~~~Lifting the Veil~~~
~~~Chapter Two: Friendly Ghosts~~~
For a heartbeat no one spoke. Cordy remained glaring straight ahead and Rhys cocked his white blonde head to one side, as if listening.
Doyle looked back and forth between the two before asking, “Dennis? From your home?”
Cordy nodded, and her glare relented a bit- after all, she wasn’t angry he was there, only confused. She sighed, “Yeah, Dennis is my ghost.”
“You have a ghost?” Merry raised her eyebrows in disbelief, walking closer, circling the area on the floor that both Rhys and Cordy seemed to fixate on. She waved her hand in front of her tentatively.
“Not a ghost of me, silly, my roommate.”
Merry stopped her inspection of the empty space and swiveled to face the brunette, her ruby red hair just brushing her shoulders. “You have a ghost for a roommate?”
“And how did you know he was there? He’s invisible to everyone I know…” Cordy scrunched up her nose and frowned at Rhys.
Doyle rumbled softly from behind her, “Rhys has power over the dead, and that includes ghosts. As disconcerting as it may seem, it’s not uncommon to hear him having conversations with what appears to be nothing.”
Cordelia arched an eyebrow and sniffed. “So Rhys can see Dennis and talk to him. Right, you did say something about being a God of Death. Well? What do you have to say for yourself, Dennis?”
After a moment in which Rhys shook his head and eventually gestured back towards the seer, the sidhe responded, “He says he has no idea how he got here. One minute he’s fluttering around you in your living room, trying to keep you there, the next he got himself sucked through the mirror.” Rhys paused, a thoughtful look on his face. “He says it was most unpleasant a trip, but he’s relieved to be out of that apartment.”
Cordelia looked a bit put out at the limited explanation, crossing her arms and tapping her nails on her elbows. Merry nodded at the empty space and said thoughtfully, “I take it that Dennis was tied to your apartment, then? A traditional haunting of a building or space limits the freedom of movement for the phantom, right Rhys?”
Rhys nodded, still listening to Dennis. “He says he’s never been out of Princess Cordelia’s home. The apartment used to belong to his mother, but I get the sense there’s a lot more to the haunting.”
“A world of yes. It’s heaps messier than that. Dennis’ mom had some apron string issues, and when he told her he was getting engaged, she flipped. Sealed him all Poe style into the wall in the foyer to my flat then keeled over dead from a heart attack. She didn’t give up on inflicting misery though, and haunted the apartment for years, convincing every girl she could to commit suicide.” Cordy had a distant look on her face, as if she were remembering something unpleasant.
Frost spoke for the first time, moving to stand at Meredith’s shoulder. He peered at the newcomer and said, “And how do you come into this story?”
Cordy relaxed her stance and thought for a moment before speaking. The fates may have had plans for her here, but she still didn’t know how much to trust these new sidhe. Doyle was a somewhat known quantity, but the others… She decided to keep her background a bit vague. “Long story short: moved to LA to make it big, big not happening right away, crappy apartment with creepy antlered cockroaches, Doyle knew this guy who could get me the place for cheap, Dennis’ mom met the biggest bitch from Sunnydale, exorcised mommy dearest, let Dennis out of his wall.” She beamed, finally realizing what having Dennis there could mean for her. Here he was, a little bit of home, invisible home, but still… and he came for her. “He makes a wonderful roommate.”
The rest of the room, excluding Rhys, gave her skeptical looks, but she ignored them, whispering softly to the air, “And I’m awfully glad you’re here.” A light breeze ruffled her hair, flipping it around her ears and she sighed, suddenly concerned. “It’s not a problem is it? That he’s here?”
“Oh, no; not at all. It’s not like he’ll take up much space… and you said he’s a good roommate?”
“He’s fantastic. Makes the best eggs benedict I’ve ever eaten and he’s a whiz with the loofa.” Suddenly Cordelia blushed. Doyle arched an eyebrow and Rhys snickered. Merry rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, as if you guys don’t live weirder lives. Maybe he’d like to help Galen with the cooking.”
The green sidhe smiled widely. “It’d be nice to have someone else who doesn’t think burned toast is an acceptable meal.” He walked out of the room, gesturing to the empty space. “If you’ll just follow me, Dennis, I’ll show you the kitchen. It’s so much better than the one at Merry’s old apartment. Couldn’t even turn around in there.”
“Hey! It’s not like I’m a gourmet or something.” Merry shook her head and waved her hand at Nicca. “I’m going to want to talk to Cordy and Doyle, if you would…”
Nicca nodded shortly, picking up the bags. Sage flew from his plant down the hall after Galen, Kitto and Rhys, still talking to the empty air. Frost, Doyle and Meredith exchanged looks, gesturing to a small table by a bay window. There were four chairs around it, and they each took a seat. Cordy settled herself smoothly, crossing long legs with an unconscious elegance. She could see the other sidhe watching her carefully, but didn’t let it faze her. She’s spent most of her life as the center of attention and a part of her relished it.
“So, not that we’re not happy you showed up when you did, but how did you know what to do?” Finally, the question that Cordelia had been expecting was out in the open. Meredith didn’t seem hostile, merely concerned. Doyle was back to being unreadable, but Frost had an undercurrent of tension that seemed to flow under his flawless skin. He leaned close to Merry, probably without realizing it, and Cordelia couldn’t help smiling slightly.
“How much did Doyle tell you about me and my situation?”
“Only that he’d found a sidhe Princess in that new world, your world, and that he thought you could be an asset here, as well as needing to be near your own kind. He also said something about a detective agency, but wasn’t overly clear on why it was unusual.”
“Ah. Well, as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t always sidhe. I was pretty much the stereotypical California girl, but after I moved to LA, I started working for Angel, an ex-boyfriend of a- well, I suppose you could call her a friend- of mine from back in Sunnydale.”
“The vampire.” Doyle grumbled and the sound resonated in his chest, deep and low.
“You worked for a vampire?!?” Frost’s eyes were wide, and he drew back from the table.
With an eye roll, Cordy made a few placating motions with her hands. “Why does everyone react that way? Yes, vampire, but he also had a soul, so not really with the killing and maiming anymore. Anyway, we ran a detective agency with a few other people that specialized in supernatural crimes that the police couldn’t handle.”
“Oh, so the police didn’t have a supernatural task force?” Merry nodded, and Cordy wondered if she’d had run in with the police before with her own detective agency.
“Um, no. As in, the police, and just about everyone else, had no idea that the supernatural existed. I told you I grew up in Sunnydale- what I forgot to mention was that Sunnydale is actually a Hellmouth, which is about as friendly as it sounds. Mouths of hell bring all sorts of nasties, and I guess I got a crash course on what goes bump in the night. So when I came to LA, working with Angel was a natural fit. We did do some regular detective work as well, and helped the police out on normal crimes, particularly when a detective named Kate Lockley worked there, but mostly, it was the creepy crawlies. You know: possessions, hauntings, demon infestations, inter-dimensional problems. It was mostly word of mouth stuff.”
“And you were human? How did a human handle this work?” Frost looked genuinely interested, overcoming the hostility about working for the undead.
“Well, Angel was a vampire, but the rest of us, besides Lorne, were human. Wes did magical stuff, Gunn is fantastic muscle, Fred is a brilliant scientist, and well… me.”
“What did you bring to the group?”
She sighed, looking at the table top. “I’m the link to the Powers That Be.”
“Powers That Be?”
“You have to have something like them here- like deities, but not the typical Christian God or the like.” Cordy looked around the room, searching for evidence for any sort of worship, not that she expected to see anything. The closest such arrangement was a small shrine by the far wall with incense and a few small statues and a low bowl of smooth water below.
“Perhaps she means the Lord and Lady,” Merry offered.
Cordelia shrugged. “Sounds about right. Anyway, they need certain things to happen in the world, and to combat the forces of evil, they have a few champions all around the world. These champions need a conduit to the powers, and I’m it for Angel. Or I was.”
“Now you are a champion in your own right, so the bronze demon said.”
“Demon?!” Merry couldn’t keep the horror from her voice or the shivers that ran down her arms.
“I suppose we should get this out of the way: when I say demon, I don’t mean your kind of demons. Where I’m from, demon just means something non-human. All of us are classified as demons in my world. Anyway, Skip, that’s the demon Doyle mentioned, came down from his high and mighty perch to tell me that I was slated to be a champion, god I’m starting to hate that word, and what’s more- a champion for the Fae. Go figure.”
The foursome sat in shocked silence. Tentatively, as if she were still processing the information, Merry said, “But how did you know? About the jack outside the window?”
“Vision. Here I was, thinking I’d get to stay with my family and friends, live what passed for a normal life for me, maybe get that part I’d auditioned for last week, but no. Technicolor vision of you and Frost being melted away and finally shot. Guess the Powers knew exactly what buttons to push.” The bitterness in her tone surprised even Cordelia. She’d thought that she had a better control on her emotions, but it seemed that exhaustion and portal travel had a way of unraveling things. “I’m sorry… it’s just, well, this is new. I didn’t even know what I was until yesterday when Doyle jumped into my life.”
Doyle regarded her levelly. “We do not fault you, Princess Cordelia.”
“Cordy,” the seer replied automatically, though she didn’t think Doyle was the type to drop titles.
“Perhaps with rest…”
Cordy looked around at the table, looking at each sidhe and idly taking in the décor of the room behind them. It was spacious, elegant, peaceful, formal, and reminded her too much of her childhood. Her mother had a receiving room similar to this, and when she was younger, Cordelia had often snuck in to leaf through the books on the coffee table. Several times, she’d fallen asleep under the teak table, only to be woken and carried away by one of the servants to prevent her mother finding her there… Remembering those illicit naps, she suddenly felt how bone tired she was.
With a weary nod, she smiled at Meredith. “Actually, if you don’t mind, I’d love a chance to freshen up. Should I find Nicca?” The name of the cocoa colored sidhe came easily to her lips.
Doyle nodded, offering a hand to help her stand. “I’ll be happy to fill Merry and Frost in on anything else they find relevant, though they may have questions later.”
As if by magic, Nicca appeared in the doorway. He offered his arm to Cordelia and she smiled at the formality as he led her down the all. She could get used to gentlemen like this.
~~~End Chapter Two~~~
To Be Continued…
For those interested, there is an Interlude from Frost's perspective during the talk with Cordelia. It can found here:Frost's Interlude