Title: Second Chances
Author: Christie aka angelicgal82/ficbitch82
Summary: Almost a PWP. A one chapter deal giving a twist to the ep War Zone.
Spoilers: Everything up to ‘You’re Welcome’.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: AA, GTCA, JF. anyone else, just ask first.
Notes: This stemmed from a conversation that me and my darling FerretGirl over at LJ were having about what the guys’ lives would be like with no Wolfram and Hart to screw everything up. This fic (and later, a game) stemmed from that conversation. And shut up, I know I have other fics to finish, but this is fun.
Thanks/Dedication:To Cali, my ever persistant (and slightly evil) stalker. Thanks for the beta read and the encouragement and the many versions of “your fic does NOT suck” you go through with me on a regular basis.
Five years ago, if someone had asked Cordelia Chase what she’d be doing on her last night on earth, her answer would have been instant.
Partying. Going out with a bang. Enjoying herself. It was the required answer, she guessed, from the Chips and Dips girl, like that’s all she was back then. She had… layers, she told the people who actually bothered to listen properly. She had, like, hidden depths and stuff.
And all of that had long since changed.
Not that her depths weren’t as deep or anything. Or that she’d lost any of those layers but– A lot had changed round here lately. Take today, for example.
Five years after her first day in LA, Cordelia Chase really was standing on her last night on earth and not a party in sight. Couple of hotties, she guessed, but since two of those qualified as her best friends and the other– Well, it didn’t bear thinking about really.
All lost chances and missed opportunities and Cordelia would be damned if she started going over that right now, especially the way the conversation had gone.
They were laughing about older times, simpler times. All those allergies Wes used to get when someone said something meaningful. That time she’d got knocked up by demon spawn and if Angel didn’t think she noticed that he clammed up when Wes brought that up, he had another thing coming.
“I guess that wasn’t such a fun time for everyone,” Fred cautioned, just stopping short of elbowing Wes in the ribs and making Cordelia smile.
“I’m over it,” she nodded, waving her hand, “Long time ago.” She didn’t mention the other time. The one before all this where she’d been used to give birth to great evil and knocked into a coma. She took a sip of her pink Cosmo and almost smiled at the irony of it all. Tonight did have a certain party element to it – if you forgot that Cinderella had somewhere to be in an hour.
Her curfew, she guessed, hadn’t even extended to midnight – something she was pissed about but nothing she could change. They’d given her a time frame, a schedule, and since they’d beaten the Tiny Texan way before schedule, she’d agreed to the whole socialising deal – go out with a bang.
It’d do them good, she’d decided, remembering something like this before– Well, again, it was easier if Cordelia didn’t think about that. It was bad enough already, listening to them talk about how the gang was back together again, how easy it would be now that she was sans-coma.
Her gaze kept going to Angel. He looked happy, sure. Happy that they’d defeated Lindsey and managed not to get sucked into the depths of hell after he’d pulled his little stunt at Wolfram and Hart, but there was something beneath all that. Something that only Cordelia could see and a part of her – a small, fearful part of her wondered if deep down, he knew that something was going on with her.
It always had been Angel, she realised. Angel who’d figured her out way before anyone else had – Angel who she’d fought tooth and nail to keep how much the visions hurt from and now he kept looking at her. Looking at her like… Like he kept expecting her to make some grandiose speech about how she knew that he’d win this in the end and– God.
Cordelia sighed. There weren’t enough pink Cosmo’s in the world for the stunt she’d have to pull in an hour and somehow? She didn’t think the Powers would be too impressed if she did it while drunk.
She knew what she was going to say, she guessed, or at least she had the basic gist of it. Something about how she was on a different road and that she really did love him but things had got in the way like…like wayward sons and demons who told her she was dying and– God.
She’d just about forced down the lump in her throat when she found Angel looking at her again, plastered a smile on her face and announced that it was her round when technically Angel was paying for everything anyway, courtesy of his big-ass limitless credit card ala Wolfram and Hart.
She got out of her seat and made her way to the bar, sitting down heavily in one of the stools. You can do this… she murmured inwardly, mentally poking herself to do the whole ‘yay, good fight’ thing before Angel and the gang really noticed something was wrong. It was bad enough having to do this at all without them going all noble and trying to save her ass when resistance was pretty much futile anyway.
Good fight, yadda yadda. Everything that Doyle had fought and died for – everything that she was still fighting for now, right up until the moment that she literally took her last breath. The Powers had told her – given her one chance and Cordelia had taken it.
Did it suck? Sure it did. There were a billion things Cordelia could have been doing on her last day but none seemed as important as showing Angel what he had to do, making things right again, letting them know that everything that had happened… It wasn’t all her.
She’d done that, escaped unscathed mostly, though she had issues. But the most important thing, the very reason she’d agreed to this one last hurrah at life, was sitting opposite her – still uncomfortable with the whole taking time out to kick back and she was leaving him behind.
Cordelia blinked. Her throat felt raw, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears and when she turned to the bartender to place her order, Cordelia was almost sure that one of them fell, plonking wetly onto the bar.
She wiped it with her sleeve and risked a look in the mirror on the back wall, making sure her perfectly-applied mascara hadn’t been ruined.
She was startled to notice a girl sitting next to her on the bar stools, pushing a Cosmo her way. “Uh, no thanks,” said Cordelia, already pushed for time and so not that way inclined, even after being on the wrong side of an after effect of a penis, “I’m with friends.”
“You know Mr. Angel?” She asked, making Cordelia’s eyebrows raise and the next question spill from her lips.
“You know Angel?” She asked, archly, suspicious of anyone who’d approach a complete stranger in a bar, buy her a drink and ask about her manpire friend.
Times had changed since the days of Rebecca Lowell taking advantage of her entire starstruck self and pumping her for information. Cordelia wasn’t about to start divulging other stuff, especially not now he worked for Hell Incorporated.
“I work for him,” the girl told her, sating Cordelia’s fears somewhat, “Down in vengeance. I’m Amanda. I don’t remember seeing you around…”
Cordelia shook her head, “I’ve been kinda absentish. That, and I have no desire to work for the great sucking law firm of death.”
Amanda actually smiled at that. “You don’t like that place, huh?”
“Don’t like it?” Cordelia thanked the bartender and started piling drinks on her tray, “I pretty much wish it’d never been born or merged or whatever but it’s not like…”
She didn’t get the rest of the sentence out. She stopped talking to the girl long enough to hand over Angel’s credit card and froze when she turned back, seeing the girls face change into something vaguely demony.
“Done.” Amanda smiled, sending Cordelia hurtling out of the bar, the tray of drinks crashing to the floor.
The thing that sucked most about a coma, Cordelia decided on waking up once again, was that you had really no idea what the hell was going on for those first few minutes.
Her first trip into mystical coma-land had started with Vocah, back when Wolfram and Hart had tried to raise Darla and Wes had had to read the words of Anatole or whatever out, just so she’d wake up again. Groggy, sure, but then Angel had appeared over her and he’d taken her hand and all had been right with the world.
Second coma? Her birthday, ironically enough. Semi-coma but not, in that Skip was with her for most of it, putting his pieces on his chessboard and playing them for all he was worth, the big bronze bastard. Quite a head trip but one she’d woken up from, finding Angel folding her into his arms and telling her that he was worried. Duh.
The third coma had been the weirdest of all. Lying there in that hospital bed, being shunted back into her not-so-lively body with a coma vision and if she thought the urgency on the others was bad, it was nothing compared to this.
Sure, Angel could hold his own in a fight, but there’d been something about the big tattooed freak that had the Powers pulling her out of her coma so, yeah, urgency.
Her fourth coma to date was… Well, weird, still. The first thing Cordelia noticed was the fact that she actually recognised her surroundings. She felt groggy again, kind of like her head was filled with candy-floss or something, but she was back in the Hyperion again, back in her room.
She blinked for a couple of seconds, sure that Angel had mentioned that the hotel was boarded up now, only–
“No change, no. I’m sorry, Mrs. Chase,” came the voice from the other side of the door, “We’ll keep you informed.”
Cordelia knew that voice. It was a bit different to how she’d remembered it in the bar but she knew it. Wesley. Sounding like someone had, like, kicked him in the puppy or something. She heard her door being opened and closed and watched him from where she lay, placing books on her desk.
He looked… Younger, somehow. Like today had all been a bad dream. And he was missing that scar from around his throat.
“That was your mother,” he told her gently, not even looking up at her as he reorganised the books in quasi-alphabetic order or whatever, “She wanted to know if there was any change.”
Cordelia blinked and tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come. She frowned. Her last coma – fully mystical, of course – had left her with the ability to do stuff. Speak, move, alert her friends to the fact that she was, oh, awake now? Now…
“There’s no change, of course,” he murmured softly, turning his back to her as if he were afraid she’d see his face, “I’m still looking, Cordelia. If there’s a way, we’ll find it…”
He took a moment to collect himself and when he turned to find her blinking up at him, his eyes widened. It would have been funny under different circumstances. She’d never seen Wesley look that surprised in the entire time she’d known him and they’d spent a lot of time together.
“Cordelia?” He stepped towards her hesitantly, perfecting the deer in headlights look. “What– How– When?”
She went to speak again and when nothing came, tears of frustration filled her eyes. What good was it being brought out of coma-land when you couldn’t even talk to your friends? Say hey, let them know that yeah, you were back… You weren’t sure how but… You were back. Or just there at least.
“Can you understand me?” He asked, softly, rational thought kicking in. “Blink once for yes, twice for no.”
Cordelia blinked once and watched as concern flooded his face.
“You know where you are?”
She blinked again, realised that being in her room was very weird since Angel had sold the hotel lock, stock and dusty barrel, and then blinked twice feeling Wesley’s hand slide over hers automatically. “Don’t be alarmed. You’ve been in a coma for…for quite some time now. Are you alright?”
Cordelia blinked three times and watched as the corners of Wesley’s mouth quirked upwards into a small, hopeful smile. “I should have known you’d develop your own code. I’ll get the doctor.”
She wasn’t sure how long she lay there waiting for Wesley to come back, willing herself to move or do something and when the door crashed open, banging against the wall, Cordelia’s eyes swung wildly, her heart thumping in her chest.
“Cordelia?” He was at her bed in the second it took for her to register that the door had smashed against the wall. “You’re awake?”
Any other time, she might have ragged on him with a ‘duh’. He looked so tired, yet so relieved to see her, his hand finding hers immediately.
“David’s having the doctor flown over now,” Angel explained, searching her face. “I’m so glad you’re back.”
Okay, that she understood. Concern over her wellbeing? Definitely. But since she should have been getting ready to shuffle off the mortal coil right now she was a little confused. It was like he didn’t believe she was really here or something and she’d have given her left arm to speak, to tell him she was okay and, yeah, to ask what was going on. David? Doctors being flown over? What the hell?
“Do you know where you are?”
She blinked once, hoping that he understood her little code with Wesley. He looked puzzled though and Cordelia realised that he’d probably flown up the stairs like a bat out of hell as soon as he’d found out she was awake, hadn’t stopped to find out whether she was lucid or talking or anything.
She opened her mouth and tried to speak, her mouth stumbling over words like she hadn’t been able to talk those last 23 years of her life.
He shook his head and squeezed her hand, “It’s okay, Cordy. Just wait ’til–“
Angel’s brow creased. “Cordelia?”
This whole thing, aside from the sucktacular ‘in a coma again’ situation, just bit. One, she couldn’t talk. Her mouth kept falling over itself like her brain wasn’t used to firing off witty barbs at, oh, every opportunity. Two, every time Angel squeezed her hand, trying to be Mr. Reassuring?
She wanted to squeeze it back and let him know that she was relatively okay, despite everything that’d happened and her confusion over it all.
And three, who the hell had she pissed off, anyway? She was taken out of one coma, told she was gonna die, and then shoved into another one instead?If I ever meet those Powers That Be I’m gonna punch ’em in the nose…
It was frustrating, that was a given. She understood that a doctor was coming but, what, he was gonna automatically be able to let her speak? Tell Angel that she shouldn’t be here? She should be dead? This Angel was different to hers, she knew, younger definitely, though you wouldn’t think it looking at him.
But he was the same Angel, made up of the same thoughts and reactions as her own had been, even though it was a little different what with him working for Hell Inc and all.
This Angel, just like the other one, would try to change things. And if this really was her last hour on earth or whatever? She didn’t want Angel running around the city trying to put off the inevitable.
Angel, being Angel, kept vigil at her bedside. Still holding her hand but not exactly silent since she couldn’t fill the non-talky-void right now, he kept telling her about what he’d been doing these past few weeks…
Or was that months? Years? He didn’t exactly go into the details of coma #4 and every time Cordelia thought he’d touch on it, explain what the hell had happened here, he jumped to something else, telling her about some demon or other he’d killed last week. Small talk. Weird. And Cordelia could do nothing but listen.
When finally he’d run out of random, when he was sitting there his fingertips stroking gently across the back of her hand, Angel let out a sigh. “I thought I’d lost you.”
It was the first thing he’d said in the past half hour that’d had any kind of real meaning. “I’ve been here every day,” he said quietly, “Reading to you, telling you we’d get you back… Talking to doctors. David has put so much money into getting you the best care we could… I don’t think I can ever pay him back for that.”
Cordelia blinked. It wasn’t in code this time. Her eyes filled with tears and Angel’s head ducked as he realised he’d upset her – that hadn’t been his intention at all. “Cordelia…”
Wesley’s voice appeared somewhere behind Angel and Cordelia blinked, wishing she had the actual ability to wipe the tears that were sliding down her cheeks away.
“Ms. Chase?” The doctor came to stand beside her. A tall, dark haired man, greying at the edges. He smiled gently and explained that her code with Mr. Wyndham Pryce still stood, that she was to blink once for yes, twice for no.
First, he asked if she was in any pain. Cordelia blinked twice. He asked if she knew where she was, what day it was, standard coma-questions. He tested her reflexes, shone lights in her eyes and tested limbs that had long since stopped working and declared something that Cordelia had known herself.
Aside from the coma, she was pretty much healthy. Her recovery wouldn’t be an easy process but she’d get better with time, something that Cordelia wasn’t honestly sure she had.
She found herself trying to shake her head but couldn’t and when she looked at Angel he seemed to understand what she needed because he thanked the doctor and watched as Wesley led him out, talking to him about physiotherapy sessions, things she’d need over the next few weeks to get herself back to full health.
It took her a while, but Cordelia really had something to say now, something she needed Angel to hear. If she died here after just waking up and putting that much hope into a gaze she figured that had been lacking for the past God knew how long, she’d never forgive herself.
Not for that. Her lips curled around the words and though Cordelia could barely get them out, he finally understood what she meant when she garbled out that it wasn’t right.
His face fell. “Cordy, I know this seems strange but…”
It wasn’t that. It was the fact that this was clearly not Wolfram and Hart. She wasn’t sitting with a pink Cosmo in her hand, on the verge of dying and telling Angel everything that’d happened had been for a reason and that he’d win this in the end.
She wasn’t watching her friends for the last few minutes of her life, making sure they’d all be okay when she’d gone. “This isn’t me, Angel…” She whispered, her throat muscles contracting painfully. So, what, the Powers just dropped her in a body that didn’t work? Yeah, that was a plan.
“What– This isn’t you?” He asked, uncertainly, “Cordy–“
“I’m me, I…” Cordelia frowned. How the hell could she explain this in as little words as possible? Her throat scratched, the light was hurting her eyes and Angel was about five seconds off either declaring her clinically insane or demanding the explanation she didn’t know she could give.
Today sucked, in a word, and it was only getting worse.
“Maybe you should get some rest…” He offered, already standing to pull away from her.
Cordelia’s fingers tightened a little on his hand and for the first time that night, she was thankful for something. “No… Angel…” She’d had enough rest. Two comas in the last 48 hours, and God only knew how this one had been going on for,
“I need…” She needed him to talk to her, to tell her what was going on. Why this world was apparently different from her own. Where was everybody? Gunn, Fred, Connor, Lorne? And what the hell had happened once she’d made that stupid wish? “How long?”
Angel’s eyes darkened. “The coma?” He didn’t really need to ask. Cordelia kept her gaze on his and he should have known she’d ask that, should have known that she’d want to know… “A year,” he said quietly, “Just over.”
Cordelia had never been a gambling woman but even she knew he could be more precise, probably knew how many days she’d been lying there, maybe even minutes. It was just another thing this Angel had added to his list, she knew. Killing people, staking his sire…and now best-friend-in-a-coma. Or out of a coma, whatever.
“There was a vision,” he continued, unaware that Cordelia’s attention had drifted a little, “Do you remember?”
Whether she did or not, he didn’t give her time to answer because Angel was back on that day, watching it all unfold again.
“It was your birthday,” he told her gently, “We’d bought a cake and actually managed to keep it from you. We were having a surprise party.” He swallowed and Cordelia wondered how many times he’d actually said this out loud, how many times he’d brooded over it in the dark.
“You told me you felt weird,” he whispered, “One minute you were standing in front of me and then the next you were flying through the weapons cabinet.”
The way his nostrils flared, Cordelia knew he could still smell the blood. The room she was in smelled like flowers bought from friends but Angel wasn’t there right now.
“I tried to get you back, Cordy, I tried everything. I went to see the Powers but–As one door closes.” He laughed and it sounded so hollow and empty that it struck Cordelia’s heart like a dead weight. “That’s what they told me, remember? When Doyle…”
She met his gaze then and though she knew that Wesley was on the other side of the door and they’d gone through God knew what in the last year, this hurt – the one over Doyle that had never quite gone away was still part of her – part of them and something they’d share no matter where they were.
“I’m sorry.” She murmured softly and Angel’s gaze didn’t waver or drop.
He shook his head, “I’m just so glad you’re back.”
They needed to talk about that. Her being back. They needed to talk about such a lot of things, the most important being why she was here instead of her own world and whatever the hell demon girl had done to her to stop her from reaching her official expiry date. Cordelia sighed.
What if her being ‘back’ was only temporary? What if this was some giant mistake and the Cordelia of this world was supposed to die in this coma? Wasn’t that what Skip had said? That she’d get another vision and that would be it? Brain-go-boom and no more visions. No more anything.
The finality of that terrified Cordelia.
Not death – she’d long since spanked that inner moppet once the Powers told her that she’d only had one more ‘hurrah’ back in her own world. It was the visions.
Even after all this time, after the pain-free versions, the comas, the floating and the demonisation, Cordelia could still feel them like a pressure behind her eyes waiting to splinter and crack into the most painful thing she’d ever had to endure. She was no demon here. The apparent fix-all from Skip hadn’t happened and Cordelia wasn’t sure she liked the way that felt at all. Like maybe this was her second chance. Like maybe she didn’t really have to die.
“We need to talk,” she said carefully, watching the way Angel’s face fell. What else could she do? Live this life out and never tell them what had happened in her own? Pray that it all just went better and got the chance she should have had? For a start, that wasn’t fair.
The Cordelia of this world – where was she? Why wasn’t she back in this body? The tenses were confusing, that was for sure, and Cordelia was no closer to understanding it than the Angel of this world was to not-brooding about her coma.
“You should get Wesley in here too.”