Secrets and Lies
"Now get the hell out of my room. And
while you're at it, maybe you should just pack your bags and
get the hell out of Los Angeles. Go back to Sunnydale and
get yourself that shrink you've needed for years."
Cordelia looked past Buffy and Willow to where
Fred and Gunn stood. "Did they talk you into this?"
Fred started to apologize, but Gunn stood
his ground. "Wait a minute. What the hell do you think
you're doing? We finally have something that might
tell us where Angel's soul is and you break it?"
"What? I'm supposed to just stand by
and let Buffy and Willow make wild accusations?" Cordelia
moved toward the window, her gait smooth.
"I've been meaning to ask you,"
Buffy said as Cordelia waved to someone outside, probably
Connor, "how's the leg doing? I heard you got a nasty
injury the other night."
Cordelia froze for just a second and then
turned back toward them, a limp suddenly noticeable. "It's
feeling better, thank you."
Fred didn't say anything, but shifted closer
to Gunn. "You think it's in here?" he asked Willow.
Cordelia looked disbelievingly at him. "You
can't possibly believe I would hide Angel's soul."
"I didn't believe Wesley would steal
Angel's son, either...but he did." Gunn shifted the axe
slightly within his grasp. "That leg was looking mighty
fine a minute ago."
"I don't like what you're insinuating."
As Cordelia took a step forward, Willow stretched
out her hand. "Thicken."
Suddenly, it was as if Cordelia was trapped
behind a wall of molasses. "If you're going to search,
do it now," Willow warned. "She's pushing back."
"No answer?" Wesley was no longer
sitting casually, but on his feet, ready for action.
Spike shook his head, trying to resist the
temptation to hurl the infuriating device across the room.
"It means either she's got it turned off or she's not
in a position to pick up."
"Maybe you should just run after and
see. They can't have gotten further than halfway down the
block. The sunlight would do you good." Angelus seemed
to have recovered quite nicely from his latest conversation,
which had been cut short only moments after Spike had dialed
"I'm afraid all we can do is wait,"
Wesley said. "If she can't answer her phone..."
"Then it's even more important we make
sure the Great Poof doesn't get any unexpected help,"
Angelus chuckled with anticipation.
They searched with a will, digging behind
pillows, under the bed and in the dresser. Once the bed was
pronounced clear, Gunn and Fred headed for the closet and
bathroom respectively, while Buffy and Lorne continued their
way through the dresser drawers.
Although she found an interesting collection
of crystals she couldn't understand having unless one was
spell casting, Buffy was beginning to worry they might come
up empty-handed. If she couldn't prove Cordelia was behind
this, the members of Angel Investigation would be forced to
decide whether they believed her or Cordelia. As fractured
as they were, it was still likely the group would choose Cordelia
over someone they barely knew.
She was sorting through tops neatly folded
and arranged by color when Lorne lifted a box out of the bottom
drawer. "If you don't mind, I'll let you handle this
Buffy almost laughed when she looked at the
tasteful text and graphics on the box. Maxi-pads. Wondering
if their search was actually over, she began to open it.
"What's going on here?" Connor appeared
in the open door.
"Stop them!" Cordelia shouted. "They
think I have Angel's soul!"
Connor moved, grabbing Buffy by the arm and
jerking her to her feet. The box slipped from her fingers,
scattering maxi-pads to the floor...along with a round glass
jar that glowed.
It was a freeze-frame moment. They all stared
at the Mou-ping as if they couldn't believe they'd found the
object of their quest. Then Connor raised his head and stared
at Cordelia. "Why?"
Cordelia tried to move her hand, probably
to reach out to him, but the movement was terribly slow. "I
did it for us, for our baby. We need to protect it because
they don't understand."
"So you let Angelus loose? You let
him loose, didn't you? He didn't trick you; you opened the
Buffy actually felt sorry for Connor. His
face bore the look of someone whose world had been shattered.
"You were glad he killed Lilah, weren't you? Did you
care about the other people him might have killed? I took
one of his victims to the emergency room. If Buffy hadn't
pulled him off her, the girl would have died."
"You have to look at the bigger picture..."
"Bigger picture?" Connor started
to lunge, but Buffy grabbed hold of him, preventing him from
moving. "Let me go!" he demanded.
"As long as Willow has her trapped, we
shouldn't hurt her."
"Oh, if that's all you're worried about."
A flash accompanied Cordelia's words, sending
Willow backwards. Suddenly, Cordelia could move quite easily,
her eyes the same shade of milky white as the crystal she
now held in her hands. "I'll take my Mou-ping back, thank
Buffy released Connor. "Now
you can hurt her."
They both lunged at Cordelia, hurtling into
her with enough force to send the three of them nearly to
the wall. She shrieked as they connected, a sound of fury
rather than pain. "Go for the crystal!" Willow shouted.
"It's probably some kind of focus."
"Someone get the Mou-ping!" Buffy
shouted in return, trying to hold down flailing limbs.
For the moment, Cordelia seemed to be pinned,
but the question was what to do with her. Before Buffy could
ask Willow to try the binding spell she'd used on Angelus,
a sudden surge of energy threw both Buffy and Connor back.
"Idiot child," Cordelia hissed at Connor. "You
don't know what you're giving up. You could have stood at
my side, watched our child grow to its destiny."
"You're a demon," Connor was practically
spitting the word as he struggled to his feet. "What's
growing inside you is a thing; it's not a child."
"You're pregnant?" Fred's voice
was high, querulous.
"Not the best time to offer congratulations,"
"Oh, congratulations are more than welcome."
Cordelia was on her feet once more, the crystal in her hand
beginning to glow. "Aren't you going to plan a baby shower
for me, Fred? I'll be hurt if you don't. We'll talk about
it next time. For now..."
The glow was brighter, more intense, causing
the others to shield their eyes. The air around Cordelia began
to ripple and shift and then her form simply...folded and
was gone. "Downstairs!" Buffy shouted. "She's
probably going after Angelus!"
The magic started to ripple through the air,
the movement almost palpable. Spike whirled toward the source
of the disturbance, axe ready. Wesley was at his side instantly,
his own weapon to hand.
Cordelia smiled at them, her eyes glowing
white. "Happy to see me?"
"So it was you behind all of this,"
Spike said. "A lot of effort for not much return, I say."
"Why not? You wouldn't understand; you
never had the passion for destruction Angelus did, despite
his best efforts to teach you. Angelus can be very useful;
far more useful than the Beast. Oh, dear Beast had his good
points, but he lacked finesse."
"And why Lilah?" Wesley's voice
was tight, near to breaking. "Why kill her?"
"For one thing, the girl was too clever
for her own good. Escaping from Wolfram and Hart, buying that
book on the inter-dimensional black market despite my best
efforts to remove the evidence you needed; she had to be stopped.
Besides," Cordelia's lips curled in a smile. "It
caused you pain. Speaking of which..."
The agony was intense and searing, sending
both men to their knees almost instantly. Once they were down,
Cordelia strolled past them toward the cage. "Willow's
spell shouldn't be hard to break. Let's see..."
"This mean you're letting me out?"
Angelus' voice was filled with anticipation. "Do I get
"Once we're moving. We need to be away
"You weren't fast enough. Fry!"
Spike couldn't remember ever hearing a spell
with that as the trigger word, but the shriek he heard behind
him was comforting. Struggling to raise his head, he found
Willow on the basement steps, the others arranged behind her,
"Kill her body and she's trapped forever,"
Cordelia threatened, gasping with the effort of the words.
"You wouldn't do that to your friend."
Willow's eyes were glowing black and the slightly
sadistic smile that spread across her face made Spike very
glad he'd missed her meltdown the previous spring. "President
and Co-Founder of the We Hate Cordelia Club, remember? There's
a part of me that's been waiting years to do this."
Whether it was a bluff or Willow had gone
off the deep end, Cordelia -- or whatever that was that was
wearing Cordelia's body -- apparently decided this wasn't
the time or the place. The air rippled once more with disturbance
and she was gone.
When she vanished, the pain in Spike's body
stopped and he let himself drop to the floor. Maybe if he
just lay there for a few years, he would stop hurting.
It was the touch of a warm hand to his face
that convinced him to lift his head once again. Buffy was
kneeling at his side, her face worried. "Did she hurt
"Oh, yeah." Painfully, he shifted
his position onto his back, letting his head come to rest
in her lap. "Really packed a wallop. It's times like
this I wished I'd actually paid attention when Darla tried
to teach me magic. Might come in handy from time to time for
"Given your ability, you'd probably turn
yourself into a toad. It'd be an improvement."
Spike sighed at Angelus' words, which was
a mistake because it made his ribs ache. "I hurt too
much to make a witty riposte. Think of one yourself and pretend
I delivered it."
Buffy giggled, which was the best medicine
in the world. No, second best. The best was the way she was
stroking his face and looking down at him with such sweetness.
"Think you can stand?" she asked.
"Don't really want to move. Nice and
comfy where I am." At her annoyed pout, Spike made the
effort to roll to his knees; Buffy helped him up the rest
of the way.
Wesley was on his feet as well, looking slightly
worse for wear. "The Mou-ping?" were his first words.
"We found it," Buffy assured him.
"Lorne's holding onto it."
"I don't intend on letting this baby
out of my sight," Lorne assured him. "Um, when are
we doing that ritual?"
Willow was leaning against the railing. "Later.
That...took a lot out of me. I need to rest for a while."
She looked around, frowning. "Where's Kennedy?"
"She went upstairs to take a shower,"
Connor explained. "That was why I..."
He trailed off, looking hurt and confused.
"Why don't you help Willow up to her room?" Buffy
Connor nodded, giving her assistance up the
stairs. "Someone looks like he's been kicked in the nuts,"
Spike said once they were gone.
"He found out Cordelia's evil,"
Gunn said. "She's the one who had Angel's soul tucked
away. Which raises another question. Cordy and Connor have
been sleeping together for what, a couple of months? How in
the hell can she be that pregnant? She looks like she swallowed
"All questions which we need to answer.
Not at the moment, though." Wesley stepped toward the
stairs and winced. "Gunn, could I perhaps impose on you
for a bit of help?"
Everyone finally made it back up to the lobby,
Spike and Wesley both beginning to move a little easier. "You
know she's going to come back," Gunn said as he helped
lower Wesley into a chair. "Right now, we got Willow,
but what do we do when you guys go home?"
"As you can tell, Gunn is the practical
member of our team." The smile Wesley tried turned into
"Someone has to be, otherwise we're going
to get our ass kicked."
"We could get Willow to set up a protection
spell," Buffy suggested. "We'll have to wait a few
hours, but she has some that should help. We've had some experience
with ultra-powerful beings. As for what to do about Cordelia,
we should probably wait until Angel's better."
Everyone looked at the glowing jar in Lorne's
hands. "Think we can do it by this evening?" he
asked. "Having this is making me a bit nervous."
"Why don't you let me get Spike upstairs
and I'll come back and sit with you," Buffy offered.
"I think Lorne likes you," Spike
said when they reached the privacy of their room.
"I kind of like him. Willow says he reminds
her of Clem. Okay, a bitchier Clem, but there is a resemblance."
She headed into the bathroom and the sound
of running water was heard. "Thought you might like a
hot bath," she told him as she returned to sit next to
him on the bed.
"Sounds good." He took her hand
in his, looking down at their entwined fingers. "So,
we put the soul back in tonight."
As much as he didn't like the idea of Angelus
running loose, Spike discovered he wasn't too happy with the
prospect of facing a souled Angel for the first time in three
years. He'd made himself scarce when Angel had come to Sunnydale
to pay his respects following Buffy's death, not wanting to
see everyone offer sympathy to her "great love"
while they ignored his own pain. Feelings of uncertainty were
starting to churn in his stomach, worried that the bastard
would somehow find some way to muck up the works.
"Spike." Her hand was on his cheek,
drawing his gaze up to hers. "I love you. Nothing Angel
can say will change that. Frankly, I'm more worried about
what Giles will say when we get home."
Spike had to smile at that one. "Watcher
Boy doesn't think I'm good enough for his girl. I can tell
you that already."
"Watcher Boy doesn't get a vote on this
one. We finally got here; I'm not letting you go now."
She kissed him lightly. "Go soak your
muscles. I need you in shape for tonight."
Continued in Chapter Twenty