Where DO We Go From Here?
Disclaimer: Buffy, Angel, and all the others belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. No profit is made from this story (or any others, for that matter.)
Rating: Mild PG-13
Pairing: B/A, B/S, maybe B/F a little later on. No threesomes or foursomes though.
Setting: LA, early Season 5 in Angel: The Series, after Chosen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Author’s Notes: This is my first fiction, so lots of reviews, please, to tell me how I’m doing. I have so many things I want to put down, and can’t! I want to do every event from each character’s point of view, and then I get focused on one, and forget the rest.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: This fic was written in ye olden times of yore, or in otherwords, before I got my literary head screwed on properly. So expect plot holes and a few bad phrases, but other than that, good clean dirty fun.
* The Marauder's Map is a magical map from Harry Potter which shows where people are as they move around in Hogwarts, the wizarding school.
Where DO We Go From Here?
Buffy kept herself a little distant from the other Scoobies as she watched the sleek black limos slide down the curving loop of the road. The airport behind her was frigid with wind, and she shivered as the thin, embroidered gauze covering her tank top let it through. The chauffeur- the chauffeur! opened the door for them as the back sprung open automatically. He loaded their luggage in as they climbed into the roomy backseat, and Buffy found herself squashed between Willow and Faith. She felt a pang of bitterness- she and Dawn had been saving every penny those last few years, and now she calls to say that they've coming to LA and Angel says, oh sure, I'll send a freakin' limo to pick you up!
Her reverie was interrupted by Faith. "So, B, you nervous 'bout seein' your star-crossed lover?"
Buffy glanced at her to make sure she wasn't meaning anything, and turned away anyway. She didn't know how she felt about Angel anymore- or rather, she knew perfectly well how she felt and just didn't know how to, or even if she should, act on it. She was deeply, deeply in love with Angel. She was also deeply, deeply in love with Spike. She supposed this was what the First Slayer had mean- love, give, forgive, you have an endless capacity for love, blah blah blah. It did mean that she had to decided between two of the beings dearest to her.
She watched the world go by, unaware she was awash in golden light, individual strands alight with effulgent fire. Faith, looking at her, though she was beautiful, and somehow fey.
The car drew up to an impressive building, the glassy facade shining in the evening sun. She wondered how Angel got around, there being so many windows. Several... several what? Busboys? Porters? Both were absurdly wrong, and so she settled for assistants. Several assistants materialized to help them and maneuvered all their luggage onto carts. They bowed- "Fan- CY!" muttered Dawn- and left one of their number behind to escort them in. All of them- Faith, Willow, Xander, Dawn, Giles, Andrew, and one of the newby slayers, called Ayri.
Ayri was Malawian and from a poverty-stricken family. Her father had been on the brink of selling her into prostitution and Buffy, nor any of the others, had had the heart to leave her behind the way they did most of the Slayers. The Scoobies' current MO was to find a base, search the Slayers out using Willow's Marauder's Map, each choose a newby, and split up to clue them in. They would then bring them together, train them for a couple of days or weeks, depending on how quickly they caught on, and then repeat this somewhere else.
"Gunn. I know you have a problem trusting strangers, especially with what Cordelia has probably..." Angel caught himself, "... probably filled your mind with, but these are good people. Although I still don't know why they're here. Have any of you heard anything?"
Wesley shifted uncomfortably as Gunn, Fred, Lorne and Spike shook their head. Luckily, he was saved further agitation by the light knock on the door. Angel started. The assistant immediately entered, the guests following.
"What... Buffy. You weren't suppose to arrive until later." He stumbled over his words as he gazed at her.
Buffy wasn't paying the slightest attention. She stared at the figure across the room. It's eyes were locked with hers. Dawn, who had entered behind her, buffeted her out of the way as she lunged across the room to hug her favourite vampire. Her wide smile disappeared as she fell through him, bashing her shoulder on the glass of the window. She stood upright, and Angel realized how tall she was these days.
"It's the first," she said flatly. She looked at her shoes, her cheeks burning red. Buffy, however had started hesitantly moving forwards reverently.
"No." Her voice was soft, and coated in awe. "No, it isn't."
She continued forwards until she stood in front of him. The rest of the Scoobies clustered by the doorway. Her arm rose quickly, and her fingers brushed his cheek, staying there. "You're real."
They stayed like that for a moment, her hand outstretched, his head tilted slightly to the side, his eyes soft blue. The sharp plans of his face were gentle in a way the AI crew had never seen, and his ivory skin somehow emanated tenderness.
"That I am, pet." He said softly. Buffy spun around.
Her words were jostled out of the way by the barrage of questions that had flooded the room at Spike's words.
"This is most extraordinary." Giles removed his glasses and polished them on the hem of his shirt.
"What is with you people and coming back from the dead?" Faith displayed her joy at the reappearance of the vamp.
Fred was perplexed. "How did you touch him? Why was he solid to you? Is is because you've been dead, 'cause you know, sometimes those anbaric-magnetic particles that attach themselves to plasma during death can have an effect if they stay on this plane..."
"How did he get back? Did somebody get into major mojo, 'cause I can say from experience that it never ends well..." babbled Willow as her curiosity bubbled over.
Angel raised his hands for quite, and everyone silenced for an explanation. "Look, everybody. Spike is somehow linked to the amulet- you know, shiny crystal thing? He was a ghost, and up until now," he glanced strangely at Buffy, "he wasn't solid. He could pick the occasional thing up if he concentrated, but we really don't know much. We're working on finding everything out, why he came back and what his purpose is, but until then, we're going with it."
Buffy tore her gaze from Spike's. Well. This brought everything a whole new level of complications. But this wasn't the time. They needed to get settled in, and introduced, and figure out this thing Wesley called them about. Speaking of which, she should probably pay attention, since he was clearing his throat to speak, and it looked important.
"Um, I realize perfectly well that you may well be upset, but Angel, I initiated this visit that you thought had come on so suddenly. I was contemplating the complex intricacy and immense power," he nodded courteously to Willow, "the immense power need to perform the spell you use to imbue all the potentials with their full power. I was- ah- wondering if you could possibly use one of your ingenious spells to perhaps try to aid Cordelia in returning to her physical body."
Willow looked flabbergasted. "Cordelia's... possessed? Or what, in a coma or something."
Seeing Wesley's nod of confirmation, and hearing his explanation about Cordelia being a higher being, she took a moment to get over her surprise, and shrugged to show she would aquiest to his request. She looked over to him, impatiently brushing her shiny red hair out of her face. "Well? Where is she?"
Wesley was taken aback. "You wish to try now? But don't you need some meditation? Preparation for the spell, if nothing else?"
Willow shook her head. "Nope. With this sort of spell, this is either going to work, or nothing will." She waved her hand to illustrate her point. "No stinky herby sticks, or pentagrams. They're not gunna do the trick. This all takes place on the astral plane, trying to coax a spirit back into a body. What are things on this plane going to do there?"
Angel broke in hopefully. "Willow, this is great. If you're sure you don't need anything, this way? She's been gone for a while now, and I'd like her back quickly." He looked sadly at the floor for a moment. "I've missed her."
The other Scoobies had been following all this with interest, but now they followed Angel, Wesley and Willow down the hall. On the way to the bright, sunny room belonging to Cordelia- not that she'd ever seen it- Angel leaned in to Wesley, his mouth close to the other man's ear. "You shouldn't have done this without asking me."
"I know." replied Wesley in an undertone, keeping his eyes ahead on the corridor. "I was hoping would accept it if they could help Cordelia. Your remaining issues with Buffy and Spike are no reason to enforce Cordelia to remain where she is."
Angel's face had contorted with anger at the first part of the last sentence, but smoothed with a sigh as he accepted his friend's words. He grumbled lightly to show Wesley he wasn't really angry, but wouldn't be letting him off with it.
They filed into Cordelia's sunlit room, and it was only then that the Scoobies noticed the treated glass.
"Hey! Why aren't you guys all poofy-burny?"
"The windows are made out of some bloody strange glass, pet. They allow vamps to come into the sun in them." Spike explained patiently to Dawn. "That's why we're not 'all burny' although it still doesn't account for his poofiness."
He jerked his head at Angel, who merely sighed at his childe's immature insult. He could be damn biting when he wanted, but in front of the ex- Sunnydalers, he tried to put up this gentle human front. Angel ignored both of the voices in his head- the one saying Spike wasn't the only one being immature, or at least hadn't when Angel visited Sunnydale before the Big Bang, as the Scoobs affectionately called the explosion, and the voice saying "Look at his eyes when he glances at Buffy! If that's not true humanity, then I'm a dead dog!" He had his principals when it came to Spike, and he was sticking to them. Well, he was until he saw Buffy and the real joy and- affection, affection in her eyes when she looked at Spike and saw he was there, not dead, in that very room with her.
He returned to the present where Willow was sitting back on her knees next to Cordeila's bed. She upturned her hands on Cordelia's stomach, and close her eyes. Several minutes passed until her back straighten, her eyelids flared, and her eyes were coloured amythest. She emitted a gasping sigh, and slumped, before pulling herself upright and blinking. Her eyes returned to normal, and she looked up apologetically to the Scoobs.
"I have the power to get there, but I don't have the right- I can't get through. I'm not a higher being." she told the expectant gathering.
"Wait a minute," said Buffy, pacing back and forth in front of the windows. The light outlined her, and she was effulgent- a true angel, a goddess, thought Spike. "You say you need to have someone with access to this, this higher plane, you say? You know much about it?" She turned to Angel again.
He looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Well, we saw her with the Axis of Pythea, and-"
He was cut off short by Giles, who cried out in astonishment, "The Axis of Pythea? You are quite sure? I was under the impression that that has disappeared a while back, and had an high-clearance search on for it. It's supposed to be quite rare, and extremely valuable, worth-"
This time Angel cut him off. "-33 million dollars, we know." he finished wearily. Giles polished his glasses furiously, muttering things like, "Astonishing! Amazing!"
"Anyway," Angel continued, casting a dry look at Giles, who looked suitably sheepish, "We saw her throught the Axis, and she was surrounded by all these- motes of pure joy."
Buffy, who had been quizzically awaiting his answer, nodded once, then twice, tucking a strand of her golden hair behind her ear. "I was in a place like that." She said quietly. "Not the same, but they sound similar enough that if I joined with Willow in the spell, we might be granted access."
Wesley looked at her. He had taken a new measure of her when they first saw each other again, noting the pain in her eyes and the mature gravity in her young face. Now he was taking his second. From what he had gleaned from Angel and Spike, Buffy had been drawn out of peace into hell on earth; a hell on earth, which to her, clawing her way from the earth into a town savaged by demons, had seemed hell itself. She now seemed to bear no resentment towards Willow, or if she was, it wasn't apparant, and Wesley doubted any great amount of it was hidden away, in the warrior of the people. She was willing to go back there, catch a glimpse of true rest, and be dragged back to this sorry world. She was an extraordinary young lady.
However, Xander and Faith, who sometimes understood Buffy so well, were being coarse and ignorant of her sacrifice, taking it instead to be an escape.
"Buffy, I know it was good there, but I though you'd moved past this. You're wanted- needed, here." Xander told her seriously.
"We need you," Faith added, uncharacteristically gentle.
Buffy looked like she didn't know whether to be insulted or amused or touched. "Guys, I was just planning to bring Cordelia back, no biggie. I wasn't going to swap myself for her or anything." The thought struck her, and she frowned. "I don't know if that would be possible. Anyway, like I said, it doesn't sound quite like the place I was in, so it might not work, but it's worth a shot."
Angel hesitated between his concern for his ladylove, and his longing for Cordelia. He finally nodded, knowing, even if the others didn't, arguing was useless by the time Buffy got that look in her eye, the one he privately called her 'slayer savage' glint, in an ode to the Scooby slang. Besides, what's the worst that could happen? Willow was an experienced, powerful, witch, and they were trying to access a white dimension, not an evil one.
Spike, too, backed down without comment, and simple looked worriedly at her, but with pure love on her face, pure love for her soul, and the reason she was doing this. To him, it shone so clearly. Why didn't everyone she meet bow down at her feet? Couldn't they see the light?
Buffy settled herself opposite the redhead Wiccan, and took her hands across Cordelia. She nodded to convey her readiness. Willow, lowering her face, took a breath and closed her eyes, this time softly chanting a power call under her breath.
"Allah diah aigh. Daigh al allaig da." echoed through the peaceful room. An expectant pause.
And then a result.