It’d been two weeks. Two weeks of not knowing where Angelus was. Two weeks of not knowing why he left. Two weeks of not sleeping. Two weeks of barely eating. Two weeks of trying to remember how to breathe now that her world had fallen apart.
Cordelia had kept it together at first. She ordered Wesley, Gunn, Fred and Lorne into hiding while she and Spike searched LA. It wasn’t until she called Sunnydale that she began to lose it.
The nightmares didn’t help matters. She couldn’t bring herself to tell Spike why she kept waking up screaming and sobbing. He assumed they were about Angel being gone for good. She knew he’d feel guilty if he knew the truth. Every time she closed her eyes, the same two vampires would appear. The nightmares had grown steadily worse. Angelus was there too now, laughing and mocking her.
Slowly her lack of sleep, loss of appetite and her fears had taken their toll. Her hair grew limp. Dark circles had formed under her eyes. Her ribs and spine were practically exposed. She looked like she had aged years.
Spike had finally threatened to bring her family to the hotel if she didn’t eat something, get some sleep and shower, not necessarily in that order. She didn’t want the others to see her like this. She needed them to remain as safe as possible. She couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to any of them because she had thought with her heart instead of her head.
Cordy managed to choke down a bowl of soup. She took a short hot shower. She didn’t like to see her naked body, not when it was so violated night after night, even if it was only in her mind. She lay down in their bed. Spike suggested she move back to her apartment or at least move to a different room but she refused. He might come back. She needed to be there just in case.
She closed her eyes. The bottle of sleeping pills Spike bought was on the night stand. She wouldn’t take any. They would only trap her in her nightmare. Her fingers stroked his mark, trying to draw strength from them. She prayed for a dreamless night’s sleep. She almost asked Spike to stay with her but he wasn’t the vampire she needed. Besides Spike had joined the others to deal with her second vision in two weeks.
Sleep came but so did the vampires. She could hear Lilah laughing while one of the vamps ripped off her clothes. The other held her down despite her struggling. The grip on her wrists tightened. She started to cry, knowing what came next. Suddenly Angel’s voice filled her head.
“It’s okay, Cor.”
“No. It’s not. You’re not here. You left me.”
“But I came back.”
“No. You don’t want me. You just left.”
“I’m sorry. I was angry and confused. I’m back now and I’m never leaving you again.”
“No. You’re not coming back. I…don’t deserve you.” Her tears became gut wrenching sobs. “I’m so sorry, Angel. I thought I understood.”
“Shh. It’s okay. Wake up.”
“No. You’re never here when I wake up. Facing them is better than not having you. They come every night. It’s what I deserve.”
“Cor, wake up!”
She jerked awake to find warm brown eyes hovering over her. “Angel?”
“Yes. It’s me. I’m back.”
“You’re back? You came back? You came back to me?”
“Yes, yes and yes.”
“I don’t understand. How?”
“I went to Africa and faced the trials?”
“For you. For us.”
“You don’t hate me? You aren’t disgusted with me…for being unfaithful?”
“What?” Angel’s body turned to steel. “Spike! That fucking..”
“No. With Angelus.”
“What? You lost me.”
“I slept with Angelus.”
His body relaxed. “OK. I already knew that. I was kinda there.”
“So you don’t hate me?”
“Of course not. I am Angelus. I am my demon. I thought you understood that.”
“I thought I did but then…it doesn’t matter. You’re back.” She began chewing on her bottom lip. “Do you still love me?”
“Yes. More than anything.”
“I love you, Angel. I love you so much.” She drew him in for a kiss. Angel pushed her onto her back. Their tongues come out to explore and taste each other. She turned, panting for breath. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too.” Angel could feel her ribs pressing into his chest. His hands moved to confirm his suspicions. “When was the last time you ate?”
“I had some soup today.”
He noticed the dark circles under her eyes. “You haven’t been sleeping.” A thought occurred to him. “Who comes every night?” He lifted her chin when she refused to meet his eyes. “Talk to me.”
Her words were barely a whisper. “Nightmares”
“Why did you leave without saying anything?”
“I was angry. When I woke up alone, I went looking for you. I found you talking to Spike. I heard you say you could be with me because it was only temporary. I marked you and you said you understood. I thought…I thought you had accepted my soul being gone. I needed to clear my head before I did something I’d regret, so I left the hotel through the sewer tunnels. I wandered for hours trying to figure out what I’d done wrong.
It hurt so much when you said it was killing you. After a few hours of feeling sorry for myself, I decided that I would prove to you I didn’t need a soul to be your champion. I walked the streets until I stumbled across a gang of vamps chasing some guy. They were playing with him, letting him think he might get away. I dusted them.
It was pretty easy. They were all newbies. The guy..he was so scared. His fear absolutely drenched the air, so did the scent of his blood. I wasn’t hungry. Your blood had taken care of that but his still..it called to me.”
He looked into her eyes. “I didn’t drain him but I wanted to. I ran. I knew if I didn’t get away, I would bite him. Spike had been right. It couldn’t work. Eventually I would be weak. I wouldn’t be able to control myself forever and you would be forced to stake me. I left for Africa.”
He cupped her cheek. “I should have told you but I wasn’t sure it was going to work. You told me it was about my heart’s desire and I was angry. I hated that I couldn’t be strong enough for you. I couldn’t be enough for you. My heart wanted..needed you but I wasn’t sure that meant I’d be given my soul. Plus, I didn’t want to get your hopes up.”
He rested his forehead against hers. “I forgot about your nightmares. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to keep you safe.”
“You’re back. That’s all that matters.”
“I hurt you, in more ways than one.” His thumb stroked her scar. “I’m sorry.”
Her hand reached up and covered his. “I understood why. I just..wanted to wait.”
“I know. In a way it seems right that it was done without my soul present.”
“Because this is how a demon claims its mate.”
“You aren’t upset?”
“Only that I hurt you by not respecting your wishes.”
“I wanted to wait because I thought that’s what you would want.”
“I know but it was my demon who needed to mark you like this. My soul…the man in me wants to mark you in a completely different way.”
Angel pulled something from his pocket. “Cordelia Chase, will you marry me?”
“Oh my god! Angel, is that what I think it is?”
“If you think it’s a raw uncut diamond I picked up while I was in Africa, then yes.”
“Oh my god!”
“I thought you might want to pick out the ring you wanted but I couldn’t ask you to marry me empty handed. This way you can choose the cut, the setting and the size.”
“Oh my god! It’s huge. I can make an engagement ring, a matching wedding band, a pair of earrings, a necklace and a tennis bracelet. I saw a raw stone once. It was in a display at Tiffany’s but its size was like a quarter of this one.” She reached out with a trembling hand but he snatched it away. “Hey! Mine.”
“Not until I hear the magic word.”
Her face scrunched up in confusion. “Please?”
He rolled his eyes. “The word I hope you’re searching for is yes.”
“Cor, I asked you to marry me and I’m still waiting for an answer. You can’t have the rock unless you say yes.”
“Is that a yes?”
Her face light up in a huge smile. “Yes” She pounced on him, showering his face with kisses. “Yesyesyesyesyesyes” Her shower ended at his lips.
Angel dazedly realized she managed to steal the stone during her assault. “I’m starting to think you’re marrying me for the diamond.”
“Pfft. I’m totally marrying you for your body.”
“That’s more like it.”
Giggling, she placed her engagement rock on the night stand. “I missed you so much.”
“I missed you too.”
“I love you, Angel. I love you so completely.”
“You amaze me.” He seized her lips, his tongue demanding entry. “I love you, Cordelia Chase. I don’t deserve you but I’m going to do everything in my power to make you happy.”
“Angel, you already have. You got your soul for us.” Her eyes twinkled. “You got a permanent soul for us.”
“I’d do anything for you.” He smiled. “Is there anything I could do for you right now. Like I said I want to make you happy.”
Spike burst through the door. “Cordy, are you all right?”
“I’m fine. What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
“I heard Angelus’s voice.”
“Spare us your concern, Spike. I could have already killed her by now. Where have you been? What happened to ‘I won’t be more than 100 feet from her’?”
“I had to handle a vision. She was in no condition to come with me thanks to you.”
“Angel, leave Spike alone. I wouldn’t have made it through this without him.”
Angel grumbled as he wrapped his arms around Cordy. “Thanks for taking care of my girl but you could have fed her a little.”
“I tried. I even tried forcing her to eat but she started glowing at me.”
“I said I was sorry about that. I didn’t even singe you. Big baby.” She looked up at Angel. “Speaking of food, how come you never told me about my blood?”
“I didn’t want to let myself think about it. I felt guilty enough every time I’d accidentally cut you when we kissed. I couldn’t admit how amazing the flavor was. I thought I might scare you. I was afraid you wouldn’t trust me. I assumed you were afraid of my demon. I never imagined anyone could love me completely.”
“Well you know what they say about people who assume.”
“Angelus wasn’t lying.”
“I already knew that. Spike totally backed you up. He said..”
“Fuck!” Spike jumped to his feet and ran from the room like the hounds of hell were snapping at his heels.
“What’s the matter with..” Her words died on her lips as her eyes connected with her lover’s now yellow ones. “Angel?”
“That son of a bitch!”
In the blink on any eye, Angel was gone. She leaped out of bed and hurried after them. By the time she caught up, Angel was holding Spike by his throat, bending him back over the counter.
“How dare you taste her! She’s mine. What did you think you were doing?”
Spike might not need to breathe but having your throat crushed was not a pleasant sensation. He struggled to get his words out. “It wasn’t my fault.”
“Oh really? Cordy forced you to drink from her, is that it? You were defenseless. Let me guess, you only tried it once but you didn’t swallow?”
Cordy considered yelling at her irate vampire but decided a demonstration would be more effective. She picked up the same ceremonial dagger and sliced her finger open. She stuck it in Angel’s mouth before his senses could even register the smell of blood.
Angel released his grip on Spike to gently hold her wrist. He savored her blood until it stopped flowing. His demon immediately felt calm..er. He pulled her finger from his mouth before dropping a kiss on her palm.
“Spike didn’t know I was going to do that anymore than you did. I was trying to convince Wesley and Spike that you were telling the truth about my blood. Spike thought you might be saying that just so I’d be okay with the bitey sex. I figured if he tried it then he’d have to believe you. I was trying to avoid a fight. I was tired and I wanted to go to bed.”
Angel glanced warily at Spike. “Okay, if that’s all there was too it.” His eyes pinned the blond where he stood. “Don’t ever..”
“Calm yourself Peaches. That was the only time and if you tell your girl to keep her fingers out of my mouth, we can avoid any future unpleasantness.” He switched his glare to Cordelia. “Pet, I told you not to tell him.”
“I thought you meant Angelus. What’s the big deal anyway? You’re acting like we slept together.”
“Don’t even joke about that! Are you tryin’ to get me killed?”
“Cor, blood is a very intimate thing between vampires and their mates. You belong to me. I have sole blood rites.”
Her brows arched so high they almost disappeared into her hairline. “Excuse me?”
“You’re in love with a vampire. If it makes you feel any better, I belong to you too.”
“Well as long as it work both ways.” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Besides once we’re married all your stuff will be mine anyway.”
“I think you mean half my stuff.”
“Pfft. That’s if we divorce and if that were to happen, you’d be dust and I’d still get all your stuff.”
“We are going to live happily ever after even if I have to kill every demon and lawyer in a hundred mile radius.”
“That’s my sweet manpire.”
“You’re gettin’ married?”
“Yup. Oooh I gotta show you my engagement rock.”
“Don’t you mean ring?”
“Nope. I can’t wait to show Fred. Damn! I need to call the gang. They don’t know Angel’s back.” She glanced in Spike’s direction. “I’ll let you call Sunnydale.”
“I’ll take care of it, Pet.” He watched her bounce up the steps as if the last two weeks never happened. “She’s been through hell. You should’ve told her you were goin’.”
“I know. I wasn’t exactly dealing with a full deck at the time.” He continued staring where she once stood. “She’s so amazing.”
“Thanks for looking after her.”
“I put her through so much.” He shook his head. “She actually apologized to me for being unfaithful.”
“She told you about that?”
Spike took an unneeded breath. “Don’t be too mad at her. She..”
“Of course not.”
“Wow. I thought you’d be pissed. I know I was. Buffy shouldn’t have said those things.”
“I mean I know she was afraid you might go after her and hers but..”
“Spike, what are you talking about? What did Buffy say?”
“I thought…dammit! Look Peaches, you said it yourself. Buffy doesn’t handle surprises very well.”
Angel’s voice grew deadly. “What did she say?”
“You vanished. Cordy didn’t think you’d go to Sunnydale but she didn’t think you’d run away either. She called Buffy to give her a heads up.” Spike began pacing.
“The slayer didn’t take the news very well. You have to remember having Angelus on the loose has been one of her greatest fears since she was 17. When she found out that you weren’t even chained at the time of your disappearance, she blew up. Cordy explained that you were in love with her and she thought it would be okay.”
Angel could smell Spike’s fear. “What. Did. She. Say?”
“She told Cordy ‘if you stopped being Angelus’s whore for five seconds you might have realized he was just saying what you wanted to hear so he could get loose and come after me. How could you do that to Angel? He loved you.'”
Angel’s whole body seemed to be shaking with a repressed growl. “That self-centered bitch!”
“Hey! She wasn’t here to see you together. She is afraid of Angelus for damn good reasons.”
“She called my girl a whore!”
“She doesn’t think of you as one person.”
“She never could. It doesn’t make it okay to..”
“I know. I told her how out of line she was. I told her you loved Cordy. She didn’t believe me.”
“Of course not. Angelus didn’t love her therefore Angelus isn’t capable of love.”
“Believing you were two different people kept her from dusting your ass. You never exactly discouraged the belief. You go by two different names for fuck’s sake. You do remember that Angelus is just Latin for Angel, right? You don’t see me goin’ by a different name now that I have a soul?”
“I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to understand unless they actually experienced it. I was wrong. Cordy understands and she still loves me. Buffy made her feel…this is why Buffy and I could never have worked out.” Angel stared straight into Spike’s eyes. “When you call Sunnydale, tell Buffy she better stay out of LA.”
“I know you’re upset. I was too but don’t ever threaten my girl, Angelus.”
“It wasn’t a threat. She’s no longer welcome in my home.”
“She was scared and confused. Do I need to remind you what you put her and her friends through?”
“No and if she wants to hate me or try to stake me, I wouldn’t blame her. Going after Cordy is NOT acceptable. The fact that I went to Africa to get a soul so I could be with Cordy should clear things up for her.”
Spike watched Angel leave. He wasn’t looking forward to calling Sunnydale. He knew Angel was right about one thing. When she found out what Angelus had done for Cordy, she wouldn’t be able to deny the truth anymore.
“Why didn’t you tell me what Buffy said to you?”
“Because it doesn’t matter. I have you back.”
“She called you..”
“I know. I don’t need to hear it again.”
Angel lifted her chin, forcing her to look at him. “You are not now nor have you ever been anyone’s whore. You are a loving, truly amazing woman. I never dreamed it was possible for someone to love me so completely. I barely believed someone could love me in spite of my demon. Acceptance was the most I hoped for.
Cor, knowing how completely you love me is the greatest gift I have ever been given. You made our family a possibility. Your love not only inspired my demon to want to be a better man, but a champion as well. Please don’t ever let anyone make you feel ashamed of loving me.”
She brushed her tears away. “I was so confused. I don’t know how to love you any differently. I was so sure I understood and then you left.”
“I’m sorry I made you question yourself.”
“You got your soul and came back to me. I’m so happy. I can feel every painful memory, every doubt just fading away.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, my sweet manpire.” She laid her head on his chest.
Angel tightened his arms, pulling her closer. “Cor, where is everyone?”