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“And Another Thing I Hate About You!”

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Summary: “Tiny men with hard hats and jackhammers were at work in his skull, his mouth was an ashtray, he had a ring on his finger, a warm pleasant weight on his chest and a distinct feeling he'd done... something last night. Or maybe someone... ”

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Romance > Cordelia/Xander(Current Donor)IronbearFR1840233,8074028577,03113 Oct 1328 Dec 13Yes

Got a Red Light Love (Makes My Heart Stop)





Chapter Nineteen: Got a Red Light Love (Makes My Heart Stop)

(“Drives me so crazy, I can't even walk”)



“Some marriages are made in heaven. Mine was made in Hong Kong, by the same people who make those little rubber pork chops they sell in the pet department at Kmart.” ― Tom Robbins



Ow. It was dark and muzzy and his mind was filled with cotton. And his arm hurt.

Actually, ow. It was dark and muzzy and his mind was full of cotton, and his chest hurt too. Hurt all over, matter of fact. The fuck happened?

'You got shot and nearly died because the slug did something freaky and your chest filled up with blood, Hero,' Still Small Voice replied.

Oh. That. Damn – no wonder.

'Yeah. And I'm thinking we just came out of anesthetic. In a hospital, going by the smell.'

Damn. Und crap. He had an oxygen tube in his nose. Not of the good.

Xander cracked his eyes open, and sighed in relief when the room light didn't make his brain explode. No hangover then. Just... pain and aches. Oh, shit. Buffy!

He groaned, and there came a stirring from over beside the bed. He rolled his head enough to look over, and found him a Cordy curled up in a chair sleeping. Actually, stirring and starting to open her eyes sleepily. Still wearing the same clothes as earlier, complete with blood stains, and all rumpled and tousled and with bed hair.

And looking absolutely gorgeous. But he might be a bit biased, he thought.

Nah.

Cordelia sat up and stretched, yawned, and then the fact that his eyes were open registered on her and she sat bolt upright, leaning over towards him and taking his hand – the one with the IV tube, not the one with the hole in it – in both of hers.

"Hi," Xander said. Croaked, actually.

"Hi back," she whispered.

"Ok, when I get to heaven, I want angels with bed hair like yours."

Snort. "Jerk. I see you're not too hurt to be sarcastic."

"You'll know I'm dead, then." Xander blinked. "Water?"

"Oh!" Cordelia went to the pitcher on the bedside table. Tray. Whatever. "You can have ice chips," she said, opening up the little plastic pitcher with the bendy straw and taking some out to feed to him. "Until the nurses say different."

The ice melted on his tongue, and tasted absolutely incredible. It tasted like Cordelia looked, and that was saying something.

"More," he managed to croak.

She gave him some more, and when his mouth no longer felt like a cat box, he managed to say, "Buffy?"

Cordelia's lips quirked, and she nodded and said, "Fine."

She waited until he'd absorbed that and his eyes cleared, and he nodded, then she elaborated. "Shot twice. Something about a .40 Smith & Wesson? But I thought that was a Beretta... "

He had to work at it twice, but managed. "Caliber. .40 S&W is a cartridge."

"Ah." Cordelia nodded, and fed him some more ice chips. "I know 9mm, .357, .38, and .45 and that's about it in handguns. Anyway, two rounds. Expanded. Something silver... Winchester Silver-tips? The doctor said. Anyway... one slug in the upper chest, smashed bone, drove splinters in and punctured a lung and went near the heart. One to the lower right abs, took out her appendix and some bowel on its way out. Angling down, so it must've been when she dropped to her knees and before you caught her."

Xander nodded, and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he said, "But Ok?"

Cordelia nodded. "Yep. ICU, and they said she's lucky, but she'll make a full recovery." She smiled, "And since she's a Slayer, she'll probably be up and at 'em before you will, Doof."

"Ah. Cool." He closed his eyes again and smiled. He took some more ice when he opened them again. "So... " She gave him an inquisitive look. "Just got shot in the arm," he said, pausing. "So why do I – "

"Feel like hammered dog shit?"

"Yeah." The left side of his mouth curled up in an approximation of his lopsided grin.

"Probably because the bullet that hit your arm cracked the... ulna? One of those upper arm bones, the big one. And chipped it and sent splinters out and into your chest. And almost punctured your aorta."

"Ouch."

"Yeah," Cordelia said, nodding slowly with her eyes real big. "You suddenly had a plummet of something in the ambulance, and they started pouring plasma and blood into you like it was going out of style." She shook her head. "Scared the crap out of me, Doofus."

"Sorry," he whispered.

"You better be. Dammit." She blinked rapidly. "Not ready to be a widow. Just now got used to the idea of staying married."

"I'm ok." Xander stared at her earnestly, doing his best to project reassurance. "I'm all right, Princess."

"Yeah. Damn straight," Cordelia said. She wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand, and sniffed. "I'd of come in after you. Jerk."

He nodded.

"So, ok. Bullet curved around the bone after that somehow, and nicked one of the big veins. Started bleeding like a stuck pig about the time they found the chest thing. Your bullet didn't expand."

"Bullets do funny things," Xander said, nodding. "Good thing. Prolly why I have an arm an' not a bag of bone chips with an exit hole size of a softball comin' out."

"Don't say that." She shook his hand between hers. "I like your arms just the way they are."

He quirked an eyebrow at her and she flushed.

"Oh, shut up. Jerk."

"Your jerk," he said.

"Damn straight." Cordelia grinned at him. "And I'm keeping you now. You already followed me home and peed on the sofa."

He snorted, and then groaned, closing his eyes. Opened them again almost immediately. "Ok. Want drugs. But first—Warren?"

"Dead. D-E-A-D dead." Cordelia said, her eyes suddenly fierce.

"Good." He blinked. "You shot him."

Xander vaguely remembered talking to the Sunnydale PD while the EMTs were taking Buffy out of his arms and loading her on a gurney.

"Yup." She nodded. "Shot him dead. Three in the chest, one in the head. One graze along the arm. Winchester Black Talons."

"Ouch. And, good. Nice grouping?'

Cordelia snorted, then started laughing softly. "Not bad, no."

"Hey." Cordelia quieted and looked at him. Xander blinked at her again, said, "Love you."

She nodded, curled up the side of her lips in a lopsided grin, and said, "I know."


Cordelia hit the call button not long after that, and nurses came bustling in and did medical things to him. And around him.

But they gave him morphine, and showed him the little bedside thingy where he could self pain medicate if absolutely needed, and that was cool.

They weren't happy that Cordelia had waited until she'd talked with him for awhile before buzzing them. Cordelia wasn't impressed by their unhappiness. Go figger.

Apparently, Cordelia had it worked out so that she stayed with him, because she retreated to a corner out of the way while they worked on him, and no one tried to remove her or ask her to go. He did note that the male nurse of the pair unconsciously flinched and covered his nads when he had to edge a bit too close to her...

He got okay-ed for real water, though, and that was good.


After they were alone again and he had the bed adjusted comfortably so he was half raised to a kind of sitting position, he looked at her and said, "After visiting hours? How long?"

"Late. You were in surgery forever it seemed, then in ICU. Until they declared you serious."

"They don't know me very well."

"Nope. You're never serious."

"You keep feeding me straight-lines." They exchanged smiles. "So... you. Not leaving? How?"

"Huh. Must be the good shit in that dispenser," Cordelia said. "You're monosyllabic."

"Leaving had two."

She snickered and said, "Charmed the head nurse. Browbeat the assistant head nurse. Told your other doctor – Ramesh, not Shamshir – that either I got to stay with you or his convenient carrying handle came home with me. Minus him." She grinned. "He believed me."

"Heh. So did that male nurse, apparently" Xander said, quirking a slight grin. "Tiny, but fierce."

"Damn straight. And I'm not tiny." Cordelia frowned slightly, smiled. "Ok. Your parents came, briefly. When they found out you'd be unconscious for awhile, they left again."

"Damn." He blinked.

"Yeah. We can't freak out your Uncle Rory. Your dad called him, and he came by for a bit while you were in ICU."

"Heh. Cool."

"Yeah. Your dad clapped me on the shoulder and said I'm getting his marine corps marksmanship medal for my next birthday."

"Hah!" Xander grinned. "I think my dad likes you."

"So I gather. He said you were a dumb ass for having a permit and leaving your pistol in the truck."

"He's right," Xander said. "That's my dad for yas."

"Yeah. You would’ve killed Warren before I got down the back porch steps," she scowled at him.

"Life is full of missed opportunities."

"Heh." She grinned at him again, then said, "Ok. Dawn, Tara, and Willow finally went home. Dawn was out on her feet." She shook her head, "I called Angel to let him, Fred, and Gunn know what happened. Anya stayed until not too long ago, but had to go eat and shower. She'll be back."

"Anya?" He raised an eyebrow at her.

"Yeah. No big fireworks." She frowned again, slightly. "Something... oh. Jonathan is holding the fort at your apartment. He was horrified. I told him to use my car and go get groceries if he needed."

"Ah. Cool."

"You left your balls at home, dumb ass."

He blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Your orbs. You didn't have them on you. Tara slid your knife out and into her purse before the cops got there, remember, but we didn't find the orbs."

"Ah. In my safe at the apartment. Didn't figure I'd need them."

"Shows what you know, idiot," Cordelia said, huffing.

"We don't know that they'd of made me bulletproof, honey."

"But Warren at the Armored – " She blinked. "Oh, right, robot."

"Not gonna carry them everywhere and all the time, Cordy," he said. "Demon power. Don't trust 'em. No offense."

"None taken, Goof." She smiled, "Just use them when they're needed, ok?"

"Ok." He smiled back, his eyes crinkling at her. He frowned slightly, thinking. Remembering... “Tara,” he said.

“Ok, huh?” Cordelia blinked at him.

“Need Tara. Get me a Tara.”

“Ok, but, I mean, like, now?” Cordelia shook her head, apparently lost on the sudden turn.

“Well... ” he smiled. “Maybe not right now. But soon.”

She nodded. “Ok. Gonna tell me why? Or gonna make me play twenty questions and guess?”

“Dream,” he said. Cordelia blinked at him. “Had a dream walk-y thingy. While I was out. Want – no, need Tara to look into the fractured aura thingy and refrag me.”

“Ok. Oh! I remember now, her saying something about that,” Cordelia's eyes widened, then she nodded. “And, oh – that's just too too weird.”

“What?” His eyes searched hers.

She bit her lip. “I had one too, while I was sleeping here. And maybe earlier,” she smiled, shaking her head slightly. “I saw Joyce.”

“Ok, wow. Beats mine. I just see myself. Ugly smirking bastard. Can't see what you see in him.”

Cordelia laughed, then nodded. “It was neat. Tell you about it when you're less drugged and more awake.”

“'K,” he said, his eyes closing slowly. They jerked open again. "Oh – "

"What?"

"Never got your dance, Mrs. Chase-Harris."

"Huh?"

"At the Bronze. Warren and the Idiot Brigade derailed it." Xander shook his head, "Owe you a dance."

"Crap. Don't worry about it, Dweeb. I'd already forgotten," Cordelia said. She rolled her eyes at him. "So not important."

"Is too," Xander insisted, his mouth setting in a stubborn line. He held up his right hand, the one with the IV, fingers spread slightly. Cordelia blinked at him, then reached over and intertwined his fingers with hers.

He started bouncing his hand with hers in a reasonable approximation of the beat he wanted and sang, softly...

"Oh – Sugar, awww Honey honey. You are my candy, girl, and you got me wanting you... "

Cordelia stared at him, those hazel eyes going wide, then her lips split open in a wide, thousand watt grin and she started bouncing her hand and bobbing her head along with him.

She joined in time for the... "I just can't believe the loveliness of loving you... I just can't believe it's true... "

They grinned at each other, tears gleaming in her eyes, and hand danced to the Archies for the dance that dead Warren Mears had stolen from them.

And would never steal away again.



Joan Jett blatted "I love Rock and Roll" from her purse and Cordelia jumped. It took a her a moment to realize it was a ring tone, and then to figure out that it was Xander's cell from when she'd stuck it in her bag at the Bronze, oh, an eon ago. Roughly... She dug it out, flipped it open and held it to her ear.

"Hello?"

«Hello, Xander? Oh, no I'm terribly sorry – I must have - »

"Giles! Don't you dare hang up."

«Um, Cordelia?» Giles' voice was hesitant on the other end...

“Duh. It's not the Tooth Fairy, Giles. But here? You never know.”

«My word, it is so very good to hear your voice. But I was rather expecting Xander at this number... »

"Oh, you know, marriage," Cordelia said, waving airily even though he couldn't see it. "First you lose your sock drawer, then your wife takes over your phone."

Chuckle. «So I'm told, albeit that I've never had the experience myself.»

Cordelia laughed, and then sobered abruptly. "Oh, crap. I'm sorry Giles. Xander handed me his phone the other night – I'm amazed it's still charged – and the reason I still have it is because he's in the hospital temporarily."

«Oh, my. Is he... »

"He'll be fine." She sighed, "Warren Mears tried to kill Buffy, and then the rest of us. He shot Xander in the arm, and Buffy, and put both of them down before we could stop them. But don't freak – Buffy's in ICU, but she's supposed to make a full recovery, the doctor says... " Cordelia ran down finally and paused for breath.

«I see. Well, that answers several of my next questions, I suppose. Thank you.»

"Hold on a moment, please."

She'd been on her way to the cafeteria to grab coffee and snacks, with Anya and Dawn taking over the Xander sitting for the moment, when the cell went off. She looked around and quickly found a small waiting area and dropped into a seat.

"Ok, I'm all settled now. Hit me."

«I must say, despite the circumstances, marriage sounds rather good on you. You didn't sound nearly as vibrant the last time I spoke with you before you were leaving Sunnydale.»

"Thanks!" She was pretty sure that if she had Faith's dimples, they'd be dimpling for all they were worth right now. "It's... an experience, let me tell you."

«Considering where I've reached you, and what little Xander told me earlier, I'm quite certain it is. A pity, you should enjoying a honeymoon right now, not dealing with hospitals and Sunnydale lunacies. And Sunnydale lunatics.»

She laughed. "Oh yeah. Well, it's had its honeymooner aspects. And don't you worry – we get done with this vision looking into thing, and I'm dragging Mister Chase-Harris to Cozumel or Bimini for a real honeymoon if I have to grab him by the convenient carrying handle to do so."

Quiet laughter on the other end of the connection. «I have no doubt of that, Cordelia. You always were a determined young woman, as I recall.»

Cordelia swallowed, suddenly feeling her throat close up from the lump in it. "Oh, Giles... God, I've missed you. I just now realized how very much I missed you."

There was a throat clearing noise on the other end, and she could picture him holding the phone to his ear with one shoulder while furiously polishing his glasses. «Yes, well. I rather, err, missed you as well, Cordelia. Your absence did leave a rather large and, err, not easily repairable gap in our group.»

"Really?" Her voice sounded small in her own ears.

«Well, of course.» Giles' voice sounded a bit faintly and dryly exasperated, and it was such a wrench back to high school when he'd look at them over the top of his glasses with that same fond, dry, exasperation at their antics or denseness that it spun her head, and left her silently gasping. She felt her heart clench at the same time she unaccountably felt herself go lighter than air.

"Don't." Cordelia swallowed. "Don't, please. I don't know how much charge this phone has and if you get me wailing and sobbing here, Giles, you won't get anything coherent from me for hours at this point."

«Of, course, my dear,» he said, gently. «I'd imagine it's been rather... »

"Oh, you have no idea."

«Well,» He made that throat clearing sound again and his tone went businesslike. «So, you say that Buffy is all right, and she's going to recover fully?»

"Yeah. ICU, check. Major surgery, check. But with Slayer powers?" Cordelia shrugged even though she knew he couldn't hear it. "She'll be back up in a day or two and probably one hundred percent in less than a week."

«Excellent. Well, that does have something to do with why I've called. The Council is in a bit of an uproar at the moment, and I'm afraid it shall delay my leaving for Sunnydale for as long as possibly a week.»

"Oh?"

«Yes. It seems that there has recently – quite recently – been an indication that a new Slayer has been called, and it has shaken things up considerably, as you might imagine.»

"Oh, crap. Faith... ?"

«No, no. Apparently, Faith is alive and quite well in Stockton. With no life threatening issues whatsoever.» Cordelia let out a breath as Giles continued. «Which is rather a large part of what's causing the uproar, as you can well imagine.»

"Uh, no. I'm not sure I can... ?"

«Well, uh, you were aware that no Slayer was Called upon Buffy's second and rather more permanent death, at the hands of Glorificus?»

"Nope. No clue. Color me clueless."

«Hrrm. I was certain I'd made that point to Angel and Wesley when you were up for Buffy's memorial... ah, well. No matter.» He paused momentarily, probably to gather raveling train of thought ends, and continued. «The Slayer line apparently passes through Faith, with her being the Slayer Primus now. Leaving Buffy as Slayer Secundus and an, err, offshoot, rather than a branching line.»

"Huh. Wouldn't mention that to Buffy unless I was well out of reach. She's kind of stuck on her 'I'm the Slayer' shtick. I think she gets a lot of validation from that." A thought struck her belatedly – been a long, stressful day – and she said, "Oh! Wait – Buffy supposedly flat-lined for, like, under thirty seconds on the operating table."

«Hrrm.» Cordelia got the impression of furious glasses polishing action this time. «Fascinating. If that's the case, then... it seems... hrrm. It might be possible that Willow managed to Call Buffy again when she resurrected her.»
"Meaning... "

«I'm not certain. One thing, is that it means there are now two Slayer lines, and the ramifications of that I can't begin to imagine. If Willow managed to wrench the lineage from Faith... »

"Wow. Ok, major badness, I'm sure. Not even a Watcher and I can catch that curve ball."

«Yes. Quite. Meddling in mystical forces of that magnitude and antiquity cannot possibly be without ramifications, and, uh, repercussions.»

"Ok, and, wow – again, I want to be in another county when you have that discussion with Willow. Country, maybe. I'm getting that she's a bit touchy about criticism of her magic use these days."

«Yes. I am aware.» Giles' voice was dry enough to take moisture out of your pores with.

"Ok. So, Watcher's Council is doing the 'run in circles, scream and shout' thing. Check."

«Quite. So, whilst I have made some effort at your situation, in between wrapping up affairs, packing and closing down my flat for an extended absence, preparing references for shipment, and dealing with a bunch of quietly panicking fossils... »

Cordelia laughed, "It hasn't been as much effort as you'd like. I get it," she said.

«Yes.» She could hear the quiet laugh in Giles' voice. «You should see them, Cordelia, I believe you'd find it hilarious. As I said: a bunch of maundering fossils who seem to be convinced that only I can possibly understand and interpret what is transpiring in the Colonies, as I am woefully... Americanized.»

Cordelia burst out laughing at that, as much at the dry humour and exasperation in Giles' voice as at the mental image of Giles being 'Americanized'. “Oh, my God. You? A- a Colonial? Bwaha! That is priceless!”

«Quite.» She could hear Giles nodding at the other end, and polishing his glasses, those green eyes glinting with malicious amusement. «However, I have managed to do some reading in the archives on Seers, past, and present. I'm afraid that I can not find any historical reference indicating an instance where visions or Seer abilities were passed or given to someone. As in, an infection, or aspect, as it were.»

"Oh."

Cordelia was suddenly glad she was seated, because otherwise she'd be sitting on the floor right now, with no idea of how she'd gotten there. She swallowed, hard, feeling faint.

«Cordelia? Are you all right, my dear? Cordelia!»

"I'm here," she managed. "And, no... I'm not all right. But... wait, what? What about that Tammy girl? The one from the, uh, 1630s?”

«Hrrm. Who?»

Tammy. I met her on the, uh, Astral Planes thing, Skip showed her to me. She was a Vision Girl like me, she said, uh, she had an accent like Spike’s, y'know, Cockney?” Cordelia said, aware that she was starting to babble, “And she said that way back when, the villagers wanted to burn her at the stake, they thought she was a witch... and the visions blew her head out and killed her... ”

Cordelia trailed off, suddenly feeling very cold and terrified she’d been lied to. And a slow, building, and deep burning rage...

«Uh, ah... no, I'm afraid that that doesn't ring any bells for me, my dear. I, I’m sorry, Cordelia. I’ve found no trace of anyone in the archives matching that description acting as a Seer, o-or messenger for the Powers-that-Be.» Giles sounded apologetic. «And if your information is accurate, then I... I should, um, have already done so.»

“But... ” Cordelia swallowed hard, feeling the hurt and the icy anger begin to fester. “Skip told me... he said that only demons were meant to have the visons. Humans weren't meant to be able to handle them.”

«Oh, poppycock, Cordelia.» Giles said, sounding exasperated again. «Cassandra? The Oracles at Delphi? The Sibyls? I can assure you that to the best of my knowledge, and to the very best of the knowledge of the archives, that none of them were demonic in nature.»

“But... ”

«Now, possibly other than demonic, I'll grant you.» Giles said. «According to mythology, Cassandra of Troy, the Delphinium Oracles, Delphic Sibyl, and Persephone were all the offspring of divine or demi-god natured beings to one degree or another. There is some speculation, speculation with a good basis in solid research, that a trace of demi-god heritage and blood may be at the root of all human psychic abilities. Possibly even at the root of the Slayer origins, although that is purely speculative at the moment... »

“You mean... you mean Doyle didn't give me the visions or- or– or infect me with them or something?" That was like getting punched in the stomach at the same time Ed McMahon hands you the check.

Still Quiet Voice went, 'Yes! Doyle didn't screw us over! He did love us, see! Neener neener. Bool-yah!'

«No. I believe not. As far as I'm able to ascertain, Cordelia, clairvoyants and Seers are born, not made. It is a normal, natural – albeit very rare – and human ability.» He paused. «Well, there are demonic Seers and psychics also, of course, but – »

"I. Am. Going. To. Kill. Wesley," Cordelia said, very quietly and fiercely. Almost hissed it as a matter of fact.

«Well, uh, I have access to – »

"And. That. Skip... ooohhh!" She growled it, this time. She was vaguely aware of a faint brightness to everything around her. Huh. My hand is glowing slightly, she thought. "You mean Xander was right?"

«Well, I, err, uh, well, yes, possibly – »

"So why were the visions killing me, Giles? Why the brain damage? Why the- the pain– no- freaking agony with them?"

«Cordelia.» It was said so quietly and gently and caringly that it yanked her back from the edge of some abyss she was only barely aware she'd been standing at. Her glow slowly faded away.

"I'm... " she took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "I'm better now, Giles. Or under control, at least."

«I quite understand, dear. And the best I can tell you without a great deal more research is that Seers and clairvoyants are awakened, not made. If the historical records are anything to go by, you would – should – have begun coming into your abilities naturally at some point between your twenty-first and twenty-fifth birthdays, without all the accumulated trauma. Had they not been forcibly awakened early, I believe.»

"I'm am going to find the Powers-that-be-fucking-with-me, and I am going to destroy them, Giles."

«And I will do everything in my power to help you, Cordelia.» Giles' voice was quiet, soft and rich and dangerous sounding. «As, I'm sure, shall Xander. And Buffy and the rest. We do not allow our own to b-be... frivolously damaged in this way without attempting to do something about it.»

"Thank you, Giles. Thank you so very much," she felt her voice break and her eyes well up. "Uh... this phone is making low battery noises at me and... "

«I quite understand. I shall make every effort to see and speak with you further in person, as soon as is humanly – and Watcherly – possible.»

"Good bye, Giles."

«So long Cordelia. And, fare well.»

She closed the phone and sat there very quiet and still for a long while, tears running down her face unnoticed and unheeded.



She was still sitting and staring at nothing in particular with no idea of how much time had passed, if any, when she became vaguely aware of footsteps and someone standing in front of her. Two someones. She looked up.

Oh. Gunn and Fred. That late already?

Gunn had his hands stuck in his pockets and was looking down at her, an alarmed expression on his face. So was Fred, wearing a light summer dress and Gunn's leather jacket and holding a white paper bag with a rolled up top in her hands and an Espresso Pump tray with four coffees. Fred's eyes were slowly going saucer big.

"Hey," Cordelia said, sniffling and wiping at her cheeks with the heel of a hand.

"Oh, honey," Fred said. She hastily set the bag and the coffee tray on a seat nearby and dropped to her knees by Cordelia, taking Cordelia's hands in both of hers. "I'm so sorry."

"Ah." Cordelia blinked, and sniffled again. "I must look like a wreck. Been a long day and I just had a shock."

"Damn," Gunn said, scowling and looking away uncomfortably. "I liked Harris."

"Huh?" Cordelia's head snapped around to him. She looked back at Fred, her mouth dropping open and her eyes going wide. "Oh, no no no... " she said. "Xander's ok – he's going to be fine, the jerk."

"Ah... " Gunn said, looking back at her, the scowl melting away to be replaced with a confused look.

"Oh." Fred rocked back on her heels. "That's... good. No! That's great! We just saw you sitting here with – " she made a gesture, "and thought... "

"Oh, no," Cordelia looked blankly around for her purse. Gunn handed her his handkerchief and she took it gratefully, dabbing at her eyes. "Different shock. Sorry."

"Nuthin' to be sorry about, Barbie," Gunn said. He squatted on his heels on the other side of Cordelia's seat.

"Brought some coffee from that place we passed," Fred said, smiling. "And some of the colaches from that place in L.A. you like, on our way out."

"Oh. Thanks. Was on my way for coffee and snacks when... " Cordelia made a vague gesture, realized she was still holding Xander's phone, and shoved it into a pocket on her jacket. Anya's jacket. Anya had brought her a jacket when she came back, she remembered now...

"'k, so... " Gunn raised his eyebrows.

"Phone call. Good news. Bad news. Something news... " Cordelia drew in a deep, shuddering breath. "Uh. Ever had your universe turn inside out on you?"

"Yeah," Gunn drawled. Fred nodded beside him.

"Oh. Yeah, of course you have," Cordelia smiled, finding it didn't hurt. "Uh... Angel?"

"Slipped in to visit the Buffy," Gunn said. "Lorne went with him."

"Oh. She won't be awake yet, probably."

"Won't stop him," Gunn said.

"No. Wouldn't me, either," Cordelia said, her smile broadening a bit. "So, uh, you guys have a place to stay yet? Not really room at Xander's – ours – but Buffy maybe... "

"Uh huh," Fred nodded. "Angel's old place."

"The mansion on Crawford? But it's probably... " Cordelia ran out of words for what it was probably, after three years of vacancy and neglect.

"Hey. Fang says it has running water and 'lectricity," Gunn said. "We'll make do."

"Yeah," Fred said. "Won't be here too long. We have a case."

"So. Angel was real weird when he got off the phone with you," Gunn said. "Said you shot some guy?"

"Yeah. Warren Mears," Cordelia said, nodding. "He was trying to shoot Buffy, hit Xander too. He would have shot Tara dead, too, but I stopped him."

"Would have?" Gunn raised his eyebrows. "Vision?"

"Yeah. And so don't even mention the visions or those damned... Powers," Cordelia said, almost spitting the word Powers. Gunn leaned back, raising his hands palm out.

"Whoa. No probs."

"Sorry," Cordelia said. "Yeah. Almost last very fucking second vision. Barely made it outside before it was all over. Shot Warren just as Buffy was hitting her knees and he was about to empty the magazine into them."

"Ouch," Fred said, wincing.

"Yeah, ouch," Angel's voice said as he and Lorne came up.

Cordelia's gaze went to them. "Hey," she said, "I was just telling Fred and Gunn... "

"We heard," Angel said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Xander... ?"

"Is going to be fine. Shot in the arm and they had to remove bone splinters that flew into his chest, but he'll be good."

"Oh, cupcake," Lorne said. "Even so, that's just got to be hard."

"Yeah," Cordelia said, nodding. "Buffy?"

"She's ok," Angel said. "Well, stable, anyway. And her chart says she'll be fine. But... " he spread his hands, looking helpless, "She looks so tiny lying there with all those tubes. Fragile... "

"Yeah. Really not a very big girl," Cordelia said. "But she'll be fine too, doctors said."

"Are you ok?" Angel asked, looking at her intently.

"No. But I will be."

Angel smiled slightly, looking relieved. Boy, did she ever have a shock or two for him...

“Buffy called,” Angel said. “Guess... not long after you guys left her place, the uh, other day?”

“Yesterday. I think,” Cordelia said, frowning slightly. “I think.”

“Yeah. Chewed me out up one side and down the other for not calling and telling her about Connor. And Darla. And your visions problems,” he said, shaking his head and scowling.

“Serves you right,” Cordelia said. She snickered, finding it funny despite everything else.

"So. Phone call, yours? Shock?" Fred asked, her eyes searching Cordelia's face. "But it's ok if you don't want to – "

"Nah. It's fine," Cordelia said. She took one of the coffees from the tray and opened it, sipping. Mocha latte. Good. She took a deep breath. "Giles was on the phone. Doyle didn't pass me the visions."

"Uh." Angel looked pole axed, standing there blinking. "But... "

"I'm a seer, Angel. A human seer. According to what Giles found in the Council archives, Seers are born, not made," Cordelia said. The Powers did something and awakened me, oh, about two to three years earlier than I would have naturally."

"Uh." Angel still looked pole axed. So did Gunn and Fred. "But the pain? And the damage? And what Wesley and Skip said... ?"

"Apparently, being forcibly awakened isn't all that good for you," Cordelia said, dryly. "And I damn near walked down to L.A. to strangle Wesley after I hung up. If it hadn't been for all this... " she took a deep breath, "And don't even get me started on Skip."

"Well, crap," Gunn said.

"Exactly."

"Hrmm." Lorne said, his gaze distant. Cordelia looked at him sharply, and he met her eyes carefully, his own full of pain and sympathy. "I'm so sorry, Honeybunch. But if the Powers were manipulating your destiny directly, then that explains why I never got anything directly pertinent whenever you sang for me."

"Manipulating. That's a really good word," Cordelia said, nodding. She took a deep drink of her mocha. "I've been sitting here running the past, oh, six years through my mind wondering just how long those... bastards have been playing with me. Us."

"So Harris was right," Angel looked more than faintly croggled by the concept, even as the words were coming out of his mouth. "We really should have looked harder."

"I have lots of other good words," Fred drawled, her Texas accent going deeper, "But I don't think y'all want to hear them." Gunn nodded, his eyes gone hard and flat.

"Join the club, sugar-cakes," Lorne said.

"It's an exclusive membership right now, but growing fast," Cordelia said. "Giles is pissed off, too."

"So, we should have..." Angel trailed off, not finishing. His eyes suddenly were looking anywhere but at Cordelia.

"We should have. We didn't. I didn't. It is not your fault, Angel," the edge to Cordelia's voice brought his eyes around to meet hers, and after a moment, he smiled faintly.

"Your husband seems to think it is," Angel said.

"My husband's mouth runs ahead of his common sense a lot of times," Cordelia said, smiling lopsidedly, "Especially when he's scared and pissed off. Like with Buffy and Willow last night... "

Everyone looked at her sharply, and Cordelia flushed. She hadn't meant to blurt that out. Maybe Xander wasn't the only one without a brain to mouth filter when he was pissed off.

'Gee, you think?' Still Small Voice said, snickering.

Oh, shut up.

She sighed. Screw it. "That's why they were in the backyard when Warren came up looking for revenge. Xander was out there apologizing for some things he popped off with after we came back to Revello and found out that Spike tried to rape Buffy and almost succeeded. And that Buffy didn't want to stake him for it."

Fred and Gun sucked in their breaths.

Cordelia's lips curled up at the corners, humorlessly. “Yeah. Think that when he unloaded on Angel was nasty? Should have seen this.”

Angel went very still, in that way that only a vampire can do. No breath, no involuntary movements.

"I'm going to kill him," he said, very calmly and quietly and simply.

"We almost did," Cordelia said, nodding. "But he split for Africa one jump ahead of the posse, Marshall. Clem said he was ranting and muttering something about... " she searched her memory. Things were a bit blurry after all the time that'd passed since last night.

Yeah. All twenty four hours, maybe. Felt like a century.

"There's supposed to be a wishing demon in Africa somewhere," Lorne said. "There's trials, and if you survive them, he grants your deepest desires." Lorne shrugged, "Or so the legends and rumor go."

"Ah. Clem said he was muttering something about 'getting that bitch what she deserves'," Cordelia said, nodding. “Spike's long gone now, I guess.”

"May not be able to go after him right away," Angel said, softly, "But at some point this summer, he's going to die. And it'll be my hand on the stake."

"Long past time, if you ask me," Cordelia said. She dismissed Spike from her mind. "Buffy stopped him, anyway. And Spike is suddenly low on my priority list."

"Is there anything I can do, cupcake?" Lorne was still looking at her with that sad, utterly gentle expression.

"Don't know," Cordelia said, shrugging. She took another draught of coffee, thinking. "You've always said your anagogic abilities come from the Powers?"

"From the Fates, honey-cakes. The Norns, the Moroai, the Weirds, Maidens of Mögþrasir – " Lorne said. "The weavers of the skeins of Destiny. I'd always assumed that the Powers had something to do with them."

"Seems we're finding that assumptions ain't always a good thing," Gunn drawled."Seems that 'makin' an ass 'o you an' me' thing my Gram always quoted might have some reality."

Cordelia nodded. "Might want to get that looked at, Lorne."

Lorne nodded, looking uncomfortable.

Cordelia drained her coffee and set the empty cup back in the tray. She stood, smoothing her hands on the thighs of her jeans. She felt oddly calm and oddly disconnected.

'Only so many jolts you can take,' Still Small said. 'You're in shock.' Cordelia nodded absently. Didn't seem to matter.

"I need to make a trip to the Ladies. I'm a mess," she said.

"I'll go with," Fred said, standing along with her. Gunn uncoiled up off the floor also, shoving his hands in the front pockets of his jeans.

Cordelia nodded. "When I get back, I need to take some of this coffee and colaches to Xander's room for Anya. And I need to do a lot of thinking tonight while I sit and watch my husband sleep and recover."

Angel nodded. "We'll be around. No problem."

She looked at Angel. "Angel. Don't get too attached to being the Power's Champion. When I'm done with them..." she shrugged, "That may no longer be an available option."

Angel shrugged. "I'm a little bit annoyed with them myself."



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