Cordelia lay stretched out on Wesley's old, threadbare couch. She was actually pretty comfortable -- and a little surprised at that -- dressed in one of his large, soft t-shirts, and wrapped snugly in his dressing gown. Her wet, clean hair was tied up on top of her head in a fluffy towel.
Wes and Angel, scrubbed shiny clean and smelling of soap and cologne, were poring over some old, musty books, scribbling notes and talking in hushed voices. A classical CD wafted through the room, which was dusky -- a cozy cave -- the only light coming from the lamp on the table. The half-eaten pizza released soothing, cheese-and-tomato-ey aromas, which mixed with the sweet scent of her mug of tea.
Sleep beckoned, creeping around her eyes, threatening to steal her away from the conversation, and she fought it, not wanting to miss anything important. After all, it was her apartment at stake here. And her ghost.
"So," Wesley mused, "we need all the standard ingredients for an exorcism. We need bile. I don't have any bile."
Cordelia blinked; reached for her mug. "Bile?"
"There's always bile," Wesley replied.
"Yuk. And gross," she said, a giant yawn cracking her jaw.
Angel glanced up at her. "Go to sleep. We'll take care of this."
God, he could be a pain in the butt. "So, what?" She pretended to ignore him. "You just splash a bit of bile around and...?"
"And every ghost within the confines of the building is exorcised," Wesley finished for her.
Her head snapped up, all traces of sleep scuttling away, leaving her wide-eyed and startled. "Every ghost?"
"Hmmm?" Angel reached for another book.
Cordelia banged her mug down on the table, heart pounding now. "EVERY ghost?"
"Yes, every -- oh, dear. Dennis," Wesley gasped.
A hot rush behind her eyes surprised her, tears blurring her vision. "Then you can't do the exorcism. We're supposed to be saving him."
"I don't see how we can get rid of the poltergeist without one," Wesley said, his mouth turning down at the corners.
Cordelia fought her way free of the plump cushions, stamped towards the table, reached for the nearest book and shoved it in Wesley's face. "Find another way!"
"Cordy, calm down," Angel pushed back his chair, rising, holding out a hand towards her.
"Don't tell me to calm down," she snapped, waving her arm at him, the long sleeve of Wesley's dressing gown flopping around wildly. "Dennis is family. He's part of our lives now. We can't just zap him because he's in the way!"
"I realise you're very attached to him..." Angel began.
Fire burned in her cheeks, rising in her chest. "Attached? Who looks after me when you're off chasing vision demons? Who keeps me company when all my friends are too scared to go out with the girl who falls down and screams a lot? Who makes sure I don't mix my colours with my whites? He's just as much a part of our team as you or Wesley, and we should try just as hard to save him."
"We will, I promise," Angel said, moving towards her the same way someone would approach a frightened horse. "But if there is no other way..." She opened her mouth to protest again, but he shook his head. "Cordy, we can't let that thing get a foothold in this dimension. If we don't get rid of it, it will swallow Dennis, and then go on to bigger things. If it gets free of the building, the consequences could be unthinkable."
Damn vampire. She hated that he was being so calm and reasonable -- and right. "Dennis wouldn't want that," she whispered.
Angel reached out, stopping just short of touching her. "I'm sorry, Cordy."
"A binding spell!" Wesley exclaimed, stabbing his finger into the middle of a page.
Cordy whirled away from Angel's hand, ignoring the way the room spun around her. "Binding spell?"
"Yes, a spell to bind Dennis to the earthly plane. It should protect him from the exorcism." He nodded, his eyes skimming the page again.
"Are you sure?" She clutched the floppy ends of her sleeves to her chest, the first sparks of hope flaring.
He grimaced. "Not entirely. Let me look into it."
"What ingredients do we need?" Angel reached for his duster, started yanking it on. He leaned over the book, looking at the passage Wesley was pointing to. "All of those?"
"If I'm correct, yes. But, Angel, no-one's open this late." Wes said.
Angel grabbed his keys off the mantle, and looked at them with that determined, vampy glare of his. "They'll be open for me."
Mud slopped around her ankles, heavy and cold. In the thick mist, she had little to guide her but a sense of needing to be there. She had to go deeper, to get down in there and look for -- what? Another step, and another. It was difficult to walk, like wading through oatmeal. And it smelled really, really gross. Cordelia had the distinct impression that this mud wasn't the kind that was good for your complexion.
She bent down in the gloom and peered at the surface of the pool. Put her hands into the water and swished them around. Oh, God, there were people in there. She could see their faces, all of them crying out to her, calling for help. She had to save them. So many faces, so much pain --
And then something grabbed her hand.
Cordelia tried to scream, opening her mouth to find her voice gone. Pulling, grasping, there were dozens of them now, fingers winding around her hand and up her arm, pulling her off her feet. She went down, the mud sucking her deeper. Hands pawed at her, and she could feel every emotion, hear every thought. Help us, help us, help us...
She struck out, pushing them away, but they just kept coming. There were too many. Drawing her under, drowning her. She couldn't face them all at once, not again. Mud filled her nose and mouth and her silent screams created only bubbles.
Someone yanked her upright. "Cordy, hush."
"Angel?" she gasped, still flailing. Large, cool hands wrestled her still, and the dream dropped away, leaving her sweating and shaking.
"It's okay. You're safe," he said, his arms still wrapped around her. "Vision?"
"No. Just a dream." Cordelia ran a shaking hand over her face.
He released her, sat back, and tilted his head to one side, studying her in a way that made her feel naked and exposed. Waiting.
The silence stretched between them, until she couldn't stand it any longer. "Okay, a nightmare," she admitted.
"You've had them before?"
Dammit, she really didn't want Angel to know about this stuff. He already felt guilty, and the last thing she wanted was to add fuel to the brood. But, by the look in his eyes, he had already guessed what was going on. She nodded slowly. "Every night since -- since Vocah -- the same dream. And I scream and scream, and nothing comes out."
"Oh, it comes out, don't worry about that." Wesley's voice was croaky with sleep.
She glanced up to see him standing in the doorway, an overgrown Christopher Robin in his stripy pyjamas. His hair looked like it had argued with his head and was now trying to get as far away from it as possible.
He leaned a shoulder on the frame. "Is everything all right?"
"Fine, Wes," Angel replied, not looking around.
"I'll put the kettle on, then." Wes nodded, and shuffled off.
Cordelia admired his unwavering belief that a cup of tea was the answer to any crisis. Her attention was reclaimed by Angel putting his hand over hers in a stiff, awkward way. Funny how he was so bad at this -- when it didn't involve her collapsing, or thrashing about like a lunatic.
He blew out a small, quiet sigh; looked like he was trying to find the right thing to say. He finally murmured, "It will get better."
"Yeah?" she sighed, looking down at the twisted sheets. "How can you be sure?"
He turned his face towards the window, the grey, pre-dawn sky peeking around the edges of the curtains. "At least you didn't cause their suffering."
He had a point. "But you had almost a century of sewer-brooding to deal. I don't have the luxury of immortality."
"I didn't spend all of it in the sewer," he protested, looking a little offended.
For some reason that cheered her a little. "Well, okay, but you know what I mean."
"We'll help them, I promise," he said, and he looked so earnest that she had to smile.
The shrilling of Wesley's bedside alarm clock made them jump, jolting Cordelia back to the reason they were there. "Dennis!" she gasped, kicking the sheets away. "Did Wes work out the spell?"
"Careful, don't get up too fast," Angel said, restraining her again. "I don't know. He was asleep when I came in."
She shook him off, her bare feet hitting carpet. Snatching Wesley's dressing gown off the foot of the bed, she scampered for the kitchen.
Ten minutes later they were all seated at the table, waiting for Wesley to explain his findings. His insistence on setting the table, and making everyone's breakfast first, was driving Cordelia crazy.
"So, did you get the skinny on the bondage spell?" she asked, stuffing a slice of cold pizza into her mouth.
He looked up from the painstaking removal of the top of his boiled egg. "Did I get the what? Do speak English, Cordelia."
"You know," she said, mouth full, "the skinny. The good oil. The low-down."
"Well..." he paused as he dipped a thin slice of bread into the yolk. "Yes, I think it will work."
"And you made us wait all this time for one sentence?" she said, frowning.
"Well, no doubt you'll be bombarding me with questions now," he replied, "and I really can't face the world before I've had a cup of tea."
Angel nodded in agreement. "Me too. But, you know, with the blood."
"Oh, I am sorry, Angel. I'm being a bad host," Wesley said, looking mortified. "I don't have anything er, red, to offer you."
"It's okay, I ate when I was out. This is fine." Angel sipped his tea.
Cordelia snapped her fingers together. "Focus, people! Dennis? How do we save him?"
"We need to put him into a vessel before the exorcism is performed," Wes explained.
"I have some Tupperware. Is a quart container big enough?" she asked, relieved she'd spent the extra dollars for a truly airtight seal. No way was Dennis getting out of that sucker.
"No, no." Wesley shook his head, trying to chew and swallow his mouthful of toast quickly.
She wracked her brain. Did she have a bucket with a lid? Or maybe they could plastic-wrap him into the bath.
"I think Wes means a human vessel," Angel said, looking uneasy.
Wes nodded. "Angel is correct. By anchoring Dennis to a person, he will be grounded to the earthly plane during the ritual. The theory is that an exorcism of a building and that of a person are different, and each is ineffective on the other. Dennis just has to hide in someone -- an assisted possession -- as it were."
Angel leaned both elbows on the table, steepling his fingers under his chin. "It'll have to be me. I don't want either of you doing this."
"Aah, I don't think that's a good idea, actually," Wes replied. "The spell says 'a living vessel'."
"I'm undead, isn't that close enough?" Angel asked.
"I'm afraid not; it might work, but the results would be too unpredictable." Wes shook his head. "It'll have to be me."
"What about me? Just because I'm a girl, doesn't mean I can't host dead spirits with the best of 'em," Cordelia protested. "It's not like I haven't hosted him before, anyway," she said, remembering what it felt like to come to, lamp in her hand, and Dennis's exposed skeleton in the wreckage of her living room wall.
"You're too weak, Cordy," Angel said, folding his arms, going into stubborn mode.
"Hey!" She slapped his shoulder.
Wesley nodded in agreement. "After your recent experience, the last thing we should be doing is putting someone else in your body -- your head. We've no idea what the effect would be."
"And you're any stronger?" She stabbed a finger at Wes. "Last count, you got blown off your feet twice, and that was yesterday, alone."
There was an uncomfortable silence. Angel scowled. Wesley stared into his tea.
"So I guess it'll have to be me." Cordelia shoved back her chair. "Come on. Time's a-wasting."
"I don't like it," Angel said.
"You don't have to. Let's round up those stinky herbs and get this show on the road." She looked over at Wesley, still picking at his breakfast. "Now, Wes?"
He heaved a deep sigh and pushed back from the table. "Fine. I'm coming." He looked longingly at his half-eaten egg.
She got up, flipped her hair impatiently, and headed into the bathroom, where her clothes were drying on the rack. "Take it to go!" she shouted over her shoulder.
"Ick," Cordy said, poking a finger at the Mason jar of yellow sludge. The cardboard box next to her held an assortment of magical supplies. "Why don't spells ever use roses and champagne?" Smooth, white rocks, bunches of feathers, and a small crock of brownish-red powder, stoppered with a cork, all rocked with the slight vibration of the car. Next to them sat the bile, angled in like the jewel on a spell-caster's crown.
"By their nature, spells are --"
"Hardly in the mood for a lecture, Professor Boring," she snapped.
Angel cut in. "All right. Enough."
She couldn't see his eyes in the rear view mirror but she could feel his gaze on her just the same. "Sorry."
"No, I'm sorry," Wes said. "You've every right to be distressed."
"Thanks," she said, relaxing slightly. "You'd think I'd be over the whole demon impregnation thing by now." The silence, already tense, stretched thinner. "Hey, it was just a joke," she said.
The sky began to turn pink as they rolled down Sunset toward her apartment, passing white buildings, green palm trees and a relentless stream of early-morning traffic. Her stomach clenched and the palms of her hands went damp.
"Stop it," Angel said.
God, this had to work. She couldn't live without Dennis. Who would she watch movies with? Talk about her days with? Who'd sort her laundry and clean her --
She jumped. "What?" Craned her neck to look out the window. "Are we there? Did I miss it?"
Angel sighed. "I meant, stop kicking the seat."
Her foot froze, mid-kick, an inch from the vinyl. "Sorry." Now it was her fingers, beating out the drumbeat of worry on her leg.
"Cordelia. I said --"
"Oh, my," Wes broke in. "Is that --"
Cordy shot forward, leaning between the two men to get a better look out the front window. Even though they were nearly a block away, she knew immediately what he was talking about.
The black van with glazed windows sat at the curb in front of her building, its back doors open. A person in a Tyvek suit pulled a red box out and set it on the strip of grass between the road and the sidewalk.
Her stomach clenched. "What is it?"
"Great. Just what we need," Angel said. He hit the gas and the car lurched forward.
She grabbed Wes's shoulder. "Wes?"
Wes covered her hand with his. When he looked back at her, he had on his Worry Face. "Professional exorcist."
She squeaked. "You mean, like, Ghostbusters?"
Angel wheeled in behind the van, turned off the engine, and got out, all broad shoulders and coat. "Excuse me," he said, and even though his words were polite his body language screamed, "I'm a badass, don't mess with me."
Cordy opened the door and ran behind him. The Tyvek guy turned and she saw that it was actually a girl, her dark curly hair pulled back from a passably pretty face. "Yes?"
"We need to get into the building before you start."
She held up her hand. "Sorry. No can do. We've got a critical situation." She pulled the hood over her head and through the plastic window of her Tyvek helmet, Cordy could see her mouth moving.
So, apparently, could Angel. "What?" He shook his head and cupped a hand to his ear.
The woman slid the hood up. "I said, it's too late. They started the ritual ten minutes ago. We're already almost at containment phase." Then she dropped the big, white hood back in place, picked up the red box and strode across the lawn toward the apartment building.
They stared at the building, and as they watched, the walls started pulsing like breathing lungs. "Oh, crap," Cordy said, heart racing into her throat.
Angel whirled. "Get the box. Let's go."
Wes grabbed it out of the back seat and they ran across the yard.
Cordy ran as hard as she could, thinking, Oh, God, please let us get there in time. Angel and Wes pounded behind her and as Angel passed he scooped the box from Wes's arms and disappeared like smoke up the steps.
Wes's breathing hitched and he stopped, grabbing his side. His pale skin was covered with a sheen of sweat.
"Come on!" She grabbed his arm and hauled him up the steps, ignoring his moan.
They burst into the hallway and through her open apartment door. She could hear footsteps and voices in Mrs. Telemacher's apartment above. The building was eerily still now, and Dennis's fear was palpable, like a too-tight layer of Saran Wrap had been stretched across the room.
"Dennis!" She slammed the door behind them. "Don't worry! We're here!"
Angel looked up from his book, mid-chant, and pointed toward the box, which he'd dumped on the couch. Feathers, dust and pebbles pooled next to the uptilted cardboard. She'd kill him for getting crap all over her cushions later -- after they saved Dennis.
There was a sloppy circle at his feet, made of white stones and feathers, almost like the one they'd used when they'd kicked out Dennis's Polygrip of a mom. In one hand was the spell book, in the other a ribbon-wrapped packet of smoking herbs. The herbs smelled like rotten cheese, and the Latin sounded strange coming from Angel's lips.
Wes ran to the box, picked up the small brown crock and opened the lid. He dipped his fingers inside and smeared something on Cordelia's forehead. It felt powdery and wet at the same time, and when she lifted her hand to touch it, Wes batted it away. "Leave it."
Just then, the eerie silence broke with a firecracker-like bang. Cordelia jumped and looked toward the ceiling. "What was that?"
"It's like a magnet for ghosts. It helps Dennis know who to go to," Wes replied, wiping his fingers on his trousers.
"No, not the warpaint. What was that?" She pointed upwards. "The noise?"
Angel's voice powered up and a strange wind blew through the room.
"Oh, that. It means they're starting containment," Wes said, still looking pale and shaky. He looked around, frantically. The crock of powder was still in his hands. "We've got to find someplace safe for this."
"The couch? Won't the cushions --" A low roar started somewhere in the building.
Wes dashed to the couch and wedged the crock into the space between the cushion and the arm.
"Is that us or them?" she screamed over the pulsing wind. One of the throw pillows lifted and flew straight for her face. She knocked it away.
"I don't know!" Wes said, bracing himself against the back of a chair. His coat whipped and his hair flew. He reached up with one hand and pulled off his glasses.
Angel's voice grew louder, and the pages of the book ruffled. Not knowing what else to do, Cordy rushed to his side, grabbing the herbs out of his hand. His skin was cool, electric in the swirling air. Smoke whipped around them, filling the air with silver currents of stink.
Upstairs, something thumped and the building groaned. Cordy's hands tightened on the herbs. "Oh, God, Angel. Hurry!" Her hair whipped, tangling around her face and Angel's, a dark curtain cutting them from everything but the book.
Angel was yelling now, his voice booming and stern, calling Dennis to come out, to take human form. Then the wind shifted and her hair changed course, and in the mirror behind Angel she saw one of her precious glass figures fly into the air like a crystal rainbow, hovering and twisting.
Then it dropped, shattering on the chest. The next danced up, her unicorn, the one her dad got her -- "No!" She dropped the herbs and ran, grabbing it out of the air and clutching it to her chest.
Something hit her in the back of the head and she stumbled.
"Cordelia!" Angel yelled.
Books flew off shelves, pillows bounced on the floor, pictures rattled like bones on the plaster. She opened the top drawer and shoved the unicorn in, then the horse, then the mermaid --
She could hardly breathe, the air was so tight. Her eyes watered and her heart throbbed. Something hit her again, this time on the side of the head. Pain burst, she saw stars, and she stumbled, catching herself on the wall.
Wes screamed and she whipped around to find him hanging in the air, two feet off the floor, eyes wide and dark in his too-pale face. Then he flew backwards and hit the wall with a sick thud, eyes widening and then going blank.
She screamed and ran for him, only to be slapped back by an unseen hand. The room rang with chaos, like the inside of a tornado. Roaring, spinning, smoking.
Wes lay in a crumpled heap on the wood floor, glasses hanging limply from his hand.
Then Angel was rising, rising, only he looked furious, ready to kill whatever had him by the throat. She watched helplessly as he drew up, like a puppet on a string, and then slammed down. He chanted, nearly hoarse, and the book crumpled in his hand like a Kleenex and fell to the floor.
The force threw him across the room, cracking him across the arm of the couch and slamming his head into the end table. A puff of brown dust flew up around him, and he rolled to the floor, stunned.
She struggled against the iron fist holding her steady, screamed and shoved, but no matter what she did, she couldn't move.
Then everything stopped. The air rang with the sudden silence and Cordy stood, disoriented by the lack of noise. As if someone had cut the strings suspending them, books, pillows, pictures fell. Somewhere in the apartment, glass shattered.
The hand ghosted away, leaving behind a frigid chill as it set her free. She closed her eyes and reached inward, looking for Dennis. Nothing.
Through the thin ceiling, she heard someone upstairs say, "We got it, sir."
Cordelia closed her eyes, stunned. "No. NO!"
"Cordelia, did it --?" Wes asked in a hushed voice.
She bit her lip and shook her head.
"Damn," Wes whispered.
They failed. Dennis was gone, scooped up into the Ghostbusters' cage like a stray dog. She wrapped her arms around herself and squeezed her eyes shut tighter. What was she going to do without him? In one moment, her entire life had changed forever.
"Yeah, Angel?" she said, huskily. She opened her eyes, but had to blink back tears before she could see him clearly.
Angel sat back on his heels and looked around the room. "I -- Are you all right?" His voice sounded wrong. Higher, lighter.
She went to him, kneeling beside him. "No." Her hands covered her face. "We lost him. We lost Dennis." Her shoulders shook as the tears welled up. So much loss in the last week, Angel's apartment, their office. Wes's mobility. Her sanity -- And now, Dennis.
A cool hand brushed hers. "Shh, it's okay," Angel said. He tugged her fingers away, cupping her hands in his. "Cordelia, don't cry. Please." He squinted at her like he was seeing her for the first time. His hand rose, smeared with dust and smelling like smoke and herbs, and touched her face. "Not for me," he said, sounding embarrassed, shy.
Her breath hitched. Her gaze flew to the couch, the shattered pot. Dust everywhere, most of it on Angel.
"Oh, my God," Wes said. He limped over and knelt beside them. "Dennis?"
She went still. "Oh, God," she said, feeling panic rise in her chest. "Dennis?" She looked over at Wes. "I thought this was going to work. You said it would work."
"And it did," Wes said, sliding his glasses on. "Dennis is still here. Just not where we expected him to be." He touched Angel's forearm. "Dennis? Are you all right?"
Angel nodded, eyes glued on Cordy's face. "Yes. I am, now."
A laugh bubbled up in her chest. "You're Dennis? YOU'RE Dennis?" It was too much to take. The last week, the drugs, the dreams, and now this... The laugh kept on coming, until she couldn't breathe, until tears streamed down her face.
Wes took her hands, shook them briskly. "Cordelia, we must keep our wits about us."
"Right," she said, trying to catch her breath. No use -- the hysterical, out of control feeling took over, and she laughed harder.
Angel -- Dennis? -- put a hand on her arm. "Cordy. Stop." It was his voice, the right one, and something about the sharp look in his eyes cut right through the hysterics.
She drew a deep, sobbing breath. "Angel? Is that you?"
"Yeah. It's me."
"Oh, thank God. So both of you are in there? Are you both okay?"
"We're fine, baby," he said, running his hand over her hair. And then he smiled, a quick flash, like wolf's teeth. "All of us."
Cordy's entire body went still. She cut her eyes at Wes, who was staring at Angel, an odd look on his face. "Oh, shit," she said, almost afraid to move. "Angelus."
Angel's hand tightened on her arm and she stared down at the cold, white skin against her tanned flesh. "You're smarter than you look." Then he laughed, a high and chilling sound, and she felt Wes go still beside her.
"Oh, this is bad," Wes said, in a squeaky voice.
The room hummed with silence while they stared at him, caught in the snare of his hot, black gaze. And then it flickered and dimmed, and Angel's familiar, composed look came back online.
His hand dropped and Cordy sat back on her heels. She felt like she'd been whiplashed. First Dennis, then Angel, now this. Only the seriousness of the situation kept her from screaming and catching the next plane to Mexico.
"Oh, crap," Angel said.
Wes levered himself onto the couch, if anything looking paler than he had when all this started. "It's certainly not something we considered."
Cordy's defenses flared. "Well, who knew Angel would go crashing into the crock? I mean, it was safe, right? Cushions protect everything --"
She closed her eyes, reliving that moment in the cemetery when Angelus flew at her. A black streak, a flash of gold, and then all his weight taking her down. When she hit the dirt, she knew. There was no way she was making it out of there alive.
But when she looked at him now, it was Angel she saw, her friend. The one who'd been there when she woke up in the hospital. Who held her when Doyle died. Who beat up Wilson Christopher for knocking her up with the demon babies.
"Leave now," Angel said. "Both of you."
She glanced at Wes, who was looking at her, eyes full of questions. He hadn't seen Angelus like she had. Apart from the little Doximal incident, he'd only studied him in books. Didn't know the crazy-methodical way he broke people down.
Torture before death. Laughing eyes and murder.
And then she thought of all those people in her dreams. One face bleeding into another. The world of pain and suffering outside her door.
If Angel didn't fight for them, who would?
"Everybody has a ghost," Cordy said, feeling almost brave. "Something rattling their closet, right?"
Wes' eyebrows rode above his glasses. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that while every instinct in my body is telling me to hop the next flight to Cancun, my friend needs help. And that's what we do, right?" Cordy smiled at Angel. "We help people."
Angel shook his head. "You can't help him, Cordy. If he gets out --"
"We'll just figure out how to bind him, then. I mean, we bound Dennis, right?" She glanced at Wes for reassurance.
"I'm sure we can. Willow did it before. It shouldn't be that difficult."
Angel's eyes hardened, like hematite. "Oh, how I'd love to get my hands on that one. Redheads always bleed so prettily."
Cordelia scrambled back.
Angelus laughed, a sound like breaking glass, and grabbed her wrist. "Where ya going, sweetie?"
"W-wes," she said, terror turning her intestines to liquid.
"W-w-wes," Angelus mimicked in that high, mincing voice. "S-s-save me!" And then, just as quickly, the black eyes warmed, and a look of horror came into them. "Oh, God. Cordelia, I'm so sorry." His hand, so capable of bruising, eased, and he began soothing her wrist. "Please, Wes we have to --"
"-- start researching," Wes said, looking as terrified as Cordelia felt. "I know. In the meantime, we should chain you to the bed, just in case Angelus makes another appearance."
Angel scrambled away, and his back hit the couch. "No." His eyes went wide, shifting quickly from Wes to Cordy. "No chaining."
She realized this was Dennis talking. "Oh, man." The body behind the wall. Bricked up. Suffocating. She touched the back of his hand, as gently as she could. "It's okay, Dennis. We won't force you to do anything you don't want to do."
He swallowed, and the horrified look shifted to vulnerable, surprisingly human. "I trust you, Cordelia."
"That's good, Dennis. Would you mind if I talked to Angel for a minute?" She smiled at him and squeezed his hand in reassurance.
There was a pause, an obvious internal struggle, and then Angel's eyes, looking frustrated and more than a little worried. "He's hard to control," Angel said. "Angelus, I mean. But I'm doing the best I can. What's the possibility of putting Dennis back into the apartment, now? Or a holding vessel?"
"Good idea," Wes said. "If you think you can keep a choke-chain on Angelus, we'll see what we can do about getting Dennis back to his rightful place."
He pushed off the couch like an old man and stood unsteadily. For a second he looked like he might fall over, but then he righted himself. "I'll just go back to my flat and get some books. We'll research and see how best to handle this. In the meantime," he said, glancing at Angel, "you keep Angelus under control."
"Don't leave her alone with me," Angel said. He looked rumpled, bruised. Anxious.
"Probably not a good idea." Wes rubbed his forehead, wincing when he hit a bruise. "Can you control him for an hour?"
Angel got to his feet, looking determined. "I can if I have to."
"Excellent. Cordelia, come with me. We'll take Angel's car and get those books." He reached out a hand and Angel gave him the keys. "Lock the door behind us," he said.
Cordy followed Wes to the door and looked over her shoulder, taking in the view. Her trashed apartment. Angel standing uncertainly in the middle of the floor.
"We'll be back," Cordy assured him.
After she closed the door, she could have sworn she heard him say, "Hurry."
As they wobbled down the stairs, the first rays of morning sun peeked tentatively through the clouds. Wes was clearly staggering due to his involvement in far too many explosions. Cordelia knew her knees-o-Jello were directly related to that brief flash of Angelus. Well, that, and seeing her apartment looking like a herd of wildebeest had passed through it on their annual migration, stopping to have some sort of hairy animal orgy in her living room.
She glanced up at Wes as they hit the sidewalk and headed for the car. He had the wild-eyed stare of the concussed. She'd seen it on Giles often enough. Now there was a man who'd had more than his share of bonks on the head. Maybe it was an English thing. "You really should see a doctor, Wes."
"Yes," he sighed, rubbing brown dust from his forehead with a shaky finger. "And while we sit in the waiting room, we can imagine Angelus breaking free and sampling all your neighbours -- a multi-level buffet."
"Good point." She nodded, noticing a couple of displaced residents making their way back to their apartments. Nobody would be safe until they had fixed this. And poor Dennis -- was he any better off inside Angel, with his demon, than he had been outside him, with the poltergeist?
They reached the Plymouth just as the Tyvek woman and a couple of her stern-looking colleagues appeared, covered in debris and holding the smoking trap out in front of them.
Cordy gritted her teeth, thinking how close they'd come to losing Dennis to that trap. "Got it, huh?"
The woman shot them the thumbs' up.
"Ghost-busting freak," she said, under her breath. Then she held out her hand. "Give me the keys. I'm driving."
Wes looked like he wanted to argue, but then he wobbled on his feet. "Probably a good idea."
Cordy helped him into the car, then slid into the driver's side. She was so tired and freaked that the excitement of driving the Batmobile barely registered. "So," she said, as she pulled into the street, merging with the morning traffic. "This Angelus thing. What's up with that?"
Wes leaned his head against the back of the passenger seat, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Think of it as a juggling act, Cordelia."
"What is Angel?" he asked, slow and patient.
She figured the concussion must have fritzed his brain. "A vampire," she replied, echoing his deliberate tone.
Wes shot her a look, then went back to rubbing his forehead. "And why doesn't he kill people anymore?"
"Because of his soul. Are you sure you don't need a CAT scan or something?" she said, cornering hard. Driving Angel's car was less easy than it looked.
"Because of his soul," Wes repeated, grabbing for the dashboard. "It doesn't make his demon go away. He still is what he is. But his soul prevents him from acting on the evil within. It's taken him almost a hundred years to achieve the control he has today. Now that Dennis is in there too, he's upset that delicate balance."
Cordelia pondered that for a moment, didn't like what she came up with, and hit the gas. The tires squealed, bit into the road, and the car lurched forward.
Wes groaned. "Try to get us back to my apartment alive. I don't think I can take another heavy impact."
At any other time, Cordy would have slapped him, but the very real possibility that she might do some actual damage made her check herself. "Sorry, I just want to get this fixed. Fast."
"I know," he sighed. "Me, too."
Thirty minutes later they were travelling the same road, in the opposite direction. For the second time that day, the back seat of Angel's car rattled with jars and vials of mysterious, powdery substances and liquids that looked like fermented fruit juice, and smelled like -- well, Cordelia didn't really want to know. There were hawthorn berries, and lungwort, and -- yay -- more bile. As if the smoke and patchouli weren't bad enough, now her place was going to smell like a yak had barfed in it.
Wes was scanning a large, ancient-looking book, which he had propped up on his bony knees. It was so big that the top leaned against the dash.
"Doesn't reading in the car make you want to hurl?" Cordy asked, lurching around the corner. She was trying to drive carefully, she really was, but the Angel-mobile handled like a bus. This was nothing like driving her dad's Jag.
"Not normally," Wes replied.
She wrestled the wheel back the other way. "So, is this gonna be like the time we took the Ethros demon out of that kid? Because if it is, we're gonna need a stronger box. That last one was a total rip-off."
"Well, if we'd had the right kind of box, it would have helped." Wesley glanced up from his book long enough to shoot her a look.
"The store only had a Horshack box. Mute Chinese nuns, blind Tibetan Monks, what's the diff?" she said, braking suddenly, making Wesley's book snap shut and loll toward to the floor. "Sorry, sorry."
"Shorshack box, and I believe the 'diff' was apparent when it exploded into kindling," he replied, returning the book to its upright position.
Okay, there was that. She shrugged. "Do we need something for Dennis? I have Tupperware." One way or another that airtight seal was gonna come in handy, she was sure of it.
Wesley actually chuckled. "No, the apartment is his container. All we need to do is extricate him from Angel, which should be simple. He's a gentle being, so I don't anticipate any of the normal violent reactions that removing a demonic presence would generate."
Cordelia nodded, relieved. In less than an hour they would have everyone back where they belonged, she could have that nice, hot, bath, and get on the with business of recuperating.
They were nearly there now. She thought of Dennis, and what Wesley had said.
The apartment was his container.
God, the poor guy had been trapped inside those four walls since psycho-mom bricked him up in the 1940's. He had to be going stir crazy in there. No wonder he was always so happy to see her. How much had the world changed since he last went outside? Would he recognise it now?
A cold, creeping prickle ran up her back. "Wes, Dennis understands about Angel being a vampire, right? I mean, Angel's been living there a week already."
"I really don't know, Cordelia. Why?"
"Well, if you suddenly got your body back after sixty years of being stuck in the same place, what would you do first?" she asked.
He glanced at his lap for a moment, then quickly switched his gaze back to the road, frowning. "I don't know. I guess I'd want to go out for a -- oh my."
"Crap!" Cordelia shouted.
They stood outside the apartment, the huge book and the box of ingredients clutched in Wesley's arms, while Cordelia fiddled with the keys. Her fingers shook as she tried to isolate the one for her door.
"Well, it's still locked." Wesley tested the knob, juggling his load to one arm. "And no pile of dust." He pointed to the nearest patch of sunlight.
"Okay, good," she said, taking a deep breath. The keys jangled as she unlocked the door. They both stepped inside, slow, uncertain.
The trashed living room was empty and dark, the curtains all drawn tight. The only sound was her heart, pounding in her ears. Great. If Angelus was lying in wait for them, he'd already know she was scared.
Wesley deposited his box on the sofa, rubbed his hands on the legs of his pants, and looked around. Silence pressed in, and as much as Cordy had been longing for it last night, now it was unwelcome and creepy. The urge to just get the whole thing over and done with was overwhelming. She fished in her bag, and found the big, wooden cross that she kept for emergencies. Holding it out in front of her, she took a couple of tentative steps toward the kitchen. "Angel?"
A moan came from the bedroom, making them jump. Wes nodded towards the door, and they began to tiptoe forward. Pressure built in Cordy's chest, and she realised she was holding her breath. Letting it out in a slow, steady stream, she peeked around the edge of the open door. Wesley crowded in behind her, as they hovered on the threshold.
Angel sat, curled in on himself, with his back against edge of the bed. He clutched his knees to his chest, fingers pressed so hard into his calves that his fingernails disappeared into the indentations in his pants. His eyes were screwed shut, and his lip dribbled blood, as if he'd bitten it.
A strange mixture of compassion and terror gripped her. The new Cordy wanted to go to him, help him. The old Cordy wanted to run the hell away. Actually, quite a lot of the new Cordy wanted to do that, too.
"Angel," Wesley said, his voice low, cautious. It reminded her of those guys in the movies who tried to talk jumpers down from window ledges. "How are you doing?"
"Great," Angel ground out, from between clenched teeth. "Did you...?"
"Yes, yes, we have the spell."
Angel opened his eyes slowly, looked up, and smiled -- his lips a cruel curve. "You are so far out of your league here, Wes." He began to laugh, that same shattering-glass sound, and Cordy felt her knees give. Then his teeth snapped down, breaking through his lip again, and he groaned, curling back down into a black, trembling ball.
She took a deep, shaky breath. She wanted to run -- keep going until she ran out of ground to cover. Every instinct was screaming, get out, get out, get out...
But she couldn't. Apart from the fact her legs had stopped working, she couldn't shake the sudden memory of him, plunging over Russel Winters's balcony, cradling her in his arms, bullets plowing into his back. Bursting into the auction room to save her eyeballs. Defying hospital staff and sleeping by her bed.
Now it was her turn to be the strong one. "Wes, get the box. Quickly."
Wesley nodded, shot another glance at Angel, and backed out of the door. Cordy could hear his feet on the floorboards as he ran across the living room.
Still holding the cross up like a shield, she stepped into the room. No doubt they were gonna have to make a circle around Angel, which would be difficult with him wedged against her bed. "Can you move?" she asked.
Angel didn't, or couldn't reply.
Wesley barrelled back in, dropping the box of ingredients in the middle of her bed. He took one look at Angel, and braced his feet against the dresser, shoving the bed away far enough for Cordelia to make a wobbly sand-circle on the floor. More stones and feathers, berries, the bile, a couple of crystals, something green and crumbly that smelled like mothballs, and they were ready. Angel trembled, his hands turning whiter than before.
"Quick, quick!" Cordy hissed, grabbing the matches and lighting the big, yellow candle that Wes had dumped on her bedside table.
Wesley pushed his glasses up his nose, placed the big spell book on the bed, and began to chant.
Cordelia's stomach churned, partly from the smell of the bile, mostly from nerves. This had to work. She needed a respite, just a small one, from all this horrible-ness. The last couple of weeks had been worse than high school, and that was saying something.
Her hair began to whip around her face as the air in the room swirled. She braced herself, prepared for more flying objects. Angel stirred and moaned again, a sound like a trapped animal. Her skin prickled into goose-flesh. God, if he couldn't hear her heart before, there was no doubt he could now. It was just about hammering its way out of her chest.
All the drawers in her dresser began to rattle, the bed shook, and one by one, the feathers took flight from the circle of sand and stones, and began to sail through the air. The wind formed a pattern, spiralling clockwise, picking up sand and berries as it concentrated around where Angel sat, drawn in on himself so tight he was almost imploding.
Wesley raised his voice, and it sounded thin and reedy above the whistling of the mini-tornado. Little bolts of lightning crackled above the swirling circle of debris. The air hummed with electricity, and the hair on Cordelia's arms stood on end. Something didn't feel right --
Angel threw his head back, arching up on his knees, arms outstretched. His eyes snapped open, glowed yellow, and a blood-curdling cry worked its way up from somewhere deep in his gut, spilling out, raising Cordy's hackles.
"Cordy!" he shouted, his hands flying to his chest, fingers clawing. "No!"
"Wes?" she yelled, looking over to where Wesley was barking out a stream of Latin.
Wesley's voice faltered, then picked up again.
"Stop!" Angel jerked forward, fell to his hands and knees, and reached out an arm towards them. "Oh, God, no..."
"We're hurting him," she shouted above the din. Wesley shook his head, kept chanting.
"Cordy," Angel croaked, his dark eyes finding hers, locking on. He clutched at his chest, and his lips formed one soundless word. "Soul."
Her stomach plummeted away, realisation sweeping into the void. "Stop!" she yelled, throwing herself towards the bed. The book bounced up, and over the side, landing on the edge of the circle and sending stones and herbs scattering. The whirlwind sputtered, like a failing outboard motor, and bits began dropping out of it. First the stones, then the berries, spattering on the wooden boards. Sand rained in sprinkles, and as the wind evaporated, the feathers see-sawed their way slowly down. Calm descended over the room.
Angel collapsed in a heap, eating floor.
"What the bloody hell did you do that for?" Wesley snapped, throwing his already-busted glasses down on the bed. "It was working."
"Yeah, but we weren't just taking Dennis out," she said, putting a trembling hand over her stomach.
"Oh?" Wesley, put his hands on his hips, and his eyes went wide. "Oooh. I see."
They both turned to Angel, who twitched a couple of times, and groaned. As he rolled on his side, Cordy grabbed for Wesley's hand, prepared to run.
Angel raised his head, looked at them both with eyes that were neither his nor Angelus', and said, "Cordy, I'm scared."