Title: Time To Go Home
Summary: When Cordy awakes she finds the world she left and her family in shambles.The spell to forget Connor has worked on Cordy too.
Spoilers: Specs and Spoilers for next season.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: AA, NF
Notes: I want to credit califi and DamnSkippy for putting the bug in my ear to write this. It isn’t exactly the story their challenges asked for, but the idea for it definitely sprung in my mind from their posts.
Angel stood pacing behind the head of the conference table, his black Armani suit jacket slung over the back of his chair. “I don’t expect you to fail me on this one again and I can assure you that I won’t handle it well if you do. Am I making myself clear enough for you?”
“Yes Mr. Angel,” the nervous voice on the speaker phone answered back just before Angel switched off the connection.
Fred looked at Gunn who sat to her left at the massive table. “Is it just me,” she whispered. “..or has Angel started actin’ all…”
“Wolfram and Hartish?” Gunn finished.
“Yeah. I mean, I kinda thought taking over Wolfram and Hart meant…”
“Destroying it and using its resources for the purpose of good as opposed to helping it get back on its feet,” came Wesley’s answer from the seat to her right.
Angel, his attention turning back to his fragmented family members, now his partners in sin, placed his hands on the table and leaned forward, clearing his throat to signal that he was ready for their undivided attention. “Wesley, how’s the information the Senator requested coming along?”
“Well, we’ve been meaning to talk to you about that Angel.”
“About what?” he asked coolly.
There was a pause before Fred decided to be the brave one, or the dead one, “It’s just that, well, he’s….he was Billy’s uncle.”
“And?” Angel’s voice was eerily cold.
“You do remember Billy?” Gunn chimed in. “Badass rage mojo against women and the uncle who hired Wolfram and Hart to set him free?”
Angel just stared at his betrayers. Even if they couldn’t remember Connor, they had to understand the other reason he was doing all of this, the reason that kept him awake most nights at a vigil by her side, watching her sleep her beautiful, young life away. He had had to make the deal with Wolfram and Hart to save Connor, he had had to keep it to save Cordy. He had signed away his already damned soul for the chance to find a way to give her her life back. It had been a bargain actually, his life for hers. Curing Cordy from her endless sleep was worth a hell of a lot more than his useless soul.
Angel clenched his jaw at his supposed friends. This was the third attempt in the last month since he had taken over Wolfram and Hart that they had tried this little intervention talk. It was going to stop. Now. “How’s that serum to cure cancer coming along Fred? Or how about the inner city youth center you’re building downtown Gunn? Or better yet, your thorough and extremely expensive documentation of the genealogy of every known species of demon Wes?”
The three partners looked down, an expression of guilt and self loathing crossing each of their faces.
“All of these things cost money,” Angel continued. “Lots of money. Wolfram and Hart type money, and it just so happens that the Senator is one of the company’s top paying clients. It’s just business,” he looked between the three who now stared back at him. “So get over it and stop trying to play some moral high card with me. You all knew what this company was about before you signed on for this.”
Wesley stood, meeting Angel’s accusing glare with one of his own. “I don’t believe any of us had much of a choice in the matter.”
Both men continued staring at each other even as the door to the room creaked open. “Mr. Angel,” the middle aged woman requested his attention.
“What is it?” he asked, prompting her to enter, his eyes never leaving Wesley’s.
She approached her employer and spoke to him in a hushed tone, handing him a note before leaving the room.
Angel turned and stared at the note, his eyes growing unfocused. He looked up and opened his mouth but found his voice trapped underneath a torrent of emotions.
“Angel, what is it?” Wesley asked, his angry tone replaced with one of concern.
Well, Skip had promised to take her to a higher plane of existence, but she had never expected anything like this. The room was lavishly beautiful. The bed that she awoke in was tremendously huge, larger than any king size bed she had ever seen, and the linens were all made of a washed silk and alternated in cream and white colors. Besides the bed, there were only two other pieces of furniture in the room, an armoire that matched the massive size of the bed and a round antique table with a large crystal vase, grossly overstuffed with fresh white orchids that made the room smell like heaven. Maybe it was. Cordelia scooted herself off of the bed and walked to the table, leaning in to inhale the intoxicating sent.
“Oh my,” a short, stocky woman exclaimed as she walked through the door carrying a tray that held a bowl of soup, toast, and a bottle of water. “You really shouldn’t be up my dear,” she scolded sweetly, smiling at Cordy as she laid the tray on the bed.
Cordelia turned, somewhat startled by the intruder, but relaxed as soon as she saw the woman’s round, comforting face. She looked to be just over middle age, with salt and pepper hair that was expertly placed in an old fashioned bun that gave off a ‘grandmotherish’ air. Cordy smiled back at the woman and sat down on the bed by the tray, she was really hungry.
“Slow down dear. You’ve been out of it for quite a while.”
“God, It feels like I’ve been asleep for a year, I’m starving,” Cordelia spoke through a mouth full of toast before guzzling down the bottle of water. She swallowed and tried to regain a little grace before asking any of the million questions that were running through her head. “So, where’s Skip? Off on another mission for the higher ups?”
The woman looked slightly confused, “I don’t believe I understand dear. Skip who?”
“Skip, you know. Big guy that brought me here.”
“Oh,” the woman’s face relaxed in understanding. “I’m sorry. I’m not used to referring to my boss by his first name.”
“Your boss huh?” Cordy looked impressed. “Guess good ol’ Skip’s got more pull than he let on,” she said, finishing off her soup.
The woman smiled proudly at the empty dishes and pushed a button next to the bed. Immediately a younger woman entered the room, grinning excitedly at Cordelia and wordlessly left with the tray in hand.
“So, what now…” Cordelia looked at the woman questioningly.
“So, what now Abigail? Do I wait here until Skip comes back or will I be handed over to someone else?”
“Oh no. No one else is allowed to come here. It’s strictly forbidden. He would have our heads if we permitted such a thing.” For the first time Abigail’s face frightened Cordelia. The smile and twinkle were gone and her voice took on a militant tone, mixed with a shade of fear.
“Okay,” Cordy reasoned. “So Skip’s the only one allowed in here besides you and….”
“Janice? Oh no, I guess I didn’t make myself quite clear dear,” Abigail’s soft and soothing tone returned. “In the four months you have slept here, there has been a staff of seventeen women taking care of you night and day. We have been completely devoted to your every comfort. It’s been a privilege and an honor to have been on duty the day of your awakening,” she beamed.
“Four months?” Cordy was shocked.
Abigail nodded her head.
“And Skip, your boss, has he been here since he placed me in your care?”
“Oh yes. He comes in every night and sits with you until dawn. It’s been a distressing time for him I’m afraid, but he never gave up hope that you would awake.”
“So this isn’t normal then?”
“Ya know, this kind of transition, the sleeping for four months thing,” Cordelia was trying to be polite, but the ‘dear’ thing was starting to get on her nerves.
“Well, no dear,” Abigail was beginning to wonder if she should have insisted that the girl stay in bed. She may have looked like the picture of beauty and heath upon waking but her strange questions were beginning to indicate otherwise. Well, she wasn’t about to risk her job, or her bargained soul for that matter, by giving the girl an answer that he wouldn’t like.
The door to the bedroom opened partially and Janice stuck her head into the room. “He’s on his way ma’am.”
“Thank you Janice,” she smiled before the younger woman shut the door. “Why don’t we get you out of that nightgown and into something more presentable,” Abigail took Cordelia by the hand and led her to the armoire.
Cordelia’s mouth began to water as soon as she opened the mirrored door. Versacci, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, she WAS in heaven. She turned to Abigail. “These are mine?” she asked with enthusiasm.
“Oh yes dear. Mr. Angel is a very generous man. Nothing but the finest. Especially when it comes to you my dear.”
Cordelia’s mind began to spin and the room seemed to close in on her. “Mr. Angel?” she whispered.
“Yes,” Abigail smiled.
“Tall, dark, brooding, cruelly handsome Angel?”
“He is quite attractive. Of course you won’t tell him I said that, will you? I mean how would it look, a woman of my age and position saying such a thing about the president and CEO of Wolfram and Hart,” she laughed at herself.
“Wolfram and Hart?” Cordy’s voice sounded weak and vulnerable in her own ears.
“Yes dear, the benefactor of this marvelous facility.” Abigail motioned with one hand.
Cordelia swallowed hard, the word dear echoed around her brain and made her nauseous as she walked quickly to the window and opened the heavy drapes. The city streets below were filled with the remnants of L.A.’s rush hour traffic. She felt dizzy but couldn’t tell if it was from looking down out of the twenty-ninth story window or the fact that she was still in L.A., in the clutches of Wolfram and Hart, a Wolfram and Hart that according to this mad woman was run by Angel. Stumbling back from the window, she felt Abigail’s cold hands reach out, steadying her.
“Oh dear, here sit down for a moment while I find you something to wear.”
Cordelia stared blankly, pushed over the edge by the bizarre world she had awoken to. It was a test. That’s it. It had to be. Skip and the Powers were always giving her tests to see if she was ready. This was some kind of Matrix virtual world and she was being tested. That had to be it because the alternative was too frightening, too gut wrenchingly terrible to imagine.
The quick bath she had been ‘allowed’ to take before dressing had been refreshing, if not relaxing as Abigail stood over her like some rosy cheeked watch dog. Still, it had given her time to clear her mind for a moment and realize, with a creeping dread, that this was not some higher plane of existence or even a test for that matter. She was actually in Los Angeles, trapped in some kind of malevolent, yet extremely posh spa slash rehabilitation center.
She stared at herself in the armoire mirror and smoothed down the material of the dress Abigail had laid out for her. It wasn’t the one she would have picked but that didn’t really matter. They were all gorgeous. She looked at her face and tried to produce a smile, but failed. She thought about Angel and the claim by Abigail that he ran Wolfram and Hart now. Maybe he finally defeated them, took them over and was now using their resources and obvious wealth to continue the mission. That was possible. Except, why still call it Wolfram and Hart? Why not keep the name Angel Investigations or change it to something else?
She took a deep breath and sat on the edge of the bed. There was a good reason. There had to be, and Angel would be here in a few minutes to clear everything up. Her heart skipped uncontrollably at that thought and she looked at the closed bedroom door. The last time she spoke with him she had been ready to confess her feelings for him, to take the dive off of the cliff of sanity by telling him she loved him and hoped for his love in return. He had seemed excited about their meeting that night, anxious even, but that was at least four months ago. A lot could change in four months. It seemed as if a lot had.
Angel swerved into the parking garage, startling a pedestrian as the wheels of the sports car screeched into an unmarked space. Bolting out and across the lot he pushed the elevator button, waited half of a second and bounded toward the stairwell of the building. His mind raced faster than his feet as he flew up the stairs three at a time. Cordy was awake, alive.
For four months he had kept her here, locked away in her twenty-nine story tower as if she were some enchanted princess. That’s what he had turned her into anyway. A fairytale princess, locked away in a tower that only he could enter. It infuriated the others at first, that he kept her from them, never telling them where she was, but he was desperate. He had to keep her all to himself. She was the only thing he had left, the only thing good in his world gone wrong. So he had locked her away, protecting her as if she were too fragile, too beautiful to be touched by the ugly, dark world that lay in wait for her.
He would come every night, sit with her, read to her, talk to her, hold her hand, begging her to wake up, sometimes ordering her to. Those hours spent with her at night became his true life, who he really was, who he really wanted to be. Being near her, alone with her, made the mask he wore for Wolfram and Hart bearable, he could put it on knowing that it was what kept her alive, safely locked away in her tower. A beautiful princess sheltered from an evil world she had so willingly sacrificed herself for.
He tried not to let out a hysterical chuckle at describing Cordelia as a princess, but it wasn’t too ridiculous really, technically she had been a princess once. Right after they had returned from Pylea it had been the office joke for a while, ‘Princess Cordelia’. Until finally she had slapped him on the back of the head and told him to knock it off already. His face cracked a small smile at the memory of that day. Cordy didn’t like being called a princess, and after that day he never did call her that again, not aloud anyway.
He could hear her words shuffling around in his mind, telling him to ‘knock it off’. He argued back at the voice. It was his fantasy damn it. He could call her whatever the hell he wanted to. She was his princess and he was her dark knight, fighting the evils of the world to keep her safe. He closed his eyes in embarrassment at his silly, childlike fantasy. It had seemed so sane the first time his mind pretended that it was true, what an idiot. Oh well, it had kept him alive while he watched in agony as she slept. But now she was awake, there was no need for fantasy any longer. He banished the word ‘princess’ from his mind.
Angel turned the corner of the hallway and passed the plastic smiles of the nurse maids without a word. He paused at the door and gently pushed it open.
The word ‘princess’ was suddenly replaced by the words queen and goddess as Cordelia gracefully rose from the bed, the black designer dress hugging her body.
“Angel?” he wanted to weep at the sound of her voice.
Angel had planned out over the last few months everything he would say to her at this very moment, but it all seemed irrelevant somehow as she stood there with a mixture of hope, uncertainty and fear crossing her face. His body reacted all on its own as he crossed the room, doing what he had wanted it to do ever since the night she had phoned him and asked him to meet her.
Okay, the kiss was a shock. She hadn’t expected it and had flinched just before his lips met hers, but he was too quick, he had captured her with his mouth before she could move away. A bolt of lightening flashed through her face and down to her belly at the feel of his soft cool mouth covering hers. She melted when he tilted his head and urged the slant of her mouth open with his tongue. The kiss was long and sweet yet possessed a hot passion that had obviously been building for what seemed like a lifetime or two. She wrapped her arms around him and tenderly stroked the hair on the back of his head, making him give off a soft groan that vibrated into every cell of her body. Her mind spun as he pulled her even closer to him, kissing her as if the world were ending and beginning all at the same time.
He slowed and pulled his head back slightly, keeping her tight in his arms and looked at her face. Her eyes opened lazily and she grinned up at him.
“Are you okay?” were the first shaky words she heard him speak.
“Mmhm,” she continued to grin.
He didn’t smile back, his face looked desperate and tired and he pulled her closer again, burying his head in the crook between her head and neck. “God Cordy. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” he whispered against her skin.
“Shh,” she soothed as she stroked the back of his neck, unsure of what he was apologizing for or why she was consoling him but unable to endure the sound of pain in his voice. She stood there holding him, letting his hands alternated between hard and gentle caresses on her back as he assured himself over and over that she was really there.
A few moments later, and after the fog of love and lust from the explosive kiss cleared her brain, Cordelia pushed away gently and let loose the torrent of questions that plagued her mind. “Angel, what happened? What am I doing here, how long, and why does that scary little woman keep calling you ‘Mr. Angel’? And what about Fred and Gunn and Wesley and Lorne? Are they okay? Where are they? And why in the hell are you running Wolfram and Hart?”
Angel finally smiled at her. He stroked her face. “Everyone’s fine, they’re waiting for you at home and as for the rest of it, none of that matters now. Not any more. You’re awake and you’re you,” he leaned in to kiss her again but she placed a hand on his chest, firmly stopping him. She needed answers and if he kissed her like that again she’d be too drunk to find them.
“Angel please. I need to know what’s happened. I have a right to know.”
Angel had hoped that as long as they stayed in the room together that the enchantment would last, that the outside world and the evil that it brought couldn’t touch them, couldn’t hurt her. But this wasn’t his fantasy world. Cordy was no longer the sleeping princess, unable to control her part in his state of make-believe. She was alive, awake, and asking for answers. Answers he wasn’t sure he was ready to give.
He dropped his arms down from the embrace he had held her in and took her hand, leading her to sit down beside him on the edge of the massive bed. Cordelia looked expectantly at Angel as he began. “Cordy, what’s the last thing you remember, before waking up?” he prompted her.
“I was going to meet you, at the lookout,” she concentrated. “Then Skip came,” Angel’s jaw clenched at the name of the demon who had betrayed them all. “He said that I had to make a decision, either go to you, tell you that… that I loved you,” she looked down. “Or come with him and save the world. I don’t remember anything after that. It’s like a huge void.”
Angel lifted her chin. “You were in a coma for four months Cordy, but you’ve been gone for over a year. I can’t explain it all to you now, just trust me when I say that everything is going to be alright now. You don’t have to worry about anything, I’ve been taking care of you and I’m going to continue to take care of you. I’m never going to let anything happen to you again.”
“But what about Skip? And this thing with Wolfram and Hart? Please tell me you crushed those bastards, took over their company and are just debating on a new and improved name?” she asked hopefully.
“Skip’s dead. He was evil.”
Cordelia looked shocked and sad. She felt betrayed and stupid and Angel could see it all over her face.
“Hey,” his eyes bore into her as if they could make his point more clear. “You couldn’t have known. What you did, what you tried to do Cordy was so brave. You’re the most courageous, selfless person I know.”
She gave him a tight grin at the complement. It hadn’t made her feel any better but she appreciated him for trying. “And Wolfram and Hart?” he was going to explain that one in detail.
Time to stall. “Well, that is a very long story, one we don’t have time for if I’m going to get you home. Fred, Wes, Gunn, and Lorne are waiting to see you and they’re already pissed at me for not letting them come.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but he held up his hand in a plea.
“Cordy, please. I don’t want to talk about Wolfram and Hart or evil demon guides any more tonight. I know you deserve answers and you’ll get them, all of them. It’s just that a lot has happened in the last year, I’ve had to make some difficult decisions and I’m afraid that you might not like me very much after you’ve found out about some of the things I’ve done, I’ve had to do. So, give me tonight okay. I just want to look at you and hear you tell me again what you were going to tell me that night at the beach.”
She looked uncomfortable and fidgeted nervously. She didn’t know if she could say it again.
He brushed her cheek with the back of his hand, trying to coax the words from her mouth. “I want to say it Cordy, but I can’t. Not until you do. Please,” he begged. He wanted her to make the first move, to invite him into her heart so he would know that he hadn’t pushed his way in.
Cordelia wanted answers and she wanted them now, but Angel’s voice was full of vulnerability and his expression made him seem like a condemned man waiting for his pardon. “I was going to tell you that I was in love with you Angel.”
“Was?” he prodded.
“Am,” she smiled sweetly.
He pushed air from his lungs in a long, sensual sigh of relief and reached out for her, kissing her hard and deep. She was lost. She met his hunger with that of her own, only breaking free from the roughness of his lips to allow herself to breath.
Angel nuzzled his face into her neck, kissing and tasting her skin as she panted for air. His arms pressed her gently back and her head fell to the soft bedding. She sighed with pleasure as he worked his way up and down her neck and back to her mouth, consuming her in another bruising kiss. She pushed at him, once and then again, finally he lifted his head and looked down at her with eyes full of dark desire.
“What?” he was puzzled and seemed a little irritated at the interruption.
“Angel,” she breathed, still lacking oxygen. “Your soul.” It was both a question and a statement.
Angel stared at her as if he couldn’t quite comprehend the relevance of such a statement. ‘My soul,’ he mentally repeated to himself, pulling his mind and his body from the seductive scene. He raised up and offered out his hand for her to do the same. “A lot of things have changed in the past year Cordy,” he began in a defeated tone, “Unfortunately my soul is not one of them.” He stood slowly and helped her to her feet. “I’m sorry,” he looked around sentimentally. “This room makes me forget what’s real and what’s not. Come on. Time to go home,” he placed his arm around her protectively. “I’ll have your things sent over to the penthouse.”
“The penthouse?” Cordelia didn’t like the look on Angel’s face or the tone in his voice. His once soft and loving demeanor now seemed cold and commanding, as if leaving the room required some sort of emotional shield to protect him from an awaiting danger. She hesitated and pulled back a little as he tried to walk her to the door. “Angel?” her voice quivered slightly.
He could hear the fear in her voice. He tried to relax, it wouldn‘t do to scare her now, she‘d be pissed and scared enough later. “It’s beautiful Cordelia, you’ll love it,” the soft tone returned as he placed his arm back around her and urged her along. His muscles seemed to tighten around her almost painfully as soon as they had exited the room. The once soothing and protective gesture now seemed possessive and domineering. A strange stillness came over her, like the calm before a storm. The clothes, this prison he seemed to have kept her in, the way he avoided telling her about Wolfram and Hart and that he loved her in return, none of it seemed right. The weak and defenseless feeling Angel had seduced her into inside of the room vanished. Her mind cleared and the once troubling questions stood in an orderly line at the back of her brain, patiently waiting. Waiting for the storm to arrive.
“Good night Mr. Angel. Congratulations Mr. Angel. We’re all so pleased Mr. Angel,” a chorus of voices called out through artificial smiles as they past each woman. They were beginning to make Cordelia’s skin crawl. “Okay,” she said to him in a shivery voice. “The whole Mr. Angel thing’s gotta go.”
Angel knew that the answers to her questions about Wolfram and Hart had to come out sooner or later, but he also knew Cordelia. She believed in actions and physical proof of something before she believed in words. ‘People lie,‘ she would always say matter-of-factly ‘Actions don’t’. That was his defense, his reasoning for not answering her. If he had told her about his deal with Wolfram and Hart and what he had to promise in that deal, he knew that she would be furious. So, he would just have to stall until he could show her that the deal wasn’t so bad. Prove to her that this could be a way of life for all of them. His soul was already damned and as for the others, well, he had convinced himself that eventually he’d be able to strike some kind of bargain with the ’Senior Partners’ so that his friends could be set free.
He glanced over at her when they arrived at the apartment building as he handed the valet his keys. She’d been silent during the entire ride. The last words she had spoken were in the parking garage before the trip over. “Where’s the Plymouth?” she’d asked with suspicion, as if testing his answer. He’d told her that he had left it behind, as he opened and closed the door for her. “Along with the rest of me,” he’d said under his breath after her car door was safely shut. After that, nothing, no questions, no more declarations of her feelings, just, nothing. She had stared out of the car window in deep contemplation the entire way. A thought kept nagging at him. She knew him too. She knew that he wasn’t going to answer her questions and had decided to watch, test, and collect all the information she could in order to find those answers herself, and she would too. He knew that, because he knew Cordelia. He knew how she worked and what she thought about the world and him. ‘People lie,” her words sounded in his head again. ‘Actions don’t.’
Cordelia was startled from her thoughts when the car door opened. She got out silently and watched Angel give the keys to the valet. He was lying to her. Okay, so he hadn’t told any out right blatant lies, but he had said everything was going to be alright, and all of her instincts told her that that was a lie the minute they had left the room. She knew something terrible must have happened because, hello, four month coma, but it wasn’t just that. She sensed that her coma had been just a side effect of a much more horrific event that he had no intension of telling her about. Her anger flared and she glanced at him heatedly while they waited for the private elevator, but when she saw his face, the lost look in his eyes, her heart broke. He wasn’t just lying to her about something, he was lying to himself too. The comment about the Plymouth should have clued her into that little fact. Angel loved that car, he identified himself with it. It was old, a classic, dark, attractive and virtually indestructible. It was him and he had ‘left it behind’. She swallowed deep and reached out to touch his arm in the quiet elevator, wondering what else of himself he had ‘left behind’.
Angel could see Cordelia’s mind working. She was looking at him now in the moving elevator. She was reading him, and reading him right. That was a good thing actually, he guessed that it was what he had wanted all along. If she could work it out on her own, find out the truth by herself, then he would be spared looking into her eyes while he explained just what he had done. She’d be angry of course, but angry was good. He knew anger and had faced hers on more than one occasion. It had always worked out in the end and it would work out this time too. He prepared for her angry rant, for her demanding words ordering him to tell her what was going on, and now.
But her expression changed, her eyes softened and almost looked damp. She reached out and touched his arm gently as if to say ‘I’m so sorry’. It infuriated him. She was supposed to be getting mad at him, they were out of their enchanted room and the big bad world was closing in on them one floor at a time. She knew he was keeping things from her, awful, terrible things. He could tell by the flash of anger he saw cross her face, but then it faded and all that was left was pity.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. He was supposed to stall and avoid for as long as possible until eventually she realized what was going on. She’d be mad, outraged, but then he could be punished, could be forced to atone for the wrongs he had caused her and his failure to protect her. That was the way it had always gone with her anyway, it was what he knew. But now she was screwing up the system, jumping from mad to pity and sorrow in a matter of seconds. It wasn’t right, wasn’t what he had wanted, and it was making him feel weak and that was something he couldn’t afford to be right now.
He took her hand from his arm and placed it back down at her side, never looking over at her. “We’re here,” he said coldly and exited the elevator.
There were two muscular bodyguards flanking each side of the wooden doors and greeted Angel as he ushered her through the entrance. “Good evening sir.”
As soon as the doors pushed open Cordelia heard a loud squeal and was bombarded in a massive group hug.
“Oh my gosh,” Fred exclaimed as everyone backed away to get a good look at their friend. “I can’t believe it. You really are here,” the girl said tearfully, engulfing Cordelia in another strong embrace.
“Cordelia,” Wesley smile was wide but somewhat sad. “We’ve missed you.”
“I’ll second that princess,” Lorne lifted his glass from a nearby table.
Gunn placed a hand on Cordy’s shoulder, “It’s been hell without you here, Barbie.”
“Literally,” Fred’s muffled voice came from Cordelia’s shoulder.
“Fred, air is becoming an issue here.”
“Oh,” she slowly raised her head and backed away with an embarrassed smile. “Sorry.”
Cordelia smiled at her friend’s. “S’okay. I guess I could say I missed you guys but to me it only seems like I’ve been gone a day.” She began to walk around and take in the apartment, the expensive furniture, the art covering the walls.
“Do you like it?” Fred followed her. “Angel had Wolfram and Hart buy it for ya months ago. It’s yours, you don’t even have to work for the company or anything.” Fred’s excitement had gotten the best of her. She fell silent and looked at the others. Everyone’s face dropped, and their eyes searched for something in the room to look at, anything but Cordelia.
There was the truth, cold and hard. She knew she would find it if she waited long enough. Cordy turned and crossed her arms, looking at Angel with disappointment. “One prison for another, huh? I bet there’s a closet full of designer clothes here too, and a staff to wait on me hand and foot.” she reproached.
Angel just looked at her.
“Come on kids,” Lorne motioned. “Let’s all venture into that gourmet kitchen in there. My drinks a little flat.” Everyone but Cordy and Angel slowly left the room.
“You don’t know what happened,” he began quietly. “You weren’t here. It was…”
“A dark time,” she mocked.
“Don’t do that Cordy. The world was ending. I was losing my family left and right. I had no choice!” he shouted.
“So you made a deal with the devil? Why?” her voice shook slightly.
“To save you,” ‘and Connor’ his mind silently uttered the name before he could stop it.
“Don’t do that,” she gritted her teeth. “Don’t use me as an excuse for giving up.”
“What did you have to promise, you’re soul, the mission, your destiny?” the tears beginning to shine in her eyes.
“All of it,” he whispered, looking at her with eyes full of hopelessness.
“Get out of it,” she ordered.
“I have!” he pushed out a frustrated breath.
“I don’t believe you.”
“What?!” he was outraged and let words he didn’t mean slip before he could stop them. “This is YOUR fault.”
“What?” she breathed.
He had said it, there was no stopping now. “You left, let Skip trick you into leaving me. He sent you back a few months later. I was so glad to see you, you looked so beautiful. But I was too wrapped up in my own emotions to realize that YOU weren’t really there. They used you Cordy. The Powers. They sent your body back to us possessed by some demon, here to destroy the world,” he paused and ran a hand through his hair. “The things you said,” he relived the moments in his mind. “The things you did. You destroyed me Cordy,” he sat down on the plush sofa, exhausted by the horrible memories flashing in his mind.
She was quiet, letting everything he had said sink in. It was all so unbelievable, but somehow she knew it must be true.
He looked up at her, waiting for her sympathy, the pity she had shown him earlier in the elevator. He didn’t get it.
“Angel, why didn’t you tell me that you love me?” she was suddenly hurt.
“What?” he said, unsure at the change of subject.
“Back in the room. Why didn’t you say it after I did?”
Didn’t he? No he didn‘t. He’d meant to, but when he had heard her say those words, all he could do was react, show her, not tell her. Cordy believed actions, not words. “Cordy, it’s hard for me…”
“Yeah,” she interrupted. “It’s hard to love someone who makes bad decisions, who inadvertently hurts people while trying to do the right thing. Someone who is possessed by an evil demon who tries to destroy everyone and everything that that person loves. I should know. I love you.” She was ranting know, her voice was breathless and quivered against the sobs that she so desperately held back.
She turned to the stone faces who exited the kitchen. “And what about all of you? Did you all make this brilliant deal too, or are you just along for the ride?”
“Cordelia,” Wesley tried.
“No! I don’t want to hear it. I can’t believe all of you. You could have stopped him.”
Angel stood at her accusing tone. He’d made the deal. They were just as innocent as she was in all of this. “Cordy, they had no choice. It had nothing to do with them.”
“Everyone has a choice Angel,” she condescended.
Rage at her tone, at the thoughts of what her ‘evil’ persona had done to him, their family, took him over. “This isn’t even about them Cordy! It’s about you not being able to forgive me! For not being able to save you this time, for not knowing it wasn’t you!”
“Forgive you?!” she huffed with astonishment. “This,” she motioned with her hand to the room around them. “This is what I can’t forgive Angel. This apartment, the clothes, the money, the car, Wolfram and Hart.”
“There was a time that all of these things would have made you the happiest woman on the planet,” he closed his eyes as soon as he said it. He didn’t mean it. He knew he was just reaching for weapons that would hurt her, like she was hurting him.
She stilled and looked at him for what seemed like an eternity. “Yes Angel,” her voice became as soft as a whisper. “There was a time when I would have loved to have had all of these things, but not at any price, not even then. There is a line that I just can’t cross,” she looked between Angel and her stunned friends, “and right now you’re all so far across that line that I just can’t see you at all.” Tears began to stream from her eyes as she bolted through the front doors of the apartment.
The burly bodyguards started to give chase but Angel stopped their pursuit. “Let her go,” he was shattered.
“Well, that went well,” Lorne downed his drink and headed back to the kitchen.
“Angel?” Fred asked weakly.
Angel didn’t answer. He looked at the four guards. “Make sure she has a car waiting out front for her. You two, tail her. Don’t let her out of your sight.”
“Yo man, I’m goin’ after her,” Gunn announced.
“No,” Angel turned. “I’ll go. She just needs a while to cool off, to let everything sink in. Besides, I know where she’s going.”
“Where?” Wesley asked.
Angel looked back at the open doors. “Home.”