Outside Looking In


AUTHOR: KATRINA
SUMMARY: The team dynamic of AI needs some work.
RATING: NC17
POSTED: 11 Feb 2004
CATEGORY: HOLIDAY FIC (VALENTINE’S DAY) / CHALLENGE FIC
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A – Season 3 for a bit
WARNINGS: Sexual Content
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) This is a Valentines Day fic for Marie, I have put the challenge at the end (of the fic, not of this post) because it’s fairly detailed and therefore spoiler-y. Happy Valentines Day Marie, I hope that you enjoy your fic.
2) Thanks to Helen for her insightful help in this part.


It was the night after the ballet debacle and Angel kept rehashing how very unsmooth he had been and how Cordy had run into the arms of that Pylean Neanderthal. Why had he not told her earlier how he was feeling? Now he had waited and in the waiting lost the opportunity. Angel was trying really hard to be happy that his best friend was happy, but it was a struggle and not one that he thought he would win anytime soon. Angel tried not to think about how Cordelia had tasted as she writhed under him last night as he made his way downstairs.

Reaching the lobby at the same time as Cordy and Groo, Angel was shocked to find the Neanderthal wearing a set of his clothes, he had been wondering where that shirt was. Grabbing Cordy’s arm, Angel led her into Wesley’s office. Groo remained in the lobby to admire Angel’s weapons.

“He’s wearing my clothes.” Angel pointed.

“What? Oh yeah. I didn’t think you’d mind. Turns out you guys are about the same size, I think he’s a little taller though. Looks great doesn’t he?” Cordelia looked admiringly through the window at Groo as he twirled a sword about his head. “And I had to do something last night.”

“Why what happened, did he do something? Did you have a vision?” Angel hoped that Groo had tried something and that he could now beat him up, a lot.

“Yeah I did have a vision, we can take care of it later, but that’s not what I meant. I just realised that Groo and I have nothing in common, nothing. I feel really bad because he left his home for me and now he has no where to go. So I uh figured that he could work with us and like, live here at the hotel?” Cordelia finished with a hopeful look at Angel.

Angel couldn’t help the large goofy grin that crossed his face. “You don’t love him?” He asked gleefully.

“What? This brings you joy? My complete and total lack of a love life makes you happy?” Cordelia raised an angry eyebrow at Angel.

“Um, no, sorry Cordy. And yeah of course he can stay here. Might be helpful to have another champion for good around.” Angel smiled at Cordy, suddenly he liked Groo so much more than he had initially realised.

“Thanks Angel. Now you guys can go and take care of my vision, here’s the address and a picture I drew of the demon. I’m going up to say hi to Connor.” Cordelia handed Angel a piece of paper and made her upstairs.

Angel grabbed his sword, handed an axe to Groo and led the way into the sewers.

“Angel,” Groo began, “my Princess tells me that I am going to be living at your castle with you. It is most generous of you to let me stay.”

“Don’t mention it Groo.”

“My princess seems sad. It is as if her heart is wounded.”

“No, she’s fine. She’s just, you know, here in LA there’s a lot on her mind. She’s fine. Come on, I hear something.”

Angel charged forward with Groo close on his heels to kill the demon from Cordy’s vision.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Back at the Hyperion, Connor was asleep so Cordy and Lorne were looking for a room for Groo.

“OK, this room will be fine. Let’s get some fresh linen and a vacuum and fix it up.” Cordy chose a room that was in good repair.

“How’re you feeling Pixiecat?” Lorne asked as he helped Cordy make the bed.

“I’m fine Lorne, and stop trying to read me.”

“Mm. I’m seeing some unresolved tension centring around a certain champion.”

“I’ve talked things over with Groo. He understands that things are different here.”

“I wasn’t talking about Groo, honeycakes. What happened last night?”

“Oh.” Cordelia plonked down on the half made bed. “Last night was, it was difficult. There was magic.”

“I knew it.” Lorne bounced excitedly on the bed beside Cordelia.

“Actual magic Lorne. Whatever happened, it was a spell. It’s worn off now. There’s nothing between Angel and me.”

“Sure there is. You just don’t want to see it.”

“No Lorne. There can be nothing between Angel and me. Well apart from Buffy and a curse and I don’t want to talk about it. Come on, let’s get this bed made.” Cordelia stood and began to finish making the bed, the conversation clearly over.

When the room was ready, Lorne went to check on Connor and Cordelia went downstairs to make sure Wesley was ok with a new member joining their team. She found Wesley in his office, pretending to research whilst he actually stared at Fred longingly, shooting the occasional glare at Gunn.

“Wes, are you ok?” Cordy sat down opposite Wesley.

“Yes. Quite fine. No reason why I shouldn’t be is there?” Wesley sat back in his chair in an effort at nonchalance.

Cordelia knew Wesley, had known him for a long time in fact and she was aware that he was far from ‘fine’, but a large part of knowing someone and caring for them like family was knowing when not to push.

“No reason at all. Hey, those were some pretty fancy moves you had going on last night. You’ll have to show them to me sometime.” Cordelia smiled warmly at the person she considered her brother in all but blood.

“I’d be delighted, but surely the Groosalugg could show you some moves?” Wesley smiled back, relieved that Cordelia for once was not saying what was on her mind.

“Eew! No Groo won’t be showing me anything. We’ve decided that we work better as friends, so he’s moving in here with Angel.”

“Hmm, we in this case being you, I take it. I imagine that Angel is delighted with this arrangement.” Wesley responded dryly.

“He seemed happy enough. He and Groo are off taking care of one of my visions right now. Which brings me to my point. I thought that if it was ok with you, Groo should join the team. We can always use an extra pair of hands, especially lately with all the extra business.” Cordelia looked expectantly at Wesley.

“That seems reasonable to me. Another team member could be very useful.” Wesley smiled at Cordelia again as he sat up and turned back to his research.

Cordelia went to find Fred whilst she waited for Angel and Groo to return.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A week passed and Groo slowly adjusted to life in LA. He found many things strange but his new friends were extremely helpful.

“So, you’re saying that it is not appropriate for me to be bringing the heads of my enemies to the castle?” Groo was asking Fred as she tried to persuade him to incinerate his collection of demon heads. They were beginning to smell a little and the odour was extremely pervasive.

“No, well, yes kind of. I mean, I totally understand the wanting of physical evidence and stuff, but maybe we can find a different, less stinky, way of collecting trophies, kind of like this note book which I carry to protect the walls and hey, how ‘bout we take photos of each of the heads before we burn them. And then you can just next time photograph your victory and you won’t even need to hack off the head because I bet that takes a lot of effort. I’ll just go and find the camera now.” Fred wandered off, pleased with her solution.

Groo was a little confused and decided to seek clarification from friend Gunn who was cleaning the weapons. Making his way across the lobby, Groo reached Gunn as the front doors burst open and Cordelia rushed into the room.

“Angel,” Cordelia yelled, looking around. “Angel, vision.”

Gunn and Groo rushed to Cordelia’s side, but as quick as they were, Angel was there first. Gunn never knew how he did it, but the vampire was always the first to reach Cordelia’s side after a vision. Wesley came out of the office as Angel ushered Cordelia to the couch.

“Are you OK? What did you see?” Angel asked rubbing Cordelia’s arm soothingly.

“I’m fine.” Cordelia smiled up at Angel, reassuring him. “There is a demon rising in the sewers under the church on David Street. There are vampires guarding the area. You all need to go and you need to go now.”

“Are you sure that you’re ok?” Angel hovered protectively by Cordelia’s side, whilst Gunn handed out weapons.

“Angel, go, I’m fine. I’ll stay here with Fred and Lorne until you get back. Now go.” Cordelia shooed Angel off.

Angel grabbed the sword Gunn handed him and with a final glance at Cordelia he left.

Approaching the destination of the vision, Wesley began allocating tasks. “Gunn, Groo and I will take out the vampires. Angel, you take care of the demon.”

Gunn and Angel nodded their understanding and acceptance whilst Groo uttered an ear splitting battle roar and took off into battle.

Shrugging resignedly, the other three men started after him. The battle was fast and furious. Angel pushed his way through to the centre of the room where the demon was beginning to rise. He concentrated on his task, trusting that the others would be able to take care of the vampires. Although not full risen, the demon was strong and resourceful. Angel spent some time analysing the strengths of the demon and the way it fought before he felt able to go on the offensive. Realising that the demon had a blind spot to the left, Angel ducked and rolled coming up in the blind spot. With a quick swing of his sword Angel decapitated the demon and turned to see how the rest of the team were doing.

Gunn and Wesley were fighting back to back and had the situation under control. Groo finished dusting a vampire and turned to wave at Angel. “Well done Angel, that was an excellent fight, do you wish to save the head?” Groo called out as a vampire ran by him trying to escape. “I will be back soon.” Groo took off after the fleeing vampire.

Dusting the last two remaining vampires, Gunn and Wesley exchanged looks of disbelief at the behaviour of Groo before turning to Angel who was leaning tiredly on his sword.

“So do we wait or can Groo find his own way home?” Wesley asked, cleaning his glasses of vamp dust.

“I’m done dawg! Dude wants to run off and play hero he can find his own way back.” Gunn shouldered his axe and headed back towards the car.

Wesley and Angel shrugged at each other and followed.

Groo ran through the sewer, exhilarated by the prospect of a good hunt. The vampire was fast but would be no match for the speed and endurance of Groosalugg, the brave and undefeated, and Groo was gaining on him. Throwing a glance back over his shoulder as he ran the vampire saw Groo gaining and realised that he couldn’t out run him. Spotting an exit above, the vampire leapt up and catching the bottom of the ladder, quickly climbed from the sewers into a dark alley. Spotting a dumpster in the corner the vampire headed towards it, intent on creating an ambush for his pursuer.

“Hey, sewer rat. Where do you think you’re going?”

The vampire spun around to spot a slender blonde woman standing at the entrance to the alley. She seemed not to be shocked by his demonic visage. Growling at the woman, the vampire lunged towards her, there was always time for snack-age.

The woman side stepped the vampire at the last second, kicking him in the knee as he passed her. The vampire spun around intending to grab her, but she had moved deeper into the alley.

“Come and get it, ugly.” The woman taunted.

The vampire charged at the woman in annoyance as Groo poked his head out of the sewers. Spotting the woman, Groo leapt quickly from the man hole.

“Fear not Fair Maiden, I shall save you.” Groo cried.

“Stay out of this buddy, I’ve got it covered.” The woman called as she dodged the vampire, kicking and hitting where she saw opportunity before finally staking the vampire. Dusting her hands the woman smiled in triumph at Groo.

“Hi,” she said, holding out her hand in greeting. “I’m Kate. Thanks for the offer of assistance but as you can see I had it under control.”

“That was very impressive Kate. I am Groosalugg, the brave and undefeated. I am very pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Thanks, uh Groosalugg was it?”

“You may call me Groo for short. You must come back with me to the castle, my Princess would be delighted to meet you.”

“Well, there’s a pick up line I’ve never heard before.”

“Oh, I am sorry. I did not ask if you were injured. Did you require me to carry you?”

Kate stared in disbelief at the handsome man in front of her. He was a little clueless but extremely chivalrous, a quality she found extremely attractive.

“No, I’m not injured. Would you like to get a drink with me?” Kate eventually responded, leading the way out of the alley, into the sunshine, one could never be too careful.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Cordy was waiting anxiously in the lobby of the Hyperion. Although the visions were no longer painful, Cordy found she still couldn’t rest until everyone was home safely. Fred was pacing nervously nearby, worried about Gunn. Both girls looked up in relief when the lobby doors opened and Wes, Gunn and Angel walked in. Fred threw herself into Gunn’s arms kissing his face where ever she could reach. Wesley turned and made his way unnoticed into his office.

“Damn girl! I’m happy to see you too, but calm down, I’m fine.” Gunn tried to make his way over to the weapons cabinet to put his axe away.

“I’ll be the judge of that Charles. Upstairs now.” Fred demanded, dragging Gunn towards the stairs. Gunn shrugged and followed, tossing his axe to Angel as he went.

Catching Gunn’s axe, Angel made his way over to the weapons cabinet and began to put the weapons away.

Cordelia waited for a full minute but when no Groo and no explanation appeared she crossed her arms in front of her chest and turned to Angel.

“Where is Groo?” Cordelia demanded, tapping her foot in annoyance.

“He ran off after an escaping vampire.” Angel answered, shrugging his coat off.

“And? What? You just let him go?”

“He’s a grown man Cordelia. I couldn’t really stop him. Besides, he’ll be fine. He’s Groosalugg the brave and undefeated remember?”

“Don’t get smart with me Angel. I know who he is. But maybe you’ve forgotten that he’s only been in this dimension for a week.”

“Relax Cordy, he’ll be fine. He’s been out on his own before.”

“Yes and he was arrested, or had that little fact escaped your attention?”

“He knows the difference between mascots and demons now. And we put our card in his pocket, so if he needs us he can call. He’ll be ok.”

“I guess, I just, worry you know? It’s my fault that he’s in LA at all and things are so strange to him.” Cordy’s anger left her and her shoulders slumped dejectedly. Angel pulled her into his arms to comfort her and breathed deep of the scent of peaches and honey and underlying woman.

Wesley watched from his office as Angel comforted Cordelia for a long moment before she pulled away and moved to fix some blood for him. Wesley ran his hand tiredly through his hair; lately he’d felt so alone, almost invisible in the hustle and bustle that was their every day lives. Dismissing his melancholy, Wesley turned to his desk and sat down to continue researching.

Deep in thought, Wesley didn’t notice when hours later Cordelia entered his office and so when she spoke he jumped in shock, holding his hand to his rapidly beating heart.

“Sorry Wes, I thought you heard me come in.” Cordelia apologised. “I brought you some tea. So what are you researching?” She asked as she placed a steaming cup and saucer on the side of Wesley’s desk.

“Thank you Cordelia, it’s merely a….” Wesley began but was interrupted by a shout from the lobby entrance.

“Princess!”

Cordelia ran from Wesley’s office at the call from Groo, glad that he was safe and unharmed. Throwing her arms around Groo in a relieved hug, Cordelia didn’t notice Angel coming down the stairs with Connor in his arms.

“I’m so glad you’re ok Groo. Where have you been?” Cordy asked as she hugged him again.

Angel suppressed a growl at the sight of Cordelia in another person’s arms. They were friends, hugging was ok, but why was she still doing it and did his hand touch her ass? Angel’s eyes narrowed as he moved quickly towards the hugging pair and pulled Cordelia from Groo’s arms.

“What?” Cordelia began as Angel thrust Connor into her arms.

“Connor was um missing you.” Angel explained. “Hi Groo, did you get that vamp?” Angel neatly deflected attention from himself.

“Hello friend Angel. The vampire attempted to escape me by climbing into an alley way however I was not to be eluded. I entered the alley way shortly after the vile demon only to spot another warrior already doing battle with him. She fought most bravely and was victorious in killing the demon.” Groo recounted.

Cordelia had moved over to the counter to get Connor’s pacifier but when she heard mention of a female warrior she turned quickly back towards Groo.

“A girl killed the vampire? Did you catch her name?” Cordelia asked anxiously, praying that Buffy hadn’t come to LA.

“Yes, her name is Kate. Is that not a beautiful name?”

“Kate?” Cordelia turned to Angel. “Do you think?”

“Could be.” He answered musingly.

Groo listened to the brief conversation not really understanding what they were talking of. He often found that his princess and her Angel needed no words, they communicated and connected in so many ways and on so many levels. Groo had hoped for a chance with his princess but after seeing her with Angel he realised that the two of them clearly belonged together, even if they for some reason had not recognised this themselves. At times Groo felt a little lonely, so far from home in a strange place. Remembering Kate and her beauty and bravery, Groo cheered up somewhat.

“I am meeting Kate tomorrow. She has asked for my assistance in killing another demon.” Groo announced smiling happily and making his way towards the stairs.

“Angel.” Cordelia nodded her head towards the stairs and the happily ascending Groo whilst she bounced a sleepy Connor in her arms.

“What?” Angel looked cluelessly at his best friend. She looked so perfect with his son in her arms, nestled adoringly against her beautiful perfect breasts. Realising that he was staring and she was still speaking, Angel forced his eyes up to meet hers.

“You should go and talk to Groo, you know, about talking to strangers and stuff like that.” Cordelia looked exasperatedly at Angel as he seemed to zone out whilst staring at Connor.

Realising what Cordelia was asking, Angel began to shake his head. “No, he’s an adult, he can talk to whomever he wants.”

“Please Angel.” Cordelia looked at Angel pleadingly.

Remembering how upset Cordelia had been before, Angel recognised how much responsibility she had taken on for Groo’s welfare and how guilty she was feeling for not being able to love Groo and give him the dream he’d come looking for. Sighing heavily, Angel nodded at Cordelia and made his way towards the stairs, he wanted to make her smile again and if that meant ensuring the well being of the Groosalugg well so be it.

Cordelia smiled as Angel reluctantly made his way upstairs. She knew that as a fellow warrior, Groo would take to heart anything Angel had to say. Cuddling a now sleeping Connor closer to her heart, Cordelia made her way into Wesley’s office.

Looking closely at Wesley earlier, Cordelia had been dismayed by the bags under his eyes and the look of despair that didn’t leave his face even when he smiled. It was time she took that man in hand.

“Wes,” she began softly, not wanting to wake Connor. “It’s time to go home.”

“Yes, good night Cordelia.” Wesley didn’t look up from his desk, believing that Cordelia was merely letting him know she was leaving.

“Not me, Wes, you. You are going home now.” Cordelia walked over to the desk, took the pen from Wesley’s hand and turned off the desk lamp. “You are working too hard. Tomorrow you will tell me what’s bothering you, but now, tonight, you are going home to bed.”

Wesley smiled at Cordelia. He really was tired, but this prophecy was weighing heavily on his mind, interfering with his ability to sleep. Wesley hadn’t told anyone yet of his concerns, he’d wanted to wait for verification first. Also, in one way, the worry and stress had been a relief from the pain he was feeling over the new found relationship between Gunn and Fred. He could escape into his research and close his eyes to the touching and whispering that was going on around him. Suddenly Wesley was grateful that Cordelia had taken the decision from his hands, tomorrow he would tell her of what he’d found and together they would find a solution.

Removing his glasses, Wesley stood and stretched. “Good night Cordelia, and thank you.” Wesley made his way out of the hotel as Cordelia watched him go.

Turning to the sleeping baby in her arms, Cordelia murmured “tomorrow we’ll find out what’s bothering Uncle Wesley, yes we will. Come on baby, let’s get you to bed now.” Cordelia made her way up to Angel’s room.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After finishing her morning snuggles with Connor, Cordy hurried down to the lobby to find out from Wesley what had been bothering him lately. She found Wesley alone in his office, and entering she shut the door behind her before taking a seat across the desk from him.

“OK Wesley, spill. What’s been bothering you? Is it Fred and Gunn? Cos I feel kind of responsible if it is, I totally read that situation wrong and I am so sorry.”

Rather than answer her verbally, Wesley pushed the document in front of him across the desk towards Cordelia. Picking up the untranslated prophecy, Cordelia looked in confusion at Wesley.

“I’ve been looking into the prophecy surrounding Connor’s birth, and with the loss of the Nyazian Scroll, I had to turn else where and when I did, I found this.” Wesley handed the interpretation to Cordelia.

“The Father will kill the son.” Cordelia read aloud. “That’s kind of open to interpretation isn’t it? I mean what Father? Does it mean Angel? Cos we both know that that’s never gonna happen, or does it mean that when Connor grows up he’ll kill his son?” Cordelia looked to Wesley for clarification.

“I’m not certain, but I believe it refers to Angel and Connor. I haven’t been able to find any verification though.” Wesley explained his concerns to Cordelia.

“Hmph.” Cordelia thought for a moment, before walking over to the office door, opening it and yelling “ANGEL!”

When Angel came running into the lobby, he was relieved to find Cordelia standing apparently unharmed in the doorway to Wesley’s office.

“What’s wrong?” He asked in concern.

“Come in and take a seat. Wesley’s found something in a prophecy that concerns you and Connor.” Cordelia explained, ushering Angel into the office and handing him the interpreted prophecy.

“I would never hurt Connor.” Angel looked in shock at his two oldest friends after reading the piece of paper.

“We know that, which is why we need to work out what this can mean.” Cordelia laid her hand reassuringly on Angel’s arm.

“I’ve been looking for a source to verify the authenticity of this prophecy.” Wesley explained. “We all know what a dedicated father you are Angel, but there are always circumstances. I myself, have been wondering if perhaps this may refer to Angelus.”

“Oh god.” Angel paled even further than normal. How could he protect the people he loved if he were the danger from which they required protection. “I should go away.”

“No. You can’t always run away to protect people Angel. You need to stay here and work with us to find a solution. For now this is what I think we should do. Wesley, you research ways to secure Angel’s soul permanently. We’ll get Fred to analyse your food for signs of drugs or anything that shouldn’t be there, and I know this is going to be hard for you Angel, but you can’t be alone with Connor anymore. At night he’ll sleep with one of us, we’ll all do uninvite spells on our rooms and apartments. During the day we’ll always make sure that one of us is around. It won’t be forever, just until we sort this out, ok?” Cordelia finished outlining her thoughts.

Angel looked at Cordelia in gratitude. Even knowing what he was and what he was capable of, she was willing to fight by his side and do her best to protect him.

“OK.” Angel said. “Sounds like a plan. I’ll stay here with Wes, while you do the uninvite spells on the others rooms. Lorne can help. I, um, I just ah want to say thanks. Thanks for believing in me and sticking by me guys.” Angel finished quietly.

“Well Duh!” Cordelia responded. “We’re family, that’s what we do. Now get researching you two.” Cordelia made her way upstairs to find Lorne.

Wesley stood and began to fetch books they might need. He was glad that he had told Cordelia of his fears. Alone with his worry there had seemed no solution but to take Connor away; he should have realised that that wasn’t the only option, it wasn’t even a good option.

“Let’s start with the Kodex shall we?” Wesley handed Angel a weighty manuscript.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Wesley hung up the phone after talking to a grateful Ms Frakes as Fred, Gunn, Groo and Kate entered the lobby laughing together, stopping short when they saw the waiting Wesley.

“Ms Frakes was very pleased with your work. She said that Jerry thought it was very clever how the two of you pretended to be making out so he wouldn’t be aware that you were watching him.” Wesley informed Fred and Gunn darkly. “And he liked the back up team too, he found their antics amusing.” Wesley indicated Kate and Groo.

The four of them, looked a little sheepish, they had hoped that Wesley wouldn’t have to know about the less professional aspects of their work, after all the end result was what counted wasn’t it?

“Ms Frakes is however, going to recommend us to her friends, so well done.” Wesley continued.

“Thanks man. It was all thanks to Kate here.” Gunn gave praise where praise was due. Kate gave a small wave to Wesley, knowing that with their history, he wasn’t likely to embrace her with open arms. She knew Wesley and Cordelia had their reservations about her.

“Kate is a most brave champion boss Wesley. I have informed her of our mission and she was most impressed. Would it not make sense for her to join our team?” Groo asked innocently. “Her skills would be very beneficial.”

“Hey cool idea. Welcome aboard Kate, you need a room here too, or you got your own pad?” Gunn asked exuberantly as Angel and Cordelia entered the room from the kitchen.

“Hi guys.” Angel greeted them casually. “Oh hi Kate, how’s things?”

Cordelia narrowed her eyes at the sight of Kate. She remembered the way the blonde had treated Angel and she didn’t trust her.

“Yes, welcome aboard Kate. Gunn, could I see you in my office please?” Wesley walked into the office without waiting for an answer. Gunn shrugged and followed him. Cordelia, overhearing the welcoming remark, grabbed Angel’s arm and dragged him after Wesley and Gunn, shutting the office door with a bang as she went.

“Gunn, in case you’ve forgotten, I’m the boss here. You would do well to remember that, and whilst we are talking about work, what is this I hear about you and Fred losing Jerry whilst you canoodled?” Wesley began.

“Canoodled, pfft please get with this century Wes. But speaking of things old, why is Kate here. We can’t trust her; remember how she stabbed Angel with that log?” Cordelia added.

“Look I haven’t forgotten any of that man, but you need to chill and listen. She’s been out there by herself each day, killing demons like there’s no tomorrow. She’s gonna get herself killed if we don’t help her.” Gunn explained to Wesley at the same time as Angel said to Cordelia.

“Cordy, you need to give her a chance. It’s not easy learning that monsters are real at the same time as they are killing your father. Kate and I have worked through all that.”

Suddenly all four began to speak loudly at once. Watching through the window, Kate and Groo looked alarmed.

“Should I not go in there and be of some assistance?” Groo asked Fred who was seated on the couch playing with her new lap top.

“Oh no. This is what they do. I wrote a whole formula for it once. It’s amazing. They will all talk for approximately 2.3 minutes before Cordelia makes her decision and ends the talk by telling everyone what will happen next. She’s the heart around here, what she says goes. If anyone tries to interrupt before she makes up her mind, then the yelling will go for 5.4 minutes on average and the end result is never as neat or tidy. Don’t worry, they are good at this. They’ve been family for a long time now. See, look, times up.” Fred pointed through the window as Cordelia raised one hand in the air and stopped the conversation.

Once the room was silent again, Cordelia spoke.

“Ok Gunn, Wes is right, you need to be more respectful of his position and you need to be attentive when on the job. But you did a good thing; Kate needs us so we’ll be there. She joins the team. Angel, I’ll be watching you, I know your history with blondes. Now Gunn, send Fred in, we need some analysis done on this.” Cordelia handed Gunn a vial of blood to give to Fred.

Soon Fred was working on analysing the blood, after an explanation from Wesley as to what she was looking for and why. Angel had gone upstairs with Cordelia to say goodnight to Connor. Cordelia was taking him home with her that night.

Groo and Kate and Lorne had gone out for a meal. Gunn was helping Fred and Wesley was at a loose end so he decided to take the night off and go for a drink at his local bar.

Wesley was sitting quietly in a private booth enjoying a glass of aged single malt when someone slid into the booth opposite him. Looking up, Wesley was not pleased to recognise Lilah Morgan.

“Go away Lilah.” He ordered curtly.

“Is that any way to speak to a lady?” Lilah retorted raising her hand to summon a drink.

“No, but you’re no lady.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“I know that you’re an evil lawyer who delights in messing with my family. I believe that’s more than I want to know.” Wesley looked away from Lilah, as if by ignoring her he could get rid of her.

“That’s what I do, not who I am. I thought a smart man like you would be able to make that distinction.” Lilah’s drink was brought over to her and she raised it in toast.

“What do you want Lilah?” Wesley asked tiredly.

“I just want a drink and some intelligent conversation. I’ve had a bad day at work and need to unwind, is that so much to ask?”

Several hours later Wesley was shocked to discover that he’d enjoyed Lilah’s company. They’d discussed her day at work, and Wesley had been pleasantly surprised to learn that Lilah had a wickedly dry sense of humour. They had parted ways at the bar and making his way home, Wesley was ruminating sadly over the fact that he would probably never get the chance to really be friends with Lilah. Reaching his apartment, Wesley dismissed all thought and fell into bed for his first nightmare free sleep in weeks.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Lilah entered her office at 7.00 a.m. the next morning only to find Linwood sitting at her desk.

“Good morning Lilah.” Linwood began. “At least it is for some of us.”

“Good morning sir. I’m sorry I’m late, I hadn’t realised that we had an appointment this morning.”

“We didn’t. But Lilah, I’ve been reviewing your performance of late in regards to Angel and his do-gooders and you’ve had nothing but smashing failures there. I was pondering why this could be when it was brought to my attention that you’ve been drinking with the enemy. And not only drinking, but complaining about the firm. This is not the kind of thing that we expect from our employees here at Wolfram and Hart Lilah.” Linwood shook his head sadly.

“I can explain.” Lilah began but Linwood held up a silencing hand.

“I’m not interested in your explanations Lilah. Your employment is terminated as of this moment. You should be thankful that at this stage, that’s all we are terminating, although that could change at any minute. Now leave the building immediately.”

Lilah stood in stunned silence for a moment before turning and making her way down to the garage. Getting into her car, Lilah began to drive home, not knowing where else to go. Halfway home, she pulled over next to a park, got out of the car, bought herself a coffee and went to sit on a bench by a small pond.

Lilah had never imagined a life without Wolfram and Hart. From the time she was a struggling first year law student, she had wanted to be a partner there. She’d craved the security that such a position carried. Ever since she’d committed her mother to a home at the age of 16 because of early onset Alzheimers, Lilah had been single minded in her pursuit of security. She had sacrificed everything for that dream, she never dated, she had no friends, she had no hobbies, she had put her life on hold believing she would have the time to pick it up when she reached her dream of becoming an important member of Wolfram and Hart. But once she had started working there, she knew that things would never change for her. She would never be able to date, to have friends or even hobbies and Lilah accepted that as the price of her dream. She had security and her mother had the best possible care, if the price for that was her outside life, well she was prepared to pay. But now, suddenly, with no warning, Lilah’s security was gone, her dream was over.

Lilah sat on the bench for hours, her coffee by her side, untouched and cold. Eventually, not knowing what else to do, Lilah got back in her car and drove towards her home. About a block from her destination, Lilah ran into a road block. Getting out of the car, she approached a near by Police Officer.

“Excuse me officer, why is the road blocked?” Lilah asked.

“A building blew up just down the road ma’am. It’s not safe for civilians to approach yet.”

“Can you tell me which building?” Lilah asked with fear in her heart.

“Yes’m. It was the Langley Terrace building. Ma’am are you ok?” The officer asked in concern as Lilah paled at the mention of her apartment building.

“Oh yes, I’m fine thank you.” Lilah turned and went to sit back in her car. Where was she to go now? Where would she be safe from the long arm of Wolfram and Hart if they decided to terminate her after all?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The Hyperion lobby was full of sound and fury signifying not very much at all. There were no pressing cases so after lunch everyone was doing whatever they felt like. Wesley was on the phone in his office following up a lead regarding Angel’s soul. Angel and Cordy were playing with Connor who was lying on a rug on the floor. Fred was half heartedly analysing the blood whilst Gunn distracted her with kisses and caresses. Kate and Groo were sparring with different weapons from the vast array in the AI arsenal. Lorne was lounging on the couch singing old show tunes to himself.

“I’ve got something here!” Fred suddenly announced loudly.

Everyone stopped what they were doing to gather around her, Angel with Connor in his arms. Seeing that she was the centre of attention, Fred became a little flustered, but at the proud encouraging smile from Gunn, she bolstered her confidence and spoke.

“OK I ran a couple of tests on the blood from Angel’s normal supplier. And I found some anomalies. Firstly the blood has small amounts of human blood in it. Secondly there are trace amounts of a drug that will build up over time to loosen inhibitions. Thirdly there is a teeny amount of some other drug, I’m not sure what it does, it’s kind of like an appetite suppressant but not, maybe it’s to make you want more, I’m not totally sure.” Fred concluded and looked around the silent room.

“Why would someone want to spike Angel’s blood?” Kate asked.

“To make him crave human blood, Connor’s blood. It all makes sense now, why I couldn’t find reference to the prophecy anywhere else. The prophecy must be false.” Wesley explained, almost to himself.

“We don’t need no second guess to figure out who’d want to screw with Angel.” Gunn concluded bitterly.

“Is this a bad time?” Came a voice from the doorway. The AI team turned as one to face the intruder.

“Speak of the devil and they shall appear.” Angel muttered.

“What are you doing here Lilah?” Cordelia asked angrily.

“Isn’t what you do helping the helpless?” Lilah responded. “Well that’s me now, helpless. I’m out of work and Wolfram and Hart may want me dead, they blew up my home and so here I am, get with the helping.”

“Lilah, we aren’t feeling very kindly disposed towards you right now, perhaps you’d care to go somewhere else, or at least elucidate a little.” Wesley asked.

“Ok fine. I have no where else to go, I have no one else to turn to. I think that the firm is trying to kill me and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Your band of merry men was the only solution I could come up with and I’m as happy to be here as you are to have me. But I need help.” Lilah hated with a passion having to ask for help, but she hated even more being alone and afraid, so she did it.

“Sing for me.” Lorne demanded.

Lilah raised an eyebrow, but obliged with a quick chorus of ‘Nowhere to run to’. When she finished all eyes turned to Lorne.

“She’s telling the truth.” He shrugged before turning to Wesley. “The decision is yours muffin.”

“Very well. Lilah you can stay, but you’ll need to contribute to the business like everyone else.” Wesley ignored the looks of annoyance and incredulity on the faces of his friends, he couldn’t turn her away, he sensed a good soul buried under her hard exterior and he wanted to give her a chance to let it shine.

“Fine. I can start by telling you that you’re correct. We did falsify that prophecy and Angel’s blood is spiked with Connors. All part of the plan to destroy Angel, sorry ‘bout that.” Lilah apologised insincerely to Angel. “So where is my room?”

Wesley shook his head and led the way upstairs to find Lilah a room.

“What are we?” Cordelia exploded as soon as Lilah and Wesley were out of the room. “A half way home for enemies of Angel? Lorne are you sure you read her correctly?”

“Pixiecat, I’m sure. She’s a lost soul seeking her way and you need to give her a chance. Now who wants a drink?” Lorne asked changing the subject.

“Ok, if you say so, but I don’t have to like it and I don’t. It’s time for Connor’s bath.” Cordelia took the baby from Angel and made her way upstairs. Angel shrugged and followed her. He loved how protective she was of their family, how she looked out for each and every one of them, he just wished he could find a way to tell her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was late the next morning by the time Cordelia reached the Hyperion. She would have been earlier but a disagreement with Dennis over which shirt went best with her skirt had delayed her.

Walking into the lobby to find Gunn and Groo cleaning weapons and Wesley once again on the phone, Cordelia got herself a cup of coffee and wandered over to join Groo and Gunn.

“Hi guys. How’s it going? Cordy plonked herself down on the couch.

“What up Barbie?” Gunn returned her greeting.

“Good morning my Princess. Are you well today?” Groo inquired sincerely.

“I am well thanks Groo. Where is everyone?”

“Lilah took my girl shopping.” Gunn answered, obviously unimpressed by the turn of events.

“And Angel and Kate have gone to battle a demon that issued a challenge via a small box.” Groo contributed unhelpfully.

“Kate heard something strange on the police band radio and took Angel to investigate.” Gunn interpreted.

“Oh. Ok. Well I’ll go up and say hi to Connor.” Cordelia put her coffee down and slowly made her way upstairs.

Cordelia knew she was being unreasonable, but suddenly she felt very left out. Fred hated going shopping, yet here she was out shopping with Lilah of all people on her very first day as part of the team. And why did Angel have to go with Kate, why couldn’t Groo have gone? Cordelia had a sneaking suspicion that it was because Kate was blonde, she was capable and she was determined. Three things Angel seemed to most admire in a woman.

Cordelia wasn’t shy, she was aware of her strengths and she played to them. But she was also aware of her shortcomings. Having super smart Fred around was fine, because Cordelia genuinely liked the wacky scientist. But having a fully trained police officer and lawyer around full time was a whole other matter. Cordelia had no training, no education after high school, she couldn’t even file properly. If she was going to be honest with herself, and being honest was something she prided herself on, then she had to admit that she contributed little to the team apart from her visions, and was that really enough?

Pausing outside Angel’s room, Cordelia tried to pull herself together and put the doubts aside before she faced Lorne. Pasting a smile on her face she walked in to see Connor.

“Good morning Pixiecat. Feeling a little insecure are we?” Lorne picked up the energy vibrating off Cordelia without her having to say a word.

“Don’t read me Lorne. How’s my little guy.” Cordelia swooped down to pick up Connor who was gurgling and waving his arms at the sight of her. “Aw look at you. You’re just the best baby ever, yes you are.”

Lorne decided to leave Cordelia alone with Connor. The baby seemed to be calming her aura, but she was still emitting enough energy to give him a powerful headache.

Making his way downstairs to get a coffee, Lorne was in time to see Fred and Lilah return.

“Well, Cordelia always says..” Fred was saying innocently as they entered the building.

“Will you shut up about Cordelia? I don’t care what she always says, I don’t care what season she thinks you are, I don’t care about her hair advice, just SHUT UP.” Lilah yelled frustratedly.

“Hey, don’t you be talking to my girl like that.” Gunn said to Lilah, as he took a clearly shocked Fred into his arms.

“Aaargh!” Lilah screamed in frustration before heading up the stairs.

She didn’t know why she had come here, these people would never trust or accept her, and she was tired of hearing constantly how wonderful Cordelia was.

Lorne held his head as waves of tension flowed through the lobby worsening his headache. Maybe he needed something stronger than coffee he began to think as Kate and Angel entered the lobby from the basement.

“Yes well, that was um fun. It’s amazing all the wonderful things you know about Cordelia. And whilst I’m sure there’s more, I need to go some place where there’s um silence.” Kate was remarking politely as she headed away from Angel and out the lobby doors as fast as she could.

Kate admired Cordelia, she was sure she was a great girl, but listening to Angel extol her virtues for hours on end had exhausted her patience. Kate wanted to be a part of their team, but all anyone ever talked about was Cordelia, even Groo was wrapped around her little finger, Kate was tired of being the outsider, she needed to be alone for a while.

Gunn led a tearful Fred up to their room, whilst Angel sniffed the air. Sensing Cordelia, he bounded up the stairs as Wesley entered the room and looked around.

“Oh, um, where is everyone? I need someone to go on a job with me.” Wesley remarked to Groo.

“Oh me, I will go. I am battle ready.” Groo held up an axe.

Shrugging and realising that he had no other immediate option, Wesley picked out a sword from the cabinet and led the way from the hotel.

Realising that he definitely needed something stronger than coffee, but that he needed it in a venue that wasn’t here, Lorne changed direction across the lobby floor and headed out the door after Kate.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was early evening by the time Lorne returned to the Hotel. Everyone was back, but there was still a lot of obvious tension in the air. Lorne was thankful that he’d had many numbing beverages.

Angel was sitting in the corner, pretending to read. Cordelia was bouncing Connor on her knee on the couch. Fred and Gunn were whispering to one another on the other couch. Wesley was researching who knew what in his office. Kate was on the computer. Groo was cleaning the weapons. Lilah was writing on a legal pad at the counter. No one was talking to the others. It was uncomfortably quiet.

“People. I have an announcement.” Lorne called dramatically. “Listen up. The tension in this place is just not working for me, but fear not my beloved friends for I have solved your problem.” Lorne beamed around at the faces looking quizzically his way.

After a long silence in which Lorne did not continue, Cordelia prompted. “Lorne, what problem and what solution?”

“Pixiecat, you look all maternalicious there with Connor.” Lorne focused on Cordelia for a long moment. “Oh yes, where was I? That’s right, coming through for my family in a time of need. Now there is a lot of tension here and the team dynamic, well it’s just not working out well for me. So I’ve managed to pull in a few favours and the six of you are going to the Hootig Dimension.” Lorne beamed in pleasure.

“Who now?” Gunn asked.

“Not you crumpet, you and the lamb and I are staying here to look after the junior broodmeister.”

“What’s a hootenanny?” Cordelia asked.

“It’s a step up from a shindig.” Fred explained earnestly.

“The Hootig dimension is a small oasis dimension known for its seminars and self help conferences. What exactly have you enrolled us for Lorne?” Wesley had heard only good things about the dimension and so wasn’t unduly concerned, he was a little impressed though, it was very hard to get a reservation.

“Oh it’s perfectly perfect, you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve managed to get the six of you into a team building weekend, and there were only six places left, although you might need more than a weekend, but they’ll be the judge of that. What with time being fluid and all that, and the best news is that you leave tomorrow.”

“I can’t go away for a weekend, Dennis would miss me?” Cordelia could think of nothing worse than spending a weekend with Kate and Lilah whilst they showed her up.

“No.” Wesley began slowly. “I think Lorne is right. This could be good for us, and there is a long waiting list for these courses so who knows what Lorne had to do to get us tickets, so I think we should go.” Wesley was determined that this business would succeed, and if team building would help then team building is what they would do.

“Everyone will be here tomorrow morning ready to go. End of discussion.” Wesley turned and made his way home to pack.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

As the portal closed behind the six team builders, Lorne let out a sigh of relief, finally a break from all that tension.

“Does anyone else feel like dancing?” Lorne began to twirl excitedly around the lobby, holding Connor in his arms and singing ‘Holiday’.

Fred and Gunn exchanged smiles before beginning to dance as well.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

As the portal closed behind them, the six team builders stepped out onto a faultless lawn, surrounded by beautiful old trees in a perfectly landscaped setting. The sun shone down brilliantly providing warmth and bathing all in a soft golden glow. Angel, Wesley and Cordelia threw their luggage to the ground as they tried to cover Angel with their coats.

As soon as he realised he wasn’t on fire, Angel beamed up at the sun, he just knew was going to like it here. He wondered if he would have a reflection like in Pylea.

“Good morning. Oh I’m so pleased to meet you.” A bubbly voice spoke from behind the group. “I’ve heard so much about you. Hello Angel, Cordelia, Wesley, Groo, Kate and Lilah.” The owner of the voice pointed to each person correctly as she identified them. “Welcome.”

Turning as one, the members of AI met their team builders for the first time. The spokesperson was a tall slim, blue skinned woman with long silver hair tied back in a perky ponytail. That she knew their names seemed only as unusual as her companions.

“Hi I’m Cindy.” She smiled as she bounced excitedly on the tips of her toes. Pointing to her left Cindy continued, “This is Silv and to my right is Micky. We are going to be working with you for the next few fun filled days.” Cindy clapped her hands elatedly.

Silv, was a huge 7 foot man. He reminded Cordelia of a drill sergeant from one of those boot camp shows on TV. Micky was a furry yellow demon with purple eyes. Neither Silv or Micky showed any reaction at the introduction, which was lucky, because Cindy eagerly ploughed right on.

“Follow me and I’ll show you to your house. For the duration of your stay you will be sharing the one house, you’ll each have your own room of course. As soon as you put your bags down I’ll show you to the conference room and we can get started, oh I’m just so excited, I love to build teams, it’s the best fun ever and I know that…”

Cindy kept talking as she began to bounce off across the grass. The members of AI exchanged bemused glances, as they picked up their luggage and began to follow.

Cindy continued to chat excitedly as she led the team across the carefully manicured lawns. They walked through a beautiful natural arbour beneath the trees which led to a beautiful calm blue swimming pool, complete with its own waterfall.

“….and the pool is heated. The water is a perfect temperature for early evenings when….” Cindy was espousing as she pointed out the pool as she walked by, still talking.

They continued to walk past the pool, past a series of buildings with Cindy told them were conference facilities, finally they reached their home for the next few days.

The house was set against the side of a forest. Its natural timbers and large windows were architecturally designed to blend the house into the scenic surrounds.

“OK so this is your home. You have half an hour to freshen up then we need you to come up to your training area, which is the first building along this path. We’ve got such a busy day ahead of us that it will be best if you’re not late. I’ll see you soon; I’m going to get things ready.” Cindy bounced off along the path followed more sedately by Silv and Micky.

Wesley opened the front door of the house which wasn’t locked. The door opened into a large living area with floor to ceiling windows and a large natural fireplace against one wall. The floor was covered in thick carpeting and there were overstuffed chairs scattered throughout the room.

“Nice.” Kate commented walking in and looking around.

The living area opened via a short hall way into the kitchen and dining area. Both rooms were homey and comfortable, well equipped with all that they could require. A hall off the middle of the two rooms led past the 6 bedrooms, three on either side of the hall, to the large bathroom at the end.

“One bathroom?” Lilah was outraged. “For six people? This just won’t work.”

“What?” Cordelia yelled from further down the hallway where she was busily picking out a bedroom. “Did you say that there was just one bathroom?” She sought clarification in shock, surely she had misheard.

“That’s right.” Lilah answered as she picked a room and dumped her bags on the bed.

All the bedrooms were luxuriously appointed, with large beds, walk in robes and French doors opening out onto an incredible view.

Everyone picked a room, dumped their bags and made their way back to the dining area. Groo delighted in checking out the well appointed kitchen. He opened every cupboard and the fridge.

“There is much food here.” He announced happily. “There is even some blood for Angel.”

“Oh good, although that reminds me, I did bring some with me.” Cordelia suddenly recalled, jumping up and going to fetch the cooler she’d been carrying around.

“Is everyone ready to go?” Wesley asked when Cordelia had stored the extra blood in the fridge. “We wouldn’t want to be late.”

Wesley hurried everyone out of the house and back along the path. Reaching the first building in a matter of minutes, they entered the doors to find themselves in a room approximately the size of the Hyperion lobby. There were two doors at the back of the room, but they were currently closed. The room was bare of furniture but for a circle of chairs in the centre. Cindy, Silv and Micky were seated randomly around the circle. Seeing them enter, Cindy stood and waved energetically.

“Hi oh hi. Come and set down. Don’t be shy, come on over.”

As soon as everyone was seated, Cindy began to speak again.

“OK, let’s get some basic housekeeping out of the way. I think it’s important for you to know a little bit about us first as we know all about you, so I’ll give you some background. Silv is empathic, he knows what you’re feeling and we will be using that knowledge as we go along to tailor the program to best meet your needs. Micky is a psychologist and he’ll be monitoring your progress. If you feel uncomfortable or are struggling at any stage, you can talk to Micky. And I’m, well, me. I run the program and oversee most things here. I know we are just going to be the best of friends. Oh and I nearly forgot; you can’t lie here. This dimension was created specifically by us for the purpose of helping others, and we will only allow truths to be spoken here, really so much better in the long run don’t you think?” Cindy paused for breath whilst she beamed around the room. “So, ok this is what we’ll be doing this morning. Firstly you will all be sitting some aptitude and personality tests so we can best meet your needs, it’s all about you here. Then you will be having a one on one session with Micky to set some personal goals and just before the afternoon session we’ll be establishing a team goal. Any questions? No, ok, lets start the tests, I just love this part.”

Cindy jumped to her feet and waved her hand. Six tables and chairs appeared lined up to one side of the room.

“Please take a seat.” Cindy twirled excitedly over to the tables and began to hand out the tests. “You have two hours. Begin now.”

Silence prevailed in the room as each member of the Angel Investigations team filled out the tests. Cordelia was not pleased at the turn of events that were transpiring. She didn’t want to take a test, especially not if everyone else was doing the same thing, she didn’t want to be compared to the others. Angel was really old and well read, Wesley was smart, Kate was knowledgeable and Lilah was a lawyer. Sure they said it was a personality test, but they could read things from these tests and Cordelia didn’t want anyone reading anything into whether she wanted to be a florist or not, what kind of dumb ass questions were these anyway. Cordelia looked over at Groo to see if he was as bothered by this as she was.

Groo was happily writing away, he enjoyed learning and tests were part of learning. He couldn’t wait to get the results. Sensing someone watching him, he looked up to see his Princess looking over at him, Groo gave her a cheerful wave, which his princess returned, before they both turned back to their work.

Kate and Angel caught the furtive glance and the waves from their seats, and scowled to themselves as they wrote. Angel couldn’t believe it, that Neanderthal was making moves on his woman during a test, how blatant could he get. Turning back to his test Angel began to express his anger in his answers; he decidedly did not like shrubs, not one bit, not at all.

The two hours flew by as the team answered their questionnaire, pondering at the bizarre questions.

“Time’s up.” Cindy clapped her hands happily. “Wasn’t that just the best fun? Tests are great aren’t they?” Only Groo beamed back at her in agreement, but that seemed to be enough for her to go on and she did an excited little jig.

“OK, whilst Silv and Micky score the papers, the rest of us are going to sit over here and have a little bit of a chat.” Cindy waved her hands and the papers all disappeared.

Getting up the team made their way back over to the circle of chairs.

“So what shall we talk about?” Cindy pondered glancing around the group.

Angel was glaring at Groo who had happened to be sitting next to Cordelia and did not notice Cindy’s glance.

“Oh I know. Let’s talk about how we see the world. How our perceptions and world views may be very different to another persons, and how that might impact on us in our day to day working lives. This is very important in view of conflict resolution in the workplace Angel, so I need you to focus now.”

Angel looked away from Groo and attempted to follow Cindy’s rapid fire speech. Cindy asked one of the group for an example of a recent conflict involving two or members of the present team. After much coaxing Kate gave an example from the previous day. She told the group how she and Lilah had been chatting in the office whilst going over a file and how Cordelia had come down from upstairs and hassled them, and was then backed up by Angel.

“Oh that is such a perfect example Kate, well done. Lilah, is that you remember the conflict?” Cindy asked, when Lilah agreed that it was. Cindy turned to Cordelia. “Cordelia, why don’t you tell us how you perceived the situation happening?”

“Ok. Well I was upstairs with Connor and when I came down I saw Lilah and Kate in the office, they were looking at my filing system and laughing. I walked over and asked what was going on, Lilah said that she was writing a client contract form for us, to ensure that we got paid, cos she couldn’t imagine how we’d got by in the past without going broke, and Kate said she was trying to sort out the filing and she couldn’t understand why anyone would file the Frakes file under ‘D’. I got annoyed at them criticising the way I run things, we’ve gotten along fine for years without them and suddenly they come along and try to change things, without even consulting one of us. I guess I got angry, and Angel backed me up cos he’s Angel.” Cordelia explained.

“Kate and Lilah, what do you have to say to the way Cordelia perceived the incident.”

“Why would Frakes be under D? I don’t see what’s wrong with pointing out stupid mistakes. You’re just too sensitive.” Kate told Cordelia bluntly.

“I don’t see what business it is of yours where I file my files, you should just butt out.” Cordelia yelled.

“Stop. OK. We’ll talk about ‘I’ sentences and ‘you’ sentences later, but for now, let’s discover the perceptions behind the conflict. Cordelia, what were you feeling when you first saw Kate and Lilah?”

“Um, well when I first saw them, I was just curious. Then when I realised they were looking at my filing, I thought they were laughing at me, I didn’t like it, I felt bad and then I felt angry because hullo who are they to come in with their fancy qualifications and laugh at me.” Cordelia hated Cindy, why did she have to go first, this was humiliating.

“Oh, you are doing wonderfully, isn’t she?” Cindy beamed around the group, proud of Cordelia. “So you were feeling insecure, we can certainly understand that. Lilah, how were you feeling?”

Lilah opened her mouth to utter a smooth assurance that she hadn’t been bothered but no sound issued forth.

“Lilah, I’m disappointed in you. Remember no lies here.” Cindy reprimanded sadly wagging her finger in the air.

“OK fine. I was trying to do something for the ‘team’” Lilah used little air quotation marks to try and mask how vulnerable she was feeling. “It was my first day and I know Wesley had gone out on a limb to give me a chance and I wanted to do something good for him, so I did what I know, wrote a legal contract and I didn’t like being made to feel that I wasn’t part of the team just cos I was new.” Lilah finished, studying the carpeting and not meeting anyone’s eyes. She hated it here.

“Ok so you were feeling left out and excluded, very good Lilah. And Kate, what about you?”

“You know what? Ever since I joined Angel Investigations, I had been hearing about how wonderful Cordelia is, and I didn’t like it, so when finally I found her filing and the insane way it seems to work, I was glad. So I’m an awful person, I don’t want to do this anymore.” Kate was fuming, damn Cindy for leaving her til last and humiliating her.

“So you were feeling a little jealous. OK that was great Kate. Now can everyone see how people’s perception of the situation and their position in it coloured their actions? Good. Now it’s time for the results of the tests. Firstly though, each person stand up, walk to the edge of the room, take a deep breath, and come back and take a seat.” Cindy gave each person a little relief from the session, knowing they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the results if they were dwelling on what they had just learnt about themselves and others.

When everyone was once again seated, Cindy waved her hand and a list appeared in it.

“We have broken you all up into teams for the next few days. You will be placed into a team on the basis of the test results. We have Cordelia and Angel, you will be one team, Kate and Groo, you will be another team, and thirdly Wesley and Lilah. For some of the activities we are going to be doing, you will be competing against the other teams. Now I’m going to hand out your results and you can go back to the house for lunch whilst you read them over. Angel, you have your one on one appointment now, please follow me, the rest of you, I will see you soon.”

Cordelia, Wesley, Groo, Lilah and Kate exited the building in silence. Making their way back to the house, they each grabbed a quick bite to eat and went to sit in their rooms alone. Cordelia just wanted to be by herself, she hated feeling vulnerable in front of Kate and Lilah when she didn’t fully trust them yet, she had felt distinctly uncomfortable having had to answer Cindy’s earlier questions.

Cordelia was surprised to learn that she was an introvert (she sourced her energy from within rather than from without) and soon became engrossed in reading her report. She didn’t hear Ang

EDITOR’S NOTE: It appears that the end of part 1 was cut off during a previous edit of the original story.
After everyone had completed their one on one session, the group was once again sitting in a circle in the training room.

“Good afternoon, I hope that you are all feeling refreshed. Now we shall begin this afternoon by setting an overall team goal. What is it that you want to take away from your time here? Just throw out any answer that occurs to you and I’ll make notes.” Cindy waved her hand and a white board appeared.

“I would like for the Angel Investigations Team to be a cohesive unit.” Wesley began when it was apparent no one else was going to say anything and the silence became awkward.

“Good Wesley.” Cindy waved her hand and ‘cohesive team’ appeared on the board. “What do you think you need for that to happen? Everyone suggest in one word what you think we need.”

“Trust” “Understanding” “Respect” “Friendship” “Faith” “Honesty” were the six answers Cindy received. Clapping her hands Cindy laughed at the responses.

“Perfect.” She cried and waving her hands the words appeared over and over on the walls and ceiling of the room. “These words are going to remind us all week of what we are working towards. Now, let’s break into teams and build cars.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The afternoon’s goal was for each team to form part of an assembly line and to build as many toy cars as they could. Each team had certain duties and responsibilities and would be reliant on the other teams to get their job done.

Cindy waved her hand and 3 separate tables appeared. Each team took a seat at one of the tables and read their instructions. Cindy, Silv and Micky left.

“OK, so Angel. We need to get some raw materials and build the chassis. Lucky for us this is totally up your alley.” Cordelia was pleased to be separated from the group for a while and to do something not that confronting.

She chatted idly to Angel whilst she completed the necessary ‘order form’ to order raw materials from Lilah and Wes. Once the form was filled out she wandered over to hand it to Wes.

“Hey Wes, can we have these please?” She smiled warmly at her friend.

“Of course you can.” Wesley began to grab parts but Lilah stopped him.

“Cordelia, you need to go sit down again, we’ll deliver this in a minute.” Lilah was reading the instructions. “We need to put it all in a box and deliver it.” She read out to Wesley as Cordelia sat back down.

“OK, that won’t take long, give me the box.” Wesley instructed.

“We are a team Wesley, why do you assume you’ll be the one filling the order? We have to work together.”

“Cordelia and Angel are waiting for the parts Lilah, you’re holding everyone up.”

Cordelia and Angel watched Lilah and Wesley argue for ten minutes over the execution of their part of the assembly line before Wesley finally filled the order and delivered the parts.

Angel began to pick the pieces out of the box, choosing to work from the bottom of the chassis first. Cordelia grabbed the wheels and tried to find bits that would fit on top. The two them were soon grabbing parts from each other as they tried to work out what went where.

“God, this is boring.” Kate called out as she watched Cordelia and Angel try to assemble a simple toy car chassis. “You are holding everyone up, just hurry up.”

Her whole life Kate had been extremely goal focused and take charge. She found sitting back and watching others do things she was sure she could do better, extremely frustrating. Plus, lately it seemed most things about Cordelia were bothering her. Kate wasn’t completely sure why, she had a vague inkling but didn’t want to explore it just yet.

“This isn’t as easy as it looks Kate, so just shut up.” Cordelia yelled back, clearly frustrated.

“Please! Kids put those together, how hard could it be?” Kate taunted.

Cordelia picked up a rubber tyre and threw it at Kate, hitting her in the forehead. “Oops.” She muttered unapologetically.

“Cordy, what did you do that for? Now we are a tyre short and I just worked out how it goes together.” Angel was getting tired of playing with toys.

“Don’t stress. I’ll just order another part.” Cordelia filled out an order form and took it over to Lilah and Wesley.

“Sorry Cordelia, but we cannot sell you just one part.” Lilah appeared anything but sorry. “It’s just not cost effective for us.”

Cordelia by this time was fuming. She stomped over to Kate and demanded the tyre. Kate refuted all knowledge of its location and Cordelia had to get down on her hands and knees and look for it. Angel and Groo joined her, which annoyed Kate no end. Soon the tyre was located and the car chassis was completed. Angel then delivered it to Groo and Kate for the next stage.

Kate and Groo needed to attach the car body, but first had to order the parts from Cordelia and Angel. Cordelia and Angel were busy trying to get the parts for their next chassis from Wesley and Lilah and took ten minutes to fill the order for Groo and Kate. Groo was patiently waiting, playing with the car, whilst Kate was gritting her teeth.

“Are you not enjoying this exercise?” Groo asked Kate as she sensed her frustration.

“It’s not organised well, I hate that.” Kate answered.

“My Princess and her Angel have built this excellent car, perhaps you would care to examine it whilst we wait.”

“Why do you do that? Call her a Princess, she’s just a girl.” Kate asked before she realised what she was saying.

“She is Pylean royalty. It is her title.” Groo answered confusedly.

“Oh, so you don’t have any um, you know, feelings for her?” Kate asked, looking intently at the car.

“She is my friend, but that is all. Her heart belongs elsewhere.” Groo answered, smiling at the girl he was coming to care for a great deal. At that moment Cordelia delivered their parts and they began to work.

“All I’m saying Wesley is that this exercise is not an effective use of my valuable time.” Lilah was remarking across the other side of the room.

“What else have you to do?” Wesley asked tiredly.

“Anything would be more useful then this. What credentials do these people have? Did you research them before we came here?”

“Of course I did. And I suppose you’re an expert on team building are you? Because I seem to remember such a strong sense of teamwork at Wolfram and Hart.” Wesley mocked.

“We didn’t need to build a team; we were united in the common goal of ruining your lives. Brings a glow to my heart just to think about it.” Lilah snapped. “I’m bored, can’t we leave?”

“And do what? What would you suggest?”

“We could go skinny dipping.” Lilah teased provocatively, causing Wesley to blush at the erotic thoughts invading his mind.

“Hm, ah, well, erm,” Wesley blushed and stammered, causing Lilah to laugh, the first genuine laugh Wesley could remember hearing from her. He smiled in pleasure at her, even if she was laughing at him.

“There are just some things that aren’t appropriate for the work place is all I’m saying.” Angel was saying to Cordelia.

“I wasn’t flirting with Groo Angel, and if I was it’s not your concern.” Cordelia retorted.

Seeing Angel’s hurt look at her response, Cordelia placed her hand on his arm. “Sorry Angel. So what part of this car compares to me?” Cordelia changed the subject, remembering when Angel had compared her to a car.

“Time is up.” Cindy yelled reappearing in the room. “Please bring all completed cars to me.”

Wesley and Lilah looked up from where they were trying to stick on the ‘paint job’ of the first car. “Does this count?” Lilah held up the half finished car.

“No cars finished.” Cindy was almost in tears. “None? That’s never happened before.” Cindy turned sadly to Silv and Micky who were as usual behind her, “look no cars.” They nodded sympathetically and Cindy turned back to the team. “You have a long way to go; you may need to stay the full week. OK car’s away.” Cindy waved her hands and the cars and all the paraphernalia disappeared.

“Normally, at this stage of the day, we ask you to identify why you think you struggled with the task. However, Silv has informed me that you may not be ready for that yet. So I will let you know what we observed. There was little to no task oriented communication between you as either partners or as a group. You were an assembly line, working towards one goal, but by watching you today, no one would have guessed. You all worked independently of the team for the most part. You offered no support or encouragement to others, in fact at times quite the opposite.” Cindy made eye contact with Kate, Cordelia and Lilah at this point.

“Ideally in a task such as the one today, you should have been much more productive. Within each partnership, one person is filling the orders, one person building the product. I don’t think that this possibility even entered your heads. This is all I’m going to say on this topic for now, but I want you to think about this tonight ready for the task tomorrow.” Cindy paused for a minute.

“OK so now we are finished for today. As I have pointed out you were very far from a cohesive unit; you didn’t work at all together to achieve a common goal. However, I want to assure you that this is something that we will be working on over the coming days. We’ve noted several areas for improvement and we’ll work on those tomorrow. Now, we are going to get back into the circle for a minute before you can leave.”

Once everyone was seated back in the circle Cindy began to talk.

“Going clockwise, we are all going to say one positive thing that we learnt about working with our partner today. I will start with an observation the three of us made about the group as a whole. We were pleased to note the pleasure you took in working with each other and the genuine feelings of good will amongst you. We believe you want to improve and that is the first step to improvement. Angel, would you please tell us something that you enjoyed about working with Cordelia today.”

“Cordelia makes work fun, I like listening to her talk.” Angel stuck with something safe; he wanted to tell the world about the way Cordelia poked her tongue out the tiniest bit when she concentrated and how it made her look adorable and made him want to kiss her and never stop, but he didn’t think the others would appreciate it.

“Thanks Angel. Um, I like the concentration you apply to the task at hand.” Cordelia had always loved the way Angel gave his full concentration to the task at hand, she found herself wondering if applied that same concentration to everything he did.

“Very nice. Now Wesley.” Cindy instructed.

“Lilah is able to make the time pass quickly with her uh quirky suggestions.” Wesley blushed as he spoke, his mind turning to thoughts of himself and Lilah with nothing but cool blue water surrounding them.

“Wesley gives me wicked ideas.” Lilah smirked. Lilah liked Wesley, but more importantly she trusted him and that was true of very few people in her life.

“Beautiful. Kate.” Cindy continued around the circle.

“Groo is extremely accepting of others, he sees the good in everyone.” Kate hated this place and she hated Cindy for putting her on the spot, and for making her uncomfortable, in fact the only good thing about this place was spending time with Groo, the more she learnt the more Kate liked him.

“Kate is beautiful on the inside.” Groo smiled shyly at Kate. Groo was growing to know that Kate wasn’t as tough as she liked the world to believe; she had a good heart but didn’t show it to many, he was glad she was letting him see it.

“Oh that was very well done. You may leave now for the evening. Please be back here by 9.00 a.m. tomorrow.”
The next morning at precisely 9.00 a.m. the team arrived back at the training facility, to learn that they would be undertaking a day long treasure hunt. The team who were able to obtain the greatest number of items from their list would be the winners. However, just obtaining the items was not the goal of the day. With each item retrieved a clue would be given as to the location of the ultimate prize. Each team had a different list and would therefore be working with different clues.

After Cindy out lined the plan for the day, she left it up to the couples to determine how they would proceed. The group stood awkwardly around the training room for a moment after Cindy had disappeared.

“Obviously it would behove us to remember the lessons that we learnt yesterday.” Wesley began.

“Communication and cooperation are the keys to success.” Cordelia bounced on the spot perkily in imitation of Cindy.

Lilah found herself laughing at the antics of the younger girl; she was pleased to know she wasn’t the only one annoyed by the perkiness.

Angel found himself transfixed by the sight of Cordelia bouncing in front of him, her perfect breasts swaying as she moved. Realising that Wesley was speaking again, Angel had to force his eyes up and away from the tempting view in front of him.

“Yes, well, be that as it may Cordelia, you are correct. We need to show that we are capable of working as a team.”

“What are you suggesting Wes?” Angel asked.

“Well, we have three different lists, so obviously we need to split up, but I believe it would be best if we met back here at regular intervals to share clues. Does this sound agreeable to everyone?” Wesley turned to the others for confirmation of his plan. “Perhaps we can first meet just before lunch, that should allow everyone sufficient time to find an abundance of clues.”

“That’s fine. Let’s go Groo.” Kate turned and began to walk towards the front of the building, reading her list as she went.

“Lilah, after you.” Wesley courteously held the door for Lilah to precede him out of the room.

Angel grabbed the door from Wesley and followed him through letting it go once he was outside.

“Mm, way to be a gentleman Angel.” Cordelia groused as she followed Angel outside.

“Sorry Cordy. Um, about this list, how about we start looking for items in the area around the pool?” Angel held the list out to Cordelia.

“Ok, I could go for a paddle.” Cordelia led the way towards the pool.

Cordelia was relieved to be outside the training facility and away from Cindy and her annoying perkiness, and she was glad that she was with Angel. Lately it felt like their lives had become so full of other people that they hadn’t had the time to just be with each other. Cordelia needed to know that Angel was happy and ok, she didn’t know when it was that his well being and his redemption had become her goal, but she knew that they were. She was determined to see Angel shan-shu and if that meant he would go back to Buffy, well she would deal with that day when it came, but for now, she was happy to be with her best friend in the sunshine on a treasure hunt.

Reaching the pool, Cordelia slipped her shoes off and sitting on the edge of the pool, she dangled her feet in the water.

“Perfect. Come and join me.” Cordelia patted the spot next to her whilst smiling up at Angel.

Angel had to admit that the pool did look tempting and spending time with Cordelia just talking, was in his opinion, far more important than any made up treasure. Taking off his shoes and socks, Angel rolled up his pants and sat down next to Cordelia.

“I love this dimension.” Cordelia turned her face up to the sun, allowing its gentle rays to caress her skin.

“Yeah, sunshine really suits you.” Angel felt a pain in his heart as he saw how much Cordelia was enjoying the sunshine. Already she was seeing too little of it, as she worked the hours that their business required, how could he ask her to give even more of it up to be with him, it wouldn’t be fair to her. “Darkness is only for people like me and Buffy, who have responsibilities that take us into the night, and people that count on us.” Angel thought out loud.

Cordelia couldn’t believe what Angel was saying. What she wasn’t good enough, or strong enough to brave the night like his beloved Buffy? It was true though, Cordelia thought to herself, she wasn’t chosen, she wasn’t a champion and she didn’t have a mission, maybe Angel and Buffy were meant to be together.

“Yep, love that sun.” Cordelia tried to sound upbeat as she closed her eyes and tried to keep Angel from knowing how upset his words had made her. “You must be loving this dimension though. Lots of sun, no danger, it’s all good.”

“I miss Connor and the others but yeah I do like it here, well when we’re not doing pointless exercises I like it.” Angel qualified.

“I miss Connor too. I was wondering what he was doing earlier and wanted to call, but I worked it out according to Fred’s time theory and in that dimension we’ve only been gone for like 90 minutes, I figured it was too soon to call. Maybe tonight though?” Cordy really wanted to hear little Connor noises over the inter-dimensional communicator Fred had created.

“Definitely tonight. I don’t want to miss anything Connor does, I’m sure he’s going to talk any minute now, he does that little frown thing sometimes like he’s trying to decide what to say.” Angel proudly informed Cordelia as he gently moved his feet in the soft water.

“He’s like the smartest baby ever. Did you see him the other day when Fred was reading that book to him? He totally understood, and it wasn’t even a kid’s book.” Cordelia couldn’t have loved Connor more if she had given birth to him.

“I never thought that I would get to be so lucky, I definitely don’t deserve it.”

“Hey, don’t let me hear you say stuff like that, you do deserve it, yeah you’ve done some stuff that you are atoning for, but you are one of the best people I know, and you deserve some happy.” Cordelia laid her hand on Angel’s arm to emphasise her point.

Angel smiled down at Cordelia, never wanting this moment to end, but like all good things, end it did. Cordelia grinned mischievously at Angel, before kicking her feet hard in his direction, splashing water at him.

Angel glared in mock anger at Cordelia before splashing her back. Soon the splashing turned into a full on water fight and Cordelia found herself fully clothed in the pool. Leaning down to help Cordelia out of the pool, Angel was surprised when Cordelia yanked his arm causing him to topple in as well.

Angel emerged from the water to see Cordelia laughing at him; Angel enjoyed the sound of her carefree laughter for a moment, before splashing her in the face. Angel found himself laughing at Cordelia’s look of outrage, before he realised that his act would not go unavenged. Soon a full on water fight began, ten minutes later, declaring a truce, the two of them climbed from the pool and realised that they needed dry clothes.

After going back to the house and changing, it was time to meet the others, Cordelia couldn’t believe how fast time had flown. Reaching the training room, Cordelia and Angel found the others already assembled.

“Finally.” Kate grumbled as the two of them walked in.

“Where are your treasures?” Wesley asked seeing their empty hands.

“Well, it’s…” Angel began when Cordelia interrupted him.

“We decided to try and find the ultimate prize first, not waste our time with the little ones.” Cordelia baldly lied waving her hands airily, refusing to tell Kate and Lilah that she had nothing.

“Wasn’t the point that you can’t find the ultimate prize without the clues?” Wesley asked.

“Yes, and that’s a valid point which we’ve now confirmed, so moving on, what have you got?” Cordelia turned attention from her and Angel back to the rest of the group.

“Wait a minute, you’ve done nothing all morning and now you just want us to move on?” Kate questioned angrily. “I don’t think we should move on, I think we need to talk about why some members of the team aren’t pulling their weight.”

Cordelia had just about had enough of Kate, she was bossy, opinionated and was now making a big public deal about Cordelia’s failure to gather treasure.

“Back off cop lady, I’m tired of you and your attitude and if you don’t….” Cordelia began angrily stepping forward to glare at Kate.

Angel grabbed Cordelia’s arm to pull her back just as Cindy popped into existence between the two girls, disappointing Lilah who had been hoping for some violence, prefarably to Cordelia.

“Oh this is great.” Cindy was clapping her hands. “Really great, I can see where the conflict lies and it’s coming to the surface. Ok new plan, this afternoon the boys will be spending time planning and cooking the evening meal and the three of you,” Cindy looked from Cordelia who was glaring at Kate, to Kate who was glaring back, to Lilah who now appeared bored, “the three of you are going to be doing something special. OK let’s go.” Cindy waved her hands and Cordelia, Kate and Lilah found themselves in a clearing in a forest.

 


…TO BE CONTINUED…

THIS APPEARS TO BE AN UNFINISHED STORY


 

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