Title: Displaced. A Darkness Within Fic
Category: Full of angst with a little humor along the way, and lots of sexual tension
Content: (Pairing) A/C; A/C/W friendship
Summary: Angel returns from Sri Lanka to find that Cordelia has had an epiphany of her own.
Spoilers: Starts at end of Season 1 ‘Hero’ and basically AU from there.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: GT, NF, anwhere else, just ask.
Notes: Decided late last night to try my own challenge. This part was written rather quickly, so apologies if that or the absence of a beta check shows. Promise to do better with the next part, and in the meantime, be kind
Feedback: Yes please
Her face buried inside splayed palms, Cordelia helplessly waited for the burning ache inside her head to subside. It had been almost two hours since the vision. Evil had been defeated, an innocent saved; and still, the physical anguish lingered. Tired of being a pathetic lump on Wesley’s sofa, she cautiously lifted her head; then risked a slow flutter of her eyelids. The costly mistake renewed her stomach’s sickening churn, and ignoring the concerned looks thrown in her direction; Cordelia closed her eyes, temporarily content to wait a little longer.
The visions were getting worse, or maybe, she was getting weaker as human frailty fell victim to the mystic messages not meant for her. Pretending that she was okay, soon wouldn’t be an option. With each recovery taking longer, her friends were bound to get suspicious. And if the worried glances were any indication, they already were.
Fate hadn’t only dealt her the wrong hand, Cordelia realized. Each time Wesley and Gunn stood against a demon from her vision, they risked their lives for a mission that wasn’t meant for them. One by one, they had joined the battle against evil, each believing they were doing their part for the greater good. But the sad truth was, they were hardly more than innocents themselves, trapped by circumstances beyond their control.
Buffy had died; and Angel consumed by grief, had left in search of answers. And just as they had during his first crisis of faith, they stayed, they fought, and pretended nothing had changed.
But everything was changing. Reality was stepping out of the dark shadows and into the harsh light of day. Real friends turn to one another in times of need, but for the second time, Angel chose to be alone rather than find solace in their friendship.
How long would he be gone this time? His epiphany had taken months after Darla’s reappearance; and losing Buffy was ten times worse than any failure he might have felt over Darla. The weight of Cordelia’s final realization was almost unbearable. Angel may not come back this time. What good was redemption, or the promise of his shanshu, if he’s lost the only person he’d want to share it with?
A few slow, steady breaths and Cordelia let her own epiphany seep in, replacing hopelessness with determination. She would grieve later for the loss of her friend; because right now, it was time to take back control of her life. Cordelia forced her eyes open again, this time willing away the pain searing through her skull.
“Wesley, we need to talk.”
Wesley studied the dingy hovel Mr. Atherton insisted on calling an office. Far worse than their last hastily obtained space, it appeared even the rodent population had left the ramshackle dwelling in search of better accommodations.
“A thousand a month, you say.” Wesley stroked his chin, rolling his eyes in Cordelia’s direction. “The place is… it’s rather-”
“It’s a dump.” Cordelia interrupted, irritated by Wesley’s stammering grope for a politically correct description. “And we’re not taking it.” Meeting over, she grabbed Wesley’s arm and yanked him outside, slamming the rickety door behind them.
With her new lease on life, Cordelia was determined to shed their old image of the odd little detective agency that took on strange cases pro bono. They would be a force to be reckoned with. But this new lifestyle required an office that reflected their new image. And suddenly in dire need of working capital, Cordelia Chase sprung into action.
“I think I know how we can afford the kind of place we want.”
“Given our financial situation; dare I ask if it’s legal?”
“Legal? Probably. Ethical, I’m not so sure. But let me worry about that while you figure out how to contact The Powers-and check in with Gunn. I don’t want his people getting hurt because they’re picking up our slack with the demon fighting.”
“Cordelia, I am still the boss; right”
“Of course you are Wesley.” Cordelia answered, something akin to a grimaced smile contorting her face. “Now scoot. We have work to do.” And with that, she was off on her newly, self-appointed mission.
Wesley, left standing on the sidewalk, questioned for the umpteenth time if they might be rash in their decision. It wasn’t that he disagreed with the unlikelihood of Angel’s return; but rather, he had expected Cordelia to reject the possibility until the bitter end. She must be heartbroken, he reasoned. Why else would she be so determined to erase any evidence of Angel from her life.
“Your call was really out of the blue, Cordelia.”
“Things have been hectic these last few months. I-” Cordelia consciously softened her body language, lips stretching into a demure smile, her eyes sparkled with just the right hint of seduction. “Look who I’m talking to about hectic. You must be one of the busiest men in LA.”
“So how are the guys? Is Angel out defending a helpless from demons?”
“Why talk about Angel when you’re so much more interesting.” Her perfect smile frozen in place, Cordelia brushed her fingertips across his knuckles, just enough for him to feel the friction of their touch. “Besides, Angel left almost three months ago, and no one’s heard from him since.”
“Wow. Wasn’t expecting that. You okay?”
“The truth is,” Cordelia began then pressed her fingers against her lips and tilted her head down. “It’s been really hard being on our own with demons to fight.” And after just the right pause, she lifted her face to share a dainty flutter of long, dark lashes. “Not to mention the financial burden of keeping up that big hotel.”
“I had no idea you were having a rough time. Why didn’t you call me sooner?”
There was a time when manipulation was a prized asset. Then friendships formed and loyalties were sworn; and slowly, personal wants became less important. Using David Nabbit’s concern to her advantage would probably haunt her later, but it was a price Cordelia was willing to pay; and a sin she was prepared to atone if necessary.
“Because this is my problem. I can’t expect you to swoop in and save me.”
“Of course you can. I have more money than I know how to spend.”
“That’s very gracious of you David, but it may be a long time before I can pay you back. And if something more intimate were to happen between us, I’d feel cheap.”
“No strings Cordelia. Just let me help you.”
“Well… If you insist.”
“Jeeze Wesley, will you stop looking a gift horse in the mouth?”
“But shouldn’t there be contracts to sign?”
“For the last time,” Cordelia shouted throwing her hands into the air, “it’s a personal loan with no interest, and no minimum payment. David said we can pay it back whenever we want.”
“Damn Barbie, that must have been one hell of a date.”
“Excuse me?” Being indignant after a night of prostituting herself was a little harder than Cordelia expected. She may not have technically exchanged sex for money, but the dirty feeling clung to her skin just the same. “David Nabbit loaned us the money because he believes in what we do-and I don’t appreciate the slur on my good name.” Cordelia added at the last second, delivering a glare angry enough to disintegrate anyone foolish enough to cross her.
“Ouch! Retract the claws, girl. I was joking.”
“Well it’s not funny.”
Having little doubt that David Nabbit went home with anything more than false hope, Cordelia’s virtue simply didn’t merit Wesley’s immediate concern. It was how to help his young friend deal with the heartache she so cleverly disguised, causing his current quandary.
“Could we please get back to your meeting with Mr. Nabbit.” Wesley insisted with a stern voice he hoped would reaffirm his position. “Now, assuming for the moment that accepting Mr. Nabbit’s offer is prudent, I suggest we look for suitable office space.”
“There’s no assumption,” Cordelia asserted. “Because, I’ve already found a place; and it’s perfect.”
“Please tell me you didn’t sign a lease on an office Gunn and I haven’t even seen,” Wesley implored, giving up his subtle attempts to remind Cordelia he was in charge.
“I had to Wesley. David is giving us a year’s lease at half the rent.”
“Cordelia, have you forgotten the rent is paid on the hotel for another month? Good heavens, the way you’re behaving one would think you’re desperate to leave.”
“Desperate?” Cordelia halfheartedly denied. “We talked about this…all of us. And we agreed it was time to move on.”
Wesley looked to Gunn for support, but receiving a wave of surrender instead, accepted that he was temporarily outnumbered. “I must insist that we all have an opportunity to vote before making future commitments.”
“Fine by me.”
“Thank you. Now would it be too much for Gunn and myself to be informed where we will be working?”
A brief hesitation, followed by a visible cringe then the words stumbled from her lips, “1823 Sunset Blvd.”
“Hey, isn’t that your old place?”
“No.” Cordelia quickly answered before Wesley could agree about the familiar address. “Our old place was blown to smithereens in the big bang. And our new office is on the top floor.”
Gunn appeared fooled by the charade, but in all fairness, Wesley doubted the young man truly understood the driving force behind Cordelia’s newfound ambition. Despite her denial, he could see the despair as she dismissed their old place. And the choice to return had to be difficult, regardless of David Nabbit’s generous offer. So for now, he would remain silent, and support Cordelia’s endeavors. After all, Wesley reasoned, for once, it seemed as though time was on their side.
Discarded canvases scattered around his feet, all failing to capture every detail perfectly; Angel’s fingers tightened around the worn-down stick of charcoal as he applied the final touches. Perfection, his mind sighed, letting the charcoal slip from his fingers.
Three months, three days, and sixteen hours had passed without her enchanting laughter and warm touch. And now, the endless hours trapped inside the slow-crawling ship felt like an eternity. But months of solitude was a small price for clarity.
Having left to mourn a loss that appeared to have no end, Angel instead, found closure; the easy discovery bringing in a rush of guilt and remorse. He loved Buffy, nothing would change that, but they had not been in love for a long time. Afraid of letting go and moving on, they had clung to a moment, believing it defined what they should be. And sadly, it took this young woman’s death for him to realize it was time to embrace the life he’d been granted.
Giving the canvas one last scrutiny, and satisfied with the flawless rendering; Angel gently packed it away. A gift for Cordelia, a private glimpse into the sunlight that warmed his soul, even when he didn’t deserve it. Contentment filling him with each mile that brought him closer to home, sleep finally came.