I feel like a freak. They’re all walking round on eggshells, thinking that I’m going to break. So, these are my consequences, huh? My friends never acting the same with me again?
Fred keeps looking at me, then at him, then saying in that meek little voice, “How do you feel Cordy?” And that’s when I snap. I’m still in hospital (tests, they say) but I’m fine. I’m a little tired and the nightmares haven’t stopped but I’m fine.
Oh, and then there’s Gunn and Wesley – instead of them falling over themselves to be nice to Fred, catch her attention it’s now, “Cordy, can we we get you anything? How do you feel today? Visions? No, good. Everything’s going to be fine.”
And so, we come to Angel. The perpetual brood. He looks so haunted all the time but now it’s getting frustrating. I feel like I have to pretend to be fine or they worry more. You want a typical conversation? Here:
Wesley: How are you holding up?
Me: Same as the last time you asked me which was, oh look, ten minutes ago. *big smile*
Want another one?
Fred: So, how…
Fred: How did you know what I was going to ask?
Me: Because you asked me two minutes ago. *big smile*
And then there’s this.
Angel: Hey, Cordy.
Me: Hey, Angel.
Angel: How do you feel?
Angel: Are you sure?
Me: Yep, I’m fine. *big smile*
I’m exhausted from being FINE all the time. My face is stretched into a permanent smile that has to get wider every time they ask or they’ll think there’s something wrong! I can’t wait to go home…
“WHAT?” Cordelia looked at Angel, Wesley, Fred and Gunn, shaking her head. “No!”
“Cordy, it’s not that we think you’re incapable it’s just…”
“You think I’m incapable.” Finished Cordelia, “Look at me, I’m FINE… I want to go home, back to my apartment, back to my Ghostie – BACK TO MY LIFE!” She said, shaking her head again. “I know you guys are worried about me but…”
“But what?” Said Gunn.
“You can’t protect me forever!” Said Cordelia, then looked at Angel, “Well, you could… But, I’m fine.”
“You always say that!” Said Fred, “Even when you’re not, you say you’re fine!”
“And what do you expect? You ask me every two minutes!” Said Cordelia, shaking her head, “I want to get back into the swing of things, I don’t want Angelus dominating my life.”
Angel winced. Can the hurt face, Brood Boy. Thought Cordelia, sighing. “Guys, you’re making it too hard.” She said quietly.
“What’s that supposed to mean.” Asked Gunn, frowning.
“I mean…” Cordelia faltered, “I mean, you’re making me have to PRETEND to be fine when sometimes, I’m not. I don’t want you worrying about me, this is just another hurdle in this thing I call life.”
“So, you’re not fine…” Said Fred, “See, we knew!”
“I’m not going to the hotel.” Said Cordelia, “I’m going home.”
“You bloody well aren’t!” Said Wesley, “You’re still weak…”
“I bloody well am!” Retorted Cordelia, “Guys, you have to stop fussing. All I want to do is forget it happened and YOU won’t let me!”
“You have to deal with this.” Replied Wesley, “It’s not something you can just ‘get over’ or ‘forget’ – you have to talk about it.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. Talking means remembering and I clearly remember stating that I want to forget. Stop making this the biggest thing in my life! I want to move on. If I want to repress, I’ll repress. Okay?”
“Bottling up your feelings is…”
“Something that I’m going to do!” Said Cordelia, frowning. “I *won’t* let him break me. I won’t let him have the satisfaction of wearing me down. I’m Cordelia Chase, damnit!” Cordelia winced, yelling hurt. Her ribs were still tender where he’d broken them.
Angel sighed, “Cordelia…”
“Angel, don’t.” Said Cordelia. “Okay? Just don’t.”
Wheeling her up to her apartment in the wheelchair provided by the hospital, Angel kept glancing at her every so often. How could she stand to be here? After all he’d done…
As they pushed open the door, she was greeted with a banner, brightly coloured, balloons and food all set out on the table, along with a little present.
Welcome Home Cordelia
Cordelia started to laugh and looked up at Angel, “You guys?” She asked.
Angel shook his head, “Nope, that would be Dennis.” He said, smiling.
A small gift floated towards her, with a few cards.
Open it. The first card flipped over, was then discarded for the second, I can’t give you a real one… So I thought I’d buy you this.
When Cordelia opened the present, tears welled up in her eyes and she looked up, “Dennis!” It was a little teddy bear in a box with its arms outstretched. Written across the top of it were the words, “I’m A Hug!”
“It’s beautiful!” She whispered softly, giggling.
When her friends had left for the night, albeit reluctantly, Cordelia sat down on the chair watching as the plastic bag floated round the room, clearing up things from the night’s party that had lasted WAY beyond its time. It was 3am, Cordelia was tired. “Dennis? I’m going to bed…” She whispered, yawning.
She turned to leave, when a rapping on the wall caught her attention. When Cordelia turned, she looked at the message Dennis was holding up, “If you’re not okay, it’s okay. You don’t have to be strong all the time.”
Cordelia smiled, “Yeah, I know.” She said softly, “Thanks…”
She padded into her bedroom, taking a deep breath, glancing at the bed.
“Who am I?” He growled as he thrust into her, repeatedly.
Cordelia sobbed, his name pushing its way out of her mouth.
Cordelia winced, looking at the floor. ~You’re Cordelia Chase. You can do this.~ Slowly, she went over to her bed and stood there for a while…
Dennis stood watching her at the door. She was far from okay. It seemed like since she’d returned the smile had remained plastered on her face for all to see but… It wasn’t real. How could it be? He wished he was… Well, there, properly, the way she needed him to be. Dennis went back through to get his pieces of paper and quickly wrote on one, going back to the bedroom,
“Want to sleep on the couch?” He showed her the paper, watching as she considered but she shook her head and the respect Dennis held for a woman he loved grew tenfold, “Gotta get used to it sometime.” She smiled, “I’m not ready to give you up just yet, Phantom Dennis.” She teased.
Dutifully, the ghost left the room as Cordelia got undressed, waiting a while before going back inside and hanging up her clothes, seeing her lying, pretending she was asleep in her bed. He wished that last time he’d have been able to be there for her the way she needed. He’d tried to stop Angelus from entering, but the vampire was more than a match for the ghost and in the end, Dennis had realised, the more he tried to refuse the vampire entry, the more he hurt Cordelia. Gently, Dennis shut the door, going back into the living room.
Cordelia opened her eyes slowly and looked at the ceiling, tears sliding down her cheeks. ~I’m Cordelia Chase, damnit.~ She thought sadly,
~Only, I don’t feel like me anymore.~
“Morning!” Cordelia forced a bright smile to her face as she walked down into the lobby of the hotel.
“Cordelia, you shouldn’t be up and about…” Said Wesley, “You’re…”
“FINE!” Said Cordelia, firmly. “So, what are we working on?”
“Uhm, nothing… We’ve been sorta dead around here.” Said Gunn, shrugging his shoulders.
“Which for Angel is great ’cause he IS dead.” Said Cordelia, grinning. “Guys, joke, will you lighten up?” She frowned. Looking up, she smiled as Angel came down the stairs with Connor, “MAMA!” Shouted the little boy, grinning.
Cordelia giggled and took Connor from Angel, hugging him, “Hey…” She said, cradling him to her chest.
“Well, lookie who it is!” The Host, looking particularly… Drenched… Came walking down the stairs, “How you cope at bath-time is beyond me… Look at me, this WAS an Armani…”
“And now it’s…”
“An All-Wetty…” Grumbled Lorne, shrugging his shoulders. “How’re you holding up, Sweetcheeks?”
“She’s fine!” Chorused the friends, before she got snippy.
“What they said…” Cordelia watched as Connor yawned, “Maybe I should put him down for a nap? Are you a night owl like your Daddy?” She asked, grinning as Connor gurgled.
When Cordelia walked up the stairs, Angel nodded to Lorne, who followed behind her silently, standing at the door and listening to her gently sing Angel’s son to sleep.
On his return, Angel looked up, “So?”
Lorne sighed, “You got one stubborn girlie up there… She’s saying she’s fine?”
Angel nodded, “We know she’s NOT fine but… She won’t tell us anything. She won’t even talk to me.”
“Think of a wall, friend.” Said Lorne, sighing, “She won’t let anyone in, she won’t let any feelings get out. I had a hard enough time trying to read her without getting caught. You gotta break that wall down.”
“How?” Said Angel, quietly.
“One brick at a time,” Said Lorne softly, “One brick at a time.”