AUTHOR: FICBITCH92 (aka Christie)
SUMMARY: Buffy asks Angel to come to Sunnydale to help with the First which forces him to face up to some home truths.
POSTED: 28 Jul 2005
CONTENT/PAIRING: Cordelia/Angel, Buffy/Spike
WARNINGS: None Listed
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
1) For my darling Angy (darlakane) who always kept on at me to get this one finished. 🙂
Authors Notes: Yes, the Beast happened. No, Cordelia wasn’t possessed. No, she didn’t sleep with Connor. She came back from the Higher Realms, had amnesia – when they finally got her memory back, Cordelia remembered things about Angel’s past which put the big whoopsie on their relationship. What followed from there will be in (and resolved in) this story.
Do you see my guilt? Should I feel fright?
Is the fire of hesitation burning bright?
And if you want to talk about it once again,
On you I depend. I’ll cry on your shoulder.
You’re a friend.
‘Cry’ – James Blunt
Chapter 1 – The Start of Things To Come
Hobbling down into the lobby of the Hyperion, Cordelia sat down heavily on the ottoman, rubbing the lump on the back of her head. “What do you mean we’re going to Sunnydale?” She asked, frowning, “Why?”
He’d dropped the bombshell fifteen minutes ago, aptly timed during the middle of a fight where Cordelia was halfway to getting her butt kicked
Now, here she was with the egg-sized lump on the back of her head and she was not amused, so very not amused.
“Because we are.” Said Angel tersely, coming in behind her. It had been like this for months – ever since Cordelia had walked back into their lives, ever since her amnesia had put the big, honking road block into their whatever (relationship, friendship – who knew any more?).
She asked a question, he bit her head off.
She looked at him, he looked away.
She tried to talk, he found a way to be Mr. Avoidance over everything.
Today was no different. “That’s not an answer.” She told him unnervingly, her gaze on him not wavering.
He placed the weapons back in the cabinet with the utmost care, as if the 5000 year old fighting axe hadn’t seen enough rough and tumble to make it erode already. It was the one little quirk he afforded himself, placing the weapons back carefully, since vampires didn’t have quirks like pulling at their ears when they were nervous or whatever.
Angel frowned, for what felt to Cordelia like the fiftieth time that second, and took a glance over the Hyperion lobby at the collection of friends who were rapidly heading into the office to avoid yet another argument. “Why is it that no one else questions my judgement?”
“Because no one knows quite how much of a dumbass you can be, unlike me.” Said Cordelia, trying to sweeten his temper a little.
It didn’t work.
His jaw tensed, eyes practically bulging under that big manpire forehead and Cordelia sighed, wondering why she bothered. Lately, his sense of humor had been so lacking that he was even equalling Principal Snyder in the ‘crack a smile, please’ stakes and that was saying something.
He’d been acting weirder than usual today, shoulders tense ever since that phone call from– Oh.
“Buffy.” Her voice fell flat before the name even left her lips. Okay, when was it that Buffy even registered as a blip on the radar for her? Hell, Angel too for that matter? He’d been getting over her, hadn’t he? That was that whole phone call before she’d got called up to be Higher Being, right?
At least he has the grace to look mildly embarrassed, she thought, as Angel turned her way. She wanted to wipe the look off his face, to bitchslap him six ways from Sunday and then some. Instead, she folded her arms across her chest. “So what little crisis has little Ms. Likes to Fight conjured up this time?” She asked, her tone biting.
These past few months hadn’t been easy. The tension in the Hyperion had been so thick you could have cut it with a knife and Cordelia knew that this was, in part, down to her and Angel, even if it didn’t end with them. Lately, he’d taken to throwing bits of his relationship with Buffy her way. Hinting, subtly enough so that the others wouldn’t notice but bitingly enough so that Cordelia could clearly see that Angel was referring to ‘better days’.
God, he could be an ass sometimes.
“The First.” Said Angel, looking at Cordelia but not meeting her eyes.
“You mean the First that terrorised you the only Winter that Sunnydale ever had snow?” Cordelia asked, eyebrows shooting upwards in surprise.
Angel nodded. “That’s the one.”
Cordelia looked at him, expectantly. A couple of years ago and Angel would have done anything to mask the fear on his face. A couple of years ago, there’d be a nervous smile, an ‘everything’s fine’ look and a nod her way to let her know things were good. Now? He just wouldn’t even look at her. She knew he was worried – hell, maybe even a little scared, but if he was? He wasn’t showing her.
“Well isn’t that the best news we’ve had all day?” She asked, dryly. The First operated on a strictly mind-fuck basis. Know someone who was dead? Then the First would exploit that for all it was worth, just to make you crazy.
For some reason, they’d wanted Angel out of the picture three years ago, or so he’d told her. When that hadn’t worked, Angel had realised that his path was on earth, whether by Buffy’s side or not and Cordelia was just now realising that since this was connected to them both? It meant angst-o-rama’s all round.
“So tell me again why we’re going to Sunnydale? We have things we need to do here, a business that needs run and… Things.” She trailed off, shaking her head. That wasn’t strictly true. Ever since the madness that had been the Beast, things had been uber-quiet in LA, which usually meant that evil was regrouping.
In two weeks, they’d probably have the bigger, better version of the Apocalypse on their hands.
“I promised.” Said Angel, quietly.
Two simple words destined to hit where it hurt. “So, Buffy calls and, as usual, you’re chomping at the bit to go running to her aid. Color me surprised.” Cordelia got up off the ottoman and walked over to the freezer, retrieving an icepack for her poor aching head. It was like having vision headaches all over again, only these ones were connected to Angel and how asshatty he was being lately.
“It’s not like that,” Angel glared at her, finally closing the weapon cabinet doors. “She asked if we could go help, I said yes.”
“Without even asking us? Gee, that’s considerate.” Cordelia sniped, returning his glare full force. What, he was incapable of seeing how very inappropriate that was? What if… What if she were busy? Or what if Gunn had some vampire thing to take care of with his friends?
Who the hell did he think he was, just offering out their collective services like that? She palmed the back of her head gently, thankful there was no blood there and wondering how impervious leader guy never seemed to get a scratch on him lately.
Oh, right… Vampire. More than human. Yadda, yadda…
“I didn’t think you’d mind,” Angel offered lamely, folding his arms across his chest. “Things have been quiet round here, Buffy needs help with the First. Cordelia, if this spreads past Sunnydale…”
She didn’t need to hear this. She sighed, heavily, rolling her eyes. “Look, whatever, okay? But just so you know? I’m going under protest. We can’t make things right down in Sunnydale when we can’t even make things right here.”
Cordelia sat back down on the ottoman, pleading silently with him to say something – anything – just so she knew that she’d got through. So she knew that her manpire wasn’t entirely clueless.
Angel looked at her once, nodded and then turned, walking up the stairs as if he were satisfied with that answer.
She watched him go, torn between bursting into tears, an angry tirade of what a complete and utter ass he was being lately and throwing the icepack right up the stairs and off his stupid hair-gelled head.
Sometimes, I really really hate you. She thought forlornly, her gaze following him until he turned the corner. And then, she sighed, because that wasn’t really the case at all.
* * * * * *
I’ve travelled back down this road four times, thought Angel, and each time I do, I get this knot in my stomach, like something’s going to happen.
Of course, the odds were? Something would happen, Angel had long since realised. The First was involved, so the odds of that were even higher – but most of the time, something did happen.
Something always happened.
Behind him, Fred and Lorne were talking amicably about the vocal stylings of Dusty Springfield while Cordelia sat in the front, pressing herself as far away from Angel as she could possibly get.
In the truck behind, Angel noted in the rear-view mirror, Connor, Wesley and Gunn looked about as excited as he did about this trip – each wearing similar frowns on their faces.
“So where are we staying when we get to Sunnydale?” Cordelia’s voice was thick with sarcasm. “You paying for a hotel or does that go beyond the call of investigating duty?”
Angel’s knuckles tightened on the wheel. Sometimes, she was just so damned– “Xander’s. We’re staying at Xander’s.”
Her face became drawn and pinched, two red spots appearing simultaneously on her cheeks. “Okay, tell me you’re joking. ‘Cause seriously, I have a stake in my bag with your name on it if you’re not.” She said, turning in her seat to glare at him.
“What?” What the hell was wrong with staying at Xander’s? He didn’t think she’d want to stay at Buffy’s, especially not with the thousand girls
already vying for the bathroom and–
“Are you deranged?” She asked, the tone of her voice dropping several degrees below freezing, “I mean, seriously, are you crazy? Xander’s?”
All talk behind them stopped. Lorne and Fred literally froze behind the pair, waiting for the inevitable blow up in the convertible.
“Batten down the hatches,” Lorne mumbled under his breath to Fred, “Here we go again.”
Angel took a second to glare at the Anagogic demon, before turning back to Cordelia. “Look, the last time you and Xander were together you–”
“We got on!” Cordelia gawped at him, “Jesus, Angel, that doesn’t mean I want to up sticks and live with the guy while we go fight the ubersuck of all evil. Hello, were you around for the rebar incident?” She asked, perhaps unfairly.
Angel stared at her, wondering how long she could actually talk without taking a breath. She seemed to be able to go on forever, always had been able to, especially when she was pissed off at him.
“Look, it’s only temporary…” He started, trying to pave things over. He could see Fred fidgeting nervously in her seat, trying her best to look anywhere but the front seat. Even that was starting to piss him off.
“Yeah, and I’ve heard your temporary before.” Cordelia snapped, “I’m not sharing an apartment with Xander Harris.”
“No buts, Angel. If you wanna share an apartment with him, fine. But me? So very NOT, okay?”
The argument was over. Angel spun the wheel of the GTX sharply, turning off his exit and growling his annoyance to a car that cut in front of him.
For the rest of the journey, all was silent.
* * * * * *
“You’re sure you don’t mind crashing on the floor?” Asked Buffy again, for what felt like the hundredth time that night. Angel and the gang had got there an hour ago. She’d barely had time to fill them in on everything that was happening before Giles declared that training of the Potentials should come before any catching up they needed to do.
Right now, she was standing with Cordelia in her living room, aware that six different pairs of eyes were trained on their backs right now.
It was no secret that she and Cordelia had never been great friends – in fact, they’d pretty much hated each other for a lot of the time at High School. Now, the Potentials – aided by Dawn, Anya and Willow – were eager to see what kind of blow up there’d be especially since, according to Willow, when she’d been in LA? Cordelia and Angel had been indulging in the whole sexual tension thing.
Now, it seemed, there was just tension.
“Believe me,” said Cordelia, with what seemed like a forced smile, “I’ve slept on worse.”
“I told Angel you wouldn’t want to stay at Xander’s,” Said Buffy, shaking her head, wondering when Cordelia Chase had slept on worse than her floor. “Not that I think you and Xander… Y’know, anymore? It’s just… Well… Weirdness.”
Cordelia’s expression seemed to darken. “Yeah, but since where Angel’s concerned what I want doesn’t matter anymore? It’s not like he’d care.”
Buffy looked at Cordelia, surprised. Sure, it was weird to think of the whole sexual tension between her and Angel but the biting comments between the two since the moment they’d got here hadn’t exactly been lacking. Hell, even the green demon guy (who Buffy was sure kept looking at her funny) looked uncomfortable and he said he’d seen G’Roushan Mages go through the exact same ritual when they were mating.
There was no mating, Angel had assured the room, before stalking into the kitchen, coat billowing oh-so-dramatically behind him.
Cordelia had glared after him, before turning to Buffy and asking, politely, if she was sure she didn’t mind her staying here. She didn’t mind, she really didn’t mind – which was again, the weirdest thing ever.
“Buffy?” Giles’ voice came from the foot of the stairs, his gaze concentrated on his slayer and the woman he’d often had the misfortune of receiving a tongue lashing from. “Are you ready?”
She turned, nodding and noting Angel hovering behind him nervously, as if he were waiting for someone to lash out. Cordelia, probably. “Yeah, I’ll just…” Her gaze went back to Cordelia, “Are you… I mean… Are you staying here?” She asked, not wanting to just assume. Cordelia was part of Angel’s business, his family, for a reason. She mightn’t be a Slayer, but if there was a way she could be used tonight, Buffy didn’t want to leave her behind.
“Yeah,” Cordelia nodded, speaking to Buffy but making sure her comment reached Angel too, “Apparently Andrew’s going to show Wes and I the brains of the operation. Some night of fun that’s gonna be.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, glaring first at Andrew who was standing there in all his dorkish glory, waving a be-mittened hand. “Make sure he shows you the Big Board ’cause… Really, you don’t wanna miss that.”
“Hey! I totally heard that.” Andrew pouted, folding his arms across his chest.
“Yeah,” Buffy nodded, “You were supposed to.”
“Where would we be without my board? It’s our plan!” He replied, indignantly.
“And so many of the others have worked,” Buffy rolled her eyes again, reaching to pick her keys up from the table. “Didn’t you have a plan for setting up the microwave too?”
Andrew stuck out his chin in defiance, “For once, that one wasn’t my fault. I was interrupted by Jonathan-slash-The-First while I was–” He trailed off, noting the annoyed look he was being shot by everyone in the room. “Seriously, my plan can fill them in on the littler details while you’re out doing the more important stuff, like, training the girls.”
Sighing, Buffy realised she had to agree. Okay, so Andrew was a murderer and more than a little on the annoying side but… He was kinda useful. Well, a little. And if she didn’t have to explain the whole First-deal over and over again? She was SO for that. “Okay, you show them your plan or your board or whatever you’re calling it this week and we patrol.”
“Hold up,” Gunn stepped out from the hallway of Buffy’s house, brandishing a couple of stakes and what looked like a custom-made fighting axe, “Some of us are lookin’ at going out there too, not just Cordelia.”
“I… Is that wise?” Giles turned to Angel, who’d appeared behind him, mildly concerned. “While we’re training these girls then–”
“Then there’s no-one else you want on your team.” Cordelia interrupted, firmly. The look on her face said she didn’t care whether they agreed or not, Gunn was part of this fight too.
“We could maybe split into teams,” Buffy suggested, “Faith could take one group, I could take the other?”
“What am I taking?” Faith sauntered into the room, eating as usual, her hand buried in a bag of potato chips.
Buffy looked at the other slayer enviously, noting the fact that no matter what she ate, she never put an inch on those hips of hers. “I was talking about splitting into teams. You taking one group of girls, me taking the other. Gunn and Angel are coming along…”
Faith grinned, “Working alongside two of my favourite guys again? Sure. Just point me in the right direction and I’m there.”
“Okay,” Buffy nodded, “Spike, Giles… You’re with me. Angel, Gunn? You’re with Faith.”
Angel looked wounded for a moment, something he quickly masked when the others looked his way. When the weapons were handed out and the troops were going out the door, backed up from the rear by Angel, Cordelia glanced up, the temperature in the room dropping another notch.
“Gee,” She said under her breath so that no one but Angel could hear. “Looks like you don’t get the whole reunion after all.”
Angel stopped dead in his tracks and turned towards her. It looked like Buffy was going to have to step in and play mediator between the two, unresolved tension crackled and sparked until Angel leaned close, so close that his cheek was almost pressed against Cordelia’s, and whispered something unheard by the rest of the room.
Then, he spun on his heel and was gone, leaving a very pissed off Cordelia standing right there in the middle of Buffy’s living room.
Buffy watched Cordelia a second, her bottom lip quivering faintly. For the barest of seconds, Buffy was sure she’d cry, until Cordelia straightened up, cleared her throat and visibly pulled herself together. “So, Andrew… How ’bout that board?”
Buffy sighed and headed out behind Angel, pulling the door shut quietly behind her. Something was going on between those two and the more time they spent together, the worse it was getting. Somehow, bringing them down here was beginning to look more and more like a bad idea.
Chapter 2 – Visitors, Vampires and Visions, oh My!
Tapping her spoon lightly against her mug of coffee, Cordelia read over the daily newspaper, catching up on what was happening in the world of the ‘Dale right now. The new Mayor (thankfully not Mayor Wilkins the 7th) was planning new renovations to City Hall, there was an increase in suspicious deaths in Sunnydale (seriously, how long did it take them to catch on?) and some star (big in the 80’s, if she recalled correctly) was trying to revive her flagging career with a biography signing at the Mall that week.
“Give it up already,” Cordelia told the picture attached to the featurette of the singer, shaking her head, “Your career was over 15 years ago, at least.”
It was early morning, crack of Dawn early morning and no-one but her in the Summers household was awake. The Potentials, following a late night’s slayage, were all sleeping in various positions on Buffy’s cramped living room floor. Upstairs, Buffy and the others were safely in the land of nod which left Cordelia (if you didn’t include Spike, him being like a non-person and all) sitting and grabbing an early morning breather before everything started up again.
Lorne, as he’d insisted last night, had gone to a hotel room, declaring he’d be by after lunch (“because we night owls never raise before then, Plumcake…”). Angel and the others were currently snoozing at Xander’s, giving new meaning to the word cramped.
She had the kitchen to herself, which was just the way she liked it.
Until Doyle appeared.
Cordelia got such a fright she knocked her mug over, spilling black coffee all over the Formica bench.
“Is that any way to greet a guy?” Doyle demanded, smiling that smile that Cordelia had wished she could see for months after he’d– Oh.
“I know what you are.” She frowned, grabbing some kitchen roll from the other counter. “You’re not him.”
“Who else would I be, Princess?”
Princess… Cordelia blinked, her hand stilling against the counter, her heart aching. Beneath her fingers, the warm liquid soaked onto the kitchen roll and going right through.
“I expected more conversation, truth be told.” Doyle grinned, making himself comfortable as he leaned against Buffy’s refrigerator, “Maybe a ‘Doyle, lovely to see ya’ or a… ‘Damnit, you waited this long?'”
“You’re not him.” Cordelia said again, and for a moment, she thought it would all be okay if she just kept telling herself that. All she had to do was repeat that mantra, It’s not him, it’s not him, it’s not him…
“You mad at me for the visions?”
Doyle’s question caught her off guard. She looked up and blinked a couple of times, regarding him with weary eyes. “Huh?”
“You,” He said again, “Mad at me for the visions ’cause… If I’d known what was gonna happen, I’d have never… Well, y’know.”
“Put me through excruciating pain? Almost killed me and got me possessed by an apocalypse causing demon thing? Which one would you ‘never’ have done?”
Doyle (no, not Doyle) looked uncomfortable and damnit, he should. Cordelia glared at him, mopping up the rest of the coffee with another piece of kitchen roll. She tossed the soakened tissues in the trash, turning back towards him with her patented ‘don’t piss me off’ look. “Well?”
“I’m sorry for all of that,” He told her, “But I’m not sorry for fallin’ in love with you, Princess. Never have been.”
Cordelia swallowed, hard. Not real, not real, not real… “Look, I get it, okay? Big First Evil, taunty with the memories of my poor dead friend and everything but… Over this! So very over this. And some big bad isn’t gonna make me weak in the knees just ’cause it can put on a certain face and tell me things that it thinks I wanna hear.”
It looked genuinely puzzled (and it was so much easier to think of it as an ‘it’ and not as Doyle). It looked like Cordelia had just clued it in to some big secret that had previously been unheard of. “Maybe,” It conceded, “But if I was evil, wouldn’t I be telling you things you didn’t wanna hear?”
Great. Evil and using logic. This is just great.
“Not necessarily.” She muttered, shaking her head. “You could be like… The Anti-Evil or something. There to perplex me and make my life a living hell that way.”
“Oh, there’s time for the living hell, darlin’.” It shook its head just like she had, but its movements were slow, sad. It was sympathising with her. “You know what’s gonna come down, you saw it in that vision of yours. Everything the Beast promised, this evil down here’s gonna implement it and… You gotta pick what side you’re on.”
“I have my side,” Said Cordelia, firmly. “I know my place in life and–”
“That’s not exactly true any more, is it?” It lifted a hand, scratching at the side of its head and the gesture was so Doyle-like, it made Cordelia want to cry.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She snapped, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from bursting into tears. Of course she knew her place in life. It was by Angel’s side, wasn’t it? She’d promised him that she’d be there, the day he Shanshued… She’d be by his side.
“You do know what I’m talking about, Cordelia.” It nodded, wisely. Evil, the very First Evil. Of course it was wise – or pretending to be – it’d seen the very dregs of humanity, the worst in people. How else would it look at her like that if it hadn’t? “It’s sad to say it, Princess, but you and Angel? You ain’t never gonna get back to the way you once were. You’re not the type to linger when things just aren’t there any more…”
“Get out.” Cordelia whispered, not daring to let her voice get any louder. She couldn’t look at it, couldn’t let her gaze move up because it would see that it was right. Things were never going to be the same between her and Angel, not now, not ever. Why she was even sticking around when it was so obvious was–
“You okay, luv?”
The voice behind her startled her so much that Cordelia spun, fist raised and ready to lash out.
Spike was quicker. He grabbed her wrist and held it in his hand for almost a full second before his eyebrows drew downwards in confusion. “What’s up?” He asked, lowering her fist back to her side.
“I just had a visit.” She breathed out, loosening her hand from the fist it’d been balled into.
“The First.” It wasn’t a question. “Who?”
“The Mick.” She smiled tightly, “Y’know, the one who’s spine you threatened to snap two years ago when you tortured Angel?”
Spike grimaced and in his eyes, Cordelia could see the pain parade Angel had travelled down every day for as long as she could remember. “I remember.” He murmured darkly, stepping back a little.
“Sorry.” She said without thinking, not knowing exactly why she was apologising. “I didn’t mean to– Coffee?”
“No, thanks.” Spike shook his head, “Not exactly my beverage of choice.”
Without thinking, Cordelia went to the fridge and pulled out a packet of pigs blood, grabbing a mug. Before Spike had time to protest, she’d pierced the bag with a pair of scissors and was in the process of watching the blood spray into the cup.
Spike’s stomach growled, making Cordelia look up. “Was that you?”
If he could have blushed, he would have – vampires weren’t exactly prone to bodily functions like a rumbling stomach. “Hunger pangs,” He explained, “Haven’t eaten in a while.”
“Here.” She handed him the cup and sat herself back down at the counter, pouring out another cup of coffee. “Sleep well?”
“Like the dead.” Spike deadpanned, giving her a strange look before morphing into his vampiric visage and draining the cup of its contents. He placed the cup back on the counter, gaining a well-deserved chorus of “Pig!” from Cordelia, before meeting her eyes. “So, what’d it say?”
“The First.” Spike leaned against the counter, folding his arms across his chest. “What’d it say to you?”
“Oh, y’know, the usual…” Cordelia shrugged, “You’re going to die, yadda yadda, pick a side, yadda yadda…”
“That’s it?” Spike looked at her, curiously. “You look kinda rattled, luv… No offence.”
“None taken.” Said Cordelia, suddenly finding something very interesting in the bottom of her coffee cup. What was she supposed to do, pour her heart out to Spike, tell him what Doyle had said about Angel? About everything?
Sure, why not. And then she could take an ad out in the Sunnydale Gazette so that the hard-of-hearing population of Sunnydale would know all about her woes too.
“So what’s up with you and Captain Forehead then?” Spike asked, half heartedly.
“Huh?” Play it cool, thought Cordelia, maybe he’ll forget he asked.
“Angel.” Said Spike, arching the scarred eyebrow that, in Cordelia’s eyes, made him look all the more dangerous (and okay, maybe just a little sexy). “You and the Nancy Boy. I thought you two were pretty tight…”
“Me too.” Cordelia sighed, before she could stop herself. Okay, so this was progress. Instead of telling him what the First had said she was telling him about her woes with Angel and oh God, just kill her now. She fingered her necklace nervously, searching for a way to bridge the gap in conversation. “We uh… We just…”
“You two shagged, huh?” Spike asked, half-bemused.
“Y’know,” Spike leered, “Shagged, bumped uglies, got groiny with one another–”
“I’m familiar with the concept, yeah.” Cordelia snapped, interrupting his little tirade. “And for your information, no, we didn’t.”
Not for lack of wanting to on my part… Thought Cordelia, forlornly. And, if I’m right about him, which I think I am. His too. So what the hell was with them? Why couldn’t they just get it on or together or whatever the cool kids were calling it these days?
Simple. Because Cordelia had let memories that weren’t even hers build a wall between them and now, that wall stood like an unclimbable mountain. With a castle. And some big freakin’ dragon guarding the gate. The damsel was no closer to being rescued than Andrew was to becoming 15 per cent more manly.
Spike looked at her, “I just thought–”
“Well, you thought wrong.” She told him with a sigh. “You saw what it was like last night. Hell, that was one of the tamer versions of the Cordelia and Angel show…”
Cordelia rolled her eyes, sarcasm being her best weapon of defence right now, even if Spike wasn’t attacking. She took another drink of her coffee, waiting for Spike to say something. Didn’t he want to know what was really going on with them? Why they seemed to be fighting at, like, every opportunity? If it’d been anyone else they would have asked already but Spike seemed content to just look at her, try to figure it out on his own.
Good luck with that, Bucko, thought Cordelia dryly, taking another drink of her coffee, If Angel can’t figure it out then you haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance of–
“So you’re in love with Angel, that much I get,” said Spike, startling Cordelia. A smile spread across his face, one of those ‘ha, gotcha!’ smiles and Cordelia wanted to kick him for looking so goddamn smug. “It’s the other stuff that’s confusing me. What the hell happened between you two?”
“Oh, you’re good.” She said, tersely (after all, it wasn’t like it wasn’t common knowledge or anything, was it?), “I mean you can just look at me with the big forlorn eyes and just know that I’m in love with him?”
“You hurt me, pet, really you do.” Spike smirked, amused. He patted his shirt down, taking his cigarettes from his pocket before offering Cordelia one. She declined with a shake of her head, watching as he stuck one in his mouth. Spike was here for the long haul, it seemed, offering her a shoulder to cry on.
It seemed stupid – hell, more than stupid. Who’d have thought that three months after being zapped up into the heavens to become a Higher Being she’d be sitting here pouring her heart out to Spike over coffee?
“So what’s up then?”
Cordelia tapped her nails against the counter, sighing. “I just… I just thought it’d be different, I guess. I came back from high up, no memories… All I had was Angel, the guys. I didn’t have memories, so they gave me new ones and then…”
“What?” Spike asked, lighting his cigarette, despite the eye roll from Cordelia, “Then what?”
“They found a spell,” Said Cordelia quietly, “Lorne, he– He got my memories back only by the time I remembered him doing it? I remembered all the other stuff too…”
“All the stuff the Powers had shown me,” she whispered, “Like, everyone he killed. Every victim Angelus ever made bleed just because he could. I know it wasn’t him, Spike, I always did know that but… Seeing it, feeling what they’d felt like I’d been through it all terrified me. I didn’t know how to get back from that and by the time I did everything between Angel and I was just… Gone. Destroyed. I don’t know how to bridge the gap between us and I don’t even think he wants to try.”
Cordelia paused, took a deep breath. She hadn’t said that much since the day she had come back and Angel had been trying to convince her that this was all real, that she was their friend and hadn’t been kidnapped. She blinked, staring at Spike – just when, exactly, had he been the right one to open up to? Surely that should be reserved for someone she actually liked?
“Wow,” She murmured, looking down at her cup, “Once I open my mouth I just don’t stop, huh?”
“Not your fault,” Spike shrugged, taking a draw of his cigarette, “You just needed someone to talk to, that’s all.”
“So what d’you suggest, Dr. Spike?” Asked the brunette, dryly. “You seem to be the guy with the knowledge around here – well, in that you’re the only one that kinda makes sense.”
“That’s not a compliment,” Spike frowned, “Bloody Andrew lives here.”
Cordelia laughed. Last night had been… Well, interesting, she guessed. Andrew was like the biggest geek on the planet – right at home with Xander and all his oblique Star Trek references that Cordelia had never got three years ago when she’d been dating the doofus. He’d showed her his Big Board, talked about The First like he was on kinda-friendly terms with it, just because it had showed up and decided that he was the big gun of the hour.
Andrew was a dork. Thankfully, having been around Xander for most of her young adult life, Cordelia knew exactly how to deal with him. The tongue mightn’t be as acidic as it had once been but the eyebrow? Still worked wonders. As soon as Cordelia had arched the eyebrow (after Andrew had referred to her as the ‘Reformed-One’) he’d scuttled off upstairs, leaving Cordelia and Wesley alone.
They’d talked, briefly, Wesley enquiring in his usual halting manner about how things were progressing with Angel until Cordelia had laughed and said that things weren’t progressing at all. If anything, things were regressing. And wasn’t that the truth?
And then there was that avenue, too. Wesley. Wesley who she’d barely talked to since her return. Wesley who was still obviously smarting from the entire ‘my-friends-abandoned-me’ deal and, seriously, had she been possessed then too? Because, hello, there were issues with that. Major issues with that.
Cordelia looked at Spike, grinning her apology for the backhanded compliment she’d given before shaking her head, “I guess maybe it’s just time I faced facts…”
“And what facts are those, luv?”
“The ones where me and Angel maybe aren’t meant to be after all?” It was surprising how much that thought hurt. The First had said it to her not two minutes ago and Cordelia had forced it from her mind, determined that if she was going to think it, she’d think it by her rules, only…
Well these were her rules. She was standing here being all inner-moppet spanky with Spike and she didn’t want to admit that she wasn’t supposed to be with Angel. She didn’t want to not think about the thousand different moments where Angel had been more than her friend, only she’d been too stupid to notice.
That night at the ballet, where they’d been possessed enough into undressing each other. Her birthday, when she’d been launched out of her body by the ubersuck of visions and Angel had just been this close to saying that he loved her, that he couldn’t imagine living without her. He was going to say that, she was sure of it. And then, all the other moments since then. That moment upstairs in the Hyperion, where they’d almost kissed and it had all been so perfect and… And she’d stopped! She’d stopped that kiss and now, now they were just nowhere. No relationship, hell, barely even a friendship and she was sitting here talking to Spike – Spike – about all of this!
Stubbing out his cigarette on the counter, Spike stood up, drawing her attention back to him. “Look, I’m gonna level with you. I’ve spent a hundred plus years around that wanker and honestly? He’s never changed. He’s a bloody martyr, Cordelia. That’s what he is – just gotta take the path with the most angst down it or else it’s not a good path at all. Talk to him, tell him what’s going on. Sooner or later you’re gonna become just another reason for him to brood and you don’t want that any more than I do, right?”
“That sounds great,” said Cordelia, miserably, “I’ll just walk up to him later and say ‘hey, I’m in love with you, get with the program, Mister!’ Pfft!” Her eyes narrowed, “How come you make it sound so easy when I’ve noticed some pretty hefty tension between you and a certain Slayer?”
Spike’s entire body language changed, closed off, “That’s different.”
“Why?” Cordelia’s gaze softened. “Look, I did the whole share my pain thing, now it’s your turn.”
“Sorry luv,” Spike shook his head, “Not in for a round of that unless I got my pal Jack Daniels sitting alongside me if y’know what I mean… Just… Talk to him. Tell him what’s going on. It’s the only way you’re gonna get out of what funk you and the wanker are in.”
Cordelia watched carefully, folding her arms across her chest. “Y’know, one of these days? You’re gonna have to do all this inner moppet spanking on yourself.”
“Maybe so,” Spike conceded, nodding, “But not here. Not today. You gonna tell him?”
A pained look passed across her face. “Tell him what? That I love him? That I’m sorry? There’s a lot to tell him, Spike,” She said softly, “Only I don’t know where to start.”
“The beginning,” he replied, decisively, “Start at the beginning. Tell him you screwed up, you’re sorry – and if it’s not too much trouble for the brooding wonder, you’d like to move on while you’ve still got young blood in those veins.”
Cordelia sighed, “You think it’ll work?”
Spike shrugged, “From the sounds of it? You’ve tried everything but being honest. Give it a shot.”
Chapter Three – Spiral
“Would you relax?” Asked Buffy, smiling, “She took him to the movies, Angel. Y’know, afternoon of teenage normalcy? I even think there might be popcorn involved an– And you have a really strange look on your face.”
Angel was standing there, unblinking, looking for all the world like he wanted to go kill the guy who’d made cinema possible. “I– Movie?”
Slowly, Buffy nodded, totally not getting where he was coming from on the whole freak-out thing. If anything she thought he’d be glad to have Connor experience normal, even if it was with her teenage sister who seemed intent on talking about all things Slayerish in his presence. “Movie. Escape from reality. Ringing any bells?”
Clearing his throat, Angel met her gaze. “I… Remember our last movie?”
Buffy thought about that for a moment, remembered her last ‘supposed’ night of teenage normalcy with Angel that didn’t involve cemeteries, vampires or things that generally went bump in the night. She even flinched– Until she remembered the title of the movie Dawn had insisted they see. “I remember,” she said, a wry little smile lifting the corners of her mouth, “But seriously, you have nothing to worry about. She’s taking him to see Scary Movie.”
Angel let out a breath, visibly relaxing. Not that Scary Movie was the best of choices for a movie but Sunnydale was behind with the times enough for him to know what it entailed and as long as Dawn didn’t start trying to explain the birds and the bees to his son, he could live with that. “So was there any reason you–” He gestured round.
It had been a strange move to invite him up here, Buffy thought, glancing at a room that had definitely changed since the last time he’d stood in it. More photos, less girly teenage stuff… Older Buffy. Buffy that had lived without Angel for nearly four years. Buffy who was still living without Angel and realising her mistake in inviting him down here. “I– We need to talk.” She said softly, “And doing the whole heart-baring, soul-destroying thing in front of fifteen potential slayers just isn’t my thing.”
Angel sighed, barely resisting the urge to grit his teeth and say he knew what this was about. A week had passed since he’d come to Sunnydale. Since then he’d counted at least three heart-to-heart’s with Spike… And none with him. They’d talked, sure, at one point he even thought they were going to get to the very real tension between them– And then Buffy had asked him how things were going between him and Cordelia.
His scowl had darkened his face so much that even Buffy had taken a step back, half-afraid of his answer. “They’re not.” He’d ground out, remembering his irritation at finding her laughing with Spike, watching some old TV show down in the basement. It wasn’t enough that Spike had wormed his way under Buffy’s defences. Now he was doing it with Cordelia too and–
He pulled his gaze back up to hers when she spoke, forcing himself to relax. “We need to talk?”
She nodded, slowly. “Look, it’s not… It’s not often that I get with the real live emotional check-in,” she started, “Most of the time I’m too busy using what I do as my excuse to not get close to people, not see what’s right there in front of me. It’s a distraction, I admit that. But… Sometimes, there’s things that I can’t even ignore and I have to be Emotional Check In Buffy. Not– Not Slayer Buffy or Push People Away Buffy.”
She paused, wondering whether he was planning on jumping in on anything she was saying. When he didn’t, she continued, despite his scowl. “What are you doing here, Angel?”
“What are you doing here?” She repeated, trying not to smile at the puzzled look on his face, “In Sunnydale? Why are you here?”
“I– You asked me.” He murmured, not understanding where the conversation was going.
“Right, but it’s not the first time I’ve asked you. Why now?”
He thought about that for a second, blinking, and said the only answer he could give without launching into a thousand other reasons. “You said you needed me.”
“Right again,” she nodded, “But I’ve needed you before, much more than I ever did now and you still came running. Why?”
He stood up and began to pace, the muscles in his back corded. The look on his face told her everything. This was a conversation that he hadn’t planned on having, wasn’t comfortable having, but they were having it. They needed to have it and they needed to do it now before they screwed things up to the point where they couldn’t fix it any more.
He was still searching for his answer when Buffy spoke up, her voice soft. “Last time I saw you, I asked– Actually, I was fairly close to begging you to come home with me, make it all okay. I was so confused,” she murmured, wincing as if it was a memory long forgotten that hurt to dredge up again, “I didn’t know why I was here and the only place that made sense was with you. I needed you, Angel. But you told me… You had a reason, a reason you needed to stay in LA, a reason you had to fight.” Again, she waited. Waited for him to remember, waited for him to actually have his own emotional check-in, but Angel (true to form) was acting particularly dense, she noted. He couldn’t even admit what was right there in front of him, had been all along.
“Cordelia. That was what you said, Angel. Sure, you sugar-coated the blow a little, told me that you had friends now, a family who needed you, but your first thought was Cordelia. Her visions.”
Angel sighed, remembering a time when that had been true. Things had spiralled out of control so fast that he’d barely realised they were happening until he was on that slippery slope downwards and he couldn’t get off. “Buffy–”
“Angel, let me talk.” She interrupted, lifting a hand, “This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to say and, seriously, the fact that I’m saying it about Cordelia is hitting high on the irony-o-meter. I don’t know what happened between you and honestly? I’m not asking. But I’ve screwed my own life up enough to recognise when someone is doing it to theirs and when it’s somebody I care about, then– Well, I guess I have to say something. I didn’t make it easier asking you to come down here. I didn’t know what was between you and Cordelia and even if someone had told me, I probably wouldn’t have believed it but… You need to wake up, Angel. We both do. Because sooner or later we’re not going to have anything to wake up to.”
Angel looked at her, chiselled features sliding into a frown. “You finished?”
“Not even remotely,” said Buffy, shaking her head. “We’ve got to be the dumbest people I know, Angel. We’ve both got something right here, beside us, in front of us, whatever, and we’re so busy clinging to the non-scary portion of love that we’re letting it slip away.”
“You call this non-scary?” Angel asked, trying to focus on some of the things she was saying. His brain was scattered. Thinking about Cordelia in a way he’d never let himself think of her for weeks was disconcerting at best. He wanted to be angry at her for feeling the way she had, wanted to blame her for letting their relationship get to this and it was easier that way. Except it wasn’t just. He couldn’t justify it. He even understood, in a way. Those memories… The way it had all happened for her, it had been awful, he knew. But part of him blamed her for letting it get in the way because… Because Cordelia was the one who understood.
She was the one who understood that the demon was part of his past and that he wasn’t done making up for that, not yet. She understood. And yet it had ended up scaring her off.
“I call it safe,” said Buffy, interrupting his thoughts. “I know you, Angel. I know you’ll let me push you, push what we have until there’s nothing left to push because it’s safe. What we had was… I love you. I’ll always love you. But love… It’s not supposed to be safe. It’s supposed to be scary and messy and worth fighting for.”
“What are you saying?” He asked, turning dark, heavy eyes to hers. He knew, in a way, but… Maybe part of him just needed to hear her say it.
“Go find Cordelia, Angel. Go find your family and go home. I need you out of Sunnydale in case–”
He stopped her there. Stepping forward, he placed a hand on her shoulder and shook his head. “Don’t.” He didn’t say that he knew she’d win this or that he believed in her. She knew. Gently, he slid his fingertips under her chin and let his lips dust over hers, just briefly, knowing what the kiss meant. Goodbye.
He could hear her heart hammering in her chest, smiled. But when he pulled back and Buffy was able to look over his shoulder, Angel realised how much he’d missed while he’d been kissing her. The thump of another heart, the little gasp that left her lips as she saw them. The look on Cordelia’s face when he turned slammed into him like a fist. Or a stake, maybe, and she was already off, bare feet slapping against the wood flooring as she ran down the hall and stairs.
He looked at Buffy, ready to give an apology, but she just shook her head. “Go.”
He almost caught up to Cordelia at the foot of the stairs, called out her name just as she’d grabbed her jacket and slipped through the open door and into the sunlight. He called out again, went to tell her that it wasn’t what she thought, but the words died on his lips when the fist smashed into his face, sending him plummeting to the floor.
“You absolute fucking tosser,” Spike growled, ready to launch at Angel again when a small bundle of blonde energy stepped in front of him.
“Spike, don’t–” She ground out from between gritted teeth, placing a hand on his chest, “And not to get all teen movie of the week on you but it really isn’t what you think.”
Spike frowned. “I’m listening.”
Chapter Four – Making Things Right
She didn’t move for the full afternoon. She sat on a bench opposite her old high school, barefoot, miserable and not even noticing when the tiny rivulets of rain slipping down the neck of her shirt turned into big, fat droplets that crashed from the heavens themselves.
The day had started out well, she remembered, her shoulders drooping. Another heart to heart with Spike, post-same-talk-with Buffy (him, not her) and finally, she thought she was making some progress.
“You’re never gonna get anywhere unless you talk to him, pet,” said Spike, dropping a comforting, friendly arm around her shoulders, “Wise girl once told me that I’d have to spank my inner moppet. Isn’t it about time she started doing the same?”
She’d done that. She’d gone, spanked, and come back a new visiongal, ready to fight for her manpire and what was left of their relationship. She’d even gone to thank Buffy for the brief talk they’d had that morning over breakfast, semi-awkward though it had been. No longer the crazy freak of old, they’d actually laughed about some stuff… Until the lack of snark had got weird and they’d laughed about that too. They weren’t best friends – probably never would be. There was still entirely too much stuff between them to let go of their differences completely but– They were okay.
Buffy was okay and Cordelia had gone to tell her how nice that was (if a little weird) when she’d pushed open her bedroom door and caught them. Kissing.
Four years ago, she’d walked in on that exact same scene, even if the people were a little different. Willow, Xander… Buffy, Angel. Last time, the pain in her heart had been drafted by the one in her stomach, punched through by a rebar. She’d forgotten, almost. Looked at Xander as he climbed down to get her and even almost smiled because at the times when her life really sucked, he was just… There.
She flashed back to that and wished, just for a second, that she had that pain again, that the rebar was sticking through her stomach because even if it had hurt like a bitch? It was better than the cold, awful, numb feeling that had seeped through when she realised what had led her there in the first place.
Kissing. They’d been kissing. She’d thought he was finally moving on, that he was getting over her– They’d been in love, he told her, or at least he thought they’d been– And then Lorne with his stupid memory spell and the memories, God, those memories.
Cordelia blinked, tears intermingling with the rain washing down her face. It wouldn’t be hard for him to find her. All he’d have to do was search, like, three places in Sunnydale – there was still not that much town. But she guessed he was busy. Probably working out details. When to move to Sunnydale, when to break it to Wes and Connor an-and–
Her eyes snapped open, her gaze levelling with Xander’s. She hadn’t even heard the car approaching. “Leave me alone, Xander.”
“Well I would,” he told her, hopping out of the car and getting himself just as wet as she was, “But you’re obviously not yourself,” he started, gesturing down to the distinct lack of shoes, his gaze catching on something before he looked back up, “You’re bleeding.”
She looked down, puzzled, before lifting her foot to see the piece of glass she hadn’t even noticed biting into her foot. “Yeah, well… I didn’t have a rebar to fall on this time.” She said, right before she started to cry.
If there was one thing Cordelia Chase hated most in this world, it was crying. It would have been okay, mostly, considering it was raining outside when she had her little relapse… Except when she got dried at Xander’s her eyes were red-rimmed and sore, a dead give-away for anyone who wanted to know that she was actually human a small portion of the time.
She’d accepted the steaming cup of coffee he’d offered, slid into a pair of sweatpants and a shirt of his with considerable ease. But when he’d looked at her, expecting some kind of explanation, Cordelia shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay,” he’d nodded, sitting back on his sofa to watch her.
He had no right to demand explanations anyway, this had nothing to do with him. Especially not since–
“Is it Angel?”
“Xander.” She warned, her eyebrow arching up.
He held up both his hands in the international signal for surrender, and shook his head, “I’m not interfering. I just like to hear things that cast Dead Boy in a bad light, that’s all.”
“Don’t call him that.” She said, though behind her cup she was smiling. “You never did like him, did you?”
“Not even a little bit.”
His answer was honest, at least. Cordelia wished she’d had the same fortune. If she’d never liked Angel, hell, never met Angel she wouldn’t be here now and– Wait, that wasn’t fair. If she hadn’t met Angel she’d never have met Doyle, would never have inherited the visions, got a family– Almost got her brain blown out the back of her head.
Cordelia sighed. “Why is it that I always fall for the inappropriate ones?” She asked, “Or… The dumb ones? Or the ones that don’t even realise what they have until they’ve screwed it all up and are kissing someone else?” She noticed the flash of unease haunting his face, was even surprised for a moment, until she paved it over with a wave of her hand, “Not you, Xander. I spanked that inner moppet years ago, trust me. I’m talking about Angel…”
She waited for him to start yelling about the unfairness of it all. She knew about his feelings for Angel – she hadn’t needed his earlier answer – but when she was met with silence, it threw her. “What, no witty barb at Angel’s expense?”
He said nothing.
“He’s back with Buffy.” She sighed, feeling the sharp sting of tears that made her eyes blur, “I-I caught them kissing.”
That, at least, got a reaction. Xander stiffened visibly and Cordelia knew he was thinking about the curse. Perfect happiness. It made her wonder, for a moment, if she’d ever be that for Angel. What was it Wesley said? That it was doubtful he’d ever find that with some actress… God, that had been years ago and– Things had changed, hadn’t they? She’d changed.
Angel had changed.
She’d even thought he was moving on for all of five minutes until Sunnydale had happened. Until Buffy. But seeing them like that, she figured that nothing had changed. There was Buffy – strongest girl in the world, being all protected and huddled by just one kiss from Angel. And the lapdog returns, she thought sullenly, gazing down into her cup. It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t hurt this much – she could even pretend she was happy for him… If she didn’t want to scratch Buffy’s eyes out.
“I guess I should be honest with you.”
Xander’s comment drew her gaze back up and Cordelia’s head tilted to one side, her gaze curious. “Honest? About what?” She’d heard the underlying meaning in what he’d said. All he’d left off was the word ‘now’. I guess I should be honest with you *now*.
“I called him.” Xander winced, as if it pained him greatly to say it, “Buffy– She called and asked me if I’d go find you.”
Cordelia just looked at him, not sure whether to smack him over the head with her coffee cup or ask why the hell Little Miss Likes to Fight wanted her found. “You did what?” She asked slowly, exerting control she wasn’t even aware she had as she placed her coffee cup back on his table.
Xander winced again. Being on the receiving end of that eyebrow was something he thought he’d long forgotten. “I-I called him. He’s coming over, Cordy, you guys need to talk.”
“Need to talk,” Cordelia repeated, “Need to talk?! Listen to you! It’s like Spike the Second–” and if her comment about Angel kissing Buffy hadn’t been enough to have him reacting properly? That was, “–dishing out advice to the fucking lovelorn and depressed when you’re poster boy for the ability to screw up relationships yourself. Don’t think I didn’t notice the tension between you and Anya, Xander. What was that? Need to talk about it?” She asked sarcastically, storming into his kitchen and yanking her still wet clothes from the dryer.
Unbelievable, unfuckingbelievable. All week, all she’d had was Spike telling her that she was the one who had to make things right, make Angel see… And now this! Xander! Real poster boy for the fucker upper of relationships telling her that she and Angel needed to talk and– And just who the hell did he think he was, anyway? Like he actually had a say in what happened in her life any more?
“Shut up!” She snapped, yanking off his shirt to replace it with her own, not caring that she was clad only in her bra and a pair of sweats, “Just shut up, Xander. I’ve had just about all I can take from people interfering.” She wasn’t sad any more, just angry. Angry that Buffy had dared to call Xander in on this, angry that she’d thought he was just being nice, offering her a place to dry off. “And since when did you help Angel, anyway? Or did his little brain relapse render him likeable even to you?”
It was a cheap shot and she knew it, but damnit, she was hurting. She pulled on her shirt, abandoned the idea of her pants completely and decided she’d mail his sweatpants back once she was less pissed off, storming towards the door.
It was just testimony to how much life sucked when she found him standing there, mouth open, ready to say something. She didn’t give him time to say anything. Her hand pulled back and Cordelia hauled off, slapping him straight across the face, growing even more angrier when she realised he’d let her do it, hadn’t even tried to stop her.
“Feel better?” He asked, but there was no malice in the comment like there would have been if this had happened last week. There was no mocking or hurtful tone and Cordelia, who was used to that by now, wanted it back.
“Fuck you, Angel.” She snarled, sidestepping him and walking past.
This time, he didn’t let her go. There was no sunlight to stop him, no Spike standing in front of him, practically shoving half his teeth down his throat. There was nothing between them but solid tension, something he was more responsible for than her. “Cordelia, wait.”
She kept going. She got in the elevator outside Xander’s apartment, stabbing the buttons to take her to the first floor and winced as Angel sidestepped the closing doors, getting right in there with her, slamming his hand on the ‘Stop’ button before they’d gone more than a couple of feet.
“What the hell are you doing, Angel?” She demanded, trying to push him out of the way. It was like trying to move six feet of solid stone wall.
Angel simply folded his arms across his chest, levelled his gaze with hers and shook his head. “We need to talk.”
“So I keep hearing,” she murmured, sarcastically, “So, c’mon, talk Angel. Decided who you’re gonna hand the business to yet? Connor gonna follow in Daddy’s footsteps and become the next big thing Champion-wise? What? Or were you too busy kissing Buffy to even make those kinda plans yet?”
He winced at her tone, watched the hurt look on her face and wondered – just for a second – if things had gone too far, if the damage was irreparable. “I’m not… I’m not getting back with Buffy, Cordelia.” He said finally, “What you walked in on–”
“I know damn fine what I walked in on, Angel,” she growled, frustrated by the fact that she couldn’t just walk out on this argument like he’d done so many times, “The only difference was that there was no rebar there to fall on this time.”
The words hung thickly in the air and before Angel could say anything else, she sagged back against the wall of the elevator, the fight she had left fleeting. “I didn’t even want to come down here,” she finished, sighing, “This is Sunnydale; land of the awful screw up where my life is concerned and I wittingly walk back into it because I think, hey, things can’t get any worse can they? Except, newsflash, they did.”
One week… One week and Angel was back with the love of his life which left Cordelia, let’s face it, nowhere. Without Angel she had hardly anything, she realised, and she’d rather have weeks of bickering and awkward glances than that. “Are you going to let me out?”
“No.” He shook his head, “Not until you listen to me.”
“Why, Angel?” She demanded, looking away from him, “So that I can know how much happier you are here? You told me, remember? I think it was our eighth argument… What was it you said? That things were so much easier back in Sunnydale? Well congratulations, you got it, I hope you choke on it.”
He might have laughed then, she’d said what she thought, blunt as always… Except it wasn’t funny. Cordelia was hurt and he had to fix it or else he’d lose her, maybe forever, and Angel wasn’t okay with that. Not okay with that at all. “I’m not getting back with Buffy,” he tried again, “I’m not moving back to Sunnydale. Cordelia…” He stopped then. Stopped as if it hurt him to continue. He stepped in front of her, relinquishing control of the ‘Stop’ button of the elevator. “Would you look at me? Please?”
She did look at him but it wasn’t because he’d said please – wasn’t even because he asked. The tone of his voice was one she hadn’t heard in months, not directed at her anyway. “What?” She sighed, “What do you want from me?”
“Just hear me out, please? I know I don’t deserve it–”
“Damn right you don’t,” she scowled, but she’d given up on trying to get to the damn stop button. What was the point? Angel was like a dog at a bone, she remembered it from when her memories had been scarce at best. He’d been there, lurking, making sure she knew he was there if she needed anything.
“What you saw back there with Buffy and me… It wasn’t… You don’t have anything to worry about,” he said cautiously, “We were talking–”
“You regularly do that with your tongue shoved down her throat?” She bit off.
“Damnit, Cordelia, just listen to me!” He snapped, “You’re acting like a child.”
And that was really too much for one seriously pissed off vision girl to take. “I’m acting like a child?” She gawped, “Me?! You have over two hundred years on me, Angel, two hundred! And yet for the past three months I’ve been the mature one, trying to get you to, like, spank your inner moppet and move on and y’know something? I’m done trying! I said I was sorry. I told you I loved you and that what I saw didn’t matter and you just walked away from me. You walked away, Angel. The minute things get rough you just turn your back and say screw it, forget fighting for the people you care about.”
“I did fight for you,” Angel growled, raking a hand through his hair. This was getting them nowhere.
“But not enough,” said Cordelia, her tone flat, “Not when it mattered. If you love someone, then… Then they’re worth fighting for, no matter how much it hurts.”
He’d already heard that once tonight. Buffy, right around the time she’d told him a few home truths, had said that too in not as many words. And if that was the case then he wasn’t done fighting for Cordelia, he never would be. “I’m fighting now,” he said to her, trying to keep the desperate edge out of his voice. He wasn’t going to force her to stay here but if she went towards that Stop button he couldn’t stop her, not now, “Doesn’t that mean something?”
She looked at him, really looked at him then, and he could see hurt in her eyes. He could see a thousand decisions she’d made, all concerning him and he knew, right then, that she didn’t know. For the first time since he’d known her Cordelia didn’t have the answers and in a way, it was wrong of him to expect her to.
“I blamed you.” He said quietly. “When you got your memories back, after everything that happened, I– You’ve always been the one who made it not matter. It was in my past but you accepted that and when you didn’t…” Angel sighed, “I didn’t know how to deal with that, Cordelia.”
Cordelia made a non-committal sound at the back of her throat and then shook her head. She owed him, at least, a response to that – even if at that moment she didn’t think he deserved it. “I wanted to get past it, Angel. I wanted to tell you so bad that it didn’t matter but–”
Angel shoved his hands in his pockets and stepped back, leaning against the opposite wall of the elevator. “What changed?”
“I had a vision.” She murmured, “And I remembered standing up on that rooftop in our old offices, telling you that the visions were sent for you, not Angelus, and I remembered why I was there too. Everything the Powers had shown me, after that it just didn’t matter, Angel. But I was too late. I’d figured it out too late and all of a sudden you and I weren’t even friends any more. We just– We weren’t anything and I didn’t know how to get back from that.”
Angel swallowed. She’d tried, he knew she had. And every one of her advances, he’d rebuffed, thrown his relationship with Buffy back in her face, just to make her feel a fraction of what he’d felt, how bad he’d felt. It had worked. Only he’d taken it too far. He’d brought her down to Sunnydale, thrown Buffy in her face again, and he’d made it into something else they didn’t know how to deal with, how to get back from. “I’m sorry.” He said quietly, knowing that didn’t even remotely make up for it.
“Me too.” She sighed.
They didn’t make up in the elevator. Cordelia stepped round him to hit the ‘stop’ button again and this time, Angel let her. They went back to Xander’s apartment, got Cordelia’s clothes and drove back to Buffy’s in silence, each of them with a million things to say and neither knowing where to start.
Even Spike couldn’t draw Cordelia out of her funk. She was happy for him, sure, he and Buffy were on the road to recovery – things were going great for the vamp whose shoulder she’d cried on – literally – earlier that morning. He came in as she was packing, leaned against the door to Buffy’s bedroom and asked, in that halting voice of his, “You worked it out yet, pet?”
She turned to look at him, not bothering to hide her scowl, “What do you think?”
“I think…” Spike came forward to stand next to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to him as he pressed a kiss to her temple. “I think you’re gonna be alright. You give that mop-spanking thing far less credit than it deserves.”
Cordelia laughed at that.
A day later while the guys were packing the car, Cordelia stood in front of Buffy, not knowing what the hell to say. “I– Uh, thanks. For letting us stay.” She said, watching as Buffy palmed the back of her neck nervously. “And– Good luck. With the First and all.”
“You, almost speechless,” Buffy mused, “That’s a first.”
A smile lifted the corner of her lips and Cordelia turned, intending on getting the hell out of Sunnydale and never looking back when Buffy’s voice came, nervous-sounding.
“Cordelia?” She waited until the brunette had turned back before speaking again, “Thanks. For coming down here. I know you didn’t want to but…” Her gaze drifted to Spike. Instinctively, Cordelia knew what she was going to say. It was pretty hard to say thank you to someone when you thought you’d ruined their love-life in the process of patching yours up but– Cordelia appreciated it anyway. Spike looked happy. Buffy looked happy. And at least some of the tension between her and Angel was bleeding away. Small steps.
Small, almost non-existent steps, but they’d get there someday. She hoped.
They’d been back in LA a week. A week of mega-uncomfortableness on Cordelia and Angel’s part. Furtive glances between the rest of the gang as they stood, and now, Cordelia was– Well, taking one for the team she guessed. Angel had been miserable for, let’s face it, a not small portion of the time since they’d got back. His lip jutted out so much yesterday that she thought he was going to trip over it and now– Well, it was Friday night. Most social night of the year and the last test Angel had to face.
“Angel Investigations, we hope you’re helpless,” Angel answered the phone in his room after three rings, his voice gruff.
Cordelia let his little faux-pas on the motto slide and let a smile appear on her face. “Hi. It’s me.”
“Cordelia? What’s wrong?”
Okay, so she could improvise. He’d stepped off the intended script a little, but that was okay. “I’m good. You?”
She could hear his puzzlement at the other end of the phone. “I’m– I’m good. Cor–”
“Uhm, Angel? I sort of need to talk to you. In person.” She said, hoping he’d, like, grow a brain and cotton on soon. Running out of patience, here!
“Is it something– Is everything okay?”
Not quite right, but close enough, she smiled, gripping the phone tighter. “No! It’s– It’s something good, I think. Well it sort of depends on how you feel…” And if there was any doubt before he could ask, she went forward, “About me.”
The little intake of breath she heard made her heart skip. She could almost imagine the slow, hopeful smile on his face. She wasn’t just throwing him an olive branch here, she was throwing him the whole damned tree. “Could you meet me tonight?”
“Tonight?” Angel’s voice had become silky smooth, happy. Cordelia felt a little burst of happiness swell inside and burst, showering her with tiny little goosebumps that rose on her skin. “Sure. Okay. Where?”
“I-I’ve always loved Point Dume,” she whispered, biting down on her lip, “There’s a viewpoint…”
“First turn north of Kanan,” Angel took over, “Really pretty spot.” She didn’t have to give him directions tonight. He’d memorised every one down in his watery grave, gone over that conversation thousands of time in his head. He was just about to grab his car keys, head downstairs and drive hell for leather to get to her when he heard a knock at his door. “Damnit, hang on, Cordy.” He growled, yanking open his door and–
And there she stood, looking every bit as beautiful as she had that morning, phone clasped in her hand. “I couldn’t wait.” She admitted, folding the phone closed and giving a tiny little roll of her shoulders, a tiny, almost worried smile. “I-Is this okay?”
Angel folded her in his arms and kissed her, melting away any indecision she might’ve had. “What do you think?”
And if you want to talk about what will be,
Come and sit with me, and cry on my shoulder,
I’m a friend.