a total mistake, because I ended up wrecking the car."
"Yeah, I remember. And you still haven't gotten much better. Are you forgetting I drove myself all the way home from God knows where, when you made Xander kidnap me?" Dawn said, raising her eyebrow.
Buffy shook her head and sighed.
"Fine. I'll think about it." She relented. "I still don't know how you ever learned to drive at all. Did Xander teach you that?"
Dawn lowered her gaze and shook her head.
"Spike taught me." She said softly.
Buffy still couldn't bring herself to talk about what happened to him, or the fact that he was gone.
"I should have known." She said with a faint smile, tinged with sadness.
"He also taught me how to play poker, and also to—"
"I don't wanna talk about Spike, okay?" Buffy interrupted her.
"Buffy, you can't just pretend he never existed." Dawn reminded her.
"I'm not pretending that, it's just..."
"It still hurts?" Dawn offered sympathetically.
Buffy nodded her head silently.
"It's okay to miss him, you know?"
"Do you like it here, Dawn?" Buffy asked, completely changing the subject.
Dawn stared at her confused at the conversation twist.
"Do you like it here? This town? Are you happy here?" Buffy asked her curiously.
"Um, it's alright. Are you happy here?" Dawn asked.
Buffy shrugged, "I don't know. It's real pretty. Serene. Peaceful."
"I didn't say that."
"Well, serene and peaceful are just other words for mind numbingly boring." Dawn pointed out.
Buffy couldn't argue with that. She looked at Dawn, "What do you think about Cleveland?"
"Uh, I don't think about Cleveland at all." Dawn said cautiously. "You're not thinking about going there, are you?"
"I don't know. I mean, it's not so bad there, is it?"
"It's on another Hellmouth, Buffy. Just like Sunnydale. I thought you wanted to get away from all that?" Dawn said with concern.
"I did. I do...It's just, Willow needs me." Buffy stretched the truth.
"She does? You talked to her?"
"And she said she needed you? What about Kennedy? Isn't she a Slayer too? Can't she handle it?"
"Yes...And no, she didn't come right out and say she needed me. But she did say that something strange happened." Buffy told her.
"Something strange happened? Like what?"
"I-I don't know. She didn't tell me. She said it was nothing." Buffy said defeated. She then perked up, "It was clearly a cry for help though. Don't you think?" She asked hopefully.
"You're really reaching here, Buffy." Dawn shook her head.
"Look, I'm going crazy here Dawnie. I-I feel useless."
"You're not useless. What happened to 'We're gonna find our dreams'?"
"Well it turns out I have no dreams. Slaying is what I do. I can't just stop doing it."
"What about my dreams? Don't they matter?" Dawn asked hurt.
"Of course they do. But you can't honestly say that this town is your dream."
"No, you're right. It's not. But neither is Cleveland. Especially not Cleveland. I'd like to finish school without it getting sucked into a Hellmouth this time."
Dawn had a point. Buffy was being selfish.
"You're right Dawn. Sorry. I-I guess I'm just feeling a little confused right now." She admitted as they pulled up in front of Dawn's school.
"Things will be okay here. Just give it a little more time." Dawn said as she touched Buffy's arm.
"You're right. I'm fine now. I'll see you tonight." Buffy said, forcing a smile.
"Bye." Dawn got out and slammed the door behind her.
Buffy watched as Dawn rushed up the steps and disappeared into the building.
I have to make this work...Buffy thought to herself. I have to make it work for Dawn's sake...
He watched as the figure of the lone woman descended the staircase. She was beautiful, he thought. Dark hair, and a gorgeous smile that seemed to light up the room. Before he could get a better look at her, the scenery changed. He was standing before a window in a broken down warehouse. Outside he witnessed fire dropping from the sky. He felt fear, but only for a moment.
"What's happening?" He asked, frightened.
"It doesn't matter anymore." He heard a voice behind him. He turned toward it. It was the same woman he had seen on the stairs.
"I don't understand..." He said softly.
She touched his cheek gently.
"It'll all be over soon. Nothing matters but this." She said softly as she touched his cheek.
Before he could answer her, she was kissing him. Gently at first, but it soon grew more passionate and intense.
"Poor Connor. You never had a childhood or a family or friends. You never had anything that's real..." She whispered to him.
All at once Steven jolted himself awake. He couldn't bear to hear the rest of what the woman had to say. She had called him that name, Connor, just as the man/monster had called him in his other dreams.
"I never had anything that's real..." He whispered to himself in the dark room.
He knew it was just a dream, that they were all only dreams, but they affected him. Upset him in ways he didn't understand. And they had all felt so real, as if they had somehow really happened to him.
He arose from his bed and went to look out the window. Almost as if he were just making sure there wasn't really fire raining down from the heavens, like the dream. All he saw were trees with the faintest cast of moonlight above them. Satisfied, he turned to head back to his bed.
"Connor?" He heard someone call out softly from the darkest corner of his room.
Just then a white figure emerged from the shadows. It was a woman, dressed all in white. A faint glow surrounded her. On closer inspection, he realized that it was the same woman from his dreams. He gasped and reeled away from her.
"Don't be afraid, Connor. It's ok. It's me."
"W-who are you? And why are you calling me Connor?" He asked terrified.
"You don't remember do you?"
"Remember what? Who are you? What are you?" He asked horrified.
"I'm Cordelia. I—"
"Cordelia? I don't know you." He said quickly, "This isn't happening. I'm still dreaming. None of this is real." He said disbelieving.
Cordelia lowered her head and shook it slowly.
"You're right. None of this is real." She said indicating the room that surrounded her.
"What?" He asked curiously. Then thought better of the ridiculousness of him talking to a ghost of a woman in his bedroom. "Just get out of here. I don't know you. I don't know who Connor is, but it's not me. Leave me alone."
"I'm just trying to help you." She said sadly.
"Help me with what?"
"Help you get your life back."
He didn't understand any of this. He didn't want to understand any of this. He was leaving for UCLA in two days. That had to be what it was. He was having a mental breakdown. The stress of the scholarship, and a new town, and a new school...It was getting to him.
"I want you to get out of my room. Out of my dreams. You're not real." He said firmly.
Just then, his bedroom door swung open. It was his mother.
"Steven? Who are you talking to?" She asked sleepily, but concerned.
He was startled by the intrusion, and quickly noticed that the woman he had been begging to leave, was no where in sight. He really must be losing his mind.
"No one..." he said softly. "I wasn't talking to anyone."
"I heard voices, Steven. Tracy isn't in here, is she? You two weren't—"
"Mom! No, Tracy isn't here. I was just talking to myself, ok?" He said quickly.
His mother glanced around the room and didn't see anything amiss. She sighed.
"Well, next time, talk to yourself softly. You're lucky you didn't wake your father. You know how grumpy he gets when he's woken up in the middle of the night." She pointed out to him.
Steven smiled and rolled his eyes.
"Yes, I know."
"Like the time you went running through the house saying someone was trying to break in, and it turned out to be a raccoon?" She said with a laugh.
"Mom, I was like nine. Give me a break." He said with a grin.
She went over and hugged him tightly. She kissed him on the forehead.
"I can't believe my baby will be leaving me in two days." She said feeling nostalgic at the memory of her young son.
"I'm not a baby. And I'm not leaving you. I'll be back on holidays and I'll call you all the time." He assured her.
"You'd better." She said wiping away a tear. "Now get some sleep, okay? It's late."
He nodded, and she closed the door gently behind her. Steven sat on the edge of his bed and let out a deep breath. He must have been sleepwalking. And sleep-talking. He couldn't have actually seen a ghost. It was impossible. And why would she call him Connor, and say she needed to help him? It made no sense, and he decided that it must have been the Mexican food he had for dinner.
"No more spicy food. Mom always said it can give you nightmares. That's all this was." He reassured himself softly. That's all it was...
Willow was at the supermarket picking up some food for a get together that Kennedy had planned. She had invited the other two Slayers over, and a few other people that they had met in Cleveland. It was going to be small, but nice. Willow missed socializing at the Bronze every other night. Cleveland didn't have much of a nightlife, at least not one she'd feel comfortable being a part of.
Just as she was reaching for a bag of chips, she suddenly felt a tremendous pain jolt through her skull. She cried out and clutched the bag of chips so hard, the bag burst, sending tortilla chips crunching all around her. She sunk to her knees as the images flashed in front of her eyes.
She saw people standing around in a circle, staring at something. It was a bed, and there was a woman lying on it. It flashed to someone crying softly behind a desk. Then she saw Fred and Gunn holding hands with Wesley. It looked like a ritual of some sort, but Willow couldn't make it out. Then she saw Angel standing over a body with a blank look on his face. She couldn't see who the body was, she felt the pain radiating off of Angel. Torment, guilt, anguish...Someone was dead and Angel was responsible for it.
All at once, the images were gone, and again all that remained was the throbbing in her temples. Someone was standing over her.
"Are you alright, Miss? Do you need an ambulance?" A concerned grocery clerk asked her.
Willow glanced up and noticed a small crowd had gathered around her. Looks of concern and a little fear crossed their expressions.
"I'm okay." Willow said, as she shakily stood to her feet. She saw the broken chips all around her, and realized she'd overturned her shopping cart at some point. Probably when she had fallen to her knees.
"I'm sorry about the mess..." She said still confused about what she'd seen. She shook her head. "I'm sorry, I have to go."
Before the clerk could stop her, or make sure she was really alright, she had run out the door. Willow kept running until she reached her car. She fumbled in her purse for her car keys, and shakily pulled them out of her bag. Something was wrong with Angel. Something major. Whatever these visions were, they meant something. She couldn't ignore it this time.
She arrived at the apartment and quickly went inside. Kennedy was lighting some candles and trying to get the place looking nice enough to entertain guests. Her smiled faded when she saw that Willow had no groceries. Then a look of concern plagued her as she realized Willow was completely pale.
"What happened? Are you okay? Where are the snacks?" She asked.
"I-I had to leave." Willow said nervously. "Something came up."
"Something came up? Like what? You look awful. Are you sick?" Kennedy asked as she went to Willow's side.
"Kennedy, there's something I have to do. I have to leave."
"Leave? But the party..."
"I'm sorry. I know. I know you wanted this to be perfect, but I have to go. I can't explain it now." Willow said, rushing towards the bedroom.
She began taking her clothes out of the closet and putting them into a suitcase.
"Whoa! Back up. You said you had to leave, I didn't think you meant leave, leave. Where the hell are you going?" Kennedy said startled.
"LA. I have to see Angel." She said abruptly, as she threw her magic books on top of her clothes.
"Angel? LA? What the hell happened at the store that made you have to go to LA?"
Willow stopped packing for a moment and went over to Kennedy. She took her hands.
"I had a vision. I know it sounds crazy, but it's not the first one I've had. All I know is that Angel needs me." She tried to explain.
"Angel needs you? What about me? I need you." Kennedy said with a hurt expression.
"I know you do. I'm so sorry about this. I just can't explain. I didn't just have a vision, but I could feel things. Pain, anger, torment...I felt it all. And something inside me just knows that I'm supposed to be there. And now. It can't wait." Willow said seriously.
"So what, did he lose his soul again? I mean, that's why you went rushing off to LA last time. Shouldn't he take better care of that thing?" Kennedy said flippantly.
"It's not that. He didn't lose his soul again. It's something else."
"Like what?" Kennedy demanded to know.
"That's what I need to find out. I don't know yet."
Willow zipped up her suitcase and put it onto the floor.
"So this is it? You're just leaving? Are you coming back?" Kennedy asked, suddenly realizing that Willow was truly leaving and not being overly dramatic.
Willow went over and stroked Kennedy's cheek. She kissed her forehead softly.
"I'm not leaving you, Kennedy. I just have to leave Cleveland. But hopefully not for long."
"I can come with you. I-I mean, it's not like I'm the only Slayer here. I can go with you." Kennedy said hopefully.
"I don't think that's a good idea. I-I mean, you have things to do here. Friends..." Willow said to her. "I won't be gone long. I'll call you, okay?"
Kennedy was not happy about this. Not only were people coming over in less than an hour, but suddenly her girlfriend was just up and leaving her. All because of a stupid vision? It made no sense.
"I don't see why Angel needs saving. I mean he is a vampire. If he's feeling torment, isn't that kinda the point? I mean, you told me he was cursed with a soul and a conscience. Doesn't torment come with that? I mean, isn't that the definition of 'curse'?" Kennedy pointed out, not understanding.
"Yeah, of course...It's just that this feels different. And it feels like I need to be there for some reason. I'm not saying it makes sense, but I feel it. And I can't ignore that feeling."
Kennedy lowered her eyes and looked at her feet.
"Fine. Go with your instincts. I won't stop you. But...Just come back, okay?" Kennedy added, trying to be supportive.
"I will. I promise." Willow smiled, as she kissed Kennedy goodbye. And somehow both of them felt, it was a promise she'd not be able to keep.
Angel sat as his desk in silence. He was getting very good at shutting himself behind that door and staring off into space for hours. Everyone was starting to worry about him.
Wesley edged the door open without knocking. He knew if he knocked, Angel would tell him to go away.
"Go away." Angel said brusquely.
Okay, so even if he didn't knock, he'd still get told to leave, Wes thought to himself.
"Angel, you can't just sit here forever. There are things that need to be done." Wes tried to explain.
"Well, that's what my hundreds of other employees are for. If you need something done, find someone to do it."
Wes sighed and sat down in the chair across from Angel.
"That's not what I mean, Angel. Yes, there are others who we may call on, but have you forgotten your mission? Forgotten that you are a part of this?" Wes asked.
"I haven't forgotten anything." That was the problem. Angel hadn't forgotten, even when everyone else had. And it was his doing that no one remembered.
"Is this about Cordelia?"
Angel's faced grew hard and angry.
"I don't want to talk about Cordelia."
"I realize you don't...But Angel, you made the right choice." Wes said sympathetically.
Angel stood up and began pacing the room.
"The right choice? I killed her, Wes. How was that the right choice?" He asked painfully.
"You didn't kill her, you set her free. She was already gone. We all knew that."
"Yeah, she was already gone. Because of me. Because she met me, because she helped me...All of this was set in motion because of me." Angel said regretfully. "And when it came down to it, I was the only one willing to make this decision to let her go. I did this."
Wes felt the pain coming off of Angel. It was true that Cordy had been used and manipulated by forces they still couldn't comprehend. And it was her involvement with Angel that brought all of this about. But she had joined with him of her own free will. Just as Wes had. Anything that happened after that was not anything Angel could control.
"You must stop blaming yourself for this. We all agreed it was the best choice. Cordelia was suffering. And with no way to restore her—"
"There might have been a way. Maybe we should have waited longer." Angel interrupted.
"You know there was no other way. We have all these resources at our fingertips. Lilah said if there was a way to save her, Wolfram and Hart would find it. It's been four months, and we've exhausted every possibility. You said yourself that you'd rather her be free, than in pain." Wes reminded him.
"I know. But who am I to make that choice? Who was I to make the choice about Connor?" He said angry with himself.
Wes looked at him curiously.
"Connor? Angel who is Connor? You've said this name before, but—"
Angel realized that he had slipped up, "Look, all I'm saying is I made the choice, but maybe it wasn't my place." He said trying to change the subject.
"Maybe it wasn't your place, but it's done now. And we all agreed to it. This doesn't rest solely on your shoulders. Maybe it wasn't your place, or our place to decide this, but someone had to." Wes said firmly.
"Someone had to play God right?"
"You weren't playing God. You did the right thing. We all did the right thing. Stop berating yourself for this. Life is a series of choices. And even if we don't always make the right ones, it does matter that we make them with the best intentions. And that's precisely what you've done here." Wes assured him.
Angel stared at him. We might not always make the right choices, but its intent that counts. Just like when Wesley kidnapped Connor to save him from Angel. It was a very, very bad choice. It was the reason that Connor suffered the way he did. It was the reason Angel had to let him go in the end. Angel was having a hard time believing that it was the thought that counted. Sometimes choices ended up destroying lives. And no amount of good intentions could justify that.
But Wesley didn't remember this incident. He didn't remember any of it, so Angel could not say a word about it to him.
"Maybe you just need a bit more time. You're grieving. But we all are. It won't do you any good to hide out here forever." Wes said, as he stood and opened the door. He looked back at Angel one last time, but he was looking out the window now. Wesley just lowered his head and walked out the door.
"How is he doing?" Fred asked Wesley as he walked back into the hotel lobby.
"He'll be alright." Wes said unconvincingly.
"Did you convince him to come home?" She asked.
"I'm afraid I didn't make it that far. He's still too upset over Cordelia." Wes told her, but he was wondering if that was all it was.
"We're all upset. I-I mean, she's been gone for awhile, but I guess I always had hope she'd come back." Fred said dejectedly.
"We all did." Wes agreed. "But Angel will be okay. He just needs some time to adjust."
"I just wish I knew he'd be alright. I mean, he's always been the brooding type, but he's taking it a little too far this time." Fred said with concern.
"I've seen worse." Wes said, remembering darker days when Angel had fired them all to embark on his own vengeance mission.
"I've seen worse too." Willow chimed in from the doorway.
Fred and Wes turned their heads, startled to see Willow there.
"Willow? What are you doing here?" Wes asked curiously.
"Angel is in trouble, right?" She asked them.
"How did you know?" Fred asked.
"So he is then? I-I mean, please tell me I didn't fly all the way from Cleveland for nothing."
"Willow, why don't you tell us what's going on." Wes said motioning for her to sit down.
Willow relayed her tale of the visions and the overwhelming feeling of needing to be in LA. Wes spoke up first.
"So you say you've had visions? Is this a normal occurrence for you?"
"No. I-I mean, I've had some psychic type moments, but no."
"Interesting. And you said they were painful?"
"Painful? No. Excruciating is more like it. I felt like my head might explode, or implode. Either way, not fun."
"She's gotten the visions." Fred said with awe.
"Indeed. I'm just not quite sure how it happened." Wes said perplexed.
"Hello? A little explanation might be nice. You know about the visions?" Willow asked them.
Wes turned to her and gave her a curious look.
"Cordelia used to have visions. And before her, the visions belonged to Doyle, another associate of Angels. The visions were sent from the Powers That Be to guide Angel. Or so we thought. They allowed him to know of things that required his intervention. People he could save, evil he could stop." Wes explained.
"Wait, you said Cordelia had these visions?"
"Yes." Wes nodded.
"Well, why doesn't she have them now? I-I mean, how did I get them?"
Wes lowered his head.
"Cordelia is dead, Willow. She died three days ago." Wes informed her.
"Oh...Wow. Cordelia is dead?" Willow tried to let that information sink in.
They had never been friends. In fact, they'd been more like sworn enemies. At least for when they were in high school. Willow had never really liked her, but she did respect the fact that she had joined with Angel to keep up the fight. The bitterness she'd felt for her had long since faded, and was now just replaced with shock at knowing she was gone.
"I'm afraid she is dead. And somehow she must have passed her powers along to you." Wes said perplexed.
"How? I-I mean, I haven't seen her since I was here last, and that was only for a moment. And it's not like we were friends. I-I'm the last person Cordelia would give something to."
"I thought that the visions had to be passed along with a kiss?" Fred chimed in.
"A kiss? I-I didn't kiss her. I mean, Cordy was so not my type." Willow said defensively.
"Yes, I know. I-I mean, not about her not being your type, just that—" Wes explained uncomfortably.
"Then how did it happen?" Willow interrupted.
"I must say I don't know." Wes shook his head. "Doyle was given the visions by the Powers That Be. When he died, he kissed Cordelia, thus transferring the visions to her."
"But Cordy couldn't handle them." Fred interjected.
"Right. She was human, whereas Doyle was part demon. The visions caused physical harm to Cordelia over the years. The headaches got worse, her brain was deteriorating. She was dying." Wes explained.
"I-Is that how she died? Am I going to die too? Cause hello, I may be powerful, but I'm still human." Willow said nervously.
"No, that isn't how she died. That's another story altogether, but Cordelia was made part demon, willingly, in order to be able to keep the visions. To be able to withstand them."
"Wow...Cordy was part demon? Okay, I so did not see that coming. Why would she do that?"
"To help Angel. She wanted to help him, and the world." Wes told her.
"Okay, this isn't making me feel better. I-I can't do that. I mean, I can't become a demon. I've seen the darkness...and I can't do that." Willow said firmly.
"I wasn't suggesting that you'd do that. I'm merely saying if Cordelia did indeed pass these visions onto you, she must have known you'd not be able to handle them anymore than she was able to. It doesn't make any sense." Wes said shaking his head.
"Well, can I just kiss them away? I-if that works, I'm all for it. Just get me some demon to kiss. Preferably a non slimy, non yucky one." Willow added.
"It doesn't work that way, I'm afraid. And besides, there is obviously another way to pass them along. You had no contact with Cordelia. You hadn't seen her in months and—"
"Wait. I-I did. I did see her." Willow said quickly. "I didn't remember till just now. I didn't think it meant anything."
"Wait a minute, you saw her? Where? When?" Fred asked curiously.
"In my dream. I had a dream. Cordelia was in it, but I-I didn't think it meant anything. We were back in high school, and we were fighting over Xander. And then she told me it wasn't Xander she wanted, it was me. She said she had something to give me. Then she kissed me." Willow said sheepishly.
There was a big reason she chose to forget that dream. The thought of being with Cordy seemed like her mind conjuring up her worst nightmare. Besides she'd had dreams of kissing Principal Snyder too, and she knew those meant nothing. At least she hoped they meant nothing, she thought worriedly.
"Really? Very interesting. Did she say anything else to you in the dream?" Wes asked interestedly.
"Um, I don't remember." Willow said shaking her head. "Wait, there was one more thing. After she kissed me, she said I'd figure out what to do next. But I-I thought she meant, you know, sexually. Then I made myself wake up. Cause hello? Nightmare." Willow said nervously, wishing she'd never brought up this stupid, yet highly disturbing dream.
"That's it. Of course. She came to you in a dream. It makes sense. You'd not have any reason to know it meant more than it did." Wes said amazed by this development.
"But what does it mean? I-I just thought it was incredibly disturbing." Willow said confused.
"Cordy's spirit was trapped in the ether. She came to you to pass along her visions. She must have known you'd figure out what to do. It all makes sense." Wes said excitedly.
"It does?" Fred and Willow said in unison.
"Yes, it does. Cordelia essentially gave up her life for those visions. Everything that had been orchestrated in the past that resulted in her having these visions and ultimately losing her life, was for a purpose. It meant something to her. She wasn't about to let them die along with her."
"But why me? Why would she give them to me? Was she punishing me for hating her in high school? Cause deadly visions that fry my brain aren't exactly a gift given out of love." Willow said distressed.
That was the million dollar question. Why Willow, indeed. That part made little sense, but Wes knew there must be some reason.
"I'm not sure, but I know there must have been some reason." He told her.
"She also said I'd figure out what to do next. I don't really seem to be figuring that out."
"Perhaps she merely knew you'd figure out to come here and locate Angel?" He offered.
"Yeah, I guess that's it."
"Whatever this is, we'll find out exactly what's going on." He assured her.
He only hoped that this wasn't orchestrated by something evil, just as it had been with Cordelia. She had never been meant to carry visions, but everything had been altered in order to bring forth Jasmine. Wesley hoped that this was not anything of that sort. If it was, he'd not stand by and allow another innocent girl to suffer and die because of it. If these so-called Powers That Be cared anything about humanity, they'd not allow that to happen again.
Willow walked down the long corridor. Offices were on either side of her, but no one was in them. Not at this hour. Nobody except Angel. She came to his door and saw the name placard on the door. She knocked softly, and received no answer. Wes had assured her that Angel was in there, as he hadn't come out since Cordelia had died.
"Angel, its Willow. I know you're in there." She said confidently.
She received no response and went to knock again. But before she could, the door swung open.
Startled, she gasped, "Oh!"
"Willow? What are you doing here? Is something wrong with Buffy?" He asked worriedly.
"Buffy? No, no, that's not why I'm here. Buffy's fine." She smiled at him.
Visibly relieved, his body relaxed.
"So then why are you here?" He asked curiously.
Before she could answer him, her skull began to hum, and she could feel another vision coming on. Pain tore through her as she collapsed into Angel's arms. Flashes of a demon, breaking down a door. A woman huddled in a corner screaming. Willow could see a small child in her arms, clutched tightly against her chest. The demon ripped the child from her arms, and Willow felt the horrendous pain that the mother felt at failing to protect her child.
"Willow? What is it? What's happening to you?" Angel asked with grave concern.
Willow caught her breath as the grisly images faded from her sight. She looked up at Angel, as he held her to keep her upright.
"This is why I'm here." She said breathlessly. "The visions."
If Angel's heart had been beating, it surely would have stopped now with this bit of information.
"Visions? My god...you're getting the visions now?" He asked with alarm.
"Lucky me, huh?" She smiled sardonically.
"How did this happen?" He wanted to know.
"I don't have time to explain, Angel. Someone needs you. A woman...a demon is going to steal her son. You have to help her." Willow said, remembering the vision vividly.
Angel didn't miss a beat.
"Where? What kind of demon?" He asked quickly.
"I-I don't know what kind of demon. Big, green, scaly. Carrying a sword. They're at 208 Center Street. It's an apartment building. She's in apartment 112. You have to hurry." She said urgently.
Without another word, Angel pushed a button on his desk and a false wall lifted, revealing a stash of weapons. Angel took out an axe and a very large sword and went to the door. He looked back at Willow.
"We'll talk later." He said succinctly.
And with that, he was gone. It wasn't quite the heart to heart talk she was planning to have with Angel, but she knew this was more important. Not only did some poor mother and child need Angel's help, but Angel needed to help them. She could sense from her earlier visions that Angel had lost his direction. He was so consumed with his inner turmoil, that he was unable to see the bigger picture. And that was that he had a job to do. A mission to fulfill. He needed to save this family, Willow knew that. It was just what Angel needed to get back a part of himself that he'd thought he lost.
Willow had returned to the hotel, in the hopes Angel would end up there after he'd completed what he had to do. The place was very quiet, and Willow glanced at her watch and realized it was well past 3am. Which was more like 6am, Cleveland time. No wonder she was so exhausted.
She had wanted to wait in the lobby in case Angel made his way back, but the cozy little room that Fred had put her bags in, seemed to be calling to her. She made her way slowly up the stairs and to her room. She searched in her bag for a bottle of aspirin, and quickly popped two of them. She was too tired to even go into the bathroom and get water. The pills left a horrible taste in her mouth, but she ignored it as she crawled onto the bed, fully clothed and fell asleep.
The next morning Willow awoke to voices in the hallway. She lay there with her eyes half open, trying to hear what was being said beyond the door.
"I didn't think we even needed the visions anymore. Didn't Skip say that all of that was just a way to bring forth Jasmine?" Gunn asked Wesley.
"We don't know that for certain. All we have is a demon's word for it. Besides, Skip merely said it was orchestrated for Cordelia to inherit them, he never said the visions themselves weren't real."
"But why give them to Willow? She doesn't have anything to do with this. The visions are gonna kill her too." Gunn pointed out.
Willow's heart dropped hearing Gunn's prediction. She didn't want to die. She still had so much left to do.
"We don't know that for certain. Perhaps her strength as a witch enables her to withstand the visions?" Wes offered.
"Hopefully. But shouldn't we do something?"
"Like what?" Wes asked.
"Well, how do we know for sure that this isn't some greater plan to bring about Jasmine again?" Gunn suggested.
"Jasmine was destroyed."
"Well, then, how do we know this isn't the work of something else? Before we know it, Willow might wake up nine months pregnant with some other kind of demon spawn."
Demon spawn? Okay someone forgot to tell Willow about that part. She got up and opened her door, startling Wes and Gunn.
"Oh, good morning Willow." Wes said putting on a smile.
"Demon spawn?" She said giving them both horrified looks. "I'm gonna have demon spawn?"
"Willow, no. That's not going to happen." Wes assured her.
"Why did no one tell me there was spawn involved in this? I mean, yeah, painful headaches. I get that. But spawn? What else aren't you telling me?" She asked worriedly.
Wes and Gunn looked at her sympathetically. They didn't even know where to start.
"What happened to Cordelia, won't happen to you. I won't let it." Angel said as he materialized at the other end of the hallway.
"Angel?" Wes was surprised to see him.
"Yo man, where you been?" Gunn asked, somewhat irritated at Angel's recent solitude.
"I had some stuff to take care of." Angel said flatly.
"Did you make in time? Last night, with the demon?" Willow asked him hopefully.
"Yeah, I did. It's taken care of. But that's not important now. What's important is this." Angel said looking at Willow sincerely.
He looked at Wes and Gunn.
"I want all of our best researchers finding out what's happening here. If these are the visions from the Powers, I wanna know. If they're coming from somewhere else, I wanna know that too." He said brusquely.
"I've already got Smithers on it." Wes informed him.
"Good. But I want more. I want all of them on it."
"Alright. I'll make some calls." Wes said as he headed out of the hallway.
"Anything you want me to do?" Gunn asked.
"Yeah. The white room. You've got a direct link to the other worlds. I need you to find out how to get these visions out of Willow." He said seriously.
"Get them out of her? But what if they really are coming from the Powers?"
"I don't care. I want them out of her. Find out how."
Gunn absorbed this information, and nodded his head.
"I'm on it." With that he disappeared the same way Wesley had.
Angel looked at Willow.
"Sorry we didn't get a chance to talk last night." He told her.
"It's okay. Woman in peril. You're forgiven." She said with a small smile.
"I'm gonna fix this for you, Willow. I'm not going to let the same thing happen to you that happened to Cordelia."
"What did happen to her? I-I know she's dead, but what happened exactly?" She asked apprehensively.
Angel took Willow's arm, and led her back into her room. He sat her on the bed.
"Where to start..." He mumbled to himself.
"Try the beginning." She smiled slightly.
Angel sighed and began telling her of everything that had happened. Doyle, Cordelia getting the visions, then almost dying, becoming part demon, then ascending. He also explained how Skip had said it was all an evil plot to bring forth Jasmine. He explained the Beast, and how Cordelia had been taken over completely by evil. Then the pregnancy and her subsequent coma.
"We had to let her go. She'd been lying there for months, completely unresponsive."
"I'm so sorry Angel. That must not have been easy." Willow sympathized.
"It wasn't. We had the best doctors and shamans working around the clock to try and find a way to get her back. But they said she was already gone. Her body was still alive, but her spirit had left long ago. It was trapped between this world and the next. We had to do something."
"You did the right thing then. Letting her go..." Willow said compassionately.
"She had done all of this for me. She bore the visions, suffering in silence, and eventually losing her life, all because of me. To help me with my mission." He said troubled. He looked at Willow. "I won't let it happen again. I won't stand by and watch you lose everything like she did." He promised her.
"Angel, you didn't kill her. You know that, don't you?" She asked him quietly.
"I did. I'm the one who told them to do the ritual. I'm the one who gave the go-ahead to release her spirit. It was me who made that choice."
"But you saved her. You said yourself, you set her spirit free. That's not killing. And it's not your fault that this happened to her. You couldn't have known. She didn't know either." She assured him.
"But I saw how much the visions hurt her. And I just let it keep happening. And for what? To save a few people?" He said angered with himself.
"Yeah. To save people. That's what you guys do. And that's what Cordelia wanted to do. There's a price for everything."
Angel lowered his head, and absorbed what Willow was saying. She was right. There was a price for everything. Everything had consequences; good or bad. Sometimes you couldn't think about the price of your actions, if the payoff was worth it in the end.
Willow saw that he was still deeply troubled and tried to lighten the mood a bit.
"She did what she wanted to do, Angel. No one could have stopped her. Not even you. And if I remember Cordelia correctly, she was kinda stubborn. Once she wanted to do something, it was pretty hard to change her mind." Willow smiled, trying to ease Angel's guilt.
"She was stubborn. Pig headed. Impossible." He said with a faint smile.
Willow studied his face and saw pain etched with fond memories.
"She was all of those things." Willow agreed. Then she added, "And you loved her."
Angel was a bit taken aback that Willow had known his true feelings for Cordy. Nothing had ever come of them, but that didn't mean they ever went away.
"And she loved you."
"I don't know about that." He shook his head.
"Of course she did. Why else would she stick around so long? Cause you're not exactly the easiest person to get along with either." Willow reminded him.
Angel laughed slightly and shook his head.
"Guess I'm not, huh?"
"You're always all Mr. 'Leave me alone, I'm brooding'."
"I have valid reasons to brood." He pointed out defensively.
Willow just smiled at him. This was more like the Angel she remembered. Maybe he had just needed to get all of this out? He had other people to confide in, but somehow Willow felt Angel needed someone who wasn't so close to it all. Maybe this was why she was sent here. To get Angel back on his feet again, and to let go of guilt that he shouldn't be feeling.
"I am going to fix this Willow. I promise." He said, suddenly serious again.
"I know you will."
Willow was no longer sure of what she wanted to do. At first the idea of mind numbingly painful visions, which likely would lead to her death, seemed to pretty much end up on the side of the bad. But now, she understood why Cordelia had chosen to keep them. She saw the bigger picture. There were huge risks, but maybe it was worth it? There was a price for everything. And the question now, was she willing to pay it?
The more we find, the more we see,
The more we come to learn
The more that we explore
The more we shall return
~Fortune Favors The Brave-Aida