She couldn’t quite figure out which angered her more. The fact that she had been followed or that Angel wasn’t the one who had followed her. Cordelia glanced down the road at the dark utility vehicle that had been tailing her the entire route to the hotel. At least they were keeping their distance. She looked back at the black sedan that she had driven over. She had refused the car the first time the valet had insisted on her taking it, but then, realizing that she really had no other options, she had begrudgingly snatched the keys and sped away, grateful for the quick escape the car had afforded her.
She turned back to the hotel and headed up the sidewalk to the entrance and pushed at the dirty glass doors. Damn it. Of course they would be locked. She thought a moment and then walked around the building to the courtyard. She looked at the doors and noticed that some of the glass on one of them had been broken, leaving a hole just large enough for her hand to fit through. She walked across the stone covered ground and slowly, steadily reached in between two hanging shards of glass, scraping her hand just as she tried turning the already unlocked deadbolt. “Ouch.” Cordelia wiped a trickle of blood on the expensive dress and pushed the door open.
The hotel had always had an old smell to it, but now that smell mingled with stale uncirculated air. She gave a small cough and reached her hand out to the wall, flipping one of the light switches only to find that the building’s electricity had been turned off. Cordelia gave an exasperated huff and maneuvered her way into the dark office, opening Wes’ old emergency drawer.
Popping on the flashlight, she began to look around. Everything was still there, pictures, dried up plants, magazines, all of the things she would expect to find if the people she loved still worked here.
She walked from the offices, shining the light on the weapons cabinet as she approached it. It was full. Gunn’s axe, Angel’s broadsword, Fred’s contraptions, they hadn’t taken anything. A sad sickness filled Cordy’s heart. They hadn’t just made some asinine deal with Wolfram and Hart, none of this madness had anything to do with the evil law firm really. Something had happened, something so terrible that they had obviously left, without anything, and without looking back.
A small noise startled her, making her drop the flashlight to the floor. She breathed in a slow rush of air in an effort to slow her racing heart, picked up the light, and headed for the kitchen to investigate. “Ya know, following me over here I took as a sign of your boss’ concern about my safety, a protective gesture,” she called out as she walked. “It almost felt somewhat comforting. So, I let that slide. But sneaking in here,” she continued as she approached the kitchen door. “..scaring the crap out of me. You can tell him that that isn’t going to win him any brownie…” Cordelia’s words trailed off as the yellow glow of her flashlight caught the image of a long leather coat and a bleached blonde head, slumped against the kitchen wall.
Cordelia’s throat constricted in fear. She thought about running or screaming, or both, but he seemed unconscious. She moved the beam of light around the floor. There were bottles, six to be exact, four were tequila and the other two some generic brand of whiskey. He stirred and looked up at her groggily.
“Well, it’s about bloody time one of you showed up,” he slurred. “I’ve been here for..,” he moved his hand, silently counting the bottles on the floor. “..a very long time.”
“What do you want Spike?” her chest pounded as she took a tentative step backwards.
“I need to speak to your boss,” he tried to stand but only got half way up before leaning back on the wall. “Think you could pencil me in?” he tried to smile.
“I prefer the term medicated, thank you very much. A little cure for the soul that ails you,” he finally stood, swaying back and forth and taking a swig of the half empty bottle she hadn’t noticed hiding in his hand.
“What are you doing here Spike and what does it have to do with Angel‘s soul?” she demanded.
Spike lowered the bottle and looked at her shocked and fearful expression. He hadn‘t meant to scare her. “Not to worry luv. I’m not here to hurt anyone, not in to that sort of play any longer.” He paused as her words about Angel’s soul registered in his inebriated head, “And just because the old poof had his first, doesn’t mean he holds the patent ya know,” he hiccupped.
Spike’s words weren’t making much sense and Cordelia’s fear of the vampire catapulted when he took a small step closer to her. She stared into his intoxicated eyes and then to the weapons cabinet visible through the doorway.
“You’d never make it,” he dismissed, taking another step closer and setting his bottle on the table beside her. “I might be drunk and have a soul, but I’m still a vampire, pet,” he whispered with a glare.
Cordelia just stared at him, all her fear turning to astonishment as his words tried to sink into her brain.
“Got mine all by myself too,” he bragged, puffing out his chest.
“You did this on purpose?” she was stunned. “You…you wanted to be cursed?”
“Cursed?” he sounded insulted. “Who said anything about being cursed?”
“You said you have a soul, like Angel.”
“No, not like Angel. I asked for mine, fought for it even. I won it fair and square making it mine. No ultimatums, no caged demon,” he paused and raised his eyebrows suggestively, “and no curse.”
Cordelia just rolled her eyes at his last statement.
“Not that that matters to her,” he continued as if finding his true train of thought. He pulled out a chair and clumsily sat down, burying his head in his hands.
Cordelia didn’t move. She really wasn’t sure what to do. She’d been in a coma for four months, possessed before that, awoken to her family gone dark, and now she stood motionless in the Hypernion kitchen where a drunk Spike had just told her that he had a soul. And now, now he seemed to be…crying. She walked over and stiffly placed a hand on his back, unsure why she had felt a compulsion to do so.
Her friendly deed seemed to be the permission he needed to pour out his broken heart and disturbed mind.
“I went and got this stinking thing for HER. I thought that’s what she wanted,” he whined. “I did it for love ya know, to show her that I could be what she wanted, what she needed.”
Cordelia couldn’t begin to guess who HER was, or just exactly why and how Spike had gotten his soul, but suddenly she wasn’t afraid anymore. She thought of Angel and how it must have been for him those first few years with a soul, how lonely and confused he must have felt. Yes, Spike was a vampire, but she had always hated him because he was an EVIL vampire, now he wasn’t. He was just like Angel, or almost. It broke her heart.
Spike’s sobs suddenly ceased and his head shot up, causing Cordy to jump slightly and pull her hand away.
“I saved the world ya know.”
“Yes, I’m sure you did,” she patronized the smashed vamp. He just stared for a minute causing her uneasiness to return. He might have a soul, but he was still Spike, she had to remember that. “Well, I hope the whole soul thing works out for ya and everything,” she smiled, hinting for him to leave.
“Ya know she didn’t even tell me that she loved me until she knew I wouldn’t be around any longer to call her on it,” he ignored her. “She just said her teary goodbye and her and niblet just rode off into the sunset with the lot of ‘em. I don’t even know where they are now,” he gave a little sob and let his head drop to the table, making the metal legs clank slightly against the linoleum floor.
“Well, Angel’s not here and we’re all kind of in the middle of our own little family crisis. So, maybe you should just…” she noticed how still Spike had gotten. “Spike,” she shook the blonde vampire. “Spike,” she shook a little harder. “Great,” she walked from the kitchen and started for the stairs before stopping and turning to pick up the throw that lay discarded on the lobby sofa. She carried it back to the kitchen in her free hand, laying it across the unconscious vamp’s back and tucking it around his shoulders. “I hate my life,” she whined as she left the room.
Angel downed another shot and looked at his watch. It had been three hours since she had gotten to the hotel and according to his ‘spies’ she still hadn’t come out. She must be planning on staying. Damn. He had sworn he would never step foot in that place again. It held too many memories, more painful than not. He poured another drink and looked at his watch again before turning up the glass. “Go away,” he said without looking at the bar stool beside him.
“No way corn muffin. We’ve been looking all over town for you.”
“Lorne, I’m going to go and get her, I just need a little more…”
“Encouragement?” Lorne picked up the empty shot glass.
“I was going to say time,” Angel snatched the glass from Lorne’s hand and poured the last few drops from bottle number five. He tilted the glass slightly and stared at the amber liquid as if it were offering him some mystical answer that would solve his mess of an existence. “I didn’t even tell her that I loved her when I had a chance, in our room, before this ugly shit of a world closed it’s big teeth back down on us. I should have just kept her there. She could have been happy,” he tried to convince his friend and himself. “I could have given her everything she wanted, kept her protected and safe, and happy.”
“Like a pampered pet. Yeah, I’m sure Cordy would have LOVED that,” he said sarcastically and motioned for the bartender.
“She wouldn’t be so unhappy now if I had. As soon as we left the room I felt it. This world is too cold and dark for her.”
“I think, crumb cake, that the only thing too cold and dark for her right now is you. Our little Cordy is very perceptive even without the…”
Angel gave him a warning glance, after Cordelia fell into her coma, no one ever said the word ‘vision’ in his presence. He’d never requested or ordered it, it was just understood.
“She’s perceptive Angel,“ Lorne settled. “Especially when it comes to you. She probably knew from the start that something wasn’t right and I’m sure that number you did on her at the penthouse didn’t help matters much either.”
Angel closed his eyes and dropped his face in one hand. “I didn’t mean what I said. Just, seeing her awake, walking around, it brought up all of those things that she did when she was….”
Angel’s head snapped up, “Cordy was never evil! She was possessed. She couldn’t control what she did or what she said.”
“Hello, preaching to the choir here,” Lorne put his hands up in mock surrender.
Angel looked back at his glass and swallowed the last of his whiskey.
“Look Angel, you might be singing the song, but I don’t think you’re listening to the lyrics.”
Angel threw him a look of confusion.
“Under that luscious thick head of hair you may know that that wasn’t our Cordy, but you’ve got to clue your broken dead heart into that fact too before you talk to her again. Cordelia never hurt you Angel,” he emphasized. “She never would. And that’s more than I can say for those three standing by the door if you don’t get your perfect ass over to that hotel and make with the apologies.”
He looked in the direction that Lorne had nodded. Fred, Gunn, and Wes stood by the door of the bar, condemning scowls on each of their faces. Angel stood and stumbled just a bit before gaining his bearings.
“Whoa Angelcakes. Maybe you need to sober up a little before you go.”
“Tell everyone to go home and get some rest. I’m going to get Cordy,” he turned and passed his friends at the door without a word.
Cordelia leaned against the balcony doors and looked out at the city, the soft glow of the few candles she could scrounge up flickering in the suite behind her. She wiped away a stray tear as she thought about her family and the horrible mess they had gotten themselves into. She had to save them, had to find a way to get them out of their deal with Wolfram and Hart. But how? How do you save people that don’t act like they want to be rescued? How horrible had the mission and their lives here at the hotel become to make an offer from Wolfram and Hart seem attractive?
She searched her mind and her heart, trying to find an answer, a way to give them their lives back, as imperfectly happy as those lives had been. But she had nothing, no visions, no mission, no contact to the Powers, nothing but blind hope that things could go back to the way they were. Cordelia took in a deep breath as a thought flooded her mind. Hope. That’s what she could give them. That’s what she would give them. She would show them that things hadn’t changed as much as they had thought, that no matter how bad the world had treated them that they could still go on. Still have a mission.
She tried to push down her excitement. It might not work. She was all alone. Or was she? Her plan began to take shape in her mind and her heart leapt at the possibility of succeeding. It could work. It had too.
She stretched and gave a small soundless yawn, bewildered that she could be tired after four months of sleep. She walked to the bed, pulled down the covers and snuffed two of the candles on the nightstand, leaving the room barely lit by one small flame on the dresser. Crossing the floor back to the balcony doors, she reached for the handle.
“Leave it open,” came Angel’s voice from beyond the door, startling Cordelia.
“God Angel. You scared me half to death,” she could only make out his shadow in the corner of the balcony outside. “How long have you been there?”
“For awhile now,” he sounded defeated.
Cordelia remained paused at the door.
“I’m sorry,” he could sense what she was waiting for. “I can’t come in.”
“Oh,” she sounded disappointed. That was a good sign. “You don’t own the hotel anymore?” she questioned.
“No, I still own it. I just…can’t.”
“Oh,” she stood still in the entrance to the room.
“Will you come out here? I want to talk to you. Please.”
She hesitated. She wanted to be near him so badly, but she wasn’t sure if she could handle anymore of his hurtful outbursts.
“I’m sorry about earlier Cordy. I was just… when you were….I’m just sorry. There’s no excuse. I’m so sorry.”
Cordelia took a couple of steps outside and looked toward the shadow.
“I love you Cordelia,” came his confession out of the darkness. “I’m sorry I didn’t say it before. Seems like I’m sorry for a lot of things tonight,” his voice dropped so low that she almost didn’t hear the last part.
“Let me finish,” he took a few unsteady steps toward her, making the features of his face slightly visible and the whiskey on his breath noticeable.
Cordelia gave an exasperated sigh. Two drunk vamps in one night, fabulous. “Angel come inside and sit down.”
“No, please. Let me finish. When you said you loved me I just reacted. I guess I had sat in that room so long, whispering it to you in your sleep, that I forgot you never heard me. I’m sorry. And as for the way I acted at your apartment…”
“That’s not my apartment,” she bristled.
He sucked in a breath at his mistake, “The way I acted at the penthouse was…was terrible.”
“I agree,” she crossed her arms. The hurt of his words washing over her again.
“When you were possessed, you… no,” he corrected himself. “The demon, said things, did things specifically to hurt us, but especially me. It wasn’t your fault. I know that. If anything it was mine, for not noticing that it wasn’t you, for not protecting you from it.”
“I’ve never blamed you for anything that Angelus has ever done Angel, because I know the diff….”
“And so do I Cordy. It was stupid of me. I’m a hypocritical, possessive, evil bastard. Please forgive me,” he lifted her hand up and kissed her palm, immediately smelling and tasting blood. His head shot up, “What happened? Who did this?” If he hadn’t been drunk, blood might not have been the only thing he sensed.
“Relax,” she pulled her hand out of his. “I cut it on the glass of the side door.”
Even in the dark she could see his look of suspicion.
“That’s the truth Angel. I was running away so fast, trying to get somewhere familiar that I didn’t even think about the place being locked up.”
Accepting her explanation, he lifted her hand up to his face, the one with the deep scratch, and brushed the back of it across his cheek. “I shouldn’t have let you come here without me. I’m sorry I wasted those first few hours we had together, that I had you back. Please say you forgive me.”
“Angel, it’s not that simple,” her heart screamed at her that it was.
The alcohol started telling him that his apology needed a dramatic touch, so Angel sank down awkwardly to his knees, ready to beg her forgiveness. He pressed his chin against her navel, and gripped her hips, the coolness of his hands and face seeped through the thin fabric of the beautiful dress, causing an uncontrollable shiver to shoot through her body. “I love you so much Cordy, but I know those are just words to you,” his voice vibrated against her, producing a hot, trembling sensation she couldn’t seem to push away. “But if you let me love you,” he continued, “I promise never to waste another minute. I promise to prove to you how much you mean to me, not by what I say, but by what I do.”
Cordelia couldn’t help herself. She closed her eyes and thread her fingers through his hair, stroking the messy spikes, soothing him seemed instinctual to her. He was making her forget. Forget the plan she had. She had to keep it straight. She loved him. God she even forgave him, but she knew that before she could give her love to him completely or accept his in return, she had to save him, had to get her family back. “I forgive you Angel,” she whispered and opened her eyes. Although he looked up at her now, she still couldn’t see him, not completely, just a few shadowed features and a small glint in his eye from the street lights below. But she could feel him, feel his relief at her words. She was glad she could give him that at least. Let him feel that peace before hurting him.
Angel felt her relax, softened by his words. He rose and leaned close to her, his lips feathering across her cheek as he whispered against her skin. “I love you,” this time the words weren’t desperate or pleading, just full of hope. “I’ve lost my way without you here. This night should have started so different Cordy, let me make it up to you. I’ll do anything to show you just how much you mean to me.”
Hot tears filled Cordelia’s eyes. She wanted nothing more in that moment than to leave with him, to go wherever he wanted, heaven or hell, it didn’t matter. But she had a plan, she had to save him, no matter the cost. He said he would do anything, anything to prove his love. She had to use it. She pushed him back slightly and looked into his eyes, partially hidden in shadow. “Come home,” she ordered coolly.
“You said you would prove how much I meant to you, that you would do anything. Well, prove it. Come home.”
“Cordy, I can’t. I made a deal with them. I have to keep it to keep you safe, to hold on to my soul.”
“And what about the mission?”
“There is no mission Cordy, there never was.”
“You’re wrong,” she stated quietly. “You believed the lie Angel. The lie that Skip and Wolfram and Hart and all the other long list of enemies we have told you because you wanted to. Because you were tired. Tired of the fight. Evil will always try to pull you from your mission, your purpose, because it fears you, because you’re a champion. At least you were,” she even felt the sting of those words.
Cordelia turned from a speechless Angel and walked back into the suite, stopping once she was several feet inside, never turning back around to look at him. ‘Stick to the plan’, she reminded herself. She closed her eyes tight, forcing the tears away. She couldn’t cry, not until he was gone. “If you’re not going to come in,” she forced her voice to sound cold. “Would you shut the doors? There’s a chill tonight.” Not waiting for an answer and knowing he wouldn’t come in, not yet anyway, she walked to the bed and laid down, holding back her sobs until she heard the doors softly close.