Title: Walk on Gilded Splinters
Author: Ficbitch82 – aka Christie
Summary: Cordelia wakes up before YW in S5. She leaves Wolfram and Hart and Angel behind to fight the good fight and is joined by Wesley and Spike. Halloween comes round and they’re invited to a bash at W&H…
Spoilers: Everything up to S5. If I get something wrong, forgive me, I haven’t seen much of S4/S5.
Disclaimer: Truly, truly not mine. They all belong to Joss Whedon (unfortunately).
Distribution: Just ask first. :o)
Notes: I’m shifting lots of S5 around in this so… Just ignore Joss’ timeline.
Thanks/Dedication:Extra-special thanks to the lovely, fantastic, ever-so-sweet Debs for the tireless and fabulous beta. And to the lovely Gabs who requested a Halloween Party at Wolfram and Hart, Cordelia/Spike working together, Angel not being happy about it and Smut-on-a-desk.
Feedback: Does Angel have fangs? :p
It happened in a variety of ways over the first few weeks she was awake. She’d made her decision only moments after the first big shock and really, there’d been so many.
Connor missing, Fred with the miniskirts, Gunn with the hair and Angel – God, she couldn’t even get started on Angel. The final straw had been Harmony and that was overlooking the fact that her friends had clearly gone insane while she’d been in her post-Jasmine coma and started working for Wolfram and Hart.
The more Cordelia thought about it, the more it left a bitter taste in her mouth and the kicker was that she couldn’t stop thinking about it.
It was Spike who picked up on it more than anybody else. Only yesterday he’d told her that she was getting an overhanging forehead to match Angel’s – she’d only started talking to him again when she’d had a vision and, more subject to requirement than anything else, she’d had to tell him where the danger was.
“I was only kidding,” he murmured sourly, when Cordelia had ignored him for the fifth time that car ride. Wesley had almost stepped in to play mediator between the two when Spike had dared to lean over and flick Cordelia on the back of the head and demand sullenly that she at least bitch him out.
He wasn’t used to silences where Cordelia was concerned.
She’d been awake for two months – both of those not easy as alliances were forged and friendships seemingly ruined, hanging in tatters out the window of the big necro-tempered glass building that Angel felt comfortable calling home these days.
Wolfram and Hart. The very bane of their existence for more than four years. The place that had brought back Vocah to destroy Angel’s link (and yeah, she was still a little pissy about that) and the place that, for its own selfish gain, had brought back Darla, trying to drive Angel to the dark side.
It had worked, at least at first. After locking a bunch of lawyers in a cellar and leaving the majority for dead, Angel had gone insano for awhile opting to stalk Darla and generally scar Cordelia for life by making her think that Angelus was on the loose again.
That she’d be on the end of yet another clean up operation, only maybe this time she wouldn’t be so lucky.
They’d fought back from that. Angel had clawed his way out of the very depths of despair and come back more focussed, more willing than ever to make a difference. And Cordelia was seriously wondering how he’d got from that to this, working inside the belly of the beast and taking most of his friends along with him.
She risked a glance at Wesley, watching him through the partition in the lobby as he did his usual fact-checking on the case they were working on. She’d moved back into the hotel the day after she’d woken up, finding it dusty and deserted, though it still felt like home to her.
Spike had followed a day later, Wesley a week. The others, it seemed, were too far gone to notice anything unusual about the fact that they were working for the very place they’d fought for four years and Cordelia, clinging to the hope that maybe they’d been brainwashed, mentioned it to Wesley.
He’d shaken his head with a sad smile, obliterated any hope that she’d had left, and asked softly, “Then how did I get away?”
She had to admit he was right. Wesley was smart – possibly the smartest guy she’d ever had the fortune of meeting – but then Angel was too, most of the time. He actually believed that they were doing good in there, selling some company line about everything being a-ok when Cordelia happened to know that it wasn’t.
He’d been at her bedside within 15 minutes of her waking up. He’d put his arms around her and Cordelia had thought that, despite their problems, they’d get through it. Until Angel offered to take her shopping.
Now Cordelia, ever the pragmatist, was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Stuck wearing an icky hospital gown, who was she to say no to all the gorgeous clothes that Angel was fairly throwing at her? Was she curious about the money?
Sure! But she could bury her head in the sand enough to think that maybe they’d won the lottery or something, right?
Wrong. She’d first noticed something was up when they were heading home from the Beverly Center in Angel’s snazzy new Viper, going in the opposite direction of the hotel. “Uh, I know I’ve been in a coma and all, but shouldn’t we be heading that way?” She asked, pointing in the other direction.
Angel swallowed, looked a little guilty, and said, “Cordy, we need to talk.”
At first, she thought she was hearing things. Surely that couldn’t be right – her best friends working for the very people who’d tried to, oh, kill them on a regular basis?
Turns out, she’d heard right after all, because as Angel pressed the button that led them to the top floor and his office, Cordelia realised that this was something she couldn’t be wrong about. It was right there in front of her – people crawling out of the woodwork to pay homage (not literally, thank God) to ‘The Boss’.
She gaped at him the full time, especially when the guy that looked like the Devil himself offered Angel a game of squash tomorrow. “Are you kidding me?” She whispered hoarsely, “I mean, really, are you?”
Angel shepherded her into his office with a carefully placed hand at the small of her back and Cordelia let rip, demanding to know what the hell was going on around here.
She didn’t get much of an explanation. Wesley came in, followed closely by Fred and Gunn, and when Cordelia asked where Connor was only to be met with blank stares from the others, Angel’s face turned thunderous and he asked if he could talk to Cordelia alone.
It was like those conversations they usually had, only this time Angel was doing the talking and Cordelia was doing the listening. She stared at him open-mouthed, barely breathing, and when the door opened and in launched Harmony.
Cordelia took a step back, giving Angel yet another ‘what the hell?!’ look as her former friend threw her arms around her.
“Oh my God! Fred told me you were back, but I totally had to see for myself. Do you know what this means? We can go shopping and—”
That was it. The final straw, the one that broke the camel’s back or whatever the hell that old saying was. “Are you freaking kidding me?!” Cordelia shrieked.
Angel wasn’t polite when he shoved Harmony out of the office, he turned back to Cordelia, ready to face her wrath and stave off what he could and was pinned by an incredulous gaze.
“What is this, bizarroworld? First, I find out that you work for Wolfram and Hart and your son doesn’t really exist anymore – except to us and, for some reason, some girl called Eve who makes you flinch every time you say her name.
And now I find out that my replacement is Harmony? You do remember she’s a vampire, right Angel? One without a soul, as you so keenly pointed out to me three year ago. And did I mention the trying to kill us part?”
Angel looked lost for a moment, “I wasn’t…she was…Wesley hired her.”
“Wesley?!” Cordelia looked disgusted. As if the whole thing wasn’t bad enough! They worked for Wolfram and Hart, Angel had raped the minds of all his friends and they’d hired Harmony as her replacement.
Cordelia felt a little sick.
Sensing that she wasn’t at her best right now, Angel gestured to the chair behind her, “Cordelia, perhaps you should sit down.”
She did so, heavily, unable to believe that this was happening. They worked for Wolfram and Hart. Worked here as in clocked into the Big House of Evil every single morning.
“How, Angel?” she asked quietly, her elation at having woken up from her coma gone and replaced with a sense of dread.
“Lilah,” he murmured, “She told me if I took this deal…she’d make it different for Connor. He wouldn’t remember this. He was so hurt, so confused. He tried to kill people. He tried to kill you.”
She felt her stomach roll, an unpleasant feeling that made her want to throw up the little she’d had to eat in the last year since her coma.
“They had the best hospitals, Cordy. After your coma, I just wanted to make sure you’d be looked after.”
Cordelia blinked, “You wanted to make sure I’d be looked after so you took Lilah’s word?”
“The same Lilah who sent me killer visions so you’d go free psycho-boy from that hell dimension with Skip?” Angel managed to look at least a little uncomfortable at this, “The same Lilah who helped Vocah put me in a coma when they wanted to sever your link to the PTB?”
“Cordy, when I took that deal—”
“When you took that deal what?” She asked, stepping down on the end of his sentence, “You’re working for people who tried to kill us a not small portion of the time. How the hell do you explain that?”
How could he explain that? Angel stared at her a moment, knowing damn well that once Cordelia started in on their lack of helping the helpless this year, he’d be screwed. Once he’d tried for a normal patrol, just once, and the Wolfram and Hart squad had been on him so fast, making him sign papers and pose for publicity shots, that Angel’s head had spun.
Sure, he’d fired that squad soon after, but he was still finding his feet, so to speak, changing things from the inside out.
They were making a difference, weren’t they?
“You don’t even have an answer,” said Cordelia, disgusted. Connor, she got. She didn’t want to hear his son had died either but there should have been another way – a way that didn’t involve raping the minds of their friends and working for the enemy.
“Just…just let me show you around first, please? We’re doing good here, Cordy.”
She’d raised an eyebrow at that and at the end of her tour of Wolfram and Hart, when she’d visited Fred’s department of science, Wes’ department of translation, Gunn with his nifty new knowledge of the law and Lorne’s entertainment division, Cordelia had turned to Angel, deflated.
“This is doing good?” She whispered.
Angel looked wounded. He’d so wanted her to believe that there was something of value here, something that they were doing that made things right and the fact that she didn’t… “I didn’t have any other choice, Cordelia.”
“Yeah, Angel, you did. Maybe not a lot of choices, but you still had some.” At the end of the day, he’d signed that contract – he’d talked them into signing that contract – they’d all said themselves that they weren’t honestly sure why. “You used to care what happened to people.”
“That’s not fair,” he murmured, his jaw tensed.
Cordelia sighed, “Isn’t it? All I see is numbers, Angel. Figures and graphs that exist to help you keep peddling your company line while all you’re doing is trying to balance the books against Wolfram and Hart’s Big Show of Evil. When was the last time you were out there fighting? Not for a client, but for someone who really needed it?”
“We’re making a difference,” he tried again.
“No, you’re just treading water. Did you ever think that maybe they had an ulterior motive in all of this? That they could keep close tabs on you and your gang of do-gooders while they set other things into place? Bigger things?”
“Of course I thought about that,” he snapped, “How could I not?”
“Then why the hell didn’t you listen to it? Jesus, Angel, even the dumbest of animals has some basic instinct that makes it want to survive…”
“You can’t say that,” he growled. “You don’t know what it was like.”
Cordelia’s eyes blazed suddenly and Angel knew he’d overstepped the mark, “Don’t know what it was like?” she repeated. “Oh, I’m sorry, Angel. Were you body-jacked and raped so that all of this could be put into place? I was there through all of it – every single little part of it – having my strings pulled like some fucking human puppet, listening to stuff come out of my mouth that I wouldn’t have dreamed of saying, not to anybody, least of all your son,” she snapped.
“And I was there afterwards, too, on those rare occasions when you came to see me, when you told me yourself that you’d screwed up, that you didn’t see a way out. So don’t give me that bullshit about not knowing, Angel, because I know more than you think.”
They’d said too much. They stood apart, bright, immovable battle lines drawn between them and Cordelia realised then that it was too much, not enough. She hadn’t expected everything to be the same when she’d got out of her coma, but she hadn’t expected it to be this different either.
“I think… I think I need to go,” she said, her voice a little hoarse as she watched Angel, looking for any sign of emotion flitting across his face. If he cared, he didn’t show it. It was like he couldn’t.
“Go where?” He asked, deadpan.
“I don’t know. Somewhere. Anywhere that’s not here.”
His gaze moved to hers, his mouth open as if in protest. He quickly shut it when he noticed the look in her eyes. “I’ll take you anywhere you want to go,” he said quietly.
“Home,” Cordelia breathed out, “I want to go home.”
That had been pretty much the end of any civil conversation they’d had since she’d woken up.
Home, it had turned out, was rented by a new couple – one who’d gotten wise to the thing that had been evicting tenants since Cordelia had gone missing shortly after her little amnesia trip.
Home wasn’t her apartment any more because Phantom Dennis wasn’t there; he’d been exorcised, sent packing to the other side.
Her eyes had misted over at that and, left with a lump in her throat, Cordelia had glanced up at Angel. “I guess it was silly to think everything would be the same when I came back,” she said quietly.
A whole year had passed and she’d expected, what, everything to be waiting where she left it?
“Cordy…you can stay with me,” he offered. “Just until you find your feet.”
He’d explained about his penthouse. A few months ago, Cordelia would have jumped at the chance ‘cause, well, hello penthouse. But the fact remained, and she simply could not let this go, his penthouse was funded by Wolfram and Hart.
As was this snazzy little car that Angel was sitting in.
“Where’s the Plymouth?” She asked suddenly, catching Angel off guard.
He shifted uncomfortably for a moment, not wanting to meet her gaze, “Still at the Hyperion.”
Cordelia blinked. So he’d left that behind too. The Plymouth, the hotel, everything, “Is the hotel empty?”
“I think so,” Angel nodded. “It’s still leased in my name.” He waited a beat, “You want to—”
“Yeah,” Cordelia nodded, “I think I do.