Higher Levels
by Buffonia

The light wasn't blinding, but it was warm. A little too warm, as Cordelia moved through it. Ascending into a place above the soundless traffic, the silent people. There was a tickling sensation, as the balls of light that swirled around like glowbugs, brushed against her skin. Her last thought was of Fred. Because someone had to remember to talk to that girl late at night before she went bed. That was the way. Fred said that falling asleep by herself, with no one to talk to made her dream of Pylea, when being alone was routine.

So Cordelia had always laid with Fred at night, stroking the long hair and wondering why she'd cut her own. Sometimes Cordelia would talk about Sunnydale (but only sometimes, and only when she was really sleepy herself.) But usually Fred would talk. Babble really. Her head rested on Cordelia's lap, breath warming the flesh of Cordy's legs as she spoke scientific poetry. Things Cordy didn't understand, no matter how Lamen the terms were.

But Cordy smiled down at Fred, as Fred watched the painted wall and talked excitedly. The way the words like "exponential" and "corollary" rolled off her Texan tongue with ease and love. Made Cordelia sigh.

"Where were you when I was flunking chemistry?" Cordy joked once. There was a beat and Cordelia's heart gave a little squeeze at her own stupidity.

"Running for my life through the woods, I imagine," Fred softly replied. Because Fred was just thinking out loud. That's all she really did at first. She was so used to it. Because that's all that talking to yourself really is.

Fred had turned and looked up at Cordelia and lifted her head. And Cordelia pulled herself back on the bed, and lay down beside her. They slept together that night. A small boned Winifred spooned into Cordelia's embrace, breasts to back and arm draped over a tiny belly. How warm it had been, and quiet. The only time she had known Fred to just be silent, which meant her mind was equally calm.

It was like that now, a sense of peace as Cordelia was lifted higher in that tunnel of light. The world at a pause around her, below her and the stars moving in their own time far above. Everything went cold. And for a second, an image of empty, Fredless arms flashed through her mind.

Cordelia opened her eyes, or did she? It seemed like the whiteness of the place just appeared before her, but there was no weight of a body to manage. No empty arms. No arms at all.

"You don't need form here," said a voice. It was feminine, yet low which made it sound infinitely sad. "Emotions are needless too." So It had heard Cordy's thoughts.

"Thought and speech are one here," the sad sounding girl continued. "You have nothing to contain what is said inside yourself. We are this place, you and me."

The more the girl spoke, the less cold Cordelia felt. Yet it wasn't a temperature, it was a tingling, like when fingers have fallen asleep from lack of blood. It was an invasive prickle. But the soothing voice made the pins and needles feeling dissipate.

"I don't like this." Cordelia felt, therefore thought, therefore said aloud into the everything.

"This is just a waiting room Cordelia. Don't worry. You're almost there."

It was too much. The peacefulness of it all. Combining all her senses into one, and the rest of her into a million things. She wished Fred were there to explain it all. She wanted big words that didn't make sense to her, but the way Fred could explain them gave a sense of order and comfort. Cordelia wanted a body back.

Suddenly, she had one. Cordelia could feel her eyelids open, keenly aware of the effort such a small task took. And now the room had logic to it as well. Still desperately white walls and floor, yet with an ethereal polish to them. Movement felt thick after the previous lightness, but she managed to push herself up.

A figure from across the room, distance surpassing space and measurement, walked slowly towards Cordelia. It was the voice, Cordy knew this almost immediately. Because it was the perfect embodiment of the tone in those words the voice had spoken. She was blonde, the girl was, with bright eyes. She shimmered like the walls around them.

"Form is needless, but not impossible," said the girl. She was smiling, but there was still that sadness about her lazy smile. "Emotions too. No matter what you are, sometimes it's hard to let go of your humanity."

"Is this heaven?" Cordy winced. Skip had promised she wasn't dead. But it was so white here.

The girl shook her head and laughed. "No. But close."

"So where is this?" Cordelia took in the room once more. As bare as bones, and just as smooth. "Besides being Martha Stewart's personal nightmare," Cordy added.

The smile left the girl's face. "I can't give you many answers. I'm just here to wait with you," she said. "The powers don't want you to be frightened. What you are doing, is selfless and good. You should know how pleased they are with you."

"I'm flattered. Really. Not one in favor of pissing off the powers," said Cordelia. "But I...will I be able to go back?"

The girl's brow came together in a slight frown, and she swallowed. As if she wanted to say something, but couldn't find the words.

"Right," Cordelia sighed. "No answers. Because what's the fun of being the Powers if you can't have that air of mystery?"

"I can tell you that things w-will be right soon. The world is recovering. There is still pain but...," the girl paused and swallowed again. "You will help it heal."

"Who are you?" Cordelia asked. So maybe this wasn't heaven, and maybe this girl wasn't an angel, but she was something just as seraphic. And she understood things without having answers. It made Cordy feel safe.

"I was...am...Tara," she said. "I'm new here too. I don't really belong in this place but they wanted me to wait with you." Tara reached out and took one of Cordelia's hands in her own. "I know what it's like to leave the people you love. Right when you finally have them where you've always needed them but..." Tara's voice broke, and Cordy knew for sure that this couldn't be heaven because you're not supposed to be able to cry in heaven. And both girls' eyes were glittering with unintentional tears.

"...this transcends love," Cordelia echoed Skip's words.

Tara looked down and shook her head before once again meeting Cordelia's gaze. "This is rooted in love. Our being here. Our hearts brought us here."

"Will they bring us back?" Cordelia whispered, because although words can't be hidden beneath silence, she felt it a crime to speak loudly.

"I don't know," replied Tara, even softer. Cordelia raised her free hand to Tara's face, gently trailing the back of the fingers over the girl's dampened cheek. Tara kissed Cordy's fingertips as they brushed over her lips. They were standing so close now, that it took only a moment for Cordelia to lean in and meet Tara's soft mouth with her own.

"Thank you," Cordelia murmured into Tara. The room gasped into brightness, but the light wasn't from either of them. It swallowed the two girls until they were formless again. An ecstatic mixture of demonic and spiritual essence.

That sad, low voice was the last thing Cordelia heard.

"They're ready."