Title:Leap of Faith
Author: Joanna C
Distribution: No linking or archiving without permission and acknowledgement.
Disclaimer: Angel characters belong to Fox, Joss Whedon etc. and Quantum Leap characters belong to Belissario et al. used without permission but for entertainment only (no profit).
Notes: This is a cross-over fic set in the Angel-verse. The first paragraph is taken from the QL opening credits, and explains enough of the backstory that anyone should be able to follow...
[Theorizing time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the quantum accelerator…and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past…facing mirror images that were not his own….and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on his journey is Al, an observer from his own time who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that the next leap…will be the leap home…]
The disorientation of leaping could sometimes be a problem. Often, he jumped into the middle of a sensitive situation, and that made it hard to orient himself. When there were a few extra minutes to acclimatize, Sam was grateful, and this time, he seemed to have that…sort of. The person he had leaped into was seated innocuously at a table littered with old books: it could be worse. One time, he leaped into a rock star mid-concert, and compared to that reading a book was nothing. He had that extra second to get his bearings, noticing that except for a young and very attractive brunette, he seemed to be alone. But he saw that she didn't notice his bewildered disorientation because she seemed to be in the throes of her own: a strange sort of seizure that didn't look too comfortable. His situation suddenly didn't feel that pressing compared to the obvious (and immediate) pain she was in, so he quickly declared himself acclimatized and rushed to her side.
"Are you…ok?" he offered cautiously.
She grasped his outstretched arm and used it to heave herself upright.
"Yeah, wonderful," she quipped. "You'd better call Gunn, we'll need him."
She narrowed her eyes as he stood there dumbly. "Number 3 on my speed-dial? Charles Gunn, our fellow demon-fighter? Geez, Wes, you'd expect the vision to throw ME a little, but what's your excuse?"
He shrugged, silently wondering what was going on. Demons? Visions?
With the woman watching, he pressed the speed-dial button, and when the phone picked up, asked for Gunn.
"Yo, speaking. That you Wes?"
"Great, perfect timing, it's all quiet here. You have something for me to do?"
"I think so. There was…a vision?"
"Cool, on my way. You at Cordelia's place?"
Ah, he had a name for her now. "Yes," he said, confidence returning as he slowly picked up pieces of information.
"Great. On my way."
He put down the phone with relief. He hoped Al would get here soon---he still needed the specs on why he was here. But he had his name figured out---Wes. And the girl seemed to be Cordelia. And they had a colleague, Gunn, who was on his way over. He had no idea what he was on his way over to do, but there were no immediate signs of danger, and the girl seemed comfortable enough with the only other people he knew of: himself and this Gunn fellow. He still wished Al was here, but in the meantime he could manage with what he already had. No obvious danger: how complicated could it be?
Cordelia tapped her foot impatiently as he hung up the phone.
"So don't you want to hear what we're up against?" she said.
"The vision. You don't want to hear it?"
"Oh, of course. Sorry, go ahead."
She shrugged. "Gunn'll be here any minute," she said. "Maybe I should wait for him. You seem a bit out of it, Wes. I mean, more so than usual. You sure you're up for a night of demon killing?"
"Oh, of course."
Al suddenly materialized in front of him. "I wouldn't be too quick to agree to that, Sam," he warned. Behind him, the knickknacks on the bookcase rattled oddly.
Cordelia shrugged. "All right. Well, I'm gonna go clean myself up before Gunn gets here. Still feeling a bit ick from the vision…"
He waited until she was out of earshot before he hissed at Al "What's going on?
Al shrugged. "Not much info yet, Sam. Ziggy's having trouble pulling stuff on these folks. I can tell you that the lovely lady is named Cordelia Chase." He cast an appraising glance in her general direction. "Cutie, isn't she?"
Sam sighed. "Let's get on with it."
"Right." Al tapped some buttons on his hand-held computer. "And your name is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. It's the year 2001 and you live in Los Angeles. You moved here after you…hmm, that sounds interesting."
"What? What sounds interesting?"
"Well, Ziggy says you moved here after you lost your job with the Watcher's Council---wonder what that is. This whole thing feels weird, Sam. I know we usually keep the people you leap into out of things, but we're going to need to bring the real Wesley in on this. Somehow I don't think he'll be too fazed by the leap thing."
"So what am I here to do?" said Sam.
Al shrugged. "Not sure yet. Says here that until very recently, you were working for a guy called Angel. So was she, by the way," he said, referring to Cordelia. "Then an old girlfriend came back to town, and he became obsessed with her. You guys tried to intervene and he fired you both."
"So what's this thing I'm supposed to do right now? Cordelia said something about a vision, and some demon killing?"
Al sighed. "Look, this leap is a bit complicated, Sam. We're still trying to figure things out. I'm gonna go back, see if Wesley can tell us anything. You just go with the flow."
Gunn arrived just as Cordelia returned to the kitchen, hair brushed, face washed.
"Great, you're here," she said. "Follow me, boys."
"The fair Cordelia," Gunn greeted. "What've we got?"
"An easy one this time. Tiny horny thing vs cute young couple."
"Horny?" Echoed Gunn. "Sounds nasty."
Cordelia rolled her eyes, and Sam stifled a smile. "Well," he offered, "Tiny sounds even better."
She glared. "Yeah…tiny, with little spikey horns that shoot fireballs."
"Don't worry," she said bravely. "Gunn, you have your ax, I'll bring my mace…we'll let you have the cross-bow, Wes. Gunn's been giving me lessons but I'm not 100% yet. And I know how much you hate sharing your cross-bow!" Gunn and Cordelia laughed as Sam just stood there, wondering what he had gotten himself into.
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce awoke to find that much to his relief, the bright blue light had faded. The last thing he remembered was sitting in Cordelia's living room, researching. Then there had been the bright, blue light, and now, here he was… somewhere. He lifted a hand to adjust his glasses, and found he wasn't wearing any. What on earth…
"Please don't panic," said a voice. "You are perfectly safe."
"What…where am I? What have you done to me?"
A small and flamboyantly dressed man came into his sight. "You are in the waiting room. And I will explain what happened in a minute. Your name is Wesley?"
"All right, I'm Al. Now, what I am going to tell you might seem a bit crazy, but something tells me you can deal with it." The man held out a mirror, and Wesley gasped: the face that gazed back at him was not his own.
"What have you done to me?" he repeated, more harshly.
"Well, you're not entirely you right now," explained Al slowly. "Know anything about quantum physics by any chance?"
"All right. I work for a scientist named Sam Beckett. He was working on a time travel project using a quantum accelerator, there was a malfunction, and he got stuck."
"Pretty much. He's on a kind of a…mission. We're not exactly sure who controls it or how. But he leaps into someone, rights a wrong in their life, then leaps into someone else. We're hoping one of these days he'll leap back into himself, which is where you are right now because he's leaped into you."
In spite of his not entirely allayed panic, Wesley found himself relaxing. So this Sam person was an emissary from the powers, then. And he too was struggling toward the redemption that would restore his soul. Wesley could appreciate that.
"Sounds like my boss," said Wesley. "Well, former boss," he glumly corrected.
"Yeah," said Al carefully. "That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about."
A second after he got there, he realized that the cross-bow would be useless. Cordelia claimed it was Wesley's weapon of choice, but Sam had never used one. And people were in danger: he had to help them. His army training was the only way to do that. He surveyed the scene carefully. The girl seemed the weakest fighter of the three of them, so he motioned to the young couple that was cowering against the wall. "Get them," he whispered to her. To Gunn, he whispered "take the rear" and on the count of three, he himself dove at the tiny horned creature, arms cocked in fighting stance. The creature hissed, fire trailing out of its horns. Ducking and keeping low, he distracted it as Gunn attacked from the back and knocked the creature down. In seconds, the fight was over. Cordelia had reassured the young couple, and seeing they were uninjured, sent them on their way. Now, she rushed to Sam's side.
"Are you ok? Geez, why didn't you just take him out with the cross-bow?"
"I'm fine," he said. "Is everyone all right?" They nodded.
"So are we done for now?" asked Cordelia. "Or did you guys have other plans?"
Gunn shrugged. "All quiet on the Gunn front," he said. "I'll walk you home, Cordelia. Left my truck at your place."
"I'll join you," said Sam. "You can give me a ride home."
Once they saw Cordelia in safely, Gunn dropped Wesley off.
"That was some fighting back there, Wes."
"No, seriously. You don't usually enjoy that kind of thing so much. What gives?"
"I've been practicing?" Sam offered.
Gunn shook his head. "Whatever. Well, here you go, bro. See you in the a.m."
He nodded. "Goodnight, Gunn."
Well, that wasn't so bad, Sam mused. He hoped that Al was waiting for him inside, as he had many questions about what he had just seen.
Al was indeed waiting, perched comfortably on the couch.
"Sorry I took so long," he told Sam. "But what this guy was saying…we had to check him out."
"What do you mean?"
"He's sane, Sam. Totally sane. But what he told us…it isn't."
Al nodded. "Backstory first. The guy you used to work for---Angel? He's a vampire."
Sam shrugged. "Al, I just spent the evening fighting a demon with flame-throwing horns. I think I can handle vampire."
"Good, 'cause it gets better. Angel was cursed by some gypsies about a hundred years ago. He has a soul now, a human conscience which allows him to feel remorse for his crimes. And he was a bad one, Sam. One of the worst."
"Anyway," Al continued. Angel wound up in L.A. after his break up with Buffy, the vampire slayer. You were her watcher."
"Watcher…this have something to do with that Watcher's Council you mentioned?"
"Yes. You worked for them, as Buffy's supervisor. Her attachment to Angel is one of the reasons she fired you, but that's not important right now. What is important is his ex, this Darla girl."
"Am I here to save her?" he asked.
Al rolled his eyes. "She's a vampire, Sam. Of course you aren't here to save her."
He processed the story thoughtfully. "How does Cordelia fit in to all this?"
Al smiled. "Funny you should ask. She used to be friends with Buffy back in the hometown, Sunnydale. She moved to L.A. to become an actress, ran into Angel at some party and hooked up with him."
"You said she worked for him. What does she do?"
"Filing, book-keeping, stuff like that. And she gets psychic visions for him from the Powers-That-Be."
Sam narrowed his eye suspiciously at that last part, but allowed Al to continue.
"Anyway, this Darla shows up, brought in by some evil lawyers to send Angel around the bend. Angel is on a mission to even the score with them, and he's forgotten all about his holy redemption, fired all of you and cut himself off."
"So it's him I need to help," concluded Sam.
"Not quite. Ziggy says there's a good chance this Darla is going to come after Cordelia because she's Angel's link to the Powers. She's your mission, Sam."
"I need to protect her from Darla," Sam finished.
Al frowned, consulting his handlink. "Slow down, cowboy: not quite. This Darla is tough: if she wants Cordelia, you can't stop her any better than the real Wesley can. No, you're not here to stop the girl from getting snatched, Sam."
"So why I am here?" he asked.
"To make sure she's not alone when it happens," said Al soberly. "Angel won't come after her in his present state, but he will come after Darla. This attack is the only way to get them back together so they can fulfill their destinies."
"But she could…"
Al nodded. "I know, and I'm not happy about it either. But Ziggy is almost certain. You are here because you have combat and medical training, which the real Wesley doesn't have. She has to get snatched, you can't do anything about that. But once it's happened….you can keep her alive until Angel gets there for the final showdown."
Sam was subdued when Al departed. This leap was unlike any other. He was used to saving people from all sorts of danger. But this…he was supposed to LET the girl be captured? Let her be tortured? Let her endure who knew what sort of pain…in the name of some higher purpose? If what Al had said was true, Darla would not just capture and kill them. No, she would want Angel to witness it. She would want to draw it out---messily and painfully. And she would do so at the expense of the body he was in---and at the expense of that lovely girl. Al was trying to extrapolate dates and times from Ziggy, but in the meanwhile he'd have to find some pretense to stay with Cordelia. If something happened to her, he had to be there.
He was lost in thought when the phone rang. "Wesley?" It was Cordelia, and she sounded upset. "Can you come over? I know it's late, but I need too talk to you…"
He grabbed a coat.
When he arrived at her apartment, the door blew open effortlessly.
"Cordelia, are you alright?" he called anxiously. "The door was open, and I…"
"It's ok," said a quiet voice. "It's just Dennis, he unlocked it for you."
She was slumped on the couch, wearing only a robe and a blanket. Her eyes were red and teary, and she looked like she had been sick.
"What happened?" he asked.
She took a deep breath. "Vision, what else? But it was…it was so long, Wes. It must have been…I don't know, it just went on and on and I didn't just see but I felt it, I smelled it…blood and vomit and violence, all over…"
She trailed off. "Wes, I was in it," she concluded softly. "I was…I'm not sure where exactly, but somewhere in that mess of yuck..."
He was sorry she was in such distress, but he mumbled a silent thank-you to the powers, whoever they may be, for making it easier by giving him his in.
"It's ok…" he soothed. "We'll figure it out, and I'll stay with you until we do."
Wesley Wyndam-Pryce paced the floor of the waiting room anxiously.
"Come on," he called. "I need to talk to you…"
Al had promised he would be back to update him. As Wesley had tried to explain, his job was an unusual one. No one else had the knowledge, the experience he had. As long as he was in this curious limbo, demons would walk the streets unchallenged. Cordelia and Gunn would be in danger…well, clearly he had to get back there as soon as possible. At the very least, he told Al, he would need regular updates. He could help them, but he would need information and so would they.
Al appeared at last, in different but equally loud clothing.
"Hey, Wes. How are things?"
"Not much change since the last time I saw you," said Wesley irritably. "As you can see, I am confined to this room…"
Al shrugged. "Sorry. Most of the time the people Sam leaps into are not as accommodating as you are. Some of them don't take the news very well."
"I am a difficult person to surprise. But enough small talk: what's going on?"
"Well," said Al cheerfully. "We figured out the mission. 90% probability he's there to help your friend Cordelia."
"Help her with what?"
Al shrugged. "He's supposed to reunite her with Angel."
"Angel? But he's…he fired us. He's turned his back on the Powers-That-Be!"
"Only for now. Look, don't get all upset with me, I don't decide these things."
"But…why would they send HIM in to help her? I'm her friend! I can help her."
"Not with this."
"And you think he can? I used to be a watcher. I know more about Angel and Darla than almost anyone. What can HE do that I can't?"
Al sighed. This is why they usually didn't get the people in the waiting room involved, he realized. He certainly didn't want to interrupt this fit of insecurity to tell Wesley that Sam had been sent in to keep Cordelia alive during capture and possible torture. An obliviously mid-rant Wesley didn't notice Al tiptoe out of the room. Wesley, finally exhausted, headed into the bathroom and gazed at the strange face in the mirror.
"What do YOU know?" he asked it scornfully. "You'll never be able to help her!"
She shrugged off his suggestion that they call Gunn. He was relieved that she seemed comfortable enough with Wesley, but Gunn knew more about these visions, and Angel, than Sam did. Until Al returned, at any rate. Still, he did have medical training, and some background in psychology. He was confident he could take care of her.
"It's late," he said. "Why don't you try and get some sleep?"
"I don't think I CAN sleep. Too rattled."
"Well, I'll be right here," he said gently. "Why don't you try?"
She nodded and leaned back into the pillows, closing her eyes, as Al zapped in. A glass of water on the kitchen table tipped over abruptly.
"It's not looking good, Sam," said Al, typically melodramatic.
"I know that. She called me over to calm her down after another of those vision things. She's terrified, Al."
"She should be. She's seen Angel when he was bad, and it ain't pretty. Once Wesley pointed us in the right direction, Ziggy was able to do some digging. Darla's cohort Drusilla---you know how she became a vampire?"
Sam shrugged. "This is all new to me, Al."
"Well, I'll tell you. Darla and Angel killed her entire family, made her insane, then turned her into a vampire so she'd stay that way."
"Oh, it gets better," said Al. "Angel killed Darla when she went after Buffy. Some psycho lawyers raised her from hell in a ritual that almost left your girl here dead."
"Poor thing," said Sam softly.
"Yeah. And unlike Angel, she isn't in this to atone for her sins. She hasn't DONE any sins, beyond the petty acting-out of a spoiled little rich girl, and Wesley tells me she's already paid for that. Ziggy was a bit fuzzy on this next part---going on some not very reliable anecdotal reports---but it seems she was drafted into this "good fight" of theirs when a friend heroically sacrificed his life to save her. His dying act was to pass on the visions to her."
Al caught the Sam's heartfelt gaze at the sleeping girl. "Don't feel too badly. That little thing is tougher than she looks. With equal training, she would equal even you."
Sam sighed. "She just seems so young…"
Al nodded. "She is. But she's a survivor, Sam---and not just as far as demons are concerned. She's had a life, she's had interests…but she's also very important to these powers. Important enough that they've gone to some lengths for her."
"Al, are you getting philosophical on me?" he teased.
"Hey, I don't do philosophy. I don't know if these powers are the same as the ones that control your leaping, Sam. But I do know that if you leave the demons and weirdness out, she's just like all your other leaps: a person who needs your help."
On the couch beside him, Cordelia stirred. He gently brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes, and she fidgeted awake.
"How are you feeling?" he asked softly.
"A little edgy, but a little better. Can you make me some tea?"
He nodded, rising and heading for the kitchen.
"And Wes? Maybe we should call Gunn. Something is gonna happen, I can feel it. We need a plan."
On the table, a book lurched to the floor, unnoticed, as Al zapped himself out. Sam reached for the phone.
Gunn strolled in just as the tea was ready.
"Hey, Wes, what's up? Must be big to call me out again."
"I think so. Cordelia's had another vision---of herself, this time."
Gunn winced. "So what're we up against?"
Sam hesitated. He knew exactly what they were up against, thanks to the real Wesley and the dirt he helped Ziggy uncover. But these people---they didn't know all of it. He had shared his true nature with people before, but these guys seemed to have enough problems without having to wrap their heads around the Quantum Leap project.
"I don't know," he said carefully. "She's still a bit rattled, hasn't said much."
He went back to the living room with her tea, silently muttering "Al, where are you?" He was starting to get the first stirrings of an idea---of a plan---but it was a delicate one. He needed to talk to Al.
Cordelia was sitting up again, and had thrown off the blanket---the doctor in Sam noting that this was a good sign. Rejecting a talisman of comfort meant she was coping again. She hadn't filled Gunn in on the vision yet---waiting for her tea---and Al zapped in just in time to catch the tale of blood and pain.
"Ouch," said Al as she explained the vision.
"Ouch," said Gunn.
Cordelia placed her mug on the table, and it wobbled as Al sat down nearby.
"Are you sure these vision things are accurate?" Al asked Sam.
"Let's hope it's not accurate," said Gunn. "Have they been wrong before?"
"Oh sure," groaned Cordelia. "Just 'cause the visions are the only part you can't do also, figures that's the part you would doubt."
"Hey, I'm not doubting you," said Gunn. "Just wanting you to be ok. You're saving my life, you know. I need you." He grinned, and she shyly smiled back at him: some kind of inside joke, Sam guessed.
"Sam, we need to talk," said Al. "Make an excuse, get out of here for a bit."
Sam rose, stretching. "Well, I sure am tired. What I wouldn't give for a shower…"
Cordelia shrugged. "I've washed your spare clothes. They're in a bag on the floor of my closet, just where you left them. Knock yourself out."
He headed into the bathroom, and as soon as the water was running, faced Al.
"What've you got?"
"Not much, but something. Confirmation, for one thing. You're up in two days, Sam. She has an audition, and will get snatched on the way out."
Al shrugged. "Isn't every pretty girl in L.A. an actress? She isn't a very good one, unfortunately. But Ziggy says if she lives through the next week..."
"Well, I have something to ask you," he said. "I was thinking about telling them."
"Telling them what? Who you really are?"
He nodded. "The information they have is so sketchy, Al. All she knows is that something is coming."
"Maybe that's all she's supposed to know. Right now we're sure she gets snatched at that audition. Tell her not to go, and you lose your ability to predict where she'll be taken. And you NEED to be with her when that happens."
Sam sighed. "I understand that. But…don't you think it would comfort her to know that I am a soldier, a fighter? That I can take care of her?"
"Maybe. But she strikes me as the type who can take care of herself."
"I know, but Al, I have to warn them. I have to tell them what they're up against."
Al sighed. "Not her, Sam. I know you want to save her, but you have to let them take her. You HAVE to."
"How about Gunn? What've we got on him?"
Al pressed some buttons. "Not much. Name Charles Gunn, age unknown, and the only one of our group that's an L.A. native. Lives in a rough part of town and has appointed himself unofficial neighborhood watch. Used to freelance for Angel---scut work for hire kinda thing. Now he works with you."
"Can I trust him?"
Al shrugged. "She does. All right, Sam, you can tell Gunn the basics, but no whens or hows. We can't have him getting in the way. You save the girl AFTER she's snatched, not before, we clear?"
"And Sam? Don't tell them you're a time traveler or anything…put it in their terms, ok? These people have already got enough to worry about."
Al zapped himself out as the bar of soap fell out of its tray and knocked him in the head. Sam smiled. If he didn't know any better, he'd say the place was haunted by a poltergeist that didn't like Al very much.
He emerged from the bathroom dressed in the spare clothes and feeling renewed. There was a mission. He had a plan. He smiled at Cordelia.
"Hey. You all right?"
She nodded. "Are you? That was a long shower."
"I know, I was just thinking. You know, if you're feeling ok I wouldn't mind going home and picking up a few things."
She shrugged. Al zapped in again, and her mug wobbled ominously.
"Great, I won't be gone long. Gunn, can you give me a lift?"
"Smooth, Sam," said Al.
Gunn gave him a funny look. "Sure, I guess. If it's ok with her?"
Cordelia pouted. "You're going to talk about me."
He smiled. "What makes you say that?"
"You don't need to protect me. Whatever you have to say about this whole thing, you can say in front of me."
The mug rattled violently as Al took a step toward the couch. "Geez Phantom Dennis, calm down!" snapped Cordelia. "As for you, thinking I need you to protect me because I'm not as good with a cross-bow? I'm tough. I can deal!"
Al chuckled approvingly. "You tell 'em, sweetie!" The mug teetered on the brink of the table as Cordelia snatched it, hissing "Dennis, behave…"
"Cordelia, I just want to pick up some things. I'll be back soon."
Before she could get in another word, he grabbed Gunn by the arm and hauled him outside. Al zapped out, thoughtful.
Gunn waited until they were back at Wesley's apartment before he finally spoke.
"What was that all about?"
Sam motioned to the couch. "Sit down for a minute, Gunn. We need to talk."
"I figured. You've been acting weird, Wes. Something's up."
He tried to think of a way to phrase it so Gunn would understand. "Well, it's like this: the Powers-That-Be have a regular thing with Cordelia. But sometimes…well, they have ways of getting messages to other people."
"You getting visions now too?" asked Gunn incredulously.
He shook his head. "More like a one-shot thing. A premonition."
Gunn nodded, seeming to accept this. "What'd it say?"
"Well, not much. You know how those Powers are…just that something is coming, and Darla is involved."
"Coming for her?"
Sam nodded. "Soon, I think. But…the Powers gave me the impression that I could protect her, that she'll be ok."
"You have a plan?" Gunn asked.
Al zapped in. "You do, Sam. You do."
"Only that I plan to stay with her every minute I can. And I have ways to…I can find out what Darla is up to. I didn't want to worry Cordelia, but I wanted you to know."
Gunn nodded. "So what do we tell her?"
"Nothing," said Sam firmly. "I don't want to scare her."
"I don't know, man," said Gunn. "Keeping secrets…"
"I need you," said Sam. "If anything happens…you'll have to get Angel. He'll follow you to find her."
"And how will I know where she is?"
"Sam," said Al. "I don't mean to interrupt, but you have an ace that could help here. This Dennis she mentioned… Wesley says he's a ghost, and I think he can see me."
"The powers…have their ways," said Sam, giving Al a slight nod of understanding. "If anything happens, go to Cordelia's and I'll leave instructions there."
"Because the Powers are helping you."
Sam nodded. "It might seem hard to believe, but the…premonition…I had was very clear. Something will happen. Angel will follow you to find her."
Gunn's eyes radiated doubt. "He fired us, man. I'm not sure if he cares about Cordelia right now."
"He'll care. He'll care because it's Darla who will have her. You have to trust me on this, Gunn. I know what I'm talking about."
"I still think we should tell her."
"Maybe. But I'm the one who got the premonition, so I'm deciding how we use it. This conversation never happened. And it will continue to never have happened unless something happens to Cordelia and I. You wait for a sign from me, then you bring Angel when you come after us."
Gunn shrugged. "All right, we'll do it your way. But I still think we should tell."
Gunn dropped him off at Cordelia's, and he was relieved to find that she had moved herself to the bedroom, where she was sleeping comfortably. She had left him a blanket and pillow, and as he settled in, Al popped by to say goodnight.
"Hey, Sam. You guys ok?"
He nodded. "She's sleeping."
"And you? This leap is a bit different for you."
He shrugged. "Like you said, I should just think of it as a girl who needs my help, same as any other. And we have two days, right?"
Al pressed some buttons on his handlink. "Well, day and a bit by now, it's almost midnight. You're in the clear until Friday at 2, when she comes out of her audition."
"All right. In the meantime, see if you can track down this Darla, keep an eye on her. We'll need to know what her weaknesses are, where she's hiding…"
Al nodded. "I'll need to update Wesley too. That guy is pretty high-maintenance."
Sam climbed onto the couch. "I'm going shopping tomorrow. There are some supplies I'll need. Keep me posted, Al."
Al zapped out. The bookcase rattled precariously.
He had adjusted to the discomfort of being in someone else's body, but something was up, and Wesley Wyndham-Pryce hated being out of the loop. He had tried to find out what Sam was doing with his friends, but the answers were vague and non-committal: helping Cordelia. Reuniting her with Angel. But what was he DOING?
Al ambled in with breakfast. "Wesley. How are you doing?"
He sighed. "All right. I don't suppose you have anything new to tell me?"
Al shrugged. "Not really. If all goes well, you'll be out of here in two or three days. And when you leap, you won't remember a thing. It'll be as if you were there all along. Anyway Wes, I thought of a wonderful way for us to pass the time: a little game of word association. Let's see, I say 'Darla' and you say…"
Cordelia woke up on Thursday in a brilliant mood. "Morning, Wes. Coffee, tea…what can I get ya?"
He smiled. "You seem happy."
"Why shouldn't I be? Powers won't give me a new vision until we deal with the one I had, and I got the feeling that might not be for a day or two. Which means that I have today to be normal. A whole day without demons or slime or vampires…who wouldn't be happy about that?"
She had a point there. "All right," he said. "What do you want to do today?"
She frowned. "Well, we'll have to do SOME work, I suppose. Gunn'll be …."
At that moment, the phone rang, and it was Gunn. One of his boys was having some trouble, and he didn't think he'd be in today. Sam grinned. "Guess we're not that busy after all. How about you and me ditch work today and do some shopping?"
She gave him a delighted smile. "Ohhh, you're so much fun when you drop your stuffy-Brit act. I could kiss you…but I won't…"
He smiled back and grabbed a jacket.
Just before lunch, he left her alone in a shoe store and went to run his errand. He met her at the food court ten minutes later, the small bag tucked neatly under his arm. She arrived loaded down with two large bags of her own.
"Two for one sale," she explained. "How could I not?" She glanced at his bag curiously. "What did you get?"
"Office supplies. Two for one."
The afternoon passed by in a blur of browsing and lounging, and by mid-afternoon they were ready to go home. She flew happily into the apartment, shedding the bags and boxes at the door.
"Look, Dennis," she gushed. Then, to Sam, she said "I'm gonna go put this stuff away and have a shower. You ok by yourself for a bit?"
He nodded, bending over and picking up her discarded shoebox.
"Great," she called from the bedroom. "Start thinking about what you want for dinner…"
As soon as he heard the water running, confirming that she was occupied, he pulled out his shopping bag. Carefully, he emptied the contents into the shoebox, pausing only to scribble a note that he carefully placed on top of the contents. He closed the box and affixed a label to the lid with Gunn's name on it. Then, he held the package aloft and spoke quietly to the empty apartment:
"Dennis, is it? I may not be the Wesley you know, but I am here to help her. Friday afternoon, Gunn is going to come looking for us. Make sure he gets this."
He tucked the box into the front hall closet and sat on the couch, waiting for Al.
"It worked," he told him.
The kitchen chairs trembled as Al zapped in. "I'm glad," said Al. He surveyed the remains of their shopping, their video binge and their Chinese take-out. "Looks like you two had a nice day."
"We did. And I got what I needed."
"How's Cordelia?" he asked.
Sam smiled. "Wonderful. Still wired from a day of shopping and goofing off. Just got her to bed about five minutes ago." His face darkened. "She has no idea…"
"Don't go there, Sam."
"I know, I just…she was so happy today, Al. She's a young kid, she should be happy. And tomorrow….well, anyway, I found what I needed. Everything's set up."
Al pressed some buttons on his handlink. "Well, it looks like it still happens as predicted. Guess there's nothing left to do but wait."
Sam shook his head. "There is one more thing we have to do," he said, pointing at Al with one hand and the wall with the other. "Al, meet Dennis. Dennis, meet Al."
Friday morning, Sam began to tense. She was still on cloud nine from her day off, and while it was nice that she was so relaxed and happy, he had to start preparing her.
"So, Cordelia," he said over breakfast. "I think we should talk some more about that vision you had."
Her eyes darkened. "Oh, sure, Wes. That's a wonderful way to prepare for my audition. I don't want to talk about it, and I don't remember anything and anyway I have to get ready."
He knew she did. And he was trying to get her ready…for what she really was destined to do today. "But the vision…"
"Could be way off. I know, they haven't been before. But they could be, right? And it was so vague and fuzzy, it's hard to really know what it was about…"
She was talking fast: he had rattled her. But he had accomplished what he needed to and brought her back to the more serious world. She would be ready. And he would be too: he had already made a point of telling Gunn he would check in as soon as her audition was over. Hopefully, it wouldn't take more than an hour after that for Gunn to worry enough to come looking.
At one, he took her to her audition and waited in the wings while she did her thing. She was not a very good actress, but she had such a strong personality: she'd do just fine, he knew. If she lived through the day…
He walked her out, scanning the area carefully.
"Geez Wes, you're a little jumpy today," she said.
He shrugged. "Never hurts to be on guard…"
He wasn't sure what happened next, but at some point, he blacked out.
When Sam came to, he was loosely bound and sprawled face-down on a filthy and splintery floor. He was unbelievably dizzy: he tried to shake his arms to test the bonds, but the nausea overcame him.
"You'll make it worse if you squirm," said a breathy voice. "Lie still, and you'll be fine soon enough."
He raised his head painfully and finally his eyes focused on an icy blond woman.
"Who else? Now look, the party hasn't started yet so don't go aspirating on your own vomit or anything. Just lie still for now."
"Cordelia…" he choked.
Darla nodded. "She's here too, but she hasn't come out of it yet. Little wildcat, she put up a fight and we had to give her an extra dose of the sedative."
Darla laughed. "Just lie still, Watcher. We'll be ready for you soon."
Al zapped in a few minutes later. Sam had, after laborious effort, managed to flip himself onto his back. He was staring at the ceiling, breathing deeply and trying to still the dizzying waves of nausea.
"Show-time, Sam," said Al carefully. "You missed your check-in, and Gunn's on his way to her place."
Al nodded. "Some of her goons snatched you both. You're in some kind of warehouse. The girl hasn't woken up yet."
He stopped talking when Darla breezed into the room.
"Well, looks like you've recovered enough for phase 2," she said cheerfully.
She grabbed him by the neck and hoisted him upright. As he struggled under her grasp, she led him to the far corner of the room, attached clamps to his ankles and wrists and secured the clamps to a series of chains. They were long enough to allow some mobility, and he was finally able to take in the whole of the room, unadorned save the two couches piled together in the epicenter. One of them was empty, presumably as Darla had vacated it to chain him. On the other, a slight brunette with long and wild hair was comfortably sprawled, watching Darla with interest. Drusilla, he guessed. Cordelia was lying facedown, bound loosely as he had been. She was not yet stirring.
"Well Watcher, I don't know if you've met Drusilla yet. Dru honey, say hello to the watcher."
"Hello." She had an odd tone, and not just from the accent. She was…off. And that made Sam more afraid. He slumped against the wall for support, breathing deeply. He had to recover. He had to recover before Cordelia woke up, because she needed him.
Gunn pushed open the door of Cordelia's apartment nervously. Wesley had said the audition would be over by 2. He had promised to check in by 2:30, and he had told Gunn to come looking for them if he hadn't called by 3. It was now 3:42: he had wasted half an hour begging Angel to come with him, and the vampire had only reluctantly acquiesced when the begging was interrupted by a taunting visit from one of Darla's ghouls, inviting him to find her if he dared. Now, Angel reluctantly skulked in the hallway as Gunn went inside.
"Cordelia?" he called
There was no answer, but he felt a chill as a closet door opened and a shoebox flew out and landed gently at his feet. He opened it to find a small ear-piece, a walkie-talkie and a terse letter, scrawled in an almost-familiar hand:
[Angel--- take the ear-piece and wait for instructions from Gunn. Gunn--- set up the laptop and wait for instructions from Dennis. Trust me.]
Dennis was the plan? With a shrug, he turned the laptop on, barely noticing the bookcase rattle as Al zapped in.
"Hey, Dennis," said Al. "Start typing."
Darla and Drusilla seemed to come in and out. As far as he could tell, they occupied two adjoining rooms, which seemed to be the only habitable parts of the old warehouse. There seemed to be others in on this little project: he heard voices from the other room, and mention of someone being sent to fetch Angel. He seemed recovered enough, and if he stretched, he could barely touch the still-unconscious Cordelia. By now, even Darla was starting to worry about her.
"I hope she doesn't die on me," Darla complained. "What fun would that be with Angel not here to see it? Dru, how much of the drug did you give her?"
"Enough to make her stop kicking," said Dru.
"Well, she's better start kicking again soon. It's no fun to torture someone too drugged to scream."
Sam shivered, and Al popped in again.
"Hey, Sam. They're at her place now. Gunn's set up with Dennis and Angel's on his way. I'll pop back and forth to keep you both posted."
From the floor, they heard a soft groan. Drusilla clapped her hands gleefully.
"It's alive," she whispered. "Grandmum, it's moving."
Cordelia seemed to be discovering, as he had, that being drugged was not a fun experience. She barely twitched a finger before she moaned audibly and seemed to shrink into herself. Sam reached out a hand. "May I?" he asked.
Darla kicked Cordelia swiftly, sending her flying into Sam's arms. "Knock yourself out. I think my boy will be here soon, and I want to have a chance to play with her first. Get her alert, Watcher."
The movement hadn't done her any good. When he touched her skin, it was clammy and bathed in sweat. He turned her over, and she retched miserably.
"It's ok, Cordelia," he whispered. They used some sort of drug to take us…"
"And you, little cat, had to give you extra. Scratch!" hissed Drusilla.
"Dru, leave them alone," snapped Darla impatiently. "My boy is on his way and we have to get ready."
"Get ready how?" asked Sam.
Darla smiled. "My boy can smell me, love. It's too easy for him to find this little hideaway. But getting HERE and getting IN…that's not the same thing." She tugged on Dru's sleeve and led her away.
Al popped in to the apartment. "Hey, Dennis. Darla knows he's on the way and she's gonna have the whole place booby-trapped."
Gunn was pacing, but he sat down again when the computer started typing.
[she knows you're coming. warehouse. booby-trap]
He picked up the walkie-talkie. "Angel, she's waiting for you. Place is rigged."
Somewhere else, Angel nodded, fingering the ear-piece idly. He had no idea how Gunn was getting the blow-by-blow on Darla's movements. Unless…unless the powers really were helping them. If that were true…if the powers were intervening so directly…that changed everything.
Al popped back to the warehouse, alarmed to find that Cordelia did not seem to be recovering. Their captors breezed in a moment after Al had.
"Well, how is she?" Darla asked solicitously.
Sam glared at her. "Burning up. She was sick earlier, but we're down to just dry heaves. Thankfully, she's breathing…"
Drusilla stepped foreword and peered at her carefully. "I'm not happy about this at all, Grandmum," she pouted. "She'll get my chains all sweaty and sick."
"Well, it wasn't me who drugged her twice," said Darla. "Although my spies tell me Angel is making his way up to us faster than we expected. Nice to know he'll still see suffering even if we don't have time to torture her."
Darla leaned over and gazed firmly into Cordelia's eyes, holding up her index finger. "Can you see me, Hon? How many fingers am I holding up?"
Body quivering, Cordelia laboriously matched the rude gesture. Darla clapped.
"Wonderful, she's getting lucid. Dru honey, go get the surprise."
Dru hopped out and returned a moment later wheeling a cart with a television set. "See," said Darla, "We have cameras. Now, we can watch him coming."
Al had to stop himself from jumping up and down; there were more constructive ways to convey his excitement. Darla didn't know it, but she had just handed him her downfall on a silver platter. Finally, he understood why Sam had been brought here: it wasn't about his skills: it was about Al's. Too bad all of the people Sam leaped into didn't have ghost roommates. Without Al, and Dennis' ability to see him…
"Sam, we've hit a lull until Angel gets here. Keep her talking," he said.
Sam tried to organize his thoughts, which was not an easy thing to do with Cordelia writhing feverishly in his arms.
"So Darla, what exactly do you have planned for him?"
She smiled. "Well, no harm in sharing, I guess. See, what we're trying to do is get him away from the Powers-That-Be. And I'm afraid killing you two is not enough, because he'll just find another conduit. So we have to make him think that the Powers have abandoned him."
"And how do you plan to do that?"
Her grin widened. "How do you think? We've got this whole warehouse rigged, Watcher. WE are not going to kill you. HE is. The route to get him in here will lead him through a ceiling vent. It's rigged with a trap that'll fill the room with a poison that's deadly but only for humans. When he realizes that your deaths are HIS fault, even accidentally…it'll drive him over the edge, don't you think?"
"What if he finds your trap and disarms it?"
"He can't." Darla grinned evilly. "It's all rigged, Watcher. By the time he sees it, it'll be too late."
Beside her, Drusilla licked her lips. "It was my idea," she cooed. "I saw it in a movie. All he has to do to stop the trap is press a little lever. But the lever…that's where he comes IN. And the switch---that's where he comes OUT! A little shiny lever right under the window…"
Of course, they wouldn't make it easy. They had rigged the trap so that Angel wouldn't see it until he had already passed the switch that would deactivate it…and with the whole building rigged with who knew what, and Darla's lackeys following him, he wouldn't be able to backtrack…
Al zapped out and re-materialized at Cordelia's. "We've struck it rich, Dennis…"
Far away, Angel massaged his ear-piece. Someone was watching over him. He had been swayed. Wolfram and Hart had brought in Darla and they had swayed him. But someone was swaying him back.
Angel approached the warehouse and looked around carefully. There was a door. There was a window. And he could go in either way. He had to find the deactivation switch that Gunn mentioned, but he knew Darla was watching. If he acted like he was on to her, she would take Wesley and Cordelia and bolt. He had to play it cool. He walked the perimeter of the building, inspecting each window, each door carefully. Darla watched him on the monitor.
"Isn't he a cautious one today?" she asked Drusilla.
"It isn't Daddy," Dru pouted.
Darla rolled her eyes. "Oh, look," she told Sam. "Here's the first obstacle."
One of her minions had appeared in front of him, and they began tussling. The minion was to make sure that Angel stayed away from the window and went in through the door. Angel obliged him, and the cameras were not sharp enough to pick up the spring-loaded stake he shot from his sleeve. His vampire aim was right on target: he missed the minion, but hit the tiny lever he had aimed for. The camera never noticed.
Al briefly zapped back to the apartment and gave Dennis an update. He would warn Sam at the split second before Angel broke through the ceiling vent: a critical moment, because in all the excitement, Darla had made a crucial mistake. Cordelia had remained so out of it that Darla has completely forgotten to chain her. If the girl could rally herself to pull a crucial stunt, he could make sure that Darla and Drusilla had their backs turned when Angel descended.
Most of Darla's traps were pedestrian: ghoul appears at last moment, leads Angel into confined area, he kills ghoul and goes through only exit. He wasn't positive he had disabled the final trap, but he had aimed and fired. He resolved that the result, whatever it was, would be the sign he needed. The eerily supernatural instructions from who-knew-who were saying that he was heading into the final trap, the one that would lead him to Darla and Drusilla. He raised his hand, poised to release the latch.
Al zapped into the room. "Now!" he commanded.
Sam whispered into Cordelia's ear, then tossed her gently at Darla. Instantly, she began convulsing. Darla and Drusilla hurried over, and in their distraction, they didn't notice Angel swoop in. He appeared briefly torn when he saw Cordelia, but when Wesley caught his eye with a deviously knowing smile, he fired the spring-loaded stakes at the vampires from behind. Cordelia, a better actress than he thought, quieted instantly.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered. "I was swayed, but never again. The powers…"
Sam rattled his chains, and Angel hurried over. "Wes, I'm so sorry, you won't believe this but the powers literally brought me here, and…"
He raised a hand. "You'll tell us later, Angel. Let's get Cordelia out of here."
Angel helped him to his feet, as Al zapped happily in.
"You did it, Sam. Cordelia's acting and modeling career is a dismal failure, thanks in part to the bruises she picks up on her night job with him. But her agent doesn't give up on her, and in a few months she breaks into radio and winds up with a wildly successful talk show. She dies at a ripe old age and bequeaths her entire fortune to her long-time friend Angel. Wesley and Gunn are a bit harder to track down, but Ziggy has death records that show them around for quite some time."
Angel had one arm around Cordelia as he leaned over and whispered "Thanks for taking such good care of her" into Sam's ear. She seemed to be recovering, and as they departed, she gave him a brave smile, which was still ringing in his head when he leaped.