Secrets and Lies
Buffy was ready to go home. Buffy was really
ready to go home. Not surprisingly, Willow had wanted Kennedy
to come with them on their breakfast expedition. Then when
Fred had seen them getting ready to head out the door, she'd
asked if she could come along, sort of a girl's morning out.
Buffy had had some vague idea that Kennedy and Fred could
keep each other company as Buffy and Willow talked, but in
the end the meal was dominated by Fred and Willow geek bonding
while Kennedy and Buffy stared at each other uncomfortably.
No bonding there. Any possibility of bonding had clearly taken
a hike somewhere between Buffy acquiring a new vampire boyfriend
and Kennedy being snacked on by the previous vampire boyfriend...if
it hadn't actually taken one look at slayer and potential
the first time they'd met and said, "I'm out of here."
Fred and Willow were still chatting happily
as they walked back into the hotel, Kennedy was sticking possessively
to Willow's side. Not that Fred was giving off any vibes she
might be interested in Willow (considering the large Gunn-shaped
vibe that was probably waiting for her), but Kennedy looked
a bit threatened that Willow might have friends who could
easily talk about subjects Kennedy clearly knew nothing about.
Oh, dear. What was she going to do when she realized Willow
ran with the smart kids at school?
Trailing slightly behind them, Buffy wondered
if Spike had actually gotten out of bed or if she was going
to have to go roust him. Part of her was hoping for the latter,
a chance to steal a little cuddle time before going back to
the real world. Then she saw Angel sitting broodily on one
of the chairs in the lobby and realized the real world wasn't
going to give her the chance.
The four women paused on the steps as he looked
up. "Thank god you're back, Willow. I need to talk to
Angel rose and started toward them, but Kennedy
quickly moved to place herself between him and Willow. "Don't
come one step closer, you son of a bitch."
"Kennedy, that's Angel!" Willow
squeaked. "He's our friend."
"He's a vampire. He tried to bite me.
I'm not letting him anywhere near you."
"That was Angelus; this is Angel."
Willow shifted her own position, putting herself between Kennedy
and Angel. "Maybe the two of you should be introduced."
Angel started to step backwards. "You
and I can talk later, Willow. It's just...it's about Cordelia."
That caught the attention of everyone except
Kennedy. "What about Cordelia?" Willow asked.
He hesitated, one eye still on Kennedy. "Spike
said that she's pregnant...and it might not really be her."
The expression on his face was hopeful, as
if one word from Willow could make it right. Then the name
of the messenger sunk in for Buffy. "You were talking
"This morning. He came down for some
blood and we...talked."
She knew that shifty look. There was something
he wasn't telling her and she began scanning the room for
dust piles. "So help me, Angel, if you hurt him..."
"I didn't hurt him." There was a
defensive note to Angel's voice. "We just talked."
At her glare he added, "About you."
"Let me guess: you tried to convince
him he needed to break it off with me 'for my own good. Why
does this happen every time I come down here?"
"Maybe because I don't like your boyfriends,"
Angel snapped back. "Spike's fine. Look, I just want
to talk to Willow about Cordelia, see if what Spike said was
"I don't know the whole story,"
Willow told him. "It's a little hard to give you a definite
answer if we don't really know what's going on."
"Then let's get everyone together. If
Cordelia is in some kind of trouble, we need to get her back."
It took the rest of the morning and most of
the afternoon to sort through the various bits and pieces
everyone knew about Cordelia and her activities. She'd taken
full advantage of the fractured nature of the group, giving
Fred and Gunn one impression, while offering another to Lorne
or Connor. She'd been tentative or confident, depending on
whom she was dealing with. There was the material Wolfram
and Hart had extracted from Lorne's brain, much of which still
needed translation; it was decided Fred would make copies
for Willow to take back to Sunnydale. For the first time,
Angel shared his experiences with Cordelia, including the
fact that she'd been the one to convince him Angelus needed
to be called forth.
"That would have told me something was
up right there," Buffy said. "Okay, okay, I get
Cordelia has changed and grown, but when you turned into Angelus
up in Sunnydale, she freaked because she'd once invited you
to ride in her car."
Gunn started to snicker and a hint of a smile
flitted across Angel's face. "I'm serious," Buffy
said. "She hung strands of garlic in the back seat and
made us do a disinvite spell."
"It sounds like Cordelia," Angel
admitted. "First she can't wait to get me into the car,
then she wants to get rid of me."
"Sounds like the girl who tried to put
cinnamon in your blood," Wesley said.
"She put cinnamon..." Spike shook
his head. "Nope. Not even going there."
It was a brief respite before things grew
serious again. For the first time, Angel told the story of
the 'perfect day' that had led to the extraction of his soul,
avoiding looking anywhere near Buffy when he came to the day's
final moments. She found his reticence somewhat amusing since
Spike had perched himself on the arm of the chair she was
sitting in, one arm draped across her shoulder.
Less amusing was his tale of what happened
with the "re-souling" spell Cordelia had instigated.
"There was a flash of light and pain and then suddenly
I wasn't in control anymore. I spoke the words that were given
me, sang the song to prove I was myself again to Lorne...but
it wasn't me or Angelus. Then Cordelia opened the
cell door and Angelus woke up again."
"Sounds like a control spell," Willow
said. "Probably completely unrelated to the spell that
everyone saw performed. That one is a glamour; Anya
finally ran it down for me. Pretty obscure one, at that."
"Which means that who -- or what -- has
control of Cordelia's body is not only powerful but knowledgeable,"
Wesley said. "We'll have to widen the research net."
"But what if she's removed the knowledge
we need from our books, just like she did for the Beast?"
"We'd have no way of knowing if she did
or didn't." Gunn sighed. "Sounds like we're back
to square one."
"Not quite. We need to try to communicate
At Willow's words, Connor broke the silence
he'd been maintaining throughout most of the discussion with
a harsh laugh. "Communicate with her? What would that
do? She's become a demon, a thing. There's no communicating
with any demon."
Lorne looked distinctly uncomfortable at the
hateful biting tone, while Angel's face began to darken. Spike
offered up a sigh. "Connor, did it ever occur to you
that you don't get along with Angel not because he's a demon,
but because he's your father and you're a teenager? From what
I recall hearing, he didn't get on with his father when he
was your age, either."
Connor opened his mouth then shut it again,
as if the concept had never occurred to him. "You were
saying, Red?" Spike asked, ignoring any further reaction
Connor might have.
"I was saying that we might attempt to
communicate with Cordelia's spirit, her soul. Angel, you said
you saw her with that Axis thing?"
"Yes. She was surrounded by light and
warmth and everything seemed peaceful."
Willow looked toward Buffy. "Sound familiar?"
Not a subject she necessarily wanted to tread
on, but Buffy realized the answer was important. "Very
familiar. It sounds like...where I was."
A gentle squeeze to her shoulder and Buffy
looked up to find Spike watching her with a touch of concern.
She gave him a smile to let him know she was okay as Willow
continued with her thoughts. "There's a spell we could
use to attempt to communicate with her. I haven't actually
used it, but I did some heavy research into it last year after
Buffy came back. It's sort of tricky and some of it is darker
than I really want to do, but I think this might be the time
to use it."
Not surprisingly, Angel was all for the idea.
Not surprisingly, Kennedy wanted to talk to Willow...alone.
The two women retreated to the office for the discussion,
while the others stared at one another. "We're going
to need to do some more research on whatever it is that's
possessing Cordelia's body," Wesley said at last. "Even
if we do contact Cordelia's spirit, we still need to stop
the creature, determine its plans."
"She said something about the child she
was carrying having a destiny," Buffy said. "Maybe
a prophecy or something."
"Could be something connected with a
dhamphyr," Spike suggested.
"What's a dhamphyr?" Connor asked,
sounding none too happy.
"Old legend from the Balkans. Some folk
hold that if a man was turned into a vampire, he'd come back
to pay his wife a visit, sleep with her. The resulting child
was known as a dhamphyr; supernatural strength, healing, the
whole vampire package...without the requirement of blood for
food and the pesky sunlight allergy. Others thought dhamphyrs
were created by vampires coming back and biting the wives
who already carried their child, thus tainting the baby. We
ran into one once, up in Romania. You remember, Angel?"
Angel nodded. "Hard to forget. He looked
at us and instantly knew we were vampires, as if some instinct
had told him."
Connor drew back. "You're saying I'm
"You're the son of two vampires. What
do you think?"
For a moment, it looked as if Connor might
launch himself at Spike, but then the door to office opened
and Kennedy stormed out. "Want to work out?" she
said to Connor. "I'm feeling the need to hit something."
Connor glared at both Spike and his father.
"I know how you feel. Let's go."
The two teenagers stomped away as everyone
else turned their heads toward the office. Willow still hadn't
emerged, and Buffy decided a little friend time might be in
Willow was sitting in a chair, head tipped
forward so her hair hung to hide her face. "I'm not changing
my mind," she said as Buffy entered.
"I'm not asking you to." Buffy took
the chair opposite as Willow looked up. Her eyes were a bit
damp but she wasn't actually crying and she was wearing her
"We're going to do the spell just after
sundown," Willow said. "I'm going to need until
then to meditate and get my head together. At the moment,
I'd appreciate it if Kennedy wasn't there."
"Will, if this is causing a problem..."
"Oh, yeah, it's causing a problem. She
doesn't object to the magic; she's objecting because it's
Angel. Apparently putting his soul back in was one
thing because that was removing a threat, but she doesn't
want me to do anything else that might help him. She doesn't
care that I like Angel and consider him a friend. Yeah, he
bit her, but if contacting Cordelia is going to help them
get her back and stop that she-thing who's running around
wearing her face and about to bear the Spawn of Connor, I
think she needs to look at the bigger picture."
Buffy opened her mouth and closed it again.
She had her own opinion about Kennedy needing to look at the
bigger picture, but she didn't think it would be particularly
helpful at the moment. "Anything I can do to help?"
"Find me a place to mediate. Make sure
my bags are packed. Ask Lorne to come talk to me; I'm going
to need a few things."
Willow stood and for a moment the resolve
face wavered. "I'm never going to stop using the big
magics am I?"
"I'm afraid not, no more than I'm going
to get to stop being the slayer."
A big sigh. "Okay, just wanted to get
Willow opted to use the lobby for her working.
The furniture was pushed back to the wall, leaving room for
a circle to be carefully drawn in sand on the marble floor.
Smudge pots of herbs were set at the four quarters and Fred
dispatched to walk the perimeter of the circle itself with
Gunn and Buffy stood to one side, watching
the preparations. "Do they ever ask you to participate?"
she asked him out of curiosity.
"I've done it once or twice, but it's
not really my thing. I prefer what I can see and touch...although
I've seen far too much to discount any of this. What about
"Not my thing either. Giles -- he's my
Watcher -- knows about rituals and all that, but I try to
stick to sharp pointy things. Every time I've dealt with magic,
weird things happen. Ancient slayers trying to kill me and
my friends in our dreams, coming back from the dead, guys
with slices of American cheese..."
Gunn looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
Angel came down the stairs, a length of fabric
in his hands. "I got it," he announced. "I
knew it was in one of the boxes and I hadn't seen her wear
"Isn't that the dress Cordelia wore to
the ballet?" Wesley asked, pausing in his work of drawing
symbols on the floor with chalk.
"Only worn once and it was definitely
Cordelia in it. On the tray, Willow?"
Willow nodded and then closed her eyes once
more, her lips moving in silent words. Angel carefully laid
the dress on the tray at the center of the circle and then
moved to join Buffy and Gunn. "Think we're almost ready?"
He was almost bouncing with constrained energy
and Buffy couldn't ever remember a time when she'd seen him
like this. He'd always seemed so much older and more mature.
Sure, every once in a while she could recall a sudden burst
of pacing, but not this eagerness. There was a tiny part of
her which hurt at the idea he was so eager over the fate of
"Connor and Kennedy are downstairs whacking
away at each other with poles, so I don't think we have to
worry about them during all of this," Spike announced,
coming around the corner from the basement door. That easy
stalk was starting to creep back into his movements, she realized
as he came toward her, the hint of a confident swagger that
had been so long missing. The confidence was there in his
eyes as well when he looked down at her and the tiny part
which had been mourning the true end of her relationship with
Angel fell silent.
Willow must have heard his words, for she
chose that moment to look up from her meditations. "Wesley,
are you ready?"
Wesley didn’t look completely certain,
but he nodded. Willow rose and moved toward the center of
the circle. When she had settled herself, Lorne rang a bell
and the ritual began. "Answer the seekers who search
the beyond. Lift the veil to show us they who have gone."
"Our quest lies in another place,"
Wesley read from the book he held. "We seek that which
is no longer with us."
"Our quest lies in another place. Show
us the path."
"Guard the seekers as they walk. Guide
them in their quest."
"By earth and air, wind and fire, show
us the spirit. Show us her who has been lost to us."
"Let her who had been lost be found.
Let she who has been found be free to speak with us."
The call and response between Willow and Wesley
had an almost hypnotic quality, causing Buffy to struggle
slightly to keep her eyes open. Something was happening, though;
she could feel the tingling along her skin that always accompanied
one of Willow's rituals.
Willow stretched her hands out over the tray
and the dress that lay there. "We seek Cordelia Chase.
Her body lives upon this plane but her spirit is lost to us.
Gods that see, show us the way so we can speak unto her. Guide
her steps upon the bridge between her world and ours."
The glow was starting, dripping from Willow's
fingers and swirling over the dressing that lay on the tray.
The sparks from this working were intense ones, deep reds
that spit fire when they collided with one another. And collide
they did, sparking, glowing, merging, coalescing into a glowing
figure that grew taller and more familiar in shape...
She wasn't solid, but glimmered, semi-transparent.
"It's about time! Do you have any idea how long I've
been sitting there, waiting for you to figure out that wasn't
"Cordelia?" Angel's voice was tentative,
with just a hint of a tremble.
Cordelia smiled, that real, genuine smile
even Buffy had to admit made her look beautiful. "It's
me. I mean, it's the spirit me, but it's the me me."
She glanced down at her dress. "I thought I took this
Fred giggled nervously. "We were going
to, but we got distracted, remember, and it just ended up
sitting in the trunk, so I put it with your things after you
"Oh. Well, I suppose if I'm on a higher
plane, I don't have to worry about my credit card bill."
"Definitely sounds like Cordelia,"
"Of course it's me. Willow knows what
she's doing...well, except for that time she tried to do a
de-lusting on her and Xander...no, that was Spike's fault."
Her eyes fell on Spike and she favored him with all of Queen
C's infamous disdain. "You got a soul? For Buffy?"
"Can you think of a better reason?"
Spike snarked back. Once the words were out, though, he looked
like he wasn't certain he should have done that.
Cordelia's expression softened. "Not
if you love her. Or she loves you. Which means, of course,
Buffy, that you don't have any objection..."
Somehow, Buffy had the feeling she was being
informed, not asked. "No objection."
"Good. Angel? Dear?"
Angel's face lit up. "Yes, Cordelia?"
"Get me the hell out of here. Now."
Wesley's mouth was twitching, looking for
all the world like he was trying not to laugh. "We'd
love to oblige, Cordelia, but we don't know how."
The figure issued a long-suffering sigh. "Do
I have to do everything around here?" There was a pause.
"I was asking a rhetorical question, okay? Look, do you
still have the Axis?"
"No, but we could probably find it again."
"You'll need that. I can't tell you exactly
how to do it, but you'll need the Axis and you need to track
down who Skip is working for. Believe me, if I could tell
you how to do it, I would so you could get me out of here."
"You're okay, aren't you?" Angel
sounded worried. "I mean, it's not like you're in pain
or anything like that?"
"Only the pain of boredom and the pain
of watching my body running around doing disgusting things.
I mean, my god, Connor. How icky is that? I changed his diapers!
And do you see the clothes they're making me wear? Angel,
if you love me, get me the hell out of here."
The figure glanced over her shoulder to where
Willow sat, her face flushed and her breathing heavy. "Time
to go," Cordelia told them. "If I stay much longer,
it's going to hurt Willow."
"But..." Angel protested, stretching
out a hand.
"Find me. Use your heart and the path
will become clear." She rolled her eyes. "You've
got to get me out. I'm starting to talk like them. Oh, and
Angel? Don't be too hard on Connor. He's confused and he's
just been betrayed by the one person he thought he could trust
completely...again. Try to remember that. And a talk about
the facts of life might come in handy, okay?"
With that, the figure vanished and Willow
slumped to the floor. Buffy and Spike rushed to her side,
gently lifting her to a sitting position. Wesley brought water
and Buffy took the glass, holding it ready. "Willow?"
she asked softly.
Willow's eyes opened and she blinked twice,
her gaze a bit unfocused. "Did it work?"
Continued in Chapter Twenty-Four