As still as death...
Outside, the street was dark and empty, the air still and silent, streetlight flickering as though afraid to shine steadily. It felt unearthly calm. As if at any moment hell itself was about to break free into the world and wreak all sort of havoc.
The feel of it sent a cold chill creeping down Cordelia's spine as she stared through the gauzy curtain which covered the window, watching for any sign. It had been her station for some time now, keeping watch for their zombie assailants and railing at Angel for abandoning them.
She'd done a lot of that since he'd gone all undead-Doherty diva on them but never so much as she was now. As far as Cordy was concerned, his absence could be blamed for pretty much everything that had gone wrong. Wesley was bleeding to death, Gunn was brooding to death, and Doyle...Doyle was worrying to death. He'd heaped all their troubles and cares into one big, ginormous pile then placed the whole lot of them on his shoulders. The stress was weighing on him and tonight wasn't making it any better and there wasn't anything she could do to change it. She'd taken on the unwilling role of Watcher since neither Doyle or Gunn was in any mood to let her help, Doyle especially.
Cordelia heaved a sigh, a gusting exhalation of breath which blew lightly against the curtain, moving it slightly. Out of sight of the others, she slipped a hand beneath her shirt and laid it flat against her abdomen. She knew why Doyle was so insistent, knew what he suspected. She suspected it herself. Had from the moment she'd looked at her calendar and, abruptly, realized she was late.
Periods were hit and miss in her life anyway. The demon hunting business wasn't exactly the most stress-free job in history and it wasn't anything new for her to skip and bring whole new meaning to the word irregular but this time...it had been a while. Too much of a while.
Truth was, she didn't know for sure and she wasn't sure she wanted to know for sure. Being a mother was something which hadn't ever quite managed to make it to her top five list of priorities. Marry Brad Pitt, open her own boutique selling her own haute couture, maybe....pregnant with demon spawn while trying to keep a struggling supernatural detective agency afloat and ending up trapped in a teen shelter with zombie cops lurking outside about to bang down the door? Not so much with the high placement on the priority list.
Which of course, keeping her luck in mind, meant there was a damned good chance it was about to end up there.
With a quick, furtive glance over one shoulder, Cordelia looked about the room and took stock. Anne and the paramedic were working on Wesley, some of the kids tried to help, some were crying, Doyle... Doyle, she had to look the other way to see, he was standing in the door with Gunn. They were engaged in what looked like a very serious whispered conversation and she had a feeling it was their latest attempt to figure a way out. Wesley needed a doctor fast, they needed to get help, or they were going to lose him and themselves along with him.
Doyle's gaze met hers and she looked away quickly. Another argument about pregnancy tests and doctor's visits was not on her schedule for the evening. They'd already had more than enough of those to last her a life time and there were more important things on the table at the moment -- like saving Wesley's life.
She shivered, rubbing her arms to chase away the persistent chill, and looked out into the dark once more. She couldn't be pregnant now. She couldn't. What kind of life could she offer a child? What kind of life could *they* offer a child? Demons around every corner (not to mention in the family tree), vampires swarming all over the place, and the odd apocalypse on a Friday morning. It wasn't any kind of life for a child. It wasn't any kind of life for her, much less her...
No. She cut off the thought before it could finish. She was *not* going there. She couldn't let herself go there. She could *not* let herself start thinking about any potential...no, she couldn't. If she started thinking about it then she'd start believing it and if she started believing it, she'd start dreaming it and if she did that...dreaming was a very bad thing. Dreaming let to IRS investigations, bankruptcy, and nearly getting eaten by a giant snake on your graduation day.
No, dreaming was not something she did seriously. Dreaming about the serious parts of life, like a baby, did not belong in Cordelia's world. Besides, she wasn't mommy-material any more than Doyle was going to be up for Daddy of the year. An ex-cheerleader turned struggling actress and sometimes demon slayer having a child with a half-demon, deadbeat sometimes washed up gambler was hardly Brady Bunch material.
A faint, bitter laugh slipped from her lips and she hugged herself reflexively. This was going to be an absolute and utter disaster. Angel was two steps from losing it and nowhere to be found, Wesley was bleeding to death, Gunn was having second thoughts about it all, and Doyle...
She didn't want to think about that.
Wesley made a faint noise, kind of like a strangled moan, and she looked over with wide, fear-filled eyes. He was ghost pale and the paramedic looked panicked.
Anne's head snapped up and the two women shared a silent conversation, communicating through without words, and came to an agreement. They had to figure out a way to get Wesley to help. Not for the first time that night, Cordelia wished for Angel's presence and cursed his absence in the same breath.
If they had him with them, cutting through the ungrateful dead outside would have been a cake walk. But without him...
She huffed a growl and turned. Determination rose up until she nearly choked on her own fury. No more waiting. Advancing on Doyle and Gunn, she jabbed a finger in Wesley's direction and snapped, "We are getting him out of here. NOW!"
The two men looked at her in stunned disbelief, surprised by her sudden burst of motion. Holding out one hand, Gunn tried to placate her. "We can't go out there, Cordy," he pointed out patiently, "it's too dangerous too --"
Unwilling to listen, Cordelia made a sharp, impatient gesture, "I don't care, Gunn. Wesley *will* die if we don't get him out of here and no way am I going to sit by and let that happen! We are taking him out of here and I don't care what I have to go through to do it!" She gestured to him. "Pick him up."
With the order delivered, she stalked to the back door and flung it open...
Only to slam it shut again. Too late. Face blanched white, she felt the determination drain away as she spun toward them again and uttered the words that changed everything, "They're here."
"You need t'eat something."
The admonition pulled Cordelia from her reverie and she looked up to see Doyle standing over her with a cup of coffee in one hand and a sandwich from the hospital cafeteria in the other. She smiled wanly and nodded at it. "That stuff? You trying to kill me, Doyle?"
"Hardly." He snorted and shoved them toward her again. "Eat. You need to keep your strength up and all."
The reminder of the days old argument made her stiffen in her chair and reluctantly take the food. "I'm fine." She mumbled in place of a thank you.
Doyle made a face of weariness and crouched down before her. "Would it really be so bad, Cordelia?" He asked honestly, all the fight from the previous arguments gone out of him. "Havin' a baby and all? With me?" He sounded exhausted as he asked the questions. "Seems to me, we had a pretty good thing goin' on, y'now? Sure there was the odd mess but, y'know, once we got the kinks worked out, I thought it was pretty good."
"It was." She admitted softly. "That's the problem."
That one confused them both but he was the only one to show it. "Okay then, you're goin' to need to explain that one for me a bit. Doesn't make much in the way of sense."
"When do I ever?" Cordy asked rhetorically. "Look, it doesn't make sense but, believe me, when it gets good, it goes bad and when it goes bad...I'm from Sunnydale, Doyle. In Sunnydale, bad means apocalyptic and being pregnant...that's the kind of good that can go really, really, *really* bad. The kind of bad that'd make a Sunnydale apocalypse look like a walk in the park and believe me, if that happens? The world? My world at least? So ending and I don't know if I can take that again." She looked down, toying with the wax paper wrapping on the sandwich. "I just...I can't deal with this right now, Doyle. Okay? I can't."
Doyle looked sympathetic at that, but nevertheless, "You're gonna have to deal with it sometime, Cordelia." He smiled wryly, a sad edge to it. "These things, they tend not to let you wait forever."
"I know." She nodded, lifting her gaze to his and then to Wesley. "Just not right now, okay? Not right now."
She knew Doyle was right. She had to face it sooner or later. She'd find out whether she wanted to or not.
Just not tonight.