Gunn and Fred had been the first to arrive at the Pythian house. Connor had stayed back with the rest of Gunn's old gang of vampire hunters. Spike and Angel had pulled up on the motorcycle a couple blocks away and walked to the frat house.
"I'd feel a lot better if Wesley was here." Angel said, as he looked at his watch.
"He said he'd be here, doesn't the watcher code of honor say he has to show?" Spike tried to reassure him.
The group stood back from the door as Gunn and Fred knocked. After a minute or so a younger man opened the door.
"Hey there. I'm Charles, this is Fred. So Bill told me y'all were having a big shindig tonight and I forgot to grab my directions from home."
"Sure, right, Charles." The Pythian repeated disinterestedly, "Come on in."
"You mind if my friends come in too?" Gunn asked waving at Spike and Angel.
"Nope, not at all. Come on in." With the invitation in place the two vampires rushed the door picked the frat boy up off the ground. Angel brought him down hard against the wall of the foyer.
"So I'm looking for a friend, and I need five priests of Pythia." Angel hissed in his face.
"I don't know.." Angel cut him off by pressing a forearm into his chest.
"I do not have time to be lied to." Gunn's gang was now inside; they practically dragged the oracle behind them. "We are going to go downstairs now. We are going to perform the ritual of the Axis, and if you tell me you do not know what I'm talking about one more time I am going to remove your head, slowly." Angel released the man, who was now frantically nodding his head in agreement.
"There's still a few people upstairs."
"And they know the ritual?" Angel asked.
"Yeah, yeah, better than me at least." Angel made a motion up the stairs and several of Gunn's gang went up to get them. Angel took the oracle's hand and kicked in the door that stood behind the stairs. They were halfway down the stairwell when Angel saw Wesley's frame shadowed in the doorway. He had a box in his hands and a copy of the Moralia tucked into his pocket.
"Excuse me, hmpf." Angel was pushed out of the way by a woman in a billowing cape. He caught just a glimpse of blue hair before the woman disappeared.
"Sorry we're late." Came Wesley's voice from above him. "Mistress Myrna is a, um, challenging woman to keep track of."
Once they were all assembled, the oracle sat on top of the stone eschara, a sort of altar capped with animal horns and Mistress Myrna stood next to her. Wesley, Angel and Spike formed a tripod around the two women and the Axis, which stood on a separate altar, and the five Pythian brothers stood around them. Gunn, Connor, Fred and the rest of the crew stood near the stairwell, guarding against any party crashers. The Pythians began a quiet chanting invoking the spirit of the god Apollo to bless the ritual. Spike and Angel held up an ornately carved bowl of stone as Wesley tossed olivewood into it and set it on fire. Once the wood was ablaze he tossed in Laurel, bay leaves, grain and lustral water. Mistress Myrna poured more of the water over the oracle. She then poured several cups of lamb's blood over the oracle's hands. The five Pythians held up bronze globes with smaller bronze balls hanging from them.
"Recognize the signs of the old flame. Show us the dwelling of the one we seek." Mistress Myrna shouted as she handed the oracle a glass of lamb's blood to drink. As she did the Axis began to glow. A yellow light filled the room and they could see Cordelia in the archway of the Axis. The feeling of pure joy filled the room. Wherever she was, Cordelia felt no pain. Spike shuddered as he saw her. He felt Angel's grip loosen on his hand and knew that Angel's resolve was waning.
"Angel, is she in heaven?" Spike asked quietly. Angel stared back at him, for the first time he was not sure if they should bring her back. The Pythians had increased the volume of their chanting and it was now reaching a fever pitch. The oracle began to convulse on the eschara and her chanting became unintelligible. She raised her hands over her head and the blood that covered them turned black.
"Come back to us, leave your plane and enter ours. Bring with you the spirit that was cast out of our world." The oracle leaned forward and placed her hands into the archway of the axis. "Join me and bring back the spirit so that it may entreat the body to join us." She motioned to Angel to take her hands, but he was still unsure if it was what he should do. He looked to Spike for an answer, but the other vampire was already gone.
Spike reached into the Axis and took the oracle's hands. As he did a bolt of lightning shot through the Axis and centered itself on their blood coated hands. The oracle cried out as Mistress Myrna threw the remaining blood and lustral water over the two of them. "Come back to us, join us here." Spike repeated her words several times as the electricity coursed through his body. Then the bolt left the Axis and centered itself on him. Angel looked on in horror as his childe began to shake and radiate with the yellow light. The oracle let go of his hands and fell back onto the altar, exhausted.
Spike stood at the center of the circle looking upward. Another more powerful bolt came from the stone ceiling and slammed into his body, knocking him to the ground. Angel went to touch him, but Wesley held him back. "No, let her come back Angel." He whispered.
"Angel." Spike let out as he writhed on the floor. "Angel, I love you." Mistress Myrna now stood in front of the glowing vampire and waved her hand in the air. Several streams of light sprinkled down from her fingernails and a large oval of light formed in the air.
"Spirits call you back. Cordelia. Step through the gate if it be your will. Rejoin your spirit and release its presence from your willing receptacle." Spike stood up and reached his hands towards the gate, a flash of white light filled the room and he felt two soft hands holding onto his own. He took a step back and Cordelia stepped out of the gateway. The oval closed behind her and Mistress Myrna said a quiet incantation over the remaining light, permanently sealing it.
As Spike and Cordelia held hands the force of the lightning bolt passed from his body to hers. She absorbed the light and was filled with her own spirit. The light then left her and returned to the Axis. She and Spike slipped to the floor, resting on each other. The Pythians stopped their chanting and went to the oracle at the altar.
"We done now?" One of them asked.
"Just another Friday night at the Pythian house huh?" Gunn asked from across the room. "Don't think I'll be joining."
"So is that a yes?"
"We're done." Spike whispered from the floor. Angel tried to look away, but couldn't help locking eyes with his pained childe. He reached out a hand to help him up then knelt down beside Cordelia.
"Angelus?" Spike cried. "I have to go. I'm late, I was supposed to see Buffy, but she's not here, and you, you're here, and I have to go see her." Spike turned towards the stairs and began to run.
"Spike!" Angel called after him. When the other vampire did not turn back he tried again. "William!" This time Spike turned around.
"Sorry, have to go now, I've got the spark now, and she'll want to see." He took the rest of the stairs two at a time and left the house. Angel swallowed hard and turned his attention to Cordelia, who was starting to stir from the floor.
"Cordelia, can you talk?" He asked her as she sat up.
"Well duh?" She answered, standing now she brushed herself off. "Of course I can talk."
"Oh thank god, you're okay." Angel grabbed her by the waist and pulled her into a tight embrace. "I thought I lost you, Cordy, I thought I lost you." Angel stroked her hair and tried to fight back his own tears.
She pushed back from his chest to look at his face. "Um, great, who are you?"
Want to read the sequel, Still Ensouled?