And It Goes Like This


AUTHOR: JENAY (aka Jill)
SUMMARY: After turning human in I Will Remember You, Angel decides to give the relationship a try and moves back to Sunnydale. When Doyle perishes, Angel rushes back to see Cordelia, making sure she is alright. After a night of what Cordelia now considers ‘sympathy sex’, Angel flees. Now, a short while later, Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn come to Sunnydale to enlist the help of the Scoobies with their discovery of the “End of Days” prophecy.
RATING: R
POSTED: 16 Nov 2004
CATEGORY: Romance, Suspense, Drama, General
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A with C/D implied, B/A (ending), C/W/G friendship, Willow/Tara (minimal), Xander/Anya (minimal), B/S friendship.
WARNINGS: Sexual Content
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) I watched the episode I Will Remember You just the other day and this idea sprang up.
2) Special Thanks to Lysa, for helping me tremendously with the latter part of the prologue and with her superskills as a beta. She is a goddesss!!! And to Kim and Cammy, my personal cheerleaders.
3) Story Notes from Part One on…
In Los Angeles:
*Wesley was tracking Barney, the Empath Demon (Parting Gifts) from Phoenix and saves Cordelia from having her eyes gouged out.
*Wesley and Cordelia decide together to keep the business open since Cordelia now has visions and Wesley is a “rogue demon hunter”.
*They meet up with Gunn earlier than in canon, while they are investigating “The Ring”. Gunn comes around and eventually joins forces with them.
*They all meet Lorne when Cordelia is attacked by the vision fairy. Lorne gives them the solution which results in Wesley and Gunn breaking into Wolfram & Hart for the Scrolls of Aberjron.
*The Scrolls of Aberjron do not have the Shanshu prophecy in them, but the End of Days prophecy.
*The office does not blow up
*Pylea had not happened.
*The Faith storyline has not happened.

In Sunnydale:
*Buffy has had an affair with Riley Finn, causing her and Angel to have major problems.
*Buffy and Angel have had an on-again, off-again relationship ever since.
*Angel’s beating himself up over leaving Cordelia and finds that he is thinking about the decision and if it was really worth it.
*Spike is chipped thanks to the Initiative and if forming a weird, twisted friendship with the Slayer


Prologue: Things are Changing

1999

Angel stood in the doorway, looking back into the office he had called home for the past six months. The desk that Cordelia occupied was still a mess, papers all over the surface, several pens across them with one sitting atop the computer keyboard ready for any moment of action to sign an invoice of any sort that Cordelia loved to print up. Shifting his gaze over to the worn out couch where newspapers were spread apart, the sports section was folded into fours with red circles all over it marking Doyle’s best guess as to who was going to win the Triple Crown. Doyle would probably never break that habit, it was his thing. No doubt Cordelia would get after him for it too. This was his home and he was going to miss it. He would miss Doyle nagging him about going out on the town or Cordelia’s mid-morning bad coffee and rants about her inevitable stardom that had been put on hold for the moment. There were good memories in this tiny space; a lot of good memories.

There were late nights of researching the newest demon clan that was raising havoc across the city, trying to solve the puzzle on Wheel of Fortune, and getting Chinese takeout for the fourth day in a row. He smiled to himself thinking of the containers downstairs in the fridge when his seer and office assistant came out of the inner office. Doyle’s office now. Cordelia’s office now.

Cordelia had been yelling. Her face was red and she avoided him like she avoided the K-Mart off of 5th Street. She was angry and mad and no matter how he or Doyle tried to explain the situation, she refused to listen and dismissed him all together. Doyle, although more relaxed then the infuriating brunette standing beside him, was mad as well as confused.

“We’ll be seeing you then?” Doyle stuck out his hand with the question lingering in the air. His baby blue eyes made his translucent tears glimmer in the early morning sunlight. Angel accepted his hand, shaking it confidently with poise and a silent promise that he would.

“Cordelia…” Angel started to talk to his link to the world, letting Doyle’s hand go and taking a step forward. She backed up, as expected, her eyes looking downwards and avoiding all physical contact with the former vampire with a soul. “Cordelia, please…”

“No!” She said in a spiteful tone. “Just go.”

Lowering his head, giving up on saying a proper goodbye to her, he backed up and grabbed the last of his suitcases off of the floor. Doyle reached out his hand again and Angel gripped it with more firmness, hesitant about letting go. It wasn’t one of those goodbye-see-you-soon handshakes; it was a handshake that said you’ll-be-back-one-day. It was manly, a friends-until-the-end handshake. One that told him that he had done good here in the City of Angels. Angel let a smirk out of his handsome face, looking back at Cordelia who had retreated back behind the desk again.

“I’ll be seeing you.” He simply said and turned on his heel to go. Although he didn’t see it, he could feel it: Doyle saddened and let the tear slip from his eyes and he could feel Cordelia place her head in her hands, letting the tears fall. It was a sad goodbye and he almost felt like shedding a tear himself, but sucked it up, like a man would. He was a man, after all. Human; he was human, had been for two weeks now with a heartbeat and if he and Buffy were going to work, he needed to make a sacrifice. But this time, after turning in his resignation letter to the Powers and hearing the crack in Cordelia’s voice from that day on, this time it just seemed that the sacrifice was too big. But he was doing this, there was no turning back.

2 Months Later

Los Angeles, California.

“Doyle, this is suicide.” Cordelia begged her best friend and almost boyfriend. She had gotten used to his soothing Irish accent and his saturated blue orbs that joked with her everyday since Angel left just to cheer her up or make her smile. He had even stayed with her in the downstairs apartment when she worked late. She wasn’t done with the closure part and Doyle leaping into the air to save the Lister demon clan from death would just catapult her back into the vegetative state she had just got out of.

“Doyle, please, don’t leave me.” She pleaded, pulling on the edge of his leather jacket so he faced her again. “You just asked me out. How are we supposed to go out and get to know each other and maybe fall madly in love if you jump? How?” She asked melodramatically, evident tears forming in her eye ducts and her chin trembling.

Doyle reached his hand out, cupping her face, knowing what he had to do; he had to take this leap. If he didn’t, the half demons would die, he would die and she would die. His whole mission of atonement would still be going on, he had to take this leap. Pulling her body frame closer to his, his lips finally captured hers. Her soft lips caressed his own, wanting for it to last longer, for it to lead to something else, somewhere else. Feeling the intensity heightening, Doyle broke the kiss off watching the tiny blue light enter her body and morphed into his Braiken Demon form.

“I guess we’ll never know, if this is a face you could love.” Doyle simply put, turning around and dove into the air towards the bright shining ball hovering in the center of the vessel. His screams came and Cordelia covered her eyes to the blinding light that exploded throughout the liner. He was gone. Crouching down on the landing, Cordelia hid her face in her lap, letting the tears go. Angel was gone. Doyle was gone. And she was alone.

University of Southern California Sunnydale
Sunnydale, California

Angel sank to his knees, letting the letter in his hands slip from him to the floor. How was this possible? He had only been gone for two months. He had planned on going to visit in another week or two. He was itching to see them. But he was gone. Died a hero. Left everything to save a few peaceful half-demons; to save her. Her letter had been straight to the point and he could still feel the hostility towards him. Willow rounded the table of the college library, concerned about her best friend’s boyfriend and study partner. One minute they were reviewing Professor Henderson’s notes and the next, Angel was down on the ground.

“Angel?”

“He’s gone.” He stuttered softly, closing his fists in a powerful grip.

“Buffy!” Willow yelled as loud as she could for the Slayer who was about the library somewhere. Willow knew this was a library and the quiet rule was in play, but this was an emergency. Her study partner was paralyzed, frozen in shock of news that she couldn’t begin to imagine. Blonde hair quickly made its way through the circle surrounding the two and Buffy leaned down to where Angel knelt, powerless and on the verge of breaking apart.

“Angel?”

“He’s gone…I…I…”

“Who’s gone?” Buffy’s brow became creased as she picked up the letter lying in front of him. Her eyes darted to the choppy, cursive writing that laid claim to Cordelia Chase and read of the news as Angel revealed his source of shock.

“Doyle. He’s gone.” Angel lifted his brown eyes towards her sage green ones, letting his ego go and the tears running down his cheek. Buffy wiped the stray tears off of his cheek and pulled him into her tiny frame as he wrapped his arms around her slender waist, clutching it tightly like a child to his mother’s leg.

Brushing his hair in between her fingers, Buffy kissed the top of his forehead saying with the utmost compassion, “I’m sorry Angel. I’m so sorry.”

“Cordelia.” He blurted out.

“What?” Buffy stepped back on her heels, a little surprised to the name he called out.

“Cordelia…she’s…she’s…”

“I’m sure she’s fine Angel. She’s a big girl.” Buffy tried to convey, knowing in her heart that she didn’t want him near the girl who had tried to steal him away in the first place.

“But…”

“Come on Angel, let’s go home.” Buffy stood up, reaching for his hand and with one full grasp, lifted him up on his feet and wrapped her arm around him, steadying his uneven and shaken gait.

“Home.” He looked down to her innocent face.

“Yea, let’s go home.” She offered a faint smile and took the first stride towards the exit of the library. She motioned towards Willow to gather the books up and bring them when she could. His healing was going to take some time. She held onto him with a grip, sending a silent, sympathetic message from her to him, promising him that she would be right by his side.

Los Angeles, California
Ten Days Later

She stood in the kitchen with his brown leather jacket draped over her slumped shoulders. The kitchen was cold and damp and empty. And it smelled. It smelled like him. The jacket was the major source of his tacky cologne, only bought to impress her, but the kitchen smelled of lavender and rosemary. He had cooked a meal for her not two weeks ago and the herbs still lingered in the air. He had stayed in the apartment with her night after night after night following Angel’s exit.

Cordelia closed her eyes shut, holding back the tears she knew would come if she dare open them again. What she wouldn’t do for Angel right now. Even if it was someone to cling to, to cry with, someone who knew what she was going through. He knew……or did he? It had been ten days since she wrote to him and told him the depressing and heart wrenching news of Doyle’s demise and Angel still had not called, come back or even written to see if she was okay or dealing for that matter.

She had been standing in the same place now for forty-five minutes and it felt longer. She couldn’t take this much longer; she would break if anything else happened. She thought it best to stay right were she was, so nothing would change; everything would start the same and be the same until she opened her eyes. Change was bad. It made people go away, people that she cared about, people that she loved and she didn’t want anymore of that.

The noise of the elevator jolted her out of the thoughts of self pity but her eyes remained closed, not wanting the change to come her way again. It stopped. The elevator stopped, crashed to a halt. Crashed. Bad word, Cordelia. No crashing, no crashing, no crashing…

“No crashing, no crashing, no change, change is bad. Constant is good…” She whispered to herself, reminding her mind of the loneliness that would become her.

“Cordelia?” The man’s voice ran of familiarity but she kept her eyes closed. Two months, ten days. That’s how long ago she had heard that voice. His famous last words still rang in echo throughout her mind, I’ll be seeing you. She closed her eyes tighter, bringing her hands up to her face to wipe away the stray tears away from her already blotchy face. His hand moved across the bare of her arm, soothing it and her. His touch was warm. Something she hadn’t expected to feel. She was cold, freezing actually.

“Oh my God, you’re freezing.” His voice resonated in her ears again. “We need to get you into bed, warm you up.”

“I…I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because that means I have to change…” Her soft words came out. “I don’t want to change.” She cried even more melodiously, her eyes opening little by little and shutting close again. Angel let his fingers run down her jaw line, tracing the curve of her mouth and cupping her chin.

Pulling her face up to look at it, he called out to her. “Look at me. Cordelia, look at me.”

Gradually opening her eyes, the tears escaped and strolled down her cheek. Each falling teardrop, filled with the pain of her loss, tugged at his heart. Angel wiped them away until his thumbs were moist with her tears and he was drowning in the anguish glistening in her eyes. Another dewdrop tear caught on her lashes, hanging for an instant before splashing against her cheek. Before he was consciously aware of his own actions, Angel touched his lips to her face, kissing the salty tears away.

One by one, he fought off the onslaught of her tears, caught up in the desperate need to console her, to make her pain disappear. His kisses wandered, no longer targeting tears that had suddenly ceased, but continuing with butterfly softness against her temple, her forehead, the curve of her brow. Each little peck arousing him by the minute and enticing her by the second.

“Angel…” Cordelia gasped his name, drawing attention to her lips. At that moment, he only felt the heat rise and gave into temptation, capturing her lips with his. A sympathy kiss, that’s all it was intended to be. The kiss was salty, moist and sensual. Far beyond the boundaries of comfort.

Cordelia wasn’t thinking, just reacting as she dropped Doyle’s jacket onto the kitchen chair and wound her arms around Angel’s neck to press closer. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew this wasn’t supposed to happen this way, but her body was saying something entirely different, she wanted this; she needed this.

Any final hesitation on Angel’s part ended when Cordelia slipped her hands beneath his jacket and pushed it off his shoulders. He caught it before it hit the floor, tossing it onto the table and never left the kiss for a moment.

They had made it to the brick doorway leading into his old bedroom that she, every now and then, occupied. Pausing in the threshold, Angel combed his fingers through her long chestnut hair and leaned into her body, fingers tailing down her curves to the edge of her sweater. Their kiss broke only for the moment it took to peel the sweater over her head. He stared down at her face, now flush with arousal and felt his loins thicken with need.

Capturing her mouth again with his own, Angel moaned deep at the sensation of her hands pulling his shirttails loose from the waist of his pants and sliding underneath. The most she kissed him back and the more she teased his tongue, playing the game of catch me if you can in his mouth, the faster he was losing any sense of control he thought he possessed.

She pulled back first, yearning for a much needed breath and stared up at his dark chocolate irises, seeing the temptation light up like a disco ball at homecoming. They stood there in the doorway staring at each other, catching their breath and both wondering if they should go on or not.

Cordelia crossed her arms over the curves exposed by her black lace bra, reacting automatically as his hot gaze dipped down to discover their hidden secrets. Plucking up her courage and deciding to go with the flow, she moved her hands to his chest, sliding along the dark material and feeling her way across the hard contours of muscle beneath. One by one, she thumbed the buttons through their holes, exposing more and more of his torso until his shirt dangled at his sides.

Her feathery touch continued, daring to slip beneath the edge of his pants as if reluctant to stop, until her fingers found the indentation of his belly button. A jovial giggle welled up in her throat at her discovery. Angel was an inney, how about that?

“Okay, enough of that.” Angel said, as her thumb circled his navel teasingly..

“Yea. Sorry, I guess we just…” She started but was stopped as his mouth found her lips again. She lifted her arms up above his head and around his neck, a natural reflex that she hadn’t used in forever. His lips were sensual and lovely and Cordelia couldn’t help but get swept away once again. He broke the kiss up, leaving little pecks between the breaths they took together. Trailing his lips down her neck, his teeth made like he was going to bite her and his tongue making circles, stirring her senses and making every nerve in her body quiver with need.

“The bed, Angel, the bed,” She panted between kisses, reminding him of the nice warm bed that was just a few feet away. The silk sheets were still there, pillows mounted up against the headboard, and the comforter was pulled down giving the impression that Sleeping Beauty hadn’t left the castle in a while. Angel walked her back to the edge of the bed, not letting his lips leave her golden skin that shimmered at any glimpse of light.

Cordelia stumbled onto the bed, desire shining in her eyes as she stared up at him. Popping up on her elbows, her hair curled over her shoulders and against the coverlet. With her feminine figure was stretched out and waiting for him, Angel could only stare back. Those were womanly curves under her stonewashed jeans and Angel wanted to explore every inch of flesh beneath them. His body throbbed at the thought of her completely naked in his arms.

Fiddling with his belt, Angel somehow managed to unbuckle it. Boots and socks hit the floor, quickly followed by his pants, leaving him stark naked. Controlling his urge to pounce, he stood there just long enough for Cordelia’s hungry gaze eat up the sight of him. A sensual smirk quirked the corner of his mouth as her eyes widened in awe, her lips forming a soft circle of surprise as she focused on his arousal.

Caught staring, Cordelia darted her eyes back up to Angel’s amused face, lustful delight lightening his handsome features. Licking her lips in anticipation, she scrambled further onto the bed, her eyes beckoning him to follow. Her racing heart caught in her throat as she watched Angel’s seductive crawl up the length of the bed.

The jagged sound of her zipper pierced her ear drums, causing her emotions to run wild and her body to jerk into action. Arching her back, she clung to Angel’s frame as he slowly pulled her pants down and off of her body, her tennis shoes and socks going with them. Angel inched his way back up, meeting his lips with hers.

Moving his hands up the length of her legs, he felt the buttery softness of her skin. He had every intention of letting his fingers follow every curve and relished in the sensation of her skin against his mouth as he followed the trail forged by his fingers. These were curves that he longed for on Buffy’s body. She didn’t have the kind of feminine figure a man could easily hold onto when making love. Both were slender, but compared to Cordelia, Buffy was a stick.

Angel lured her back and laid her flat on the mattress, brushing his lips across her neck and trailing down to the rim of her lacey bra. He took it in his teeth and tried to pull it down and off, teasing her and making her laugh at his effort. Taking his hands and slowly pulling them under her arched back, he unhooked the contraption and let it fall loose around her breasts.

Letting the straps lay against the bare, glistening skin of her arm, Angel slipped his arms from around her upper body and slowly, seductively pulled one strap down. He teased her skin with kisses along every millimeter he uncovered. Cordelia’s hands slid impatiently across his shoulders, growing anxious for the attention of his mouth. Finally, she grabbed the bra and flung it across the room, leaving him laughing at the move until her fingers skimmed over the turgid tips of her breasts.

His soft moan echoed hers as his lips started to trail again; down her neck, delicate pecks only made her body crave more. He kissed down her neck, her upper chest and finally reached their destination: her breasts. Cupping the tender mounds in his hands, he lowered his mouth to it, his moist lips leaving an impression upon her luminous skin. His tongue skidded across the shaded nipple that reminded Angel of the black cherries he enjoyed, teasing her in every effort.

“Angel…” Cordelia gasped, begging him to do more. She wanted this. She wanted it. She didn’t care if this was out of sympathy or rage or if it was just for one night, she needed this; needed him. It was one less day that she didn’t have to worry about tomorrow; one less day that she would be lonely.

Kissing the tip of her nose and looking into her honey-hued eyes, he somehow found the strength to ask, “Are you sure?”

Nodding her head yes was all the affirmation Angel needed as he entered her, sliding slowly to prolong the coupling, easing into her tight heat. He was so focused on not losing it right then and there that he almost missed Cordelia saying, “But I have to tell you…”

“Sssh…” he whispered his assurances, looking deep into her eyes and watching the apprehensiveness gleam in her golden orbs. He thrusted slowly, until their bodies were fully joined, felt her clutching him with her arms and legs as her breath caught in her throat. It released on a tiny moan as he pulled back, his hips moving into the cradle of her thighs as their awkward moves suddenly shifted into a slow, steady rhythm.

His hands and mouth brought more pleasure as their bodies rocked together. Angel making sultry and steamy love to Cordelia. She was beautiful, he thought to himself as he watched the beads of sweat bubble atop her forehead. Leaning in, Angel captured her lips again and was met with a kiss of equal intensity, wanton desire flaming between them.

~*~*~*~*~

She laid her arm across his chest, her fingernails tapping against the hard surface of his pectorals and let a deep breath out. He was breathing as well, his chest moving up and down with the same rhythm of hers.

“What was that for?”

“What?”

“The breath.”

“Oh, nothing.” She said, excusing herself from having this conversation that involved her bringing up his girlfriend’s name.

“Yea, right. You can tell me.” He assured her, the brunette hair messy atop her head straining his view of a face of a woman who was satisfied.

“Before, when you shushed me…I was going to tell you…” Cordelia stopped, repositioning herself in the bed, clutching the sheets to her bare skin and looking straight at Angel. “This was my first.”

“Your what?”

“My first time. This was my first time.” She revealed, letting her back slouch against the headboard. His eyes popped open as she saw him gulp back the shock of her revelation. “I knew I shouldn’t have.” She said, clutching the sheets closer and tugging them with her as she moved to get out of the bed. His hand caught her shoulder just before her feet reached the ground.

“Wait, I’m sorry. That’s just quite a shock.”

“Why? Is it so hard to believe that I was holding out for the right guy?”

“Is that what I am to you, the right guy?” Angel asked as she turned around in the bed again, facing him head on.

“No…I don’t know Angel.” She said, letting her head dip down and her eyes closing on the situation. His hand moved from her nude shoulder and traveled to her face, cupping her jaw line and tracing his finger over to her lips. He moved in and kissed her. Longing for more all over again, he deepened the kiss and abruptly cut it off, leaving her frozen in the moment.

“I can’t stay.” He whispered, hating every sound of those three words. She hated them too. They were the words she knew were coming, but still didn’t want to hear.

“Buffy?”

“Buffy.” He confirmed, letting his hand trail down her exposed back, loving the smoothness of her skin against his palm. Lowering her head a bit more, Cordelia avoided his gaze once again, not wanting to hear any more reasons why he needed or wanted to go. It just proved that she was meant to be alone. She could compare herself to Angel’s prior self. A warrior, a faceless champion of the hapless human race destined to be alone. She didn’t consider herself a warrior or a faceless champion of the hapless human race, she was far from it. But the latter, the destined to be alone part was right up her alley.

Angel leaned back into the headboard, Cordelia following his lead and laying down beside him and raised her arm, letting it rest on his chest again. Quiet moments lingered around them and allowed them to let them wonder. Wonder about the things of impossibility. Wonder about if their dreams and hopes came true, what would become of them, what would happen to this night.

~*~*~*~*~

Morning came all too soon as Cordelia fluttered open her eyes to the streams of light bursting its way through the blinds. Her head was flat against the mattress and now no one could call her the pillow-hog again, as Harmony did one time after a sleep over in her old Sunnydale home. She stirred under the sheets, flipping herself all the way over and expecting to find Angel by her side. But instead there were just pillows.

There was no letter, no man. Change. She hated change. He went back to Buffy, like she knew he would. After all, he would always be the Slayer’s boy toy. Cordelia sat up in the empty bed, clutching the sheets and comforter to her chest. She was left alone. All alone. Again.
Part One

7 Months Later

The modern day Nancy Drew and her sidekick Joe Hardy flew down the alley, trying to dodge the bullets fired from the vampire assassins. The bullets ricocheted off of the dirty and dingy dumpsters and brick walls of the alleyway behind Caritas. You would think that just borrowing a few potions from Wolfram & Hart’s vault wouldn’t call out this much of a firing squad, but then again they weren’t exactly borrowing the potions. Cordelia kept up with her partner in crime, Charles Gunn, the badass vampire hunter that had come to work with her and Wesley a couple of months ago, but soon her feet were aching and she was falling behind. Damn shoes!

“Did they stop?” she asked breathlessly as they crouched down behind one of the many stinky, icky and gooey dumpsters.

Gunn poked his bald head out of the side, looking around to see if the coast was clear yet. It appeared to be, but he wasn’t taking any chances. Not again. The last time he had left her to check, she’d had a run-in with the vision fairy causing her admittance and long hospital stay to the neuropsychiatry ward at Los Angeles General Hospital.

“Gunn, is it clear?” she asked again, pulling on his jacket and forcing him to answer her.

“Don’t know.”

“Either it is or it isn’t, Gunn.”

“Appears to be, but…”

“That’s good enough for me.” Cordelia said, standing up behind the dumpster and started to walk out into the alley.

“Barbie! You get your white ass back here now!” Gunn yelled at her, pulling her back behind the dumpster. He didn’t want to argue with her now, they couldn’t afford it.

“Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Bullets. Target in plain sight.” Gunn sarcastically said, latching onto her arm so she wouldn’t go all superhero on him again. “We have to wait.”

“For what, the sun to come up? That’s five hours! I don’t think so!” Cordelia yanked her arm out of his grip and walked off again, not bothering to check if the alley was clear, but then wished she had when she ran straight into the gunslinger, or at least one of them.

She looked up into his bright gold eyes and just smiled, knowing that this would be the best part of her whole evening.

“Hi.” she said, doing what she did best: flirt. She flirted her way straight into the demon’s heart. Literally. Batting her eyes and licking her lips, she flaunted what she had. Biting on her lower lip, she traced her index finger from the corner of his collared shirt down to the button trail, stopping at the third unbuttoned button. “Did you know that you had something on your shirt?”

The demon looked down, taking the bait like a fish and felt the sharp point of wood go through his undead body. His body immediately crumpled, leaving nothing but dust in his place on the floor of the cold alley. She could feel that there were more. It was a weird feeling that she was just starting to get used to. Maybe it was all apart of her new vision package but she didn’t know and didn’t want to stick around in an alley thinking about it at the moment.

Before she could turn around and start fighting off the rest of the assassins, Gunn swooped in like some big strapping hero, staking most of them and pushing her out of the way for her own safety. She hated when he did that. Staking vampires was the one thing she’d learned in Sunnydale and he knew that she could handle herself. Well, most of the time. Vampires weren’t exactly the only demons they’d run into here in Los Angeles, but her only other claim to demon killage was that empath demon using a deadly horn.

Gunn pushed her down the alley, running along the way and not bothering to look back and see if there were more following them.

“This is all your fault!” Gunn yelled at the young seer.

“My fault! How is this my fault? I wasn’t the one with the idea of breaking into Wolfram & Hart!”

“No, that was Wes.”

“So blame him, not me!”

“Barbie, shut up!” Gunn grabbed hold of her upper arm and with a forceful yank, pulled her into the back door to Caritas otherwise known as their own private entrance. Before she could yell even more, he pushed her towards the main lobby of the bar that they had been coming to for a while now. Gunn stopped to take a much needed breath and pointed over to the dark booth that had also been claimed theirs, where Wesley sat with the scroll spread all over the table.

“Hey Joe, bite me.” Cordelia said in her smart tone as her hair flipped to the side and she walked off, leaving him at the bar to catch his much needed breath.

Cordelia and Gunn approached the booth, praying that he had found something, anything to help them out. Gunn pounded his fist on the table to alert the deep-in-thought rogue demon hunter to their arrival and to snap him out of his trance.

“Oh, hello. Back so soon?” Wesley perched his head up to see that his colleagues had returned from their mission.

“Cut the crap. Anything?” Gunn asked as Cordelia slid in beside Wesley, reaching into her shoulder bag and taking out the potions plus her pain killers.

“Still hurting you?” Wesley asked, trying to avoid Gunn at all costs.

“Tell us now, or they’ll be hurting you.” Cordelia threatened, gulping two of the horse pills down her throat. She wanted this to end; all of it: the pain, the visions, and the endless nights with no sleep and of course, the “End of Days”.

“Nothing new. Just the same thing. The vampire will give in and the end of days will start.”

“Did it happen to mention vampires who use guns? How stupid is that, they could just bite us if they wanted us dead.” Cordelia smartly said, thinking of how stupid vampires using guns really was. Putting her fingers up to her temples and massaging slowly, she tried to relieve the headache that she still had from her lingering vision. The headaches were becoming worse and were dragging on longer as time went by. She had found that Doyle used their first and only kiss to pass on the migraines, the horror movies and the drinking problem onto her.

The pain never stopped. In the in between times when she wasn’t watching The Exorcist or Freddy vs. Jason in her mind, she saw the Hardy Boys going at it, bickering about the simple things in life, like what they should get for lunch of better yet, what their agency should be called. After three weeks of fighting over it, Cordelia decided to pull rank and name it herself. CWG Investigations, respectively, had picked up where Angel Investigations left off along with the freaky cases and the awful night hours.

“How much time do we have Wesley?”

“Well, it doesn’t say for sure. After the…”

“Wesley, give us a ballpark. How much time?”

“I don’t know. That’s what I’ve been trying to decipher but, I’m afraid we need someone a bit more qualified.”

“More qualified?” Cordelia asked, setting down the attractive potions that her and Gunn had stolen from the Wolfram & Hart vaults hidden deep in the basement. They were pretty. They were supposed to stop the “End of Days” as the prophecy said. A blue liquid sparkled in the dim lighting of the dark booth in one vile and in the other was a yellow-golden liquid that looked more like goop than champagne, as Gunn compared it to back in the vault.

Wesley let his spectacles fall off of his face and placed them on the table, rubbing his eyes of the strain and looked over at Cordelia. Before Wesley could get one syllable out of his mouth, she cut him off again.

“Are you talking about what and who I think you’re talking about? The vamp…man who left me right after…” Cordelia avoided saying his name aloud. She didn’t want to see him. Scratch that, she wanted to see him, but not in Sunnydale, not when he would be permanently attached to the Slayer’s waist and was at her every beckon call. Sure, the prophecy concerned him, had happened because of him, but she was in no way wanting to see him.

“That’s not the expert I was referring to. But you will have to see him, Cordelia. I’ve no doubt about that.”

“And there’s no other way or option?” Cordelia asked, taking a drink of the vodka that Lorne had brought over for her moments earlier. She prayed silently that there was and as Wesley nodded his head, she smiled big, hoping that they could accomplish the other way. But once he said the other option aloud, she opted for Sunnydale. The mere thought about time jumping back a couple of million centuries ago was horrifying and her smile disappeared. She wasn’t on the bandwagon for going back in time and neither were they.

Cordelia looked at her partners in crime and eventually gave in, knowing this was the only way that they were going to prevent and survive the “End of Days.”

~*~*~*~*~

The back of Wesley’s Jeep was not comfortable at all and you know the stereotype of how everyone English is supposed to be proper and neat, well Wesley was anything but. Dirty sweaters, bags from fast food places and old newspapers crowded the floor and crunched beneath her feet causing her to forgo any plans of sleep that she may have had planned for this trip. Plus, Gunn’s awful singing voice was not helping either.

Cordelia lifted her head from the cushioned seat and sat up, wiping her eyes of the exhaustion they and her body had racked up. She watched the dark road before them realizing that there was no turning back. They were headed to the one place that she didn’t want to go. Sure, Sunnydale had been a big part of her life, I mean, she grew up here but she didn’t want to come back. She had moved on, went on to better things. She had changed. Cordelia cringed at the thought of even thinking of that word. Plus, seeing him, Angel, again wouldn’t exactly put a big million dollar smile on her face either. He had left her right after they had sex and didn’t even call afterwards. But then again, he was a man and men did that and the fact that he was on Miss Likes-to-Slay’s leash was also a factor.

Cordelia blinked her eyes and stared out the window at the darkened road. She didn’t want to do this, but she knew if she wanted to live past her twenty second birthday, then she had to do this. They passed the welcome sign and Cordelia started to recognize the street that they were driving on. Houses that looked like mini castles were lined up all in a row, all of them reminding her of her high school days where she used to brag about living in a home like this. But then again, the house she lived in wasn’t a home. She was more at home in the Jeep with her Hardy Boys than she had even been in Sunnydale. She was more at home back in Los Angeles with the ghost that took care of her and was there, promising never to leave. Of course he couldn’t, but that was beside the point.

They reached the end of the street and as soon as Wesley turned the corner onto the next street, she saw the headlights behind them again. The car had been following them since the last gas station and Cordelia’s instinct went into play.

“Wesley…”

“Yes, Cordelia.”

“We’re being followed.” She alerted him, prompting Gunn to stop his singing and turn his head while Wesley checked his rear view mirror, slowing the car down as he did.

“She’s right.” Gunn confirmed, turning his head back around.

“She’s always right.” Wesley paused, pulling his eyes back to the road. “Cordelia, you remember the alleys here?”

“I’m gonna have to, aren’t I?” Cordelia asked, biting her lip with the lack of anticipation that was amounting in her body and mind. Wesley’s beady eyes behind his frames looked back at her through the mirror and told her the answer was yes. “I should, I mean, if I got one thing out of dating Xander Harris it was a map of the alleys when we were sleuthing with the Slayer.” Cordelia said, letting an oh-what-the-hell sigh out of her tired body.

Wesley pulled to the side of the road, shutting the engine off as the car past them slowly. They didn’t get a good look at the driver or the passengers; all they knew was that they needed to get out of the car and to Giles quickly, before anything more happened.

As they climbed out of the Jeep, each of them with a bag in their hand or over their shoulder, they realized that they had thought too soon about losing the car in the streets of Sunnydale. The car came back around with two men leaning out of the windows, pointing rifles straight at them.

They didn’t have to think about their course of action as they ran for their lives into the tiny passageway that was nearest to them. Cordelia could hear doors opening and slamming behind them and she ran faster as she came out of the passage into a clearing and was nearly run over by Gunn and Wesley.

“Come on Barbie, let’s go! We gotta go!” Gunn huffed, turning his head back towards the alley they had just come out of and urged her to pick one of the alleys.

“Hold on Joe! I gotta think!”

“Not the best time for you to be thinking, Nancy.” Wesley added, following Gunn’s gaze to locate their pursuers.

“Cordy!”

“Okay, okay. This way.” Cordelia said, pointing to the left alleyway and ran towards it. The assassins were gaining ground on the three gumshoes and they needed to find shelter quick it they were going to survive the night. She turned right this time and whirled her head around, making sure that Wesley and Gunn were with her. And they were, thank God.

She looked around her surroundings and recognized the street. This was Main Street. This was where she used to drink coffee with her old friends and where she would walk home with the Scoobies after a night at the Bronze. She was thinking too much. Shaking her head of the recollection she saw the illuminating light up ahead and ran towards it. The Magic Box’s sign was bright and it seemed to be the only business open on the usually bust street this time of night.

“Here!” She yelled to alert the guys. Cordelia grabbed a hold of the doorknob and flew into The Magic Box, alerting the patrons and workers to their arrival. Cordelia leaned up against the door and let her breath out, relieved that they had found shelter. She opened her eyes back up and took a look around the store and although she had expected to see him during her visit, she wasn’t expecting to see him this soon.

“Angel.” she sighed as he moved forward a step and just stared.

“Cordelia…” he responded back, equally amazed that she was standing in front of him.

“Cordy!” Gunn pulled her attention back to the assassins and shushed her, listening to the footsteps become louder and the voices became clearer. Peeking out the window, Gunn could see the assassins surround the entrance and lift their rifles towards the store. “Everyone get down!”

Cordelia huddled closer to Gunn and wished it all gone. This was not the way that she wanted to come back to Sunnydale and definitely not the way that she wanted to reacquaint herself with the Scoobies and Angel. She remained close to Gunn, hidden from the bullets but the windows didn’t and neither did part of the door.

“Is it over yet?” Cordelia whispered, directing the question mainly towards Wesley and Gunn.

“Yea, for now.” Gunn answered pulling her up off the ground with him and making sure she was safe and bullet free. Wesley still sat on the floor and held his hand to his side as the blood seeped through the slits of his fingers.

“Okay, Wesley. Hold on. Just hold on.” Cordelia crouched down again next to his side and checked the wound. It wasn’t deep but it caused enough pain for Wesley to stay down. Cordelia scolded herself for letting this happen to him, she couldn’t lose him. She wasn’t going to lose anyone else.

Looking back to where she first spotted Angel and most of the Scoobies, she pinpointed Giles out of the bunch and immediately called to him. “Giles! First Aid now!”

~*~*~*~*~

Peroxide hissed and sizzled as Cordelia held the soaked gauze to Wesley’s wound on his torso and watched as he flinched. The random bullet that was no lodged somewhere in one of the bookshelves, nicked a piece of Wesley’s torso and caused it to bleed, prompting the seer to bring out the part time nurse in her. Wesley flinched again as she pressed the gauze closer to the laceration, this time letting the “owww” out of his system.

“Suck it up.”

“You try having a wound like this. It hurts and you’re not helping any.”

“Been there, done that,” she commented, taking out some clear gauze and tape from the first aid kit and making a bandage for his wound. Cordelia could feel the Scoobies gazes on them and she didn’t blame them. It was still a mystery to her why she went along with this plan. Right now, time jumping a million years didn’t seem so bad.

She took a seat next to Wesley, closed her eyes and took a deep breath, the pictures of the night’s events rerunning in her mind. Gunn waltzed back into the store, nodding towards them, silently telling them that the coast was clear. At least for now it was.

“Not to rush you or anything, but will somebody please explain to me why my front windows are now missing and you are back in Sunnydale?” Giles raised the question, whipping his glasses off his face and taking out his handkerchief to wipe them off.

“Oh, sorry about that man. We’ll find a way to replace them. By the way, I’m Charles Gunn.” Gunn reached out his hand to introduce himself, but Giles didn’t bite. Shrugging it off, Gunn motioned to Cordelia for her bag. Reaching into the raggedy shoulder bag that Cordelia had had since her move to Los Angeles, he pulled out the bronze plated tube and handed it to the Slayer’s watcher. “And this is why we’re here. It’s what everyone is after.”

“Why are they after this…and you?” Giles asked as he took the tube from Gunn’s outreached hand and unraveled the scroll inside.

“We stole it. Had too. It was a matter of life and death.” Gunn stated, looking straight at Cordelia. That was when the trip down memory lane began: the hospital, the medicine pumping through her veins making her a vegetable, the breaking into Wolfram & Hart’s vault all to save Cordelia. And in his and Wesley’s mind, it was all worth it.

“And while we had it in our possession, we uncovered something a little more serious.” Wesley announced, twisting his body around to face Giles as he rolled out the scroll and started to read the tiny Hebrew mixed with Tuscan and Latin languages.

“What did you find?” Angel then peeped up, breaking his concentrated gaze on Cordelia. He had always thought of her as beautiful, but at the moment with her chestnut hair falling just about her shoulders and blocking a part of her face and of course seeing her just in just plain blue jeans and a worn out tee shirt made her even more beautiful.

He had always felt guilty about leaving her that night, the reason being even more boggling than he would like to about. If he had known that Buffy would do the same, having a three month long public affair with Riley Finn, he probably would’ve stayed. He should’ve stayed. Their on-again, off-again relationship was getting old and tiresome. They only reason that he or Buffy did it was for the human touch, the sex. That was the only reason nowadays. Right now they were on the ‘off’ mode, but tomorrow would probably be a different story, a different reason.

Angel kept an eye on Cordelia and watched as her honey highlighted chestnut ahri swooped from behind her ear to in front of her face. He found himself thinking of that night. It was the first time in a long time that he had felt…anything. Love, want, desire. He felt those things with Cordelia. He didn’t feel those things with Buffy, not anymore.

“The what?” Giles inquired again after Wesley, Gunn and Cordelia had voiced the problem at hand.

“The End of Days,” Gunn repeated as Cordelia got up and walked straight up to Angel, staring right back at him with the hurt and anger in her eyes.

“Ring any bells?”
Part Two: I never liked you anyway

“I can not believe this,” Buffy shook her head in disbelief at what was before her: another apocalypse. Like things couldn’t get worse. Why was this happening now and why did Queen C, of all people, know about it before her.

“Buffy, would you just listen?” Angel raised his voice intensely, so that the inner circle of the Scoobies could enjoy that silence that they took for granted. The Slayer had been babbling off and on since she got back from patrolling, with Spike no less.

“Listen…to Cordelia Chase?” Buffy had to clarify if she heard him right. He was standing up for a girl he hadn’t seen or talked to since some time last year.

“Yes. Cordelia Chase.”

“No,” Buffy frankly put, sitting on the bench beside the table and tossing her stakes aside.

“No?” Cordelia interjected, wishing to get a word into the heated conversation.

“That’s right, Cordelia, no. I’ve got school, demons, Angel, Spike and oh yeah, my sister is a key; a big ball of universal energy that may explode at any time, day or night. So, no, my sister comes first.”

“Look, this…”Angel snatched the scroll from the table and waved it in her face, “this is real.” He paused, placing the cylinder back on the table and looking between the two.

Cordelia smacked his arm away and stepped through the invisible barricade between them. Things had to be said and she sure as hell didn’t need a man, if she could call him that, in her way. Her old Queen C attitude needed to be unleashed.

“I don’t need you standing up for me Angel. I’m not that scared little girl that you left seven months ago!” Cordelia snapped at him, meaning every word and hoping they would hurt him as much as he hurt her by leaving that night. Turning her attention towards Buffy, she geared up for a speech that she herself wasn’t prepared to give. “Look, I know you don’t want to believe me or Wes or this prophecy but it’s true. It’s so true.”

“Why should I believe you? You’ve did nothing but made my life a living hell.”

“Buffy, you live on the Hellmouth! And get over yourself. You are not the only supernatural being here and you are definitely not the only one affected by this,” Cordelia paused, looking over to Angel again and seeing that the truth was finally coming out. “I am not going to stand here and justify myself to you. All you need to do is read.” Cordelia picked up the entire scroll that Giles had unraveled on top of the table and tossed it towards her.

“I don’t care if you like me or not, but there are bigger things happening here than you getting your way!” Cordelia backed away, walking back to the other side of the confided research space and grabbing another book, anxious to find out something more about the prophecy.

She couldn’t stand it. For as long as she had known Buffy, and that seemed like forever, she had always gotten her way. But this time it would be different; this time Cordelia would get her way which meant the “End of Days” turned to just days and Angel.

Why did that come to mind? She really hadn’t thought about if she wanted him back in her life or not. She was happy with her life; she had three heroes standing with her even though Lorne was still deciding if he wanted to play detective with them or not.

She now had Dennis too. The friendly phantom had kept her company at night, letting her watch all her bookmarked programs on television when she was around to enjoy them. She liked that about him but Dennis couldn’t fill that empty place in her bed like Angel had.

Hating that empty feeling that overcame her when she went to sleep at night, she wanted to feel the warmth again like that night she slept in the arms of an Angel, literally. And when she looked at Angel now, with honey hues streaming rivers through his russet eyes, that feeling came back and left chills in her spine.

Cordelia popped out of her thoughts when the bronze tube hit the table, thrown by the hands of the Slayer.

“This, really, doesn’t concern me,” Buffy said condescendingly towards her old acquaintance. She was still in denial and she wasn’t going to believe anything Cordelia said. “And I don’t have to listen to this. I have more important things to worry about.”

“I understand, Buffy, but this does concern you.” Wesley poked his head from behind a book and informed her. “Have you ever heard of the Oracles?”

“What?” Buffy started on another outburst.

“Just answer the question Buffy.” Giles urged her, standing from his corner of the store. “Answer the question,” he insisted, his fatherly tone surrounding her and the other parties involved.

Buffy turned her attention back to Wesley and answered him, feeling Giles’ gaze still upon her. “No.” Buffy flipped her hair back and placed her hands on her hips secretly wondering why she was going along with this and answering her ex-watcher’s question.

“But Angel has,” Wesley notified the whole lot of them.

“So?” Her sassy attitude was on the verge of coming out again.

“The Oracles were…” Wesley prolonged the facts from coming out right away as he stepped near his old acquaintances and adversaries, stopping in front of Angel, who took it from there.

“The Oracles are the ones who told me that I was human,” he explained. “They’re a link to the Powers…like Doyle.”

“Like I am,” Cordelia whispered under her breath, so only Gunn who was sitting next to her would hear.

Wes turned around as he heard the trail of her soft voice linger. “What was that Cordy?”

“I was just saying that um…”

Joe Hardy also known as just Gunn piped and stood up for one of his best friends and seer. “Refocus back on the key word here people: were…was…had been…whatever,” He paused between the words, not sure which one to use. “The Oracles were killed and the only link to the Powers we have is…” Gunn’s voice trailed off like Cordelia’s had as Wesley cleared his throat, reminding him of their promise to Cordelia: don’t tell anyone. It was her thing; she didn’t want anymore to know about the visions unless the Powers wanted them to know. Wesley and Gunn argued with her for a bit, but lost to the stubbornness of a seer and the forcefulness of a female. “Look, Oracles are gone. We got another link and even that link can’t tell what’s next.”

“So, again, what does this have to do with me?” Buffy asked again, getting up off the bench and walking over to where Spike was. Leaning herself against him for support, she waited for an explanation

Cordelia watched as Angel’s disgusted look grazed the PDA. Yep, always the Slayer’s boy toy.

She hoisted herself up from the table again and picked up the scroll, pinpointing the section that detailed Buffy’s involvement. “Heed to the sun…bla bla bla…here, she who is chosen shall harken a hero from the darkness. Through her gifts shall the souled one see his fate. By their connection shall the world be lost or saved. Can it get any clearer than that?”

Cordelia rolled up the scroll and crossed her arms, tucking the bronzed tube under one of them and stared back at Buffy as the infamous Queen C attitude came out to play.

“You’re telling me that I caused this?” Buffy straightened herself up, disturbed that Cordelia would insinuate something like that.

“Do you know any other vampires with souls?” Cordelia asked the already pissed off Slayer.

“What about me?” Spike piped up from the counter behind Buffy, wondering if her would be considered souled or not.

“Spike, you’re neutered, not ensouled.” Angel clarified, leaning back upon the side desk that Willow and Tara were sitting at.

The silence was unbearable for all of them. Anger, resentment, guilt and loads of other emotions floated between them all. Buffy and her greater-than-thou complex flew out of the store and out into the dark, claiming that there were more demons to kill and Spike faithfully followed. They all smirked at the irony of her statement.

“Well, that wasn’t awkward,” Cordelia said, returning to her post at the table and angrily turning the pages of a grimy sixteenth century book said to have some sort of answers but so far there was nothing. Did she mention that she hated this plan of coming back to Sunnydale?

~*~*~*~*~

Angel watched her from across the room and secretly wondered why he ever chose Buffy over her. Of course eight or so months ago, he thought he was in love with Buffy. But most nights when he went to sleep after a night of fighting against Buffy or alongside her, he thought of Cordelia and that wasn’t even the most confusing part of it all.

The confusing part was that he was supposed to be in love with Buffy. Wasn’t he? Ever since the affair, he had tried to trust her but everything that she did made him second guess himself and wonder if she had cheated again. Then there was the thing with Spike, the weird and twisted friendship that had him permanently attached to her side like a Siamese twin.

Things had sure changed from that time until now. He would go to his job at UC Sunnydale as the historian and when nobody was consulting him about anything which was all the time, he wasn’t thinking of Buffy or the latest demon that needed to be vanquished; he was thinking of Cordelia and the reason of why he left her sleeping in that bed by herself. Doyle’s death had left her alone. Then he was there, providing his personal brand of comfort and then in the blink of an eye was gone.

Flashbacks came back to his mind: Cordelia cheering Doyle up after the bachelor party, inviting herself to stay at his apartment while hers was cockroach infested. And he couldn’t ever forget her classic reaction when she first realized that he was in Los Angeles too: Are you still, you know, grrr? The thought of it still made him laugh and he found himself smiling in amusement.

“Something funny Angel?” Giles asked, pulling his aggravated fatherly look from Buffy’s outburst to Angel’s expression.

Angel looked over to the remaining team which consisted of Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn, Willow, Tara, Giles and himself. Xander and Anya had dubbed this evening a date and upon no circumstances were they to be disturbed. Angel secretly wished it was him having the quiet evening at home, but he seriously doubted if they were quiet.

“Um, no, nothing.” Angel stuttered, straightening himself up and walking back towards the training room. “I’m going in back if anyone needs me.” He offered the explanation before disappearing into the back and to be perfectly honest, he needed to gather his thoughts and sort out these emotions that someone seemed to arise whenever he thought of her. And somehow having Cordelia here, right in front of him just made him want to deal with them now.

~*~*~*~*~

The training room was dark and even though Angel could hardly see three feet in front of him, he knew his way around. He wasn’t angry or sad but more frustrated and confused about things. He knew it had been over six months since he last saw Cordelia and he probably shouldn’t have these feelings for a one night stand, but she wasn’t a one night stand in his mind. He wouldn’t think of it that way.

Placing his hand against its flat surface, he plucked a few knives from the wall, he darted them towards a tack board in front of him. Why were these feelings coming to him? From the moment he saw her come into the Magic Box with Wesley and the other new guy in her life, Charles Gunn, he felt jealous. He wanted to be the one by her side, the one she huddled to while the bullets flew past them all, lodging into bookcases about the store.

If you wanted that, you should’ve stayed, you idiot. Angel silently scolded himself and moved towards the tack board to remove the knives when the lights turned on. Charles Gunn was the one who stood in the doorway. He was the new guy, the one who Cordelia referred to as Joe for some reason. His dark eyes were wide open and he looked like a five year old boy on Christmas Day: excited and wow-ed about all the presents under the tree, in this case, weapons on the walls and in cabinets.

“Damn,” he said, stretching out the word to emphasize that he was impressed with the collection.

“You like?” Angel asked, already knowing the answer based on the expression upon his face. He liked them; probably loved them from the first time he laid his eyes on them. Angel placed the knives back in their respectable positions on the wall and watched as Joe walked about the room, admiring each display that Giles had set up as a present to the Slayer.

Angel was the observant type and he could already tell that from only two second alone in a room together that Gunn loved fighting. He also could tell that he protected the innocent and thought the world of Cordelia. Strangely, he and Joe were more alike than he expected. Angel liked fighting, whether it verbal with Buffy or Xander or physical with Spike, he loved it, it kept him on his toes and he lived for it. It was part of what kept him going everyday.

Angel fought and tried to protect what he believed in. He believed in the good of people; the humanity and he cared about their souls. He and Buffy were similar in that way, they both were there for the mission. When he thought back on it now, he could’ve probably continued the mission in Los Angeles…with Cordelia. Why didn’t you stay? Of course, if she would take him back would be a miracle and if he couldn’t forgive Buffy, then Cordelia definitely wouldn’t forgive him.

“Damn,” Gunn stated again. Angel brought his attention back to Joe and observed his movements. He was still that five-year-old on Christmas Day unwrapping that BB gun that every other kid wanted. “I think I’m in love with Giles.”

Angel smirked at the comment. If anyone else had heard that, Giles and Gunn would be the pit of a bad joke probably dubbed by Xander.

“I wouldn’t mention that to anyone else if I were you.” Angel advised the young fighter as he moved towards one of the tall weapon cabinets that housed the more commonly used swords, axes and crossbows. They were mostly for the Slayer’s use, but Angel didn’t care, it wasn’t like she had etched her name on each and every one of the weapons. Pulling one of the swords from the back of the cabinet out, he swiped it across the air, making sure that he wanted to use this one against the dummy with already too many injuries to count.

“You train?” Gunn asked, watching Angel from the corner of his eye.

“Yeah, have to. Ex-vampire senses only go so far. Not as fast as I once was.”

“So how’s that working out for ya….ya know, being human and all?”

“Better than I expected. Of course, perfect happiness only lasts so long,” Angel said, swiping the sword through the air again.

“I wouldn’t know about that part.” Gunn followed his sixth sense for weapons to the cabinet Angel had left open and searched through them, grabbing a sword similar to the one Angel had in his hands. “You game?” Gunn asked and lifted his sword up to Angel’s and started to encircle him, ending up across from the ex-vampire.

Angel flashed back in his mind to the last time he had heard that popular phrase: Doyle. He was game then. He would always be game, but at this moment in time, it mean a totally different thing.

“Yo, broody…you game?” Gunn asked again, the south Los Angeles vampire hunter attitude on full blast.

“Yeah, I’m game,” Angel declared as Gunn stepped forward to begin the dance that everyone referred to as fencing.

Two leaps forward, three steps back and they were doing the waltz. But this dance was a little less waltz-y and a little more cha cha-y. Their blades kissed each other and slid down the reflective metal causing the sound to pierce each of their ear drums. Angel thought of this as the perfect opportunity to reacquaint himself with a certain brunette that held onto his soul.

“So, how’d you meet Cordelia?”

“You’re quick,” Gunn stated, personally thinking that it would take Angel just a few minutes longer to bring the subject up. “Wes owes me a Franklin.”

“You bet on me?”

“No, we bet on Cordelia.”

“Who wins?”

“She does. She has a way of swindling us out of our rightfully earned money. Says it’s an emergency and she needs it, then the next day we see her in a brand new outfit.”

“Hmmm.”

“The Ring.” Gunn stated, clanging the sword against Angel’s and dancing the cha-cha about the room.

“The Ring?” Angel inquired, not sure what he meant by the statement.

“That’s where I met Cordelia and Wesley. She got a…they got a case while my crew got their asses stuck in that thing,” Gunn paused, catching himself before he spilled her secret and then went on to reveal what The Ring actually was. “Twenty One was an Octavian match where demons battle demons…to the death. Some of my crew got their asses stuck in the ring and like a twisted fairytale come true, Evening Edition Barbie in her stiletto heels came to the rescue.” Gunn stopped his blade from swinging again and held off Angel’s advance, trying to predict whether the ex-lover who Cordelia swore she was over would say anything in between the clangs and two step.

That’s when he heard the scream. Her scream. Gunn’s grip on the blade loosened and he let it fall to the padded floor below. She was screaming and that only meant one thing in Gunn and Wes’ world: a vision.

Gunn raced out of the room and Angel followed behind, not fully comprehending what was going on but like Cordelia had told Gunn once, he was a curious ex-vampire.

Everyone was gathered around her. Wesley was at the top, trying to steady her seizure-like twitches while Willow, Tara and Giles loomed over her, wondering what the hell was going on like Angel.

Gunn rounded the table and tried to help Wesley help her up, but she didn’t want up. She laid there still with her eyes closed tightly and clutched onto Wesley’s writing hand like there was no tomorrow. Oh, how true that statement rang in Gunn’s mind.

“Okay, Joe’s here. Come on girl,” Joe gently helped Cordelia up and set her on the edge of the table bench. Wesley grabbed a pad of paper from the table and started to flip through it, in search of a blank sheet to write down what she saw.

“Pain…killer…”

“Painful killer demon…” Wesley spoke as he wrote and looked up at her, wanting more information.

“Pain killer, whiskey, anything!” She corrected him in a harsh tone, rubbing the bulging vein that felt like it was going to pop out of her skull any minute. “I’m going to kill Doyle…” Her softer voice replaced the harsh one as Tara quickly returned with some aspirin and a glass of water.

“I’m going to need so much more than this,” Cordelia threw the tiny tablets into her throat and swallowed, not needing the glass of water that the kind witch brought for her.

“What did you see?” Wesley asked, crossing out the ‘painful killer demon’ on the pad of paper.

“Oh my God…” Angel softly said from behind them all. He finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together…simple math really, but he wasn’t a mathematician. She had inherited the visions from Doyle. She was the vision girl…the link to the Powers.

“You’re going to Rumsfield Street…north side, by the park. A gang will be there, but they’re not the threat…yellow, claw-like hands…shit, howlers. They’re howlers…” Cordelia recalled the things she had seen in her head and leaned into Gunn’s frame.

“What was that? And how do you know that?” Giles asked quickly, pulling off his glasses and placing his hands on his hips.

“That was a vision,” Cordelia paused, trying to pull her eyes open to stop the pictures from playing in her head. “A mind-splitting, brain-damaging, all night ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ marathon in your head vision,” she elaborated, taking the bottle of aspirin that Tara brought to her once again and pulling out eight or nine tablets this time, just in case.

“Thanks Tara,” Cordelia offered Willow’s girlfriend a faint smile and looked back to Wesley and Gunn. “What are you still doing here? Gang going to get massacred by howlers! Go! And take broody with you.” She added, twirling round in the table as she watched Frank and Joe walk up the landing and towards the door. “You’re going to need all the muscle you can get.”

“You’re the link…” Angel stood in front of her on the other side of the table, still stunned from what he just witnessed.

“Yes! I’m the freakin’ link Angel! Now just go!”
Part Four: And on the third day…

The cashier tapped her newly manicured fingernails atop the countertop, waiting for Cordelia to fish the cash that Wesley gave her from her jeans pocket. Setting down the change, she lifted the coffee carrier into her arms, sniffing the cinnamon-hinted caffeinated goodness and then started to walk back towards the Magic Box.

The sun was finally out and the day was just starting, so why wasn’t she smiling? Simple question, complicated answer. She wanted to blame this all on Angel, but it wasn’t completely his fault. It was partly her fault too. She had let him kiss her, let him be in the same room with her and she had even let him see the worst: a vision. Those damn visions were supposed to be his mission, not hers, Wesley’s or Gunn’s. They didn’t have anything to atone for. Or did they? Cordelia stopped and thought about that for a second. If they did, it sure wasn’t as bad as one hundred and fifty years of massacring half of Europe.

Cordelia pulled her gaze back up to the road and continued on her path back to the store where everyone was waiting around for their morning coffee. Well, at least Wesley and Gunn were and that’s all who wanted the coffee. But if she had to bet on them, they would be sleeping again.

They could sleep through anything. She, on the other hand, hadn’t gotten much sleep last night – or the night before that and the night before that. She’d figured she’d gotten less than twelve hours sleep in the past week. So much for her beauty sleep that she needed for that inevitable stardom she had planned.

Truth was that she hardly cared about that anymore even though she still dreamed that it would happen one day. All she cared about nowadays was living to see the sun rise the next day. And at this exact moment, she was caring about how much Angel affected her. Since the kiss on her hand, she hadn’t been able to concentrate on the prophecy. All she could think about were his lips pressed up against her skin. Even the mere thought of it made her hand tingle and shivers were sent up her spine. Why was she feeling this way? She shouldn’t be feeling this way about a vampire…man. He was a man now; a full human being. One who’d left her – twice. She did not get giddy or become all knocky in the knees like a schoolgirl with a crush when it came to guys. Nope, she was the one who made them giddy and had them chasing after her.

Shaking the feeling away, she once again pulled her gaze up from her feet to downtown Sunnydale’s Main street. She hadn’t even walked two blocks and she was already looking behind her for followers. There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Once, the Queen C, nastiest girl in Sunnydale who didn’t take crap from anyone was no reduced to a paranoid, struggling to live and cursed clairvoyant.

Yep, paranoid, clairvoyant, dying, that about summed it up, but of course, no one but her knew about the last. It had been a slow process up until now when the visions were on schedule like clockwork. The doctors were baffled and her best friends were clueless. After all this time, they still thought she was going on auditions to national commercials. She had stopped auditioning for commercials and stopped acting altogether after J’heira came into and almost cost them their lives. Then there was Gunn, leaving absolutely no time for acting. She was to busy trying to keep the both of them from killing each other and trying to manage all the demon-y cases and then was the whole situation with a lonely Dennis…anyway you looked at it she was to busy with real life to deal with a dream that was probably never going to come true.

Cordelia eyed the sign above the Magic Box and prayed Wesley & Gunn were awake and not fighting with the Scoobies again. She knew from experience that both parties weren’t the friendliest people in the morning. And with Wesley and Gunn, even the word ‘friendliest’ wasn’t the word to use to describe them. Monstrous, grumpy, those were words to describe them.

Sweeping her hair out of her face, Cordelia saw someone walking towards her. Brown coat. She’d seen that brown coat before.

“Lorne?” she whispered to herself as he stopped her in her tracks and his green hand covered the small of her back and lead her back towards the Magic Box. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be watching Dennis…and the office!” Cordelia raised her voice a bit towards him.

“Questions later, darling. We got problems, big problems,” he revealed to her, ushering her into the entrance of the Magic Box and pulling off his hat like the hero of a crime novel. He went to shut the blinds on the window but wasn’t surprised to see that there were wooden slats covering the giant opening. “Let me guess, Wolfram & Hart?” he turned back around to ask her as she nodded and he leapt down the landing with twenty-four beady eyes looking back at him.

“Lorne?” Wesley looked up from the scroll and took the wire frames off of his face as a creased brow appeared on his forehead. “What are you doing here?”

But before Lorne could open his mouth, he ducked for cover before Buffy swung the axe directly at his head. Gunn hadn’t been fast enough to stop her from taking a second swing at him, moving fast and backing him up into a corner. Gunn quickly grabbed the axe before she actually finished her vampire slayer duties.

“What are you doing?” Buffy cried out, looking back at Gunn with her axe in his hands.

“The question is, what are you doing?”

“Slaying. If Cordelia and Wesley didn’t tell you, I’m the Slayer, and slaying is what I do,” Buffy said with a sassy attitude and placed her hands upon her hips. Buffy had reluctantly come on board with the rest of the new Scoobies and tried to help the sleuths with their prophecy, but also explained that if anything concerning Glory came up, she would do a 180 and follow that. Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn had completely agreed and understood. Since Joyce Summers had passed, Dawn was Buffy’s everything, just like they were each other’s everything. Lorne stood back up from his corner and tried to straighten out his jacket while Buffy argued with Gunn.

“Yo, Blondie, I get that you’re a slayer. But Lorne’s good,” Gunn reasoned and equally snapped back at her.

“He’s green!”

“Yep, I feel the love in this room,” Lorne sarcastically added to their mini-argument, “especially coming from that corner.” He pointed over towards Anya and Xander who were silently observing the quarrel. Cordelia, with her signature coffee in hand, shot him a look to stay out of it for his own good.

“He’s a demon,” Buffy elaborated, walking slowly back up to him that made him retreat his steps back into the shaded corner between a couple of bookshelves. “He’s a soulless, evil, monstrous, green demon.”

“Hey now,” Lorne said, offended, “I’m not monstrous, and I may not have a soul but…”

“So is your shadow, Buffy,” Cordelia cut him off just in time that made Buffy stop her gait to spin around and look at her.

“Excuse me?”

“Spike. He’s a demon, why don’t you kill him?” Cordelia set her coffee down on the table and stood up from her seat on the bench.

“Because, he’s not evil, he’s good, or at least trying to be,” Buffy paused, looking over at Spike and letting out a half hearted smile.

“So is Lorne. Good. Lorne’s good,” Cordelia said, her eyes wandering to all the other Scoobies in the room so they got the point across. “Do you honestly think he would still be here and we would know his name otherwise?”

The others nodded their heads and let out deep grunts of acceptance and okay’s. But Buffy was still not convinced.

“He’s a demon!” she argued again, Spike coming up behind her and standing their ground together.

Cordelia turned again, catching sight of Angel’s wandering eyes that were on her and Lorne at the moment, not on Spike and Buffy. Dammit, why did he have to be here? Now she couldn’t recall what she was going to say. Damn that vam…man. Closing her eyes, she trailed her mind back to Lorne and defending him against the Slayer.

“Okay Buffy, I’ll make you a deal: you stake Spike and I’ll get rid of Lorne,” Cordelia put the offer on the table making Buffy speechless. “That’s what I thought,” she finished and turned back to see Lorne go and fish out their cell phone from deep inside one of their bags.

“This,” he twirled the phone in his hand, “has an on button. If you have it on, people can actually call you and give you vital information on your scroll!” Lorne raised his voice to them as the sleuths and Scoobies gathered around the table.

Pulling the coffee back up to her lips, Cordelia swallowed the cinnamon caffeinated liquid as she prepared herself to concentrate on the prophecy and not Angel’s hand that just brushed her side. Trying to avoid all contact with and thought of him, she nearly missed Lorne’s speech.

“Cordy, you’re gonna wanna sit down for this next one,” Lorne advised her.

“Why?”

“Just sit down,” he said again, but she didn’t budge. Slamming the now empty coffee container down on the table, she crossed her arms and shot him another evil eye that she was so good at doing. “Suit yourself,” Lorne paused and took a seat on the bench, watching as Wesley took down every word that he was saying.

“Lorne!” Cordelia yelled at him, wanting him to get on with it and quit leaving them all in suspense.

“The Scourge.”

“What?” her words were barely above a whisper as her heart sank down into her stomach. “What…what did you say?”

“I told you to sit down.”

“Oh my God,” Cordelia raked her fingers through her hair and started to pace in a lop-sided circle by the table, “they’re back? How can they be back? I thought, they left or something happened and they vanished and oh my God, Reiff…he’s supposed to be in LA and…and…this can’t be happening,” she rambled on as the others except for Lorne and Wesley became confused.

“I’m sorry sugar lips, but it is. They’re planning to bring everything back. The Scourge, the Order and even Vocah. They’re calling it The Death,” Lorne said as Wesley’s pen stopped when he quickly went to reference the scroll.

“Wolfram & Hart?” Gunn questioned as Lorne nodded his head. “Wait, the Order? What’s the Order?” Gunn stood up from his spot on the moveable staircase and walked over by Cordelia’s side.

“The Order of Aurelius,” Wesley pointed out as he lifted his eyes from the scroll, “I think everyone here knows of that Order. But I don’t see how we could’ve missed this. Where did you get the information Lorne?” Wesley looked back to the Pylean who was still getting weird looks from half of the Scoobies.

“He read someone, right?” Cordelia answered for him as she took Gunn’s coffee away from him and started to drink it.

“Hey!”

“I bought it.”

“With our money,” he enunciated and took the coffee back from her hands. “You okay?”

“No, I’m not okay,” she said, grabbing Wesley’s cup of coffee and finding her way to the front door again. Gunn went to go after her but was stopped by Wesley.

“Don’t. Not yet,” he advised him, pulling both of their attention’s back to Lorne and the scroll. The Death, Lorne had revealed, was Wolfram & Hart’s way of speeding up the End of Days. From the Order of Aurelius to Vocah to The Scourge, the sleuths had definitely met their matches and they still had no clue how to stop it.

Angel’s eyes stared at the front door, praying that Cordelia would walk back into the shop with that coffee in hand. He wanted her to walk back in, needed her to walk back in. He felt a pat on his back and turned his head around to see Gunn smirking at him, like he knew what he was thinking about.

“Go, bring her back,” he said as his attention was beckoned by Wesley yelling his name for the second time. Angel grabbed his keys off of the bookshelf and watched as Buffy’s mouth opened up in complete protest. He didn’t care about her opinion thought, not now. Right now, he needed to be with Cordelia and nothing or no one was going to stop him.

* * *

Cordelia walked back down main street, coffee in hand and wiped the tears that were strolling down her cheeks away for the third time. Seven months, three weeks, three days and eleven hours ago she had lost it; lost him. You would think that after that much time, a person would be able to deal with it, deal with the loss of the one thing in your life that you thought would remain constant.

But she knew she couldn’t get over it, she would never get over it. How could she get over losing her only friend in the world? It was impossible, literally, physically and mentally impossible. Doyle was her best friend, the only person she had left after her parents were in jail, all her high school friends were either in Europe and driving all the stores to bankruptcy or in college somewhere and Angel had moved back here to be with the one person who didn’t seem to bring him happiness anymore.

Looking over to her side, she spotted the man in his black suit and trying to hide something under his jacket but honestly, she didn’t care right now. She had retreated back into that corner that she had been in when Wesley found her. The only difference now was that she had something to live for: her friends.

Speeding up her walk, she tried not to look back but had to, seeing two more men tailing her path. They never gave up, never and Cordelia was sick of it. Couldn’t they just give her two seconds to remember Doyle and cry about it? Tossing the empty coffee container in the trash, she wiped the rest of her tears off of her cheeks and geared herself up for a sprint back to the Magic Box when a black convertible pulled up beside her.

“Get in,” Angel forced the passenger side door open and waited, rather impatiently for her to obey the orders, “What are you waiting for? Get in,”

“Why should I?” Stupid question, Cordy, stupid question.

“Don’t make me answer that, just get in.”

Cordelia looked behind them, seeing the three men in their black suits fish out their guns and race towards her with the intent of take her and most likely Angel, out. Not thinking about it twice, Cordelia pulled herself inside Angel’s car and shut the door tight, holding onto the dash as Angel drove off in a frenzy as they both heard the ricochet of a bullet off of his trunk. Yep, this was just how she wanted to start out the day — by going on a car chase with Angel.

They had made it past the edge of town and slowed down. Cordelia slouched down in the passenger seat and remained silent as they pulled up into a private driveway that turned out to be the back entrance of the old Crawford Mansion.

“What are we doing here?” Cordelia straightened her back and wiped away the set of fresh tears from her face.

“I live here,” Angel said, shutting off the engine and hopping out of the car.

“You still live here? I thought you would be shacking up with Buffy still,” Cordelia said, getting out of his car and following him up to the door.

“I only lived with Buffy for a short time, but then things happened and I moved out,” he explained, holding open the door for her to go inside. “After you.”

Cordelia let out a faint smile and lingered on the landing for a moment. Two nights ago, she wanted to rip his throat out for what he did to her and now, two days later, she wanted him to wrap her in his arms and kiss her senseless. She wasn’t mad at him right now, she was okay. She had no clue what she was doing here but she ducked inside his home and let out a deep sigh. She knew what was going to happen too: he was going to get her to talk. And talking wasn’t something that she wanted to do.


…TO BE CONTINUED…

THIS STORY APPEARS TO BE UNFINISHED


 

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