Cordelia looked around her, at the mist filling the space she was in, she couldn’t see anything.
“Hello!” She felt like she’d been there forever already, but at the same time she knew she’d only been stuck for a short time. It was like time didn’t mean anything to her anymore, a few minutes was the same as a few hours.
There was no answer to her shout, except for the echo that came back to her of her own voice. She was alone. Lately being alone anywhere had become her worst fear, being isolated away from anyone who could help her, wondering if the sick twist that was stalking her was just behind her waiting… watching.
Turning around quickly, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end, she found nothing but more mist and darkness. Faintly she could hear a voice in the distance, it sounded familiar almost comforting. Running towards it she soon realized that no matter how fast she ran she didn’t really move at all. The voice, though, got closer and closer until she could finally recognize the rise and fall of it.
“Now Cordelia, you must pay attention.” That was it, just that one sentence over and over, like a CD stuck on repeat.
“Giles!” Even with her voice echoing all around her, Giles’ voice didn’t change at all, it was like he couldn’t hear her.
What if he couldn’t? Where the hell was she?
“You’re here with me.” Jerking around she stared into dark brown eyes, and finally let out the scream she’d been holding in since she first woke up here in this limbo.
Angelus swept Cordelia up his arms, this was a new development. Drusilla had told him that Willow or as she called her the naughty red witch, would cast a spell on Cordelia that would change everything, but seeing the spell take hold was amazing. Her eyes actually rolled back into her head before she began to crumble before his eyes, she was out cold.
Time to play the hero. So exhausting.
“Giles!” The old librarian took one look at the unconscious girl in his arms and promptly began to clean his glasses. The English were so strange sometimes, especially in a crisis.
“Good heavens, what happened to her?”
“I don’t know, we were talking and she just collapsed.” Which was mostly the truth, except for the whole not knowing part, it would be more fun to let them all puzzle it out together, as a team.
“There’s a small sofa in my office we can lay her there while we try to figure out what’s happened. I’ll gather my books.”
“You think it’s mystical?” Huh, he thought the old man would have jumped to a more mundane conclusion first like he did when things happened to Xander that were out of character. If it wasn’t happening to Buffy, he always checked for real world culprits first.
“I believe so yes, Cordelia received a flyer from her admirer earlier this week proclaiming she would go missing on this day. We had assumed, incorrectly it would seem, that her stalker had intended to take her, when it would seem he truly meant to do this.”
Good guess, the flyer had been referring to the spell after all, but he wasn’t the one who cast it. It would just break the old mans heart when he finally put together who was really responsible, he couldn’t wait to see it.
Cordelia couldn’t believe it, she was starring at… herself. A really trashy version anyway. The other her was in a corset that revealed her breasts and a pair of matching black lace panties with high heels and nothing else. It was porno Cordy.
What the hell.
“What the hell are you wearing?” She would never wear something like that, well not outside of the bedroom anyway.
“Oh come on, you know this would be his ideal outfit. He would so totally flip for it.” As she spoke the healed bite marks peppering her breasts began to bleed again, leaving no mistake to who she was talking about.
“Who are you, because you most certainly aren’t me.” She would never behave this way, would she?
“I most certainly am you, just a less central part. I’m the part that he’s brought out in you, the version that never saw the light of day before he took you for the first time. I’m the dark part of you that enjoys it every time he ties us down and plays with us until the pleasure of it becomes the pain of it. I’m what you’re becoming.”
“No way. I would never become you!” She would never be so, cheap.
“Yes way, and how would you know, you don’t know me. Yet. Hell you don’t even really know him, but you will before you rejoin the land of the living. That’s what this is all about, seeing what’s really going on in the world around you, seeing the truth.”
“How would you know the truth? If you’re me you should be just as much in the dark as I am.” Not that she was in the dark, she knew stuff.
“Pay attention, I am you but I’m the version of you that gets ignored. I’m that voice in the back of your mind, the one that keeps whispering to you that you’re missing something, the one that made you ask him his name.”
Suddenly more voices were echoing around the dark mist, hers and Angels.
“What’s your name?”
No, that can’t be right, she was just remembering it that way because that’s what she was afraid he was going to say. This was just a silly nightmare, the things you fear always show up in nightmares.
“That’s why you’re here, you keep coming up with excuses for not seeing the truth, but here in the mist you won’t be able to avoid it any longer. There will be nothing here to distract you from it. Nothing here to hide behind.”
She wasn’t hiding! Was she?
What if it was true? What if he really had lost his soul? What if he was Angelus again? The same Angelus she’d just spent over a week learning about, and being grateful she’d never met. What if Angel was evil. What would she do then?
“I’ll show you. I’ll show you everything.”
Just like that the mist changed and swirled around her.
Willow didn’t know what the big emergency was that had Giles pulling them all from their last class of the day, but she could guess. It was an apology! The spell had worked and now Giles saw that he’d been a big meanie to them for no good reason and now he wanted to apologize.
Ooooh, maybe there would be cookies. She loved Giles cookies or as he called them biscuits. They were so yummy and only for special occasions like I’m sorry’s.
Pushing the door open she saw Giles already there with Oz and Angel, woohoo a blanket apology. Now Buffy and Angel can get back together. Oz can stop being so stubborn about the whole thing and they can both get back on track to their happily ever after bliss they had been headed to before Queen C messed everything up for them.
Seeing them all in the doorway off came Giles glasses.
“Good you’re all here, something has happened to Cordelia.”
What? That couldn’t be why there were here. Maybe this thing with Cordelia was just distracting them all from their I’m sorry cookies. It was probably no big deal anyway, she was just looking for some attention since the spell helped everyone to see her for the faker she really was.
“It seems as though someone has cast a spell upon her, and now we can not wake her. You will all be needed for research, we need to find the right spell to counter it, or failing that at least identify the original spell so we can have some idea of the after effects.”
Cordelia looked around, she was in the school library, only it too was foggy with mist. What was she doing here? One of the walls was a blank, bright, white almost like a movie screen for those old projectors they use for slides. Just as her hand was about to touch it, it came to life, playing out scenes from her life too fast for her to really see them.
“Are you ready to see now?” She didn’t even look over at her other self, they hadn’t even really begun and she was already tired of this whole thing. She just wanted it to be over.
“Do I have a choice?” It wasn’t like she could just shut her eyes and refuse to look. Knowing herself, the other her would just narrate the whole thing.
“There’s always a choice. You can choose to stay in the dark about everything, and that’s exactly what will happen. You’ll stay. Here. In the mist.”
“So I either do what you want or you keep me hostage in my own mind for the rest of ever?” Yeah that was balanced.
“This isn’t what I want, it’s what you need. If you’re going to survive the coming times you need to know exactly who and what you’re surrounded by. More importantly you need to know who and what you really are. What you’re capable of. More importantly you need to know where you stand in the light of day. Who you choose to be when there are no more shadows left for the truth the hide in.”
Wow, trampy her was really deep. Who knew.
“Alright then, let’s get this whole thing started then.” The sooner it started the sooner she could wake up from this whole nightmare and get on with her life.
“As you wish.”
Willow couldn’t believe that her spell had backfired so badly. It wasn’t supposed to do anything to Cordelia but expose her as the B-I-T-C-H that she really was to Giles and Oz and Angel so they could go back to being their normal selves. The people they were before Cordelia got her claws into them. It was supposed to get Cordelia kicked out of the group, not make her the center of attention all over again.
She’d gone over and over the spell in her mind, again and again trying to find where she messed up. The spell was supposed to reveal the truth about Cordelia, not knock her out. The spell must have been faulty. That was the only explanation, the only one that makes sense anyway. She had been too careful to have made a mistake so the mistake must have come from the spell its self.
She was just bummed out that now Cordelia was everyones focus, if it had worked out right then Oz and Angel wouldn’t be right now too focused on her to see her and Buffy. Mainly she felt bad for Buffy, she knew she and Oz would work things out, eventually. All Cordelia did to them was make them have one little stupid fight, they would get over it soon enough, every couple had their little ups and downs after all. Buffy though, Cordelia had snatched Angel away from her completely, without the spell really doing what she’d intended there really was no hope for the two of them.
Not that she would ever say that to Buffy, she knew how important the hope of maybe was sometimes, especially when dealing with oblivious boys.
Buffy kept trying to keep her focus on the book Giles had shoved at her, but her eyes kept bouncing back to Angel. Could this be it, her opening? Sure Cordelia wasn’t around to interfere right now, but she was still the center of his whole focus. Would it be better to wait?
Wait! She knew what to do, she’d pull a Cordelia. She’d wait until the group broke up then offer to go with Angel back to his apartment, just to talk, to be there for him during this trying time. Then when he was finding comfort in her arms, she would help him get over Cordelia. Brilliant.
Xander didn’t know what to feel at the moment. Yeah he hated Cordelia, more out of habit at this point than anything else, but that didn’t mean he wanted to see her hurt. Before they had started their spell search Giles had run through a quick overview of everything that had happened to Cordy so far, everything from finding her dead housekeeper to the flyers left in her car.
When it had all been happening one little thing after another, coupled with the things happening to Buffy, plus the relationship dramas that had continually intruded Cordelia’s problems hadn’t seemed so bad. In fact he’d agreed with Willow that Cordelia was just milking the whole thing for sympathy, that she was playing it up so that she could tap into Angels hero complex and keep him from running back to the Buffster.
Now, hearing it all laid out one thing after the next and knowing that it had all happened over a few weeks, he felt sick to his stomach. Cordelia must have been terrified and they hadn’t helped one bit, always sniping at her, and trying to make her go away. They were supposed to be the good guys, the defenders of the earth and all who walked upon it, but when it came to this one girl that they each had history with that promise went out the window. If they were really heroes the past never should have mattered when Cordelia came to them for help. If they were really good people, the only thing that should have mattered was that she needed them, not that she had been a mean kid among other mean kids way back when.
They had failed her, but he wouldn’t do it again. He might be the guy who made all kinds of mistakes, but if he had anything to say about it he would be the guy who learned from those mistakes and became a better man. Actually focusing on the research and trying to help Cordelia would be a good first step, apologizing to her when they finally got her back would probably be his second step. What he would do after that he didn’t know yet, but at this point knowing what he was going to do now would have to be enough.
Oz didn’t like the thoughts in his head, but he couldn’t shake them either. There was something wrong with Willows face. He knew she didn’t like Cordelia but hearing that she was hurt should have caused her to go straight to Willow worry face. Not this. She looked angry. She looked like she did right after a test that she didn’t do as well on as she thought she had, the one that just screamed ‘what did I do wrong, I knew the source material’, but what could she be thinking about that put that look on her face now.
He thought he knew, but he didn’t want to know it. If they didn’t come up with something by the time that Giles sent everyone home to get some rest and check in with their parents he would bring it up. He just hoped he wouldn’t have to. He hoped he was just imagining what was wrong with Willows face.
Giles rubbed at his abused eyes, the strain of looking through book after book was getting to him. He supposed now would be the time to call a halt, no one would be of any use if they could no longer comprehend what they were reading, they could gloss over the answer without meaning to.
As he watched Buffy approach Angel and offer a shoulder of support to him, he couldn’t stop the shiver of unease that rocked his whole body. There was something in the offer that made him begin to think unkindly towards his slayer and he didn’t like it. Buffy wasn’t that sort of girl, the kind to use the misfortune or tragedy of another to further her own ends with a boy she likes. She wouldn’t use Cordelia’s condition in an attempt to regain Angel’s lost affections, that would be beneath her.
Shaking his head he decided he was simply tired and seeing things that weren’t really there. So much time looking for malicious intent within his books must be affecting him more than he had realized, now he was seeing ill intent everywhere. A good nights sleep would put him to rights, not that he expected to get that with Cordelia in her current state, but a few hours of rest would do the trick all the same.
It had been decided that Cordelia would stay at his home with him, since it was the only place that not only had no uninformed adults to ask questions, but it also was off limits to all vampires so she should be safe on all fronts with him.
Seeing Oz waiting for him near his office, he resigned himself to going without sleep for a short time longer, the younger man seemed hell bent on speaking to him about something. With Oz it was likely important and worth listening to.
Angelus looked over at Buffy who had offered to walk him home. He knew what she was planning, all he needed to decide now was if he was going to play along. If he did then when Cordelia was restored he could play the injured party and maybe even turn the Watcher and wolf boy completely against the Slayer. At the same time that would mean he would have to sleep with her again and he didn’t know if he could take the syrupy sweetness of it all again.
What to do, what to do. He supposed he had at least until they reached his apartment to come up with a decision. Either way this was going to be fun.