The "Rescue"... aaannd Awkward Conversations...
HA! I'm still here! There's no need to fear! :)
I'm kinda proud of this chapter, if only because it's moving the larger plot along.
Cordelia slowly followed Hank into the living room, Professor Xavier followed after her. She took the seat on the couch Hank offered silently and pulled her knees securely to her chest. If they didn't like bare feet on the furniture, they could just deal, she thought as she wrapped her arms around her legs.
“So, did they do something to me?” her voice was little, filled with obvious fear, “Am I gonna get all sick or something?”
Hank glanced at Xavier, worry obvious on even his fuzzy face. Xavier just sighed as Hank took a seat next to Cordelia on the couch, “Miss Chase, I could not find any obvious residual traces to know what it is they could have done to you.”
Cordelia perked up, her head snapping up from its hunched position, “That's good right? No residual trace means nothing bad in me! Doesn't it?”
Hank frowned and looked torn, “What it means is, if they've done something wrong, I have no way of knowing.”
“Oh...” Cordelia lowered her head again, her eyebrows scrunched together.
“However...” Hank frowned and handed her the file in his hand, “I did find these...”
Slowly and nervously, Cordelia reached out and grabbed them. She wasn't sure what she wanted to see, but when she opened the file, what she saw was incredibly familiar.
The scoff and shove of the papers back into his hands surprised both Hank and Xavier. Cordelia rolled her eyes and stood up from the couch, “That's what you wanted to talk to me about? My brain
“Miss Chase, I don't think you understand,” Hank started and slowly stood up from his seat.
“I already know, alright?”
The statement caused Hank and Xavier to both freeze, “You do?”
“Yeah-huh,” Cordelia rolled her eyes, “I thought you were gonna tell me something new. Gotta say, I'm kinda relieved.”
“Miss Chase,” Xavier rolled his chair forward, a deep frown on his face, “just so I'm certain we're on the same page, you're saying that you are well aware of the fact that you are dying
“Yup,” she chirped and smiled at the man. Her eyes then grew wide and she shot them both with a hard look, “Oh! But don't you guys dare mention anything to my friends. They don't know yet.”
“Of course,” Hank responded automatically.
“Good,” she smiled at the two of them. Noticing their confused and concerned faces, she sighed in defeat and leaned back against the sofa's armrest, “Look, I've been aware of this for a few months. I've gone through the five stages and am now well into acceptance. I just want to spend the last of my time with my friends, fighting the good fight. Is that so wrong?”
“Uh, no,” Hank answered, “I suppose not.”
“Forgive us, Miss Chase,” Professor Xavier started, “We were expecting a very different reaction.”
“Yeah,” Cordelia nodded in understanding, “Look, if that's all... I think I'm just gonna head back into the kitchen. Get something to drink.”
“Oh, of course, by all means.”
Cordelia didn't go to the kitchen. Instead, she walked out of the living room and paused in the foyer. Her eyes flew towards the window.
It was well into the evening now. Angel and Wesley should be there soon.
Suddenly feeling incredibly fatigued, Cordelia headed out the door. She took in a sharp breath. The night air was much cooler than LA. She wrapped her arms around herself and sat down on the front step. For a few moments, she stared at nothing, just let the cold air envelop her. She closed her eyes.If she could have screamed it would have deadened even her own ears. They scraped at her raw skin, force fed her some thick liquid with no taste, and poked her with several needles – usually in the eyes.
They snapped back open. Cordelia took in a shuddering breath and tried to hold her tears back. She didn't want to think about it, didn't want to remember or rationalize it. She didn't want answers or an explanation. She just plain didn't want it. Period.
Large, tear filled doe-eyes turned accusingly to the sky, “Why?!
” she shouted, “it's not enough you had to let one of my best friends die and give me his mind splitting visions, you have to physically torture me too?!”
She stayed silent for a few minutes, as if expecting the Powers That Be to give her some sort of an answer. She never heard the door creak open or see Remy slip out.
He froze when he saw her. He honestly hadn't known she was out here. Remy opened his mouth to say something, but then Cordelia started speaking in a hushed voice.
“Am I really that bad a person you had to send me there
Every part of Remy's body tensed. What was she...? He shook his head violently and just listened as the girl started sobbing. How he wanted more than anything to just reach out and hold her...
But he was only a stranger.
Uncomfortable, and knowing it wasn't his place, Remy turned and quietly went back inside. He was so consumed by her whispered question that he never noticed when Scott passed him.
Scott cast Remy a quizzical look before slipping outside himself. Usually the man had some witty salutation, but instead he just looked troubled, especially when Hank called him into the other room.
Scott too froze as he noticed the girl in question crying. With a frown, Scott sat down on the step next to her.
“How come every time I see you, you're crying?”
Cordelia looked up and over at him. She wiped at her cheeks and shrugged, “I just wanted to be alone.”
“Yeah,” he frowned, “Good luck with that happening here. Honestly, I'm surprised I'm the one that caught you,” the second he said it, a thought occurred to him. Scott snapped his gaze over towards the door and frowned. Did Remy catch her first?
Realizing she wasn't going to reply, Scott turned his gaze back to her. He took in her wavy – almost curly – short brown hair, her naturally tanned skin (obviously paler than usual), her dark haunted eyes, and her full wide lips. He only glanced at the bags under the eyes and ignored the tightness of worried skin. Scott's frown deepened and he looked away.
“I'm worried about the nightmares,” he commented in a light tone of voice.
“Yeah, “ Cordelia gave him a small smile, “those are gonna be a bitch.”
They both sat there in silence for a few minutes.
Scott glanced at her again, “For what?”
Cordelia just shook her head, “I dunno. Being here?”
A small smile worked its way onto Scott's lips as he worriedly glanced at the door behind them, “Someone should be,” his thoughts turned to the preoccupied Remy in confusion. He turned his attention back to the girl, “I should thank you for being here too.”
The hopefulness and desperation in her voice was a shock. But it was the pain in her eyes that did him in. Scott never registered how close he leaned in.
“Really,” he confirmed.
The next thing either of them knew, their lips were nearly touching. The hot breath warmed their skin, and just as they touched...
A sound of a car reached their ears.
Cordelia snapped back.
Sure enough, the old 1967 Plymouth GTX that was Angel's pride and joy came coasting up the drive.
The intimate moment forgotten, Cordelia scrambled to her feet and waited impatiently as it pulled to a stop. Angel literally jumped out of the car and ran towards her. He grabbed her shoulders in a firm grip, looked her up and down, then pulled her in a tight hug.
“You're OK!” he declared in relief only to pull away from her again, “You are
Cordelia smiled brightly and placed her hand on his, giving it a light squeeze, “I'm fine, Angel,” she glanced behind him and watched as Wesley slowly came up the steps towards them, “just happy to see you guys,” she pulled away from Angel and smiled at Wesley who stood one step below her. The two smiled at each other before hugging.
“The feeling's quite mutual,” said Wesley, his voice almost brimming with emotion.
“Who are you?”
Angel's question caught Cordelia's attention and she quickly snapped away from Wesley and turned around, “Oh!” she smiled nervously, the man and the intimate moment suddenly at the forefront of her mind. Thank God that none of them were telepathic, “Uhm, Angel, Wesley, this is Scott,” she turned to Scott, “these are my friends, Angel and Wesley.”
“Nice to meet you,” Scott greeted.
“Uh-huh,” Angel frowned at him before quickly turning to Cordelia, a slightly hurt look on his face, “were you two just...?” he let the question hang in the air.
Cordelia's eyes went wide and she let out an indignant scoff, “Like that's any of your business,” she defended, “ever hear of personal privacy?” she marched inside, mumbling to herself, “Geeze!”
Everyone's gaze followed after her.
Scott turned his attention back to the two men, as if intending to ask a question.
“Oh, yeah,” Angel muttered, “she's OK.”
Wesley and Angel slipped past Scott and into the house.
Angel stumbled back.
“Damnit!” he cursed.
Wesley and Cordelia paused and looked over their shoulders. Their eyes grew wide. They had completely forgotten that this wasn't a public place. It wasn't just a school, it was a home.
Scott, who was standing behind the vampire, frowned and looked on curiously, “What? Did you forget something?”
Three pairs of eyes turned to Scott.
Wesley found the chance for a cover story, “Uhm... Yes, yes he did as a matter fact,” he smiled and caught Angel's eye, “we brought along a change of clothes for Cordelia in the trunk,” he turned to Cordelia and smiled patiently, “Cordelia, why don't you go ahead and find the head of the household?”
Cordelia nodded, “Be back,” she turned around and ran off.
Angel rubbed the back of his neck as he slowly made his way to the car. He glanced at the bruises and cuts on Scott, “You look like you've seen better days.”
He smiled nervously too, “Yeah, you could say that.”
“Mind if we ask what happened?” Wesley questioned as he made his way back outside.
He hesitated, “Actually...”
“That's quite alright, we understand,” Wesley interrupted before Scott could finish his sentence, “it's really none of our business.”
“No, what I meant to say was, uh...” he frowned and glanced inside before turning back, “you might wanna ask Cordelia first.”
Angel froze just as he popped the trunk, “Ask Cordelia?” the horrifying thought finally finished its process and registered in his head, “You two were in the same place?”
Scott crossed his arms and turned his head to the sky, “Yeah.”
Angel and Wesley shared a worried look.
All three men turned to see Cordelia walking out with two men; Professor Xavier and Remy Lebeau. The latter of which looked to have been properly chastised. His head hung down guiltily and his hands seemed to have made a new home deep within his jean pockets.
Wesley turned towards the Professor and offered his hand, “Hello, I'm Wesley Windham-Pryce, one of Cordelia's friends,” he then turned and motioned over his shoulder towards Angel, who was still by the car, now with Cordelia, “And that is Angel.”
“Ah! It's a pleasure to meet you,” Xavier responded automatically. Inwardly, Wesley was relieved to find that this man seemed to be an old fashioned polite gentleman. It should prove no problem for Angel to receive an invite, “I am Professor Charles Xavier, I run this Institute and this is one of my associates, Remy Lebeau,” and as if to prove Wesley's point, the Professor nodded to him, “Well, come on inside,” he turned his wheelchair around and headed inside, “no need for any of us to catch a cold,” Wesley and Scott followed him.
Cordelia and Angel exchanged a glance as he closed the trunk. She gave him a small smile, her arms wrapped tightly around a pair of clothes, and headed inside the Institute. Angel trailed after her. As he walked up the stairs, Angel past by Remy. He paused a moment and looked at the Cajun strangely. For a moment, Angel knew for a fact that their eyes met from behind the man's sunglasses. A strange, familiar smell filled his nostrils, but he couldn't place it. Angel just turned his eyes back Cordelia, who was staring at him from inside the house curiously. She raised her eyebrows in impatience. Angel didn't so much as glance back at Remy, but instead kept his gaze on Cordelia and slowly and purposefully stepped over the threshold. He walked up next to Cordelia, who smiled at him and placed a hand on his shoulder, then they both headed towards the group in the living room, Remy entering last.
Everyone took a seat in the living room. It didn't pass Remy's notice that Angel and Wesley both took a seat on each side of Cordelia. He fought a jealous frown. Instead, he opted to slouch in the seat next to Scott.
Scott looked at him with bewilderment.
There were a few moments of uncomfortable silence. Angel fidgeted somewhat nervously, while Wesley pulled at his collared shirt. Cordelia bit her lip and glanced all around the room, wringing her fingers anxiously, her folded clothes resting on her lap.
“S-so...” Angel started, clearing his throat, “you guys found Cordelia?” he glanced at the girl next to him, before turning his attention back to the man in the wheelchair.
“Yes, that's right,” Xavier nodded and sighed. He rested his elbows on the armrests and steepled his fingers, “The man who took your friend is an enemy we've been facing for quite some time,” he explained, “from what we can tell, his experiments have had no after effects on your friend, but--”
Angel and Wesley both turned to Cordelia with wide eyes.
Brown eyes just rolled in irritation, “I'm fine!”
“But you were experimented
on!” Angel exclaimed.
“Yeah,” Cordelia nodded, “We already knew that was going to happen though.”
“That doesn't make it OK!” Angel half shouted at her.
“God, drama much?” Cordelia shot an unbelieving look at Angel, “I didn't say it did. Geeze,” she looked to her other side, “Wes, help me out here.”
“Um...” Wesley cleared his throat and turned his attention to the Professor, “So, this enemy of yours,” he quickly changed the subject, “perhaps we could be of some assistance?”
“Oh!” Cordelia's eyes suddenly went wide and she grabbed Wesley's arm, “I dunno, Wesley, this really isn't our kind of thing.”
“Pardon?” Wesley shot her a confused look.
Cordelia clenched her teeth and spoke purposefully between them, “It is not our thing!” she then smiled nervously at the others in the room.
“Oh...? Oh!” it took a moment, but Wesley suddenly got the gist, “I see...”
“That's fine,” Angel sent the two a meaningful look before turning back to the others in the room, “I still wanna know who it was and if he's going to come after Cordy again.”
“Alright then,” Xavier conceded, “he calls himself Mr. Sinister.”
“You're kidding?” Angel rose a disbelieving eyebrow.
“As pretentious as the name sounds, it is mostly fitting,” Xavier continued, “We've been dealing with this man for almost two years now. He's taken a number of my students these past few months, most of the ones he's taken are still missing,” there was obvious worry lining his eyes, “it wasn't until the children went missing that--”
“Wait a minute,” Angel interrupted and leaned forward, “he's experimenting on children
“It seems so,” Xavier admitted, “We've managed to find two of his labs. Your friend here,” he motioned to Cordelia, “was in the second one we found. As was my colleague, Scott Summers,” he motioned to one of the two men wearing sunglasses, “he had been missing for about three years.”
“Summers?” Wesley turned and shared a glance with Angel, “You don't think...?”
“I doubt it,” Angel disagreed, “Summers is a pretty common name.”
Scott sat up straighter and leaned forward, “What?”
“Oh, uh- nothing,” Wesley stumbled over his words, “just, we know someone who shares the same surname.”
“Oh...” Scott's eyebrows scrunched together, “May I ask... who?”
“Buffy Summers,” Angel stated quickly, “an old friend of ours,” he gave Wesley a mild glare, “Uh, please, continue about this Mr. Sinister guy.”
“Of course,” Xavier nodded, “We honestly don't know much about him and his employees. We do know he will make deals with those he can use to his advantage.”
“What kind of deals?” Angel asked.
Cordelia turned a nervous look to him, “Angel...”
“De kind dat involve blackmail,” Remy finally spoke up.
Everyone turned their full attention to him.
Xavier frowned worriedly, “Remy...?”
“It's fine, Prof,” Remy leaned forward, his shoulders slagging down, “Dis Sinister guy...” he shook his head sadly, “I use t'work fer him,” he paused, looking at the trio expectantly, but none of them so much as blinked. Remy cleared his throat, “that's how we knew where to find de two labs. Even den we were only lucky. De man likes t' move his base o' operations around,” Remy frowned and shook his head, “He gotta t'ing fer experimentin' on mutants.”
Angel and Wesley exchanged a look.
“Why he chooses de ones he does, we still don't know,” Remy turned his gaze directly towards the three. Cordelia could feel his intense gaze on her. It made her a little uncomfortable, “When some escape, he never bothers dem again, but others... he stays obsessed with.”
“So...” Wesley frowned and pushed his glasses farther up his nose, “You aren't sure whether he'll be obsessed with Cordelia or if he'll just let her go?”
“Unfortunately, there's no way to know,” said Xavier.
“Not until he comes after her again,” Angel stated, a frown on his face.
Cordelia frowned too and just looked down at her hands, her eyebrows scrunched together. Everyone sat in silence for a few moments, considering each of their options.
“Oh!” Cordelia sat up straighter and turned to Angel, hitting his arm.
“Stop crying, you big baby!” she rolled her eyes before declaring, “I had a vision!”
“What?” Wesley blinked in confusion, “Just now?”
“What? No!” she shot Wesley an annoyed look, “the other day, or whenever they found me! I completely forgot about it!”
“Well? What was it?” Angel glanced at the other people nervously before turning to Cordelia. He wasn't use to talking about her visions so openly in front of strangers.
“Um...” Cordelia seemed to think for a moment, “There was this young girl, running down some sort of alley... by Park or Parker Avenue? Someone was running after her... or with her? I can't remember. Then the next thing I knew, she was being attacked by vam--” Cordelia winced and caught herself just in time, “uh...” she glanced at everyone around her before turning back to Angel. She gave him a significant look, “by some very pale guys
,” seeing the recognition on Angel's face, she continued, “then the man put his jacket over her body... an-and he had a tattoo!”
“What'd it look like?” Angel asked.
Cordelia frowned and shook her head strangely, “Weird...” she cocked her head to the side and looked at Angel then Wesley with curiosity, “Why would somebody get a bunch of numbers tattooed on their arm? 'Cause, that's just weird. I mean, I understand flowers, cartoon characters, and hey, I even get the passé Chinese symbols, but plain ol' numbers? That just makes no sense.”
“Unless he didn't get the tattoo voluntarily,” Wesley replied thoughtfully.
“Huh?” Cordelia frowned.
“The numbered tattoo brings to mind the Holocaust, where the victims were forced to have numbers tattooed on their arms as a form of ID,” as Wesley was clarifying his statement, Angel didn't miss the looks exchanged between the three other men.
“You know who it is,” Angel easily stated.
Xavier sighed, almost seeming overcome with fatigue, “I know a man who had been present for that particular historical calamity, yes. He has since been stripped of his mutant abilities. From the sound of your vision, I may also recall a similar situation. Erik had been married many years back,” he seemed to be explaining this more to Remy and Scott than to the strange group in front of him, “to a young woman named Magda. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting her – as I met him during his search.
“When she found out he was a mutant, she grew terrified and fled. He searched for her for months, wanting to explain things. He found her about a year or so later,” there was obvious sadness and pity in the Professor's eyes, “before they had the chance to come to some sort of reconciliation, Erik told me they had been attacked. He used his magnetic ability, but it did not seem to matter. They were chased into an alley. His wife was killed, and Erik had only barely survived the attack.”
“Oh, God...” Cordelia muttered, “Poor guy, to go through all that, then lose the one person you loved...” she trailed off, a thoughtful look on her face, “huh, that sounds kinda familiar...” she glanced at Angel.
Angel completely ignored her and frowned, “So... why are you having a vision of the past?”
“I dunno,” she replied nonchalantly, “and honestly? I'm getting a little tired of it. I mean, hello! Give me a vision I can do something about, please!”
“Angel,” Angel turned to Wesley, “do you think that we're needed here for some other purpose?”
“It's possible,” Angel muttered, “but it's not our usual business.”
“And what exactly is your usual business
?” Scott asked irritably. He was obviously not enjoying the little off sequesters they kept having.
“Oh, uh...,” Angel glanced over at Cordelia and Wesley, nervously, “we uh... we run a detective agency.”
Remy couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at that, “A detective agency? Seriously?”
“Yup!” Cordelia grinned proudly, “Angel Investigations.”
“Angel Investi...?” Scott stared at Angel with a frown, “You're
a private investigator?”
“Uhm...” Angel looked at the three men somewhat nervously, “Sorta... anyway,” he turned his attention back to his own group, “is there anything else you remember from your vision?”
Cordelia was silent for a moment as she thought it over. She just shook her head, “Nope, that's it.”
Wesley leaned forward, “Is there any way we could possibly get in touch with this friend of yours?”
Xavier's eyebrows shot up and, though he looked very uncomfortable, his words showed none of it, “Unfortunately, Erik and I have not had the opportunity to stay in touch. I have no way of reaching him.”
Angel stayed silent, keeping a steady glare on the professor while Wesley responded, “Oh, I see...”
“Actually,” Xavier sent Remy a purposeful look, “there's something Mr. Lebeau would like to discuss with you,” Xavier motioned to Scott, “in private.”
Only sending his mentor a curious look, Scott followed Xavier out of the room without so much a word. Remy was now left alone in the room with the three of them, his eyes were fixated on his hands, his lips pursed tightly together, and his throat suddenly clogged. It was a good few minutes before one of the AI team finally spoke up.
“So?” Cordelia frowned and leaned back with her arms crossed, “What do you want to tell us?”
“Well...” Remy cleared his throat awkwardly, “I ain't 'xactly sure how t' tell ya, but...”
Hidden behind his sunglasses, his eyes landed on his daughter. Her eyebrows were raised curiously, her chocolate eyes held relentless judgment, and her foot was tapping on the floor impatiently. She was obviously growing irritant while her friends sat there patiently waiting.
He wasn't sure how he was going to do this. Sure, he had practiced this scenario in his head a thousand and one times, but actually doing it was so much more harder. He could never picture a situation that had a good ending. None of them ended in smiles or hugs, or even phone calls a few days later. There was disbelief, huffing, crying, and even cursing.
How were you suppose to tell someone you practically just met that you were their father? Hell, how were they suppose to react to that?
It's not like he could watch her grow up and more, raise her to be a good person. She was already grown, a good, if not strong, woman, and she had friends to take care of her. So what good was he?
“...but...” Remy actually stuttered somewhat. He could not remember a time he had been so nervous. That's when a thought hit him. He could go about this in a sort of roundabout way. As he spoke te next sentence he did it with a little more confidence, “dere's a very large chance that Sinister ain't gonna be leavin' you alone. Ever.”
Cordelia sat up straighter at that. She glanced at her friends nervously, “What? Why?”
“What do you mean?” Angel prompted.
Remy sighed, “'Cus, he been obsessin' over me since 'fore I could walk.”
“I'm sorry,” Wesley consoled, “But we don't exactly understand what that has to do with Cordelia.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, “I mean, just 'cause he gets a hard-on for you doesn't mean he's gonna go all stalker-ish on me. It's not like you and I are connected somehow,” the deathly silence that followed the intense and steady gaze made Cordelia's face paled a few shades, “Are we?”
He only nodded.
Angel scowled and snapped up. He said nothing, but walked behind the couch and began pacing, one arm crossed around his chest while the other rested on his forearm and picked at his chin.
Wesley only placed a hand on Cordelia's to comfort her, but she quickly snatched it away.
The earnesty of her question didn't surprise Remy at all.
The alarm that went off did.
A siren began blaring loudly.RED ALERT! RED ALERT! BASE IS UNDER ATTACK! I REPEAT: RED ALERT! RED ALERT! BASE IS UNDER ATTACK!