"I can stay on my own, Dawnie," Buffy reminded her sister, "Slayer, remember?"
"Retired." Dawn pointed out, "And I'm not saying you're incapable... I'm just saying you haven't been on your own since--"
Her voice tapered off and Buffy's fingers flexed around the phone cord, slightly annoyed at the things people wouldn't say these days. Since Sunnydale. Since the Giant Crater that was our hometown. Since Spike... "I'm fine, Dawn," she insisted, managing to curb the note of irritation in her voice, "Just... Be careful. And have a good time. And call me if you need anything...” She heard the click from Dawn’s end and replaced the receiver with a sigh, turning to face an empty sitting room.
Dawn was right. Six months since Sunnydale and she hadn't spent a night alone. There'd always been someone there - Andrew, Willow, Dawn, Kennedy - each of whom had an elsewhere to be that night.
She'd planned a night of pampering. She'd planned a night of movie watching and popcorn eating and getting so unbelievably bloated on junk food that she couldn't even think about stretching on her sofa, let alone move. Dawn's hinting towards Spike had soured her mood somewhat. Most days, she was okay. Most days she wasn’t thinking about that last conversation de-awkward down in a crumbling Hellmouth where she’d told Spike she’d loved him and he’d said no you don’t, but thanks for saying it.
Most days, Buffy was busy. It was the nights that were the worst.
Nights when Buffy, Queen of the Retired Slayers would go out and find something to fight just so she could exhaust herself and find sleep. Easier said than done when you had people watching you like a hawk. She sat down heavily on her sofa, poking at the snack she'd prepared earlier and squinting at the television guide, wondering what she could watch when the figure appeared in front of her.
Buffy blinked at first, too surprised to move as the thing took shape into someone she recognised. "Cordelia?"
"Nice place," said the brunette, "Kinda bohemian-chic-disregards-anything-resembling-fashion-ever... Willow’s influence?”
Buffy's eyes narrowed slightly, and she pinched herself, wondering if she were that exhausted that she'd dozed off already and envisioned Cordelia damning her decor choices, "Aren't you in a coma?"
Cordelia's mouth twitched in exasperation and though she was more go-throughable than not, Buffy noted a measure of sadness in her eyes. "That's my official status these days," she nodded, "Not one I'm happy with but that's life. So you're inactive now, huh?"
“Retired,” Buffy corrected her immediately and then shook her head. She was even arguing with this version of Cordelia in her head. Great. “Am I dreaming?”
"God, I hope not," Cordelia frowned, "You wouldn't believe what it takes to astral project yourself into someone's psyche. I need your help."
"You astral projected yourself all the way to Rome?” Asked Buffy, unable to keep the disbelieving tone from her voice.
“Hey, I didn’t plan this,” Cordelia huffed, “Of all the people I thought would help me? You were way, way down the list. Well, okay,” she amended off Buffy’s look, “Sixth, maybe. Definitely further down than my friends, despite everything that happened last year. My point is that you help people. And you’ve helped me a few times in the past with varying degrees of success... I was sorta hoping you could do it again?”
So much for niceties, thought Buffy, blinking, "I'm inactive, remember? Retired? My saving the world days are over."
Cordelia folded her arms across her chest, "And if it were as simple as that I'd be heading for the door right now but... It's not. We both know it's not."
“Why are you here? Like you said, of all the people that would help you? I’m not exactly topping that list. And I figure Angel’s closer.”
The look on Cordelia’s face said it all. “Angel is closer,” she nodded. “A friggin’ continent closer. But I think--Wolfram and Hart are doing something to him, Buffy, to all of them. When I say that there are other people that can help me? What I really mean is that I’ve tried them. All of them. And it’s like... It’s like none of them are listening.”
Buffy frowned, ignoring the part where she was Cordelia’s last resort. “What do you mean? And who are Wolfram and Hart?”
Cordelia blinked, “You mean... You don’t know?”
Buffy frowned, “Know what?” She felt decidedly out of the loop here and she didn’t think she was liking the sound of where this was going to end up.
“Angel. Wolfram and Hart. The deal of a lifetime... He’s head of Hell Incorporated now. Literally.”
Buffy paced. Which was really inconsiderate when you thought about it because she, of the Having-a-Body variety over there, was just flaunting the fact that Cordelia couldn’t.
Well, actually, she could. But it didn’t make her feel better.
She could pace and she could walk and she could talk and she could scream but nobody but Buffy could hear her and nothing--Nothing made her feel any better about what was happening here.
“So let me get this straight,” said Buffy, after she’d paced enough to make Cordelia feel sorta dizzy, “Angel, my vampire ex who was previously all up in the business of saving people, is now working for an evil law firm.”
Cordelia nodded, “Heading it up... That’s about the gist of it. He sounds so... Tired.”
“You’ve talked to him?” Buffy blinked.
“Hello, coma,” Cordelia rolled her eyes. Shock or no shock, Buffy really needed to pay attention to the storyline here. “Can’t do much of the talking when you aren’t in control of your basic bodily functions. And I can’t get on his wavelength, remember?”
“Do vampires have a wavelength?” Buffy wondered aloud, then, off Cordelia’s look, “Remember when I was hearing people’s thoughts back in high school? I couldn’t hear Angel’s... He said it was ‘cause he was... Y’know, dead. No brainwaves. Or wavelengths.”
“Well, I’ve done the astral projection thing on him before and it worked,” said Cordelia, thinking back to her 21st birthday when she’d jumped into Angel’s body to get him the message about her vision and the girl she’d wound up saving in her head. “Besides, Fred’s totally human. And, as far as I remember? So are Wes and Gunn... They’re wavelengthed up the wazoo, I just can’t get on it.”
“So you’re here,” Buffy sighed.
Cordelia’s patience, fraying at the edges, had just run out. “Look, I get that you’re all mopey because your saving the world days are over but--Man up! I need your help, Buffy.”
For a split-second, Cordelia wondered if tough-love was the wrong approach.
Buffy’s mouth set in a grim line and she almost flailed about the fact that she may have lost her one shot forever, was doomed to live out the rest of her potentially short life listening to the sad lamentations of a vampire who thought he’d fucked up. Truly.
She was on the verge of begging, literally, and that was really the lowest Cordelia Chase would ever go consciously...
Until Buffy nodded. “Okay. I’ll help.”
They were sitting in the Fiumicini Airport in Rome, waiting for their flight. It had taken a day to sort everything out - a day in which Cordelia had sort of... Floated in and out of astral-consciousness for a while.
Buffy had talked with Dawn, said that Angel was in trouble but not much else and loaned the airfare from Giles who was currently in England heading up the new-wave of the Watcher’s Council.
He’d remained tight-lipped on the Angel front but from the little Cordelia understood from Buffy? He’d known about Angel’s career choice far longer than Buffy had and that had put Slay-Gal in a shitty, shitty mood.
Cordelia had tried being nice. She’d even defended Giles, seeing as how he was the one remaining member of the Scooby Gang that hadn’t hated her at one point or another, but Buffy was pissed.
More than that, she was hurt because this, apparently, was not something for her to be kept out of the loop on. In fact? This was very much her loop, she’d told Cordelia, because maybe she could’ve come to Angel earlier and--
“And done what?” Cordelia had asked, maybe a little rankled at the fact that Buffy thought she could get through to Angel in an instant and wasn’t that the point, here? “Poked him with a sword? Sent him to hell in a fire-weaved handbasket with that Alfalfa guy?”
Buffy had folded her arms, glared at her, and become uber-aware of the fact that the people around her were trying not to look because clearly, she was crazy. “That was Acathla, Tact-Girl, and that’s not even a little funny.”
“You think I’m in this for the funny? He’s not gonna get out of his contract with Wolfram and Hart just ‘cause you go running in all stakes-a-blazin’...” Not, of course, that she knew how to get him out of said contract... She was just gonna work on that when she got to it.
A bell sounded overhead and the stiff, informal voice told them that Buffy’s plane was beginning to board rows A-through-D.
“I’m F,” said Buffy, glancing first at Cordelia then the crowd that had steadily amassed around them. “And people are totally looking at me like I’m crazy.”
“Well you are talking to yourself,” Cordelia pointed out, knowing nobody else could see her except her--Well, intended, she guessed.
She’d discovered she could astral project herself pretty much by accident when, overwhelmed by the most depressing coma-visit ever, she’d tried to make herself wake up.
Instead of waking up, she’d shunted herself out of her body and right into a pervy janitor who’d installed cameras in the women’s bathrooms of the hospital she was in.
Creeped out entirely by that thought, she hadn’t tried again until a week and a half later when Angel was sitting beside her, his hand wrapped tightly around hers.
She’d tried to force herself out of her coma and into Angel’s mind but--Something was blocking her.
That same something, she feared soon after, was blocking Angel’s thoughts. Not only Angel’s, though. Wes, Gunn, Fred, Lorne... Every one of them was like a closed book where other, lesser mortals happened to be open.
She couldn’t figure it out and she was starting to worry that by the time she did, she’d be too late.
Angel kept talking about working from the belly of the beast, trying to spin her some everything’s-fine-company-line about doing good when Cordelia knew for a damn fact that he was struggling to keep his head above water.
She sighed, trying not to focus on that, when she noticed some Italian stallion making eyes at Buffy.
Crazy Buffy who, she’d pointed out two minutes ago, was talking to herself.
“What is it about you?” She demanded after he’d left, not at all oblivious to the fact that Buffy hadn’t even glanced in his direction. “I get the superhero thing. And hell, if I even remotely swung that way I wouldn’t kick you out of bed,” she mused, “but it’s like every guy and his dog falls all over himself to get with you.”
Buffy snorted at that. “Sure. And then they get up close and realise what a giant freak I am.”
Cordelia actually found herself laughing. “So with you on that. Vision-brain? Not exactly bringing the men-folk rushing my way, y’know?”
“Vision-brain?” Buffy arched an eyebrow, looking entirely puzzled and just like that? Cordelia was starting to feel like Giles and his ‘One Girl in All The World’ schpiel.
“Long story short? I got visions. Of people that needed saving. Pretty much almost killed me until I got a little demon in me...”
She almost laughed again at the look on Little Ms. Likes to Slay’s face. “That isn’t as pervy as it sounds,” she clarified, though she’d forget the fact that she’d been knocked up with demon spawn not once but twice and both times very much against her will.
Her mood soured a little at that thought. “The Powers made me part-demon so I could cope with the visions. Only... It didn’t work out like I’d planned.”
Like anyone had planned, really. She didn’t figure Angel had relished the thought of what the thing inside her had made her do with his son, though it wasn’t like he talked about it or anything.
The nauseous feeling bubbled up in her throat and she wondered at the fact that she could still feel anything when she was without a body.
She’d zoned out, she guessed... Not even close to spanking her inner moppet about everything that’d gone on last year.
“Sorry,” she murmured, plastering a smile on her face. Buffy was waiting. “You say something?”
“I just--” Buffy paused, “I guess things changed a lot after high school, huh?”
“Understatement,” Cordelia smiled faintly, thinking her life had changed drastically from what she thought it would be. “Hell, you died.”
“And came back,” Buffy returned the tiny smile. “And craterized our hometown.”
Cordelia blinked, surprised. Of all the things Angel had told her during her coma, that wasn’t one of them. “Huh?”
She spent the next ten minutes with her emotions ranging from fairly impressed to fairly freaked out. Buffy had defeated The First and unleashed a whole bunch of slayers on the world. Her entire hometown - which she always thought she’d go back to someday - was lying at the bottom of a crater.
“Wow,” she murmured, feeling goosebumps crawl up her non-existent arms.
“Multiply that by a thousand and then you have where I am now,” Buffy admitted, “I still don’t think I’m past that yet.”
“Well, I think that pretty much covers the life-changing event you don’t get over in the blink of an eye,” she told her. “Why Rome?” Cordelia asked suddenly. “I mean, of all the places you could’ve picked...”
Buffy shrugged, “I don’t know. I was the Queen of the Unofficial Zipcode for a while. Dawn and I travelled but... She needed roots, y’know? And then there was school...”
“There are schools in America,” Cordelia pointed out, not unkindly. “We actually went to one on a Hellmouth and we survived. Mostly.” Not without a few thousand bumps and bruises and dead classmates along the way but it was a small price to pay for getting out of her giant-snake-demon attending graduation mostly unscathed.
“We tried Cleveland for a while but... It was like we’d traded one small town for another,” said Buffy carefully. “I figured our change needed to be... Bigger,” she settled on finally.
“So you moved, what, a whole continent away?” Cordelia shook her head. That seemed like something pretty huge to be running away from. “Big change... Was it far enough?”
Chiamando volo 781. Tutti i passeggeri per 781.
Buffy’s gaze dropped, though Cordelia didn’t miss the look of thank God, on her face at not having to answer that question. “That’s us,” she told Cordelia, hoisting her bag up her shoulder. “We should probably...” She let the rest of her question trail off and starting walking towards her boarding gate.
She was mostly quiet on the long flight to LA.
This suited Cordelia down to the ground ‘cause it was getting harder and harder to focus. She’d closed her eyes and dozed for a while; pretty weird when you considered her actual self was doing enough sleep for the both of them while resting in coma-land.
Buffy’s voice broke her out of her non-dream and she glanced up. “What?”
“What happens when we get there?” She asked again, half turning towards Cordelia in her seat. They’d picked a random-ass flight at a random-ass time, hoping they’d hit lucky and it wouldn’t be full.
Buffy was seated in the back, cheapo flights a blessing really because there was hardly any people back there and she could talk freely.
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” Cordelia admitted. She hadn’t. She hadn’t really considered the possibility that astral projecting herself to wherever Buffy happened to be would work, if she was honest, and everything had pretty much snowballed from that moment on.
She’d thought, at best, that she was only on the official wavelength of the people in the hospital. She’d disproved that theory when she’d shunted herself outside and felt the warmth of the sun on her face for the first time in what felt like months.
Then, of course, came the inevitable guilt.
Because for the brief three seconds she realised she was in control of a body that wasn’t hers? She realised that she was doing to somebody the very same thing that’d been done to her last year...
And she’d thrown herself right back out.
“This is all kinda surreal,” said Buffy after a beat.
Cordelia made a point of tapping non-existent fingernails against the armrest. “You think this is surreal? I’m minus a body and my best friend is heading up the law firm we’ve been fighting against for four years. That’s surreal.”
She tried to think about that for a moment but every time she did she got the feeling she was gonna lose it. Big time. So much for spanking your inner moppet, she chastized, trying to ignore the tight feeling in her chest.
“What if you just talk to him?”
Buffy snored, “Talk to him? And say what? Hi, Angel, how’s things? I have Cordelia here and she’s mighty pissed at you for heading up the sucky, evil law firm?”
Cordelia brightened somewhat, “That could work! Although...” Her mood plummeted again.
Buffy looked at her. “What?”
“What if Wolfram and Hart are doing something to him? What if they’re keeping me in my coma? They’re not gonna relish you turning up and trying to break them out of whatever spell they’re under.” The alternative, which she’d considered and banished on the slightest offchance that it was true, was that her friends didn’t want her back after everything that’d happened last year.
Which was clearly crazy ‘cause--Well, why visit?
“You think they’d do that?”
“It’s not like they haven’t tried it before.” She thought back to Vocah and how much simpler her first coma was... Then marvelled at the turns her life had taken when she was considering her first coma simple. God. “One time? They sent me killer visions. And they were behind the whole Darla-and-Angel fun-fest of doom during which boss-man went kinda beige, slept with the skank and gave away all my clothes.”
Buffy’s eyes fairly popped out at that one. “Darla? Angel’s-Sire-who-I-staked-Darla?”
Cordelia resisted the urge to ask how many Darla’s she knew, ‘cause--Well, Buffy had been dead that summer, hence a whole lot more important things to not worry about. “Oh, there is so much you don’t know...”
She filled her in on pretty much everything and at one point, Buffy felt her mind sliding into overload.
Angel working for an evil law firm was pretty much a head trip all on it’s own and that wasn’t factoring into the equation that this Cordelia was different to what she’d imagined.
Sure, she was still Queen of the Snippy.
They’d discussed ways of telling Angel she was back and when Cordelia had suggested she employ a little tact, Buffy had called time on their conversation-de-weird.
“Okay, okay, hold up... I can deal with talking to a girl who’s in a coma. I can deal with thinking that Angel might think I’m crazy but dealing with you telling me to employ a little tact? Now, that is crazy...” said Buffy, shaking her head.
Cordelia frowned, “Y’know, people change, Buffy. I figured you’d know that as much as anybody.”
She did know that! God, she knew that. She’d been the ditziest bitch at Hemery until Merrick had come along with her calling and now, not only was Cordelia asking her to see that she’d changed but she was providing living, actual proof.
Surreal wasn’t even close to covering it.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, surprised to find she meant it.
The last time she’d met up with Angel had been just after she’d been brought back from the dead. They’d kissed, sure. Buffy was fairly certain that at one point she’d have risked giving him a happy just to feel something other than death and despair and, well, death again.
But Angel had been different too. And when she’d begged him to come back with her, when she’d laid her heart on the line and pleaded with him just to help her make sense of her life, Angel had done the oh-so-noble thing of letting her down gently.
He had a mission, he’d told her, back in LA. He had a family. He had--Cordelia.
He’d told her she’d changed. Buffy hadn’t believed it and in doing so, she realised that maybe she’d done the brunette a great disservice all on her own.
“I hated you in high school,” she said after a beat.
Cordelia arched an eyebrow, “Trust me when I say the feeling was mutual.”
“You seemed to have everything.”
The brunette made a face at that. “I did. Money, cars, shoes, dresses... And then Daddy got all neglecty on the tax paying front and we ended up broke.”
“Riches to rags,” Buffy shook her head, “Pretty hefty comedown.”
Cordelia shrugged, “It wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
“Well, I guess not... I mean, coma and all...”
“No, I mean... Well, I guess all that money really never did make me happy. The best time I had in high school was hanging round with you tweako’s pre-rebar incident - how sad is that?”
“Gee, thanks,” said Buffy, scowling a little.
“Okay, that came out wrong. All I meant was... I had everything your average girl ever dreams of and the best years of my life were spent playing bait, fighting alongside a vampire with a soul, getting debilitating visions and researching demons. Who knew?” She glanced up to find Buffy looking at her oddly. “What?”
“You. You’re so... Different,” Buffy settled on finally. “And I mean that as a compliment.”
Cordelia sighed, “Yeah, well... I’ve seen what’s out there. Kinda hard to stay the same when the majority of the world is beating down your brain with a vision to show you how awful it can be.”
“What made you keep them?” Buffy asked, after a moment.
“Kinda didn’t have a choice,” Cordelia shrugged. “Tried to kiss everyone and their empath-demon for a whole day before I realised I had the only thing that ever meant anything to Doyle and... The rest is history, I guess.”
Buffy thought about that for a long moment. “Does it hurt?”
“What, the visions?”
“The coma,” said Buffy, “I can’t imagine what it’s like being... Y’know, locked inside your head.”
Cordelia’s gaze seemed to darken. “It’s better than last year, trust me.”
The plane bounced hard as a storm broke around them and Buffy winced. “God, I hate planes about as much as I hate driving.”
Cordelia said nothing.
They touched down in LA on what qualified as the worst storm in the history of ever.
It didn’t bother Cordelia so much - being all go-throughable meant that she was bone dry when they got outside the airport.
Buffy, on the other hand, looked like a drowned rat. “Tell me again why I didn’t pack a better jacket?” She asked, trying to signal a cab along with the other 95 people on the sidewalk.
It took 45 minutes of elbowing and pushing and Buffy was officially convinced that chivalry was as dead as her love life when some guy jumped the queue and right into her first cab.
She directed the second to the offices of Wolfram and Hart and Cordelia breathed out a sigh, worrying a nail between her teeth. Or trying to.
“Like you would not believe,” Cordelia admitted, though it probably wasn’t for the reasons Buffy thought. Every block, every sidewalk passed in a blur - Cordelia barely noticed.
All too soon the ride was over and the rain had thinned into a crappy drizzle once they got out the car at Hell Incorporated. Buffy yanked her bag up her shoulder. “Well, here goes...”
Cordelia glanced at her, “Buffy, wait...” They’d made it out of the cab, at least, before her bleeding heart had won out and she’d realised that maybe, after all of this, she kind of owed Buffy an explanation.
“I need to tell you something,” said Cordelia, just as Buffy was gearing up to march right into Angel’s building of evil and declare holy-hell on his crazy-manpire-ass.
Buffy paused, turned, and looked at the brunette. “Cordelia, really, you don’t have to thank me...”
“I’m not.” Cordelia’s cheeks flushed, “I mean... I am grateful, God, I’m grateful, I just... There’s something you should know first.”
Buffy looked puzzled, “Something else?”
This was it. Her grand rehearsal. Her big step-up to everything she was gonna have to tell Angel, except... Well, she knew Angel better than she did Buffy. She told Angel this and he was gonna do everything that was in his power to stop it (which was nothing) and it would destroy him in the process.
But Buffy--Cordelia weighed up her options for a moment. Buffy was all about the greater good - was she not the person who’d thrown herself off a tower to save the world? Or who’d sent Angel packing off to hell with Acathla for much the same reason?
Okay, so she wasn’t exactly saving the world. But she was saving Angel and that was something that Buffy would absolutely get behind, once she understood.
“I can’t go in with you,” she said finally, meeting Buffy’s gaze.
“Wolfram and Hart. They have some ward around the building or something... I don’t know. I know it’s mystical and I know it’s anti-Cordelia.”
“Oh.” Buffy looked a little nonplussed, as if she’d been used to the fact that Cordelia was just there and would be until she saw this thing through. “Okay, so you’ll wait here?”
“Not exactly.” She explained quickly and quietly that the long-ass trip from Rome had taken it out of her. It was like a store of borrowed mystical energy from the Powers That Be and hers had all but been used up. She had another day, maybe - a day to get Angel back on track and then...
“You can’t be serious,” Buffy whispered, her mouth falling slack.
Cordelia smiled, though it was a little wistful. “How’d you think this was gonna end?”
“Not like this...” Buffy gave her a hard look, “You asked me here to help you die?”
“I asked you here to help Angel,” she clarified. “You’re the only one that can sell this. You’re the only person I can get to that he’ll take this from.”
“Cordelia...” Buffy frowned, trying to stall a little and come to some conclusion where she wasn’t helping a former classmate out of a coma and into a coffin, “We haven’t seen each other in six months. After that? 2 years and then some... I’m not part of his life any more.”
“Maybe not,” she conceded, “But he does love you. And whatever else he says? He values your opinion. Trusts it.”
Buffy scowled, “Still...”
Cordelia held up a hand and thanked God Buffy didn’t care that she looked crazy right now, talking to thin air. When she spoke her voice was soft, careful. “I’m not afraid of dying, Buffy,” said Cordelia, surprising herself with the fact that it was actually true no matter how much she didn’t want it. “You know what I’m really afraid of?”
“Becoming another reason for him to brood in the dark, alone... Alphabetising his past sins and failures and counting me as one of them.”
Buffy frowned. “But this way... You, dying...”
Cordelia knew that face. (You can’t die.) She’d seen it on Angel a billion times. (There’s got to be a way...)
And that face on Buffy was the exact reason that she could never tell Angel the truth about what was going to happen here.
“I don’t want that for him,” said Cordelia, shaking her head, “When I got to LA he--He saved me, y’know? He gave me purpose, a reason to keep on going... All I wanna do is repay the favor.”
“My body is gonna give out on me sooner or later, you know that, right?” Cordelia asked, effectively stalling Buffy’s next argument. Retired or not, this was Buffy’s job, her calling. And it’d been ingrained in her since the get-go - just like it had Angel - that she had to try to save everybody. And as much as Cordelia hated to admit it, this was one body that was past saving.
“Mystical coma aside? There’s only so much damage it can take and I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for three years now. At least this way I get to go out on my terms. I get to wake up and see my friends. And I get to help Angel in the process. Added bonus, much?”
Buffy was shocked to find herself blinking back tears. “God...”
Cordelia grinned suddenly, “Man-up, Summers, this is what you do. You help people, remember? It’s your thing. I got a guy in that building that needs reminded of it too.”
Buffy risked a glance up at Angel’s Casa-De-Evil, and then back at Cordelia. “Do you love him?”
She half-expected her smile to be sad, instead, it lit up her face. “That isn’t covered in the willing-to-die-for-him part?”
It was the kind of humour that cut to the bone and, though expected from its source, still didn’t sting any less.
“Does he love you?”
Her smile widened, “You really have to ask?”
She watched as Buffy scrubbed a hand over her face, trying to compose herself. “Wow.”
“I know,” Cordelia waved a hand between them, “Look at us. Growing as people. Having an actual conversation without name-calling.”
“Or hair-pulling,” said Buffy, smiling, though it was sad.
“Too bad it took one of us dying to make it happen, huh?” Asked Cordelia, surprised to find that she liked this grown-up version of Buffy way more than she had the high-school version.
Buffy sighed, “You know, sometimes? I really hate this fight.”
It took her a moment to speak past the lump in her throat. “Me too. But somehow... I guess I believe it’ll all work out in the end. How can it not with a kick-ass Guardian Angel like me?”
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” said Buffy quietly.
“I have one more favor,” said Cordelia softly, placing a ghost-y hand on Buffy’s arm. It went right through, just as she’d known it would, but the sentiment behind it was there. “I need you to keep quiet about all of this. If he knows, he’ll try and fight it... And I don’t think the PTB are giving me much of an option on this one.”
Buffy sighed. “It never ends, does it? This fight, losing people...”
Cordelia gave her a sad smile, “I’m not the first soldier down... And I won’t be the last. At least this way I get to die for something.” Instead of slipping away in a coma or worse. “You promise you won’t tell him?”
Buffy nodded and hesitated just a second before she held up her pinky. “I promise.”
Cordelia laughed, touched by a gesture that she could only half-return, and threaded hers through anyway. “Crazy freak.”
“You know this is airtight, right?” Cordelia nodded towards their fingers.
Buffy did her best approximation of Cordelia’s ‘duh’ look. “I have a younger sister. You don’t go back on a pinky-swear.” She watched as Cordelia seemed to flicker for a moment and both their hands dropped, “I guess that’s my cue... What’ll happen?”
“They’ll call him. They’ll tell him I’m awake, which I won’t be. They’ll tell him I’m pissed, which I will be. I’ll get my only half-real-self out of that hospital, help him and then I’m done. He just needs to find his path, is all, and if I can help...”
Buffy sighed, remembering how it had felt to stand on that rickety tower, to know that she was going to jump and to know why. She’d figured it out - it stood to reason that Cordelia had too. “You get to die for something,” she finished quietly, “I get it.”
Cordelia smiled, “Give my love to the gang? Y’know, once...”
“I will,” Buffy promised, turning to head up the stairs to Wolfram and Hart.
“Buffy?” Cordelia spoke without thinking and when Slay-Gal had turned back, she grinned, “Don’t be too hard on him? Well, be a little hard on him... And... Thanks. I mean it.”
“You’re welcome,” said Buffy with a nod, “I mean that.” She glanced back towards the building, steeled herself, and when she turned back to say goodbye, Cordelia was gone.