angel, btvs, cordelia, spike, tara
fic: At the Gates (Angel, 2000 words, PG)
Title: At the Gates
Disclaimer: These characters and their universe are not owned by me.
Characters: Spike, Angel, Cordelia, Tara
Summary: Post-NFA, Spike and Angel have an encounter with the Powers That Be and find out what's happened to some old (dead) friends.
.The place was misty and indefinite, but the two women in curve-hugging white gowns were distinct enough. The blond was calm, even serene. The brunette scanned the area nervously.
"Is that them?" she asked impatiently, looking up.
The blond looked.
High above were two small, dark specks.
"Hard to tell." The specks were getting bigger.
"I think that's them!" The brunette clutched at the blond's arm. The specks resolved themselves into human-shaped figures. "That's them! Do it!"
The figures were falling rapidly now, and the sound of two screaming male voices reached the women's ears.
"Hurry!" insisted the brunette.
The blond sighed. She pointedly waited a few more seconds, until she could see the buttons on the leather coats both figures were wearing. Then she held up her hands.
The falling figures slowed to a gentle pace, righted themselves in the air, landed smoothly on their feet, and stopped screaming. "It is them," she agreed.
The brunette crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. "The Champions."
The man on the left muttered, "Bloody hell," and opened his eyes.
"Hello, Spike," said the blond woman.
"Glinda!" he replied.
The man on the right slowly opened his eyes, blinking a couple of times. Then his gaze focused on the brunette. "Cordy?" he whispered.
"What the hell did you do!?" Cordelia exclaimed, advancing. "Angel, you got yourself killed and I will never forgive you!"
"I was acting on information you gave me," Angel said, backing away with his hands up. "Straight from the Powers that Be. You showed me a way to make a difference, and I took it."
Cordy sighed. "Sure, make it my fault," she muttered.Then she looked him in the eye. "You're right. I just wish there'd been another way. I wish you hadn't had to get yourself killed--"
"We're dead?" Angel interrupted. "Does that mean we're in--"
"-- Heaven," Spike finished. He nodded at Tara. "This one would never end up anywhere else."
Tara smiled at the compliment. "Um, actually, it's back there." She looked over her shoulder, toward a massive set of matte stone gates, and a ray of sunlight broke through the cloud cover and shown upon them. Reflexively, both vampires cried out and covered their heads with their coats.
When nothing happened, they both straightened up, sheepishly. "Thought they were supposed to be pearly," Spike muttered, peering at the gates.
"Don't believe everything you read," Angel answered. Then he turned to Cordelia again. "They let you in, didn't they?"
"Of course." She indicated her long, flowing, low-cut white gown. "I'm a higher power, Angel. For real this time. And I don't just sit and watch. I have influence, I can help people... and now I get to help you."
Angel swallowed. "With what?"
"You have more than a lifetime of evil deeds to amend." Her voice was serious, and her gaze took in both Angel and Spike. "Both of you. And the few years you've been trying to do good -- well, it's not enough."
"Of course not." Angel shook his head.
"Now wait a minute," Spike said. "I saved the world--"
"Once," Cordelia interrupted. "It's not enough."
"So now what? We go to hell -- even though I tried to do the right thing, even though I got my soul back -- you mean none of it counted?"
Cordelia opened her mouth to snap a reply, but Tara stepped between Cordy and Spike. She laid a hand on the brunette's arm, and looked at the vampires. "You don't know how it works?" she asked gently.
There was an uncomfortable silence, broken only by Angel, who shifted from foot to foot and tried to look important.
Tara suppressed a sigh. "Ok, theology 101 -- the real version. If you die human, your body just... dies. Your soul vacates, taking your consciousness with it, and goes on to its punishment or reward. Or sometimes --" she glanced at Cordy with an expression of resigned affection. "-- both at once. If a vampire turns you, your soul and consciousness go on to the afterlife. But your consciousness... splits... and one half stays in your body, along with the demon that takes over. Still with me?"
Tara tucked her hair behind her ear. "Normally, you aren't responsible for anything a demon causes your body to do once your soul's moved on. But if you're a vampire and you get your soul back, then all of it -- body, soul, demon, and consciousness -- is you." She looked first Angel, and then Spike, in the eye. "And having a soul means you are held accountable for everything you've done."
"Oh, god," Angel whispered, face going a whiter shade of pale.
"More than a lifetime of misdeeds," Cordelia said, touching Angel's arm. "It will take a lifetime to make amends."
The truth dawned on Spike. "You're sending us back."
Angel glanced at each of them, returning to Cordy with a mixture of relief and disappointment on his face.
"You were on the right track down there," Tara said. "But you haven't done enough."
"What happened to the 'repent and be saved,' thing, anyway?" Spike asked.
"Only works for humans," Cordy answered.
"So Wes--" Angel began.
"In there." Cordy indicated the gates behind them. "With Fred." She smiled at their surprise. "Come on, you didn't believe that jerk, did you? Nothing I know of can consume a human soul."
Angel gulped. "What about Darla?"
"Guys!" Cordy stopped the flow of questions.
"There's only so much we can tell you," Tara explained. "Anya and Darla have made their own bargains -- they have more to make up for than you, even, but they died well and they're each working to make amends. Doyle's one of us. Joyce was just a human -- a good woman, but not part of this fight. She's in there."
"And Gunn?" Angel repeated.
"Charles?" Tara asked, concentrating. "He hasn't come this way."
"He got carried off by a dragon," Spike said. "Thought for sure he'd be--"
"Haven't you ever heard of a double agent?" Cordy interrupted.
Angel put his head in his hands. "I should have known," he said softly.
Cordy glared at him. "As if."
"The dragon is on our side," Tara explained. "Your friend, Charles Gunn, is still in California. Maybe you'll see him again."
"We're going back to California?" asked Spike.
Cordelia's eyes lost focus for a moment, as she interpreted a vision. "No. Not immediately, at any rate."
Angel crossed his arms. "Why not?"
"You aren't needed there," Cordy said. "The Sunnydale hellmouth is closed, Wolfram & Hart might not even have an L. A. office for another decade, and Gunn and his people can take care of anything that's left."
"Oh, Gunn has people now."
"Stop." Cordelia put a hand on Angel's arm. "You're a Champion -- you're better than this. But you're far from unique."
Spike rolled his eyes. "Right, any words of wisdom or what-not before we go back?"
Cordy reluctantly stopped watching Angel. "We had to fight to get you this chance," she said. "Don't waste it. Life -- even unlife -- is precious. Don't spend it brooding, or drinking, or feeling sorry for yourself. Don't waste it on bar fights. Don't waste it being afraid to connect with people."
"Don't refuse help," Tara added, eying them both. "Don't think you have to be in charge of everything. And when you find someone who understands who you are and what you must do, don't wait to tell her how you feel."
Angel blinked. "You mean--"
Tara nodded wisely. "You know."
"But I--" He looked at Cordelia, uncomfortably.
"It's ok," she said. "I'm dead, remember? Nina's a nice girl." She flashed him a winning smile. "You can make something really good together -- if you don't screw it up."
"My curse..." he muttered.
"Oh, that old thing?" Cordy said. She glanced at Tara. "Could you?"
"Sure." Tara concentrated for a moment, then held out one hand and made a pulling motion, like removing a tablecloth from a table. "All gone. You and Nina can grow old together... if, like Cordy said, you don't screw it up."
Spike stared. "Old?" He repeated Cordelia's earlier words. "A lifetime to make amends."
"But not forever," Tara said. "If you're going to do it, you'd better start now. And Spike? Tell Willow I'm happy for her." She snapped her fingers and the two vampires disappeared.
"That went better than I expected." Tara dusted off her hands.
"I still don't know what he sees in her," Cordy muttered, turning back toward the gates. "Sure, she's nice, but where's her personality?"
"He didn't appreciate you half enough," Tara agreed, squeezing Cordelia's hand. "But hey. His loss, my gain."
The full moon shown on a hillside in Scotland, and a leather-clad vampire fell from the sky. This time there was no divine witch to break his fall, and he landed in a bruised and swearing heap.
By the time Spike had disentangled himself and stood up, searchlights shown from the castle's ramparts, and weapons were trained on his chest.
"Bloody hell," he said.