title art by Esme
TITLE: Sweet Buns
FEEDBACK: I live and breathe for it. Pretty Please?
DISTRIBUTION: Supernatural Blondes, Desired, Twisting the Hellmouth, anyone else please ask.
SUMMARY: Cordelia wakes up from her coma remembering the peace she found while she was asleep. What happens when someone from her dreams appears in her life once more?
NOTES: I am working off the movie events for the Two Towers. I specify this since the elves did not go to Helms Deep in the books.
SPOILERS: AtS season 5, movie version of The Two Towers
RATING: say hello to the smut, tastefully vague, I believe.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own the characters. They belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox, WB, UPN and their associates, J.R.R. Tolkein and to a lesser extent Peter Jackson.
DEDICATION: Happy Birthday CinnamonGrrl! This fic is for you!
BETA: TaraKeezer, and most grateful appreciation on my part
You’d think that spending six months in a coma would get a girl some slack.
You’d think that spending even longer possessed by an evil power bent on world domination would be the ultimate get out of jail free card.
You’d think that spending not quite as long suspended in a heavenly plane being able to do exactly jack and shit to help out those you love would be a definite jump to the front of the line situation.
So, I get stuffed into a heavenly dimension, get body jacked by the people-eating uber hippie, and languish unconscious for way more beauty sleep than I could ever possibly need. What do I get out of it? Nothing.
I had it all, you see, and then it was gone the moment I woke up.
“I’ve searched the world over for you.”
“And here you just had to die to find me.”
“It was worth the sacrifice.”
I woke up getting my nails done. For a moment I thought I had just dozed off, that Raphaela was going to get a huge tip for the relaxing hand massage—then it hit me. The screaming woman wearing a turban and tossing the nail polish across the room was not Raphaela. I was not at my usual beauty salon. I was not in a beauty salon at all. I was wearing a dressing gown that even Liberace wouldn’t be caught dead in, and I felt like I’d been run over by a truck.
By now, a whole flood of people had rushed into the room, obviously to stop the woman from screaming her head off, but I didn’t know a single one of them. I didn’t know where I was or why the screaming lady was putting frost pink nail polish on my nails. I never do frost pink. Ever.
The moment he came to the doorway I remembered. Angel stood there in all black, those expressive brown eyes so terribly sad, and I remembered it all.
It was clear as day, the choice I made on the side of the highway, the time watching my friends fall apart—Angel in the ocean, Wes with Justine chained in his closet, Fred and Gunn and Connor striving to make it through one more day, and Lorne living out the life of servitude in Vegas. I felt that moment when my body was no longer my own, felt that thing inside me take control. I watched Evil!Me manipulate Angel, seduce Connor, slice the virgin’s neck, and then nothing.
That nothing that faded away to a very concrete something. Beyond a fever dream, beyond a hallucination, I found him there, another wandering soul. He soothed the pain, the frustration, the anguish, and he made it possible for me to live again in that grey cloaked land of the dead.
“You do not need to be weighed down by so much sorrow.”
“How can I not be? I don’t even know if they’re alive, what that body snatching creature is doing to them, what will become of me?
“But for you to know would mean you would leave me, and that would not do. You are mine.”
Eyes wide, I could see Angel begin to cry from his post by the door. I was too tired to sit up, but I did raise my hand. Angel collapsed on the foot of my bed in tears. Soon Gunn and Fred bustled through the door, followed closely by Wesley with trembling hands, and lastly Lorne.
Angel started explaining things that didn’t make any sense. How they all worked for Wolfram and Hart now. How he was the boss of Wolfram and Hart. Who in their right mind would make Angel the boss of anything? Motivational speaker he was not.
Wes looked so happy to see me I thought he’d have an aneurism. But something seemed wrong, like he was missing parts of himself, the way he looked at Angel like a mystery to be solved even as he gave me a hug so tight I thought my lungs would collapse.
Gunn was now the wonder-lawyer, magically enhanced and better than ever. He babbled something about reestablishing my legal status within the company since I wasn’t included in the original contract, except that no one was telling me what that contract was.
Fred swished and giggled and weeped a bit, but I could tell she’d missed me. There was some babble about coming to see her labs, but all I wanted to do was take a shower and get out of that damn bed.
“Come back to bed, melui-nîn.”
Cordelia slid back down into the fluff, curling her arms over the shoulders of her lover.
“I cannot believe there are beds here. I was pretty sure the afterlife was just…well…poof.”
“Perhaps yours, but this is my reward.”
“For what? Dying a grisly death in a battle you had no reason to fight to begin with?”
“If it was my duty, then yes.”
Angel told me I’d been there for six months. Wouldn’t you want to get out of bed after six months? Six months of doing nothing but getting inexpertly coiffed by Wolfram and Hart staffers…who apparently worked for Angel, which may explain the choice of nail polish. That and living a life in another plane of existence. Not that they asked.
It was a confusing first few weeks out of bed. So overcome with guilt about not noticing that I’d been body snatched to begin with—though how they could have missed it I have no idea, since the skanky Evil!Me had terrible preference in clothes and no concept of eyeliner, besides a morbidly upsetting taste in bed partners—that he had already arranged for me to have my apartment back on the off-chance that I woke up.
I was so relieved to see Dennis flap that dish towel at me I promised he could watch the Nick at Night reruns to his little transparent heart’s content. All of my things had been moved back there from Evil!Me’s temporary quarters in the Hyperion. I had my family back around me again, I was fully in charge of my own body, and I was alive. Life should have been good.
But it wasn’t. There were two people missing from my life.
Connor. No one mentioned it, no one seemed to notice. Angel looked sadly off into the dark too often, but never spoke about his son. Showing an unusual amount of tact for me, I simply didn’t ask about it. After all, I had more pressing things to worry about, like the fact that none of my clothes fit anymore—nothing like wasting away to shed those last five pounds.
Five days after I went home, I got a visit from Eve, Wolfram and Hart’s Lilah Lite. Seems Connor was a taboo subject since he didn’t exist anymore. Angel remembered him, but the only time I tried to bring him up, Angelus peeked through, and I was told in no uncertain terms that he was not to be mentioned again.
So I didn’t. But in the dark of deep night, Dennis held me in his ghostly arms, and I cried for what we had all lost.
My place in the world.
It was so easy in the beginning of it all, when there was just Queen C. The original Angel Investigations. Angel and Doyle and me. I was the secretary, I kept it all running, I was the glue, the heart, the, well, me. And then Doyle died and Wesley came, but it was still the same. I did the filing; I made the horrid coffee. More people were added over time, but I was still the necessary Cordy. The offices of Angel Investigations couldn’t run without me.
But now, I can’t even be the secretary to remaining members of my family, the remaining Angel Investigations. There’s no room for me in Wolfram and Hart.
Angel broods and rules and hands down proclamations.
Wes minds his books, ferreting out all those prophesies that make him happy, unaware of the ones that brought about our downfall.
Fred tinkers with her toys and flirts with her lab boys.
Gunn wows the legal world.
Lorne handles the entertainment contracts with the grace and polish of the most glittering agent.
And me? Well, I spend the mornings with Harmony of all the not-quite-people, looking longingly at the paperwork she files, the coffee she fetches, and the phone calls she bungles. I listen to her bitch about her Blondie Bear and the other secretaries in the pool. I’m reminded over and over again that I’m not one of them. I try to strangle the feeling of loss I have when I think of that other world, the one where I finally found peace.
“What will happen tomorrow?”
“The same thing as today. We will bask here together.”
“Not that tomorrow, silly, the one where I wake up back in my own world and you’re still stuck here.”
He frowned then, lines marring his perfect skin, luminescent as it was in life. “I do not know, sweet buns.”
“You know, it sounds awfully strange when you say that.”
“Why? You called me such before, did you not?”
“Yes, but…” she laughed. He would never understand, but that was alright.
It took them two weeks to find me an office. I think they converted a storage closet and magicked up a window, but I appreciated the gesture. I got a potted plant from Harmony and decorating tips from Spike. Angel stops by once a day to brood and look guilty, but no one engages me in real conversation.
Maybe it’s the knowledge that they should have known.
Maybe it’s the fear that I’m still not me.
Whatever. At least I know I’m me. I know that I’m the one taking the corporate credit card on far too many shopping sprees just because I can and no one has given me anything else to do with my life other than sit around and wonder about things that never were anymore. Or the things that might have just been the workings of my burnt out brain. That’s what scares me in the quiet moments—that I created him out of my imagination, the perfect solution to my misery. What then?
I still go to board meetings. Eve made sure of that. I think she just wants to keep me under her watchful if tasteless eye. At least Lilah knew how to dress—Eve looks like a sorority girl out for a night on the town.
So that’s where I am now, half asleep as Gunn drones something in boring legalize. You have got to be shitting me—I think he’s enjoying himself.
Oh look, now Fred’s playing with her palm thingymabob, and Eve’s getting pissed. It’s not as if she knows what’s going on either. This round, the Senior Partners sure weren’t picking the staffers on brains. Though given the rumored antics behind the couch with Angel, Eve must know a trick or two.
Yuck. And let me just say, curse considerations my ass. I cannot believe I thought I was in love with him. Even if I had been just the teensiest bit, having Evil!Me sleep with his son sort of put a damper on any future relationship, but that’s just one of the myriad things we don’t talk about around here.
Oh, look, now Angel’s zoned out too.
“So, now you know what the problem is. I’ve contacted the Senior Partners through Eve and they’ve tentatively offered a solution.”
Crap. I was probably supposed to be paying attention, though from the looks on everyone else’s faces, they’re as lost as I am.
“Er. Great. So, that’s good then.”
“Angel, dude, did you even listen to a word I was saying?” Gunn looked mildly ticked.
“Um, forestry issue. When did we handle contracts with the forestry service?”
“Since we took over. You have got to keep up with our monthly reports.”
Angel nodded, distracted. Fred and Wes exchanged a smirk, glad they weren’t the ones getting the smackdown this time.
“So, shall we get on with it?”
Gunn gathered up his things and gestured to the elevator of doom. I cannot believe we’re all crowding in here headed to the White Room. Fred, Lorne and Spike don’t have to go, why do I? The last time I was here was with Evil!Me and the Beast was slicing up the creepy little girl. Angel glanced over at me and I know he’s remembered that being’s warning about ‘the answer is among you’. I wonder what, if anything, Gunn remembers. I pretend not to notice Angel’s mood, and I watch Gunn tap in the code.
The White Room is just as unnerving as it was last time, except instead of a creepy girl in Mary Janes, there’s an enormous panther stalking towards us. It stops at Gunn’s feet, and he does something mind meldy then nods.
Can I just say how bad an idea I think this is? But no one is listening to me anyway, except maybe Spike, and he’s not here — something about needing an actual body to get into the construct. But the rest of them never seem to notice the bad ideas anymore. Not even flamingly large ones like, say, taking over Wolfram and Hart.
Sure, I’m glad I’m not dead by Connor’s demented hand, but there had to have been another way, a way where we’re not staffing our worst enemy. Not that I actually staff anything.
Oh, look, pretty mist, all swirly, and—hey! Do they know there’s a corpse on the floor?
“Guys, he’s dead. Didn’t you think to ask for a live one?” Everyone’s staring at me again. They do that a lot since I woke up.
“Gunn, an explanation please?” Angel’s brood deepens a notch.
Gunn doesn’t look pleased, and he kneels next to Wesley at the body’s side. The corpse is a little over six feet, with long blond hair covering the face, pointy ears, and a rough hand axe sticking out of his back through some intricately carved armor. Wes tilts the head to one side, fingering the crest of the ear.
“An elf? Where did he come from?”
Oh my god. An elf with pointy ears. I can barely breathe, but no one notices. All eyes turn to the cat which now seems to be laughing at us. Long canines shine faintly in the bright light and it swishes its tail. Fat lot of help that is. I’m having a heart attack and that damn cat is laughing.
Nobody seems to want to ask why the demons on high decided to send an elf. Trying to keep my voice as level as possible, I say, “Not that I didn’t listen downstairs, cause I really did, but what exactly did you ask for that we got a bloody, dead elf?”
Frowning now, Gunn spoke haltingly, “The forestry service has contacted us to help with an infestation problem. Enormous dog things — I think Wes called them wargs — have invaded Yosemite. As all of the slayers are currently occupied, and the wet works team is urban based, I thought we would seek the Senior Partner’s advice.”
Eve looks pleased by this, but edges away from the corpse just a bit. I lean just a little bit closer. The hair is in the way, but I can just see the curve of a cheek. I think I am going to pass out, or maybe throw up.
“Right. So what are we supposed to do with him?”
Gunn shrugs and stands up, but Wes peers more closely at the body. “Maybe, yes, this could work. Hang on.”
He grasps the axe firmly and yanks it out of the body. The dead elf in question is still for a few moments then suddenly jerks. A few twitches later, he draws a shuddering breath, but he’s still facing away from me. I want to walk to him, to turn him around, to see if my dreams were real, if we’d spent hours in each others arms, but I can’t move.
Obviously not pleased by what he sees, he jumps up and scrambles away from us, chattering away in a language I can’t understand. Why can’t I understand? I always understood him before.
Wes looks at him blankly. So the super-translator is at a loss as well. Wonderful.
The cat gives a low growl, and gradually the words coming out of his mouth begin to make a bit more sense.
“…and why am I not with my brethren in the Halls? I am dead, am I not? What is this place and why do they look at me strangely? Ai, Valar, what is to become of me?”
By now, he’s backed himself up to the wall, a short sword clutched tightly in one fist. His hair is bloody and matted and he definitely looks worse for the wear. He turns, finally, to face the rest of us. His eyes are too wide and I can actually see the panic setting in. Those eyes. Sweet heavens I know those eyes.
But they don’t know me.
Something inside me breaks. How can he not know, not remember? Was it really all just my imagination? Is this what he looked like when he died? Oh, what has happened to you? The wild tinge to his eyes gets brighter, and if someone doesn’t do something quickly, we are going to have one homicidal not-dead elf on our hands.
I take a step forward—hands outstretched with palms up. “I’m Cordelia. And no, you’re not dead anymore.”
The fine tremble in his hands is almost invisible and I keep my eyes on his empty hand. Who knew what he had hidden away in that outfit of his. He blinks. Something in those eyes softens. He relaxes, tilting that beautiful head to one side, puzzled.
My knees nearly give out. Softer now, I take a step forward. “Oh yes. You remember.”
He starts to laugh, soft at first but getting louder, and he pushes himself off the wall. I watch him warily, wondering if he is going to blank out again, leaving me with a blade wielding warrior on my hands. He stalks toward me, a predatory gleam in his eye. We are almost nose to nose when he stops and grips my shoulders. He raises a hand to brush my hair back from my cheek, tucking it over my ear as he had so many times before.
“It is longer now.”
Screw being cautious. I reach up, placing my hands on either side of his face, pulling it down to my own. His lips tasted the same, sweet and just a little bit like oblivion. He is startled at first, but then he draws me up, crushing me to him, and I wrap my legs around his waist.
A voice over my shoulder brings me back to reality. Angel grinds out, “Would somebody like to explain why Cordelia is currently sucking the face off of our forest-saving corpse here?”
“Uh, I have no idea.” Gunn sounded as confused as Angel, but out of the corner of my eye I could see that both Eve and Wes are watching us with open mouths.
“Who is he? And can I get a kiss like that?” Eve shifts her stance so the slit on her skirt rides a bit higher up on her thigh. She really is revolting. Isn’t Angel enough?
The elf ignores the skirt trick and answers, “Haldir, March Warden of the Golden Wood of Lorien.” The answer comes so naturally to him, an answer so much a part of his being that he is defined by it. I wonder what it’s like, to have that feeling forever. If you were to ask me who I am, I’m not sure what I’d say.
I used to be Cordelia, and all that entailed, but it’s hard to go back to that after being body snatched. Especially around people who didn’t know the difference between me and Evil!Me. What, then, defined Cordelia?
He lets me slide back to the floor and I’m so delighted to see him I don’t even mind the blood smears and dirt crusties all over my new Calvin Klein suit.
Angel raises an eyebrow. “And you two know each other how?”
I sigh. “We met each other before, while I was asleep.”
“When you were asleep? Wasn’t he dead?”
“Pretty much.” That shuts them up. Now they’re just looking at me as if I’d grown a second head. Hey, it’s not like I’m the only person in this room to have slept with a dead guy.
Haldir turns to me then, silver glints in his hair just like I remembered, gross war gunk aside. “So why am I here?”
“Guess your work isn’t done yet. We get that a lot around here.” Good thing Spike isn’t dancing in snarky attendance. He’d definitely have few things to say about that idea.
“Where am I?”
Gunn clears his throat. “The law offices of Wolfram and Hart in Los Angeles, California.”
Another utterly clueless look from my love and I roll my eyes. “Guys, come on. You yanked him out of my fairy tale and expect him to know where LA is? Get real.”
Wes is still looking bemused, but he stands aside as I grasp Haldir’s hand and pull him to the elevator. He twists his head around to get a better look at the group, trying to straighten his mussed armor. Curious and wary — I love that about him, that and his attention to fashion and detail. We are going to have so much fun.
“I’m getting him cleaned up and we’re going shopping. I’m taking the ’69 ‘vette. Don’t wait up.”
The elevator bings open almost on cue and I stuff him inside.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see anyone in my whole existence, which is pretty funny, since up until a few minutes ago I’d almost convinced myself he was a figment of my imagination. A tasty, sexy, delicious figment. The elevator ride to the private staff bathrooms takes entirely too long. He’s stripped and into a shower as soon as I can unhook his cloak-and-dagger outfit.
He is staring at the knobs in the shower with consternation when I push him up against the wall. That snaps his attention right back to me. He runs his hands down my sides to cup my ass, pulling me tight. He smells better and better by the minute, the spray rinsing away the crust of death and destruction. The water is warm, and I lather up the sponge. Running it over his perfectly healed body makes me shiver, and I can’t help licking his neck, just under the ear. I shampoo his hair, his long, glorious hair, and feel like I’ve finally come home.
“Well, now, Sweet Buns, it’s been too long.”
He smirks, shaking his hair under the water, rinsing the soap away. “Howso? I saw you only this morning?”
We look at each other, hazel eyes meeting ice blue, and I shake my head. “Will metaphysical wonders never cease?”
He swirls me around, pressing me up against the tile, kissing me with all the burning passion I remembered, nuzzling under my chin. “Ah, sweets, these wonders never cease.”
Boy howdy, does he ever have that right.
My world isn’t perfect. Connor is still gone, vanished as if he’d never existed. Angel is still going down the path of eternal brooding. The rest of the gang is hanging on by threads, too wrapped up in their new roles to notice any one else. But right now I don’t care. I got my slack, my get out jail free card, and I got to jump right to the head of the line. And that’s exactly where I want to stay.
For a smutty sequel, go here Hat Dance
For the title art to this story, please see:Esme's Title Art for Sweet Buns