Title: Downward Spiral
Author: Christie (aka ficbitch8282/angelicgal82)
Posted here: Oct 2014
Category: Halloween Ficathon 2009
Content: C/A & the gang.
Summary: The Gang go out to investigate a case, much to the chagrin of Cordelia who was supposed to be on a date. She goes – unwillingly – and winds up locked in a room with Angel.
Spoilers: Everything up to but not including Disharmony in S2. Also? I’ve fudged the timelines about a bit for BTVS/ATS and where Cordelia’s birthday falls. I cheat. Mercilessly.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Just ask.
Notes: Not beta-ed. All mistakes are mine. Okay, I’m a little rusty. I don’t even remember the last fic I wrote, if I’m honest. But here this is. An awesome prompt that lead me to kicking myself for all of a month over. *G*
Thanks/Dedication:To Livvie for the awesome prompt of: (bottom of page)
This was officially the worst Halloween of Angel’s life ever.
There weren’t many things that could earn a night that title. He’d lived through a couple of plagues, the Depression, he’d seen a lot of sick and depraved things. Caused about three quarters of them…
But this, right here. This was fear.
He waited, holding non-existent breath as the first ring came and went. The second, the third…
And when finally the call connected, and Cordelia snapped out a harsh, “The world had better be ending!” Angel finally knew what it was like to truly fear for your life.
“The one night a year we actually get off and I get called in on a case? How unfair is that?” Cordelia demanded, stomping down the stairs and into the lobby.
She was officially over the demon-killing business. Her second year of being Vision-Girl and the one night she’d been guaranteed by, like, all those in the “know” that business would be quiet?
Was, thus far, turning out to be the very opposite of quiet, despite her best efforts and her continued prayers that her cellphone wouldn’t ring tonight.
Dressed to impress in her Elvira, Mistress of the Dark costume and looking for a night that didn’t involve visions, vampires or demon-goop, Cordelia was ready for a night of relaxation.
A night of date-type fun with a guy who not only had a pulse and didn’t carry a deadly weapon, like, everywhere he went; but also had enough money to buy a small country.
And here she was, standing in the middle of the lobby with Angel who looked – and rightly so – like she was about to shove her foot somewhere unpleasant.
Still on shaky ground on account of the whole Going-Crazy-and-Firing-His-Team-Horribly? Angel was in grovel mode. Worse? Angel was in needy-grovel mode. And he wasn’t letting up.
“Cordy, we need the whole team there. I know you had plans–“
“You’re damn right I had plans!” Cordelia snapped, dumping her clutch on the desk in front of her and watching with a frown as the contents spilled out – cellphone, pepper spray, keys, stake and cash.
Quiet night or not, living in Sunnydale had pretty much guaranteed that Cordelia never left the house without some kind of weapon in her purse.
“Do you know how many times I’ve had to blow this guy off because of a case? I’m officially running out of excuses and he doesn’t seem to get why the supposed secretary-slash-all-round-awesome-assistant of a detective agency has to be there for every case.”
Because, honestly? They’d been worked to the bone these last couple of weeks. And while Cordelia so didn’t mind the money that was currently being frittered away in her account, there was such a thing as being run into the ground.
Not that the guys were complaining. Angel was pretty happy just to be working again and all yay-team! over helping those helpless.
Wes? Well, he was a geek – the guy was only ever happy when he could consult his books over something and Gunn?
Gunn’s axe had seen more action in one week than she had in 3-years as reigning champ of Hotties at Sunnydale High School. And that was saying something.
Cordelia was tired. And so very much in need of that elusive thing called fun. On the one night of the year that most of the demons of the world wanted to behave? There was a ghost somewhere that didn’t and Angel Investigations had officially been hired, much to her annoyance.
She looked at Angel who was erring on the side of uncomfortable and waited a beat before arching her eyebrow. “Well?”
“I–I was… Do you think maybe you should get changed before we hit the road?” He tried not to look. A valiant effort, really… And Angel was nothing if not chivalrous but he still didn’t manage it.
There was quite a hefty amount of leg on show, if he was honest. A split up the side of her long, dark skirt revealing longer legs, hidden by dark hose.
And then there was the top half. Which would have been all kinds of interesting if he dared look.
Cordelia’s gaze darkened, “And what’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing! Nothing, I just thought–” What he thought was that her outfit was wildly inappropriate for working a case but since he didn’t dare suggest that to her, he was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Looking browbeat, Angel glanced at his shoes. “We should go,” he mumbled, hefting his broadsword from the crappy little desk he’d been given, right between the coffee pot and the phone.
“Clock’s ticking,” he reminded her gently. “Wes and Gunn are already there.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes, “Well, whoop-de-friggin’-do. You’re buying me dinner after this, I hope you know.”
Things, of course, weren’t that simple.
After meeting Phantom Dennis’ mother and unleashing all hell on the bitch herself, Cordelia had assumed that the haunted house gig would be a walk in the park. Open and shut case, back home in time for Angel to supply her with Chinese and be on his merry way back to the hotel to brood.
Things, of course, didn’t go to plan.
“We’re locked in.”
Angel knew this.
“Did you hear me?”
“Angel?” Her voice sharpened considerably when she said his name.
He turned to look at her, tried to look everywhere but below her neck, and didn’t miss the look of annoyance on her face. Or the undercurrent of fear. “I’m working on it.”
“By pounding on a door that’s been locked for 20 minutes? Shouldn’t you be, like, conserving energy in case the old guy comes back?”
He bit his tongue, painfully aware he was still on probation regardless of whether he’d given up leadership or not and settled for smiling patiently at her instead.
“You look like a serial killer when you do that,” she pointed out, sitting down on a crate and glancing at her nails.
He’d been banging on that door for what seemed like forever and, unlike the headache raging behind her eyes, help wasn’t coming.
“What I want to know is what the hell Wes and Gunn are doing,” she murmured, incensed that they’d been abandoned by their friends. Well, maybe abandoning was stretching it a little.
It was Angel who suggested they go their separate ways, right before he’d remembered that he wasn’t in charge any more.
Fearless leader guy was now Wes, only he didn’t look so fearless when he was suggesting the same thing Angel had in a less manly, more throat-clearing voice.
Cover more ground, he’d said, which had suited Cordelia down to the ground. Covering more ground had meant getting out of here faster… Or it would’ve, if Wes hadn’t paired her with Angel and the ghost haunting the house hadn’t seen fit to lock them in the attic upstairs.
Right now, Angel was hammering on the door like being locked in here with her was the worst torture he could think of in his actual serial-killing unlife.
“What’s the deal with this place, anyway?” She asked. It looked like something out of a lame TV show. All fake spider-webs and equally lame Halloween-style dressing, pumpkins, the lot – not convincing at all until you saw the extreme dead-guy coming at you with an axe.
He was very real. And very, very pissed that people were in his house.
“I mean it’s obviously haunted–” (and Cordelia had to give Angel bonus points for shoving her behind him when Creepy McScary had come at her even if the ensuing chase had ended up with Angel locking them in with no way of getting out) “–but all this stuff?”
She plucked at the fake spiders-web with a fingernail and rolled her eyes. “Please. It doesn’t even look real. Do these people just really like Halloween or what?”
“The guy was from a TV station,” said Angel absently, still trying to find a way to get them out. He’d tried shouldering through the door but even that hadn’t worked. “He told me the name of the show… Ghost–something?”
He hadn’t been listening. Not really. Wes had handled much of the conversation from the guy, Angel had been too busy trying to think of a way to get himself back in Cordelia’s good graces after falling into a black hole of Darla-shaped despair and firing them all.
It was Angel who’d half-suggested Wes and Gunn to go on ahead, scope out the place. It was Angel who’d jumped at the chance to wait for Cordelia, drive her over.
He hadn’t been expecting her outfit. Or, in fact, the wrath at her failed date. Had he not heard her on the phone to a fellow Sunnydale graduate, telling her that the guy wasn’t really her type?
Angel had, of course, but if Cordelia knew that she’d accuse him of eavesdropping which–Okay, he had been, but he didn’t like the idea of Cordelia being out there aone with a guy he hadn’t personally vetted.
Angel glanced over at her and made a face, thinking for a moment. “I think that was it, yeah. You know it?”
“Know it?” Fire danced in her eyes now and she hopped down off the crate, wondering when her apparent lot in life had changed from bound-for-superstardom to working-for-people-who-just-didn’t-get-her. Ever.
“Jesus, Angel, do you guys ever even listen to me?”
Her voice pitched at that and Angel knew she was pissed. He felt like a heel. Aside from wondering whether this was before or after he’d fired her, he didn’t honestly have a clue what she was talking about. “Uh…”
“Don’t strain yourself.” She held up a hand. “It was three months ago. And, to be fair? You were kinda obsessed with the blonde and skanky one.”
She’d had an audition with one of the executives for the TV station that produced Ghostfacers. He was kinda creepy, if she was honest, but Cordelia was willing to overlook that for the fact that he’d offered her the lead in his show and who did scary and screaming better than her?
She told Angel as much, frowning, and added that one Todd Landers (the same guy who’d offered her what amounted to the lead in this show) had been more interested in her talents on the casting couch than off it.
“You didn’t get the part?” Angel felt his chest swell a little.
“Eww,” Cordelia glared at him, killing the chest-swell with just one glance, “What do I look like to you, a hooker?” Then, “Don’t answer that.” She didn’t suppose her Elvira outfit put her in the virginal category, exactly.
“Anyway, the show’s a total fake. I mean, for one? The special effects are totally lame. Nobody actually buys it.” She pointed to the spiders-webs and then the pumpkins, accordingly. “You see what they dress their set with?”
Angel had to agree but the parts he had been listening to and which he hadn’t told Cordelia yet were currently running a marathon in his mind. “How do you explain the ghost?”
Her eyerows shot up, “How do I explain the ghost? Uh, newsflash, Broody – that’s your department. All I know is that the creepy-dead guy is way more real than Ghostfacers have ever done so either they’ve stumbled onto an actual haunted house in their play for ratings and called in the real paranormal detectives…”
Cordelia frowned, “I don’t have an or. You’re the detective,” she made a shooing motion with her hands, “Go. Detect.”
“I’m gettin’ kinda tired of this,” said Gunn, glancing at Wes who, much like his former employer, was whaling on a door that was showing no signs of opening. “Vampires, I can deal with. The odd demon? Hey, why not. But ghosts comin’ at me with an axe and then lockin’ me in a room for an hour?”
“You’re not being helpful…” Wesley pointed out, hitting the door. Again. “And it hasn’t been an hour.”
Gunn rubbed a hand over his head, exasperated, “What do you want me to do, Wes? I figure you got the monopoly of bangin’ on a door over there. You let me know how that works out, yeah?”
Wesley sighed. Gunn was right. They’d been stuck in here for twenty minutes and all they’d worked out was the fact that the door wasn’t opening and the house was indeed haunted.
“Where the hell are Cordelia and Angel?”
“What made Wes take this case anyway?”
Angel glanced over from where he’d been sitting, frowning at the fact that all they were doing was waiting around for the ghost to either come and kill them or let them out. He felt helpless, unsure of whether Wes and Gunn were okay, and more than uncomfortable with the close scrutiny Cordelia had him placed under.
It was the first time they’d been alone together in months; the first time, definitely, since Darla.
“We don’t usually go off so little and it’s not like I had a vision or anything.” For which she was utterly, utterly thankful.
Angel had explained to her about Wesley checking the background of the place. An executive of Todd Landers had shown up earlier that day.
They’d been filming in the house for a week, despite the lies to the shows ‘fanbase’ that it was filmed live on All Hallows Eve; a creepy, spooky, spectacular.
And just three mornings ago, one of their camera crew had gone missing.
The police, of course, hadn’t taken their claims seriously. In the harsh light of day, things had a tendency of looking less spooky and their cameraman – Jonathon – had a tendency of bailing when things weren’t going to plan in his life.
Though none of the crew could honestly say that Jonathon wasn’t having a great time as of late; none of them could say that he was… Which was where Angel Investigations came into it.
“Not like it matters now,” Cordelia mused, doing most of the talking since Angel was staying quiet and it was, almost literally, killing her.
“I mean, we’re obviously supposed to be here, given the fact that it’s actually haunted but… You guys got nothing today?”
They’d afforded her the luxury of getting ready for the Date-That-Wasn’t; the costume party that she’d only scored an invite to that morning when Lane’s other date had come down with mono or herpes or something and there was enough desperation in that alone, the fact that she’d actually agreed to the date.
She’d gone to a Halloween shop to find that the last decent costume there was Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and though initially, she’d thought that it was maybe a little passé, she’d tried it on anyway and found she could really work the Mistress of the Dark angle.
Now? There was no chance of her even returning the dress.
She’d had to rip the split in the leg even higher in order to run and the killer pumps which had almost actually got her killed? Were lying in the house somewhere, probably being carressed by some creepy, pervy dead guy with scaly hands and a shoe-fetish.
“No suspicious deaths, no suicides… Nothing before this place went on the market.”
“Repair guy had his hand cut off by the garbage disposal. Realtors complaining about weird noises – and now the camera-guy from that show…”
Cordelia frowned, glanced at the lame-ass decor again. “He’s pissed about them selling the place? Geez, it’s not like it’s a palace or anything. Has anyone thought about just saying ‘hey, you’re dead, get over it and move on?'”
They’d done the legwork, she knew. Their police contact was lacking after Kate had tried to off herself, so Wes had been downgraded to Cordelia’s part of the investigation in her absence; the internet.
He’d even called her to ask how to work ‘that Google thing’, which Cordelia had explained oh-so-patiently while waiting for her nail polish to dry.
They’d come up with nothing on the house before it had gone up for sale and her date with Lane Daniels, playboy extraordinaire, was officially over.
“It probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway,” she muttered under her breath. Then, remembering Angel had all kinds of super-hearing skills, she made a face. “With Lane.”
“Lane?” Angel snorted, “That was his–“
She cut him off with a death glare. “Shut up. He was rich, okay? And he knew people. And he was really, really hot.”
Which just served to plunge her into a darker mood. Okay, dating Lane Daniels probably wouldn’t have worked out. He was a playboy with a mansion and a fantastical amount of money that Cordelia had once had herself.
She was a secretary living in an apartment with a ghost – talk about being from different walks of life.
The guy was rich, sure, but Cordelia was looking for… Well, something different, she guessed. She’d touched on it briefly when she’d been talking to Aura earlier but she hadn’t gotten into it too much; the guy was filthy rich, after all.
“I’m sorry,” Angel tried, turning his palm outwards in a sign of surrender.
“You’re not sorry,” she frowned, drawn back to the here and now – the now, of course, that involved her being locked in an attic with Angel and feeling more pissed by the nanosecond.
“You didn’t even want me to go on the damn date anyway and what was your alternative? Staying at the hotel and playing Pictionary with you and Wes… To which, thanks, but no thanks. I’ve not entered little old lady-dom yet.”
Her date with Lane had been her last ditch attempt to hold onto a social life that was virtually non-existent, what with the visions and all. And if there was one night a year she was sure one wouldn’t happen? This was it.
“I’m 19, Angel, not 90. Occasionally? I want to go out and do normal stuff. Date. Be kissed. Maybe have a guy cop a little feel and not knock me up with demon spawn, if that’s not too much to ask but no…”
“I’ve said I’m sorry,” said Angel, looking miserable, “but Wes thought–“
Cordelia continued as though she hadn’t even heard him, voice rising in pitch with her words, “The Powers That Be are, apparently, against me having a social life. Or any kind of life, really, and y’know what really bugs me about all of this?”
Angel didn’t but he had a feeling he was going to. He opened his mouth to protest, to tell her that they’d talk about this when he’d got them out of here and somewhere safe but Cordelia got there first.
“You got to walk away.”
His mouth closed abruptly, his shoulders slumping. As usual, Cordelia had jumped from one thing to the next and had managed to stake him to the wall with her blunt observation of what he’d done all those months ago.
What, exactly, could he say to that?
Her eyes were bright now, shining with unuttered fury. “You gave up your mission and walked away. Meanwhile, other people – like vision girls who had no option whatsoever in giving up said life were stuck there. Still with the visions. And on the one night a year she’s actually got a chance of having a normal life and maybe getting laid? Who spoils it? You!”
Angel was officially flustered. Aside from her catching him out of left field with the comments he’d known had been simmering for the last two weeks, she’d just admitted to–wanting laid?
This was too much. Forget talking this all out, he’d rather impale himself on the end of his broadsword – he did not want to talk about why, exactly, Cordelia hadn’t been laid tonight.
He went to open his mouth, give some approximation of an apology that, even though sincere, wouldn’t come close to making it up to her but Cordelia got there first, squaring her shoulders as if bracing herself for a fight.
“What? What can you possibly say to me that’ll make this okay?”
He didn’t know and that, honestly, made him feel more helpless than he ever had in his whole 246 years of living. He didn’t know how he could make this right, didn’t even know how to start.
He’d hurt her – immeasurably – the fact that she’d even told him he’d hurt her feelings had clued him in that much, had just scratched the surface.
Making it right was the hard part.
He’d tried, over the last couple of weeks, to be the perfect friend. To be there for her when she needed him, the way he hadn’t been those last few months because he’d been too interested in Darla and everything else he’d let himself get caught up in.
Since then, Cordelia had held him at arm’s length.
He had high hopes of getting back in, simply because he couldn’t imagine his world now without his friends in it, without Cordelia in it. He’d tried buying her clothes, a closetful, in fact, but they lay in his own closet in bags, untouched and gathering dust.
The move felt cheap. He felt like he was trying to buy her friendship back and he didn’t want to do that. Now or ever.
“I can’t say anything.” He finally settled on. “I know I hurt you, I know I scared you. And I can’t do anything to change that.”
“You’re right.” Cordelia blew out a sigh. Pettiness had gone out the window about three weeks ago. There was only so much grovelly Angel she could take, after all.
Underneath wanting to make Angel pay for what he’d done simply because he deserved it lay the real reason Cordelia was holding him at arm’s length: she was scared to let him back in.
“You can’t change it. And you can’t make it up to me. How do I know that next week, someone else from the powdered wig days isn’t going to show up and make you go all nutso?”
Cordelia frowned, “What, and you know that for sure? Every year running we’ve had someone from the past come back and bite you in the proverbial ass and y’know, 250 years of past is a lot for someone – anyone – to compete with.” Especially her.
Hell, she’d had to compete with Willow for Xander and all they’d had was 13 years of friendship as history. Angel had had a bicentennial.
“You don’t have to be vision girl to see where this is gonna end up.”
He stared at her a beat. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t trust you anymore.” And there it was. Out and laid bare. She watched as Angel flinched, as he shrank back against her words, and she really couldn’t seem to care.
That wasn’t half of what he’d put her through the last couple of months when he’d been off doing God knew what with Darla.
“It took a year and a half to get our business up and sputtering. It took you five minutes to walk out on us, which by the way? I think is some kind of record.”
“I was trying to–“
Cordelia scoffed, didn’t let him finish. “What, protect us from the scary-ass monster you were gonna become, locking those lawyers in that dungeon? I saw you as Angelus and came out the other side so spare me the bullshit, okay? I’ve at least earned that. You walked away because it was easier for you, nobody else.”
Angel sighed, remembering the Cordelia of old for just a moment and wondering if she’d have been easier to deal with than this Cordelia right here.
Shallow and popular, the old Cordelia had lived to make the lives of others a living hell – those less fortunate than her and, let’s be honest, those not as high up the money or popularity scale.
He didn’t see any of that now. Sure, there were glimpses from time to time. She still had that acid tongue, that sharp wit, could cut a man to pieces with her words alone and that was exactly what she was doing here.
He deserved all of it.
She’d taken the visions because of him. She’d stayed, fought, even when Angel himself had lost his way, when he couldn’t see a reason to continue and she’d come out the other end.
It was more than he’d done.
Shamed, Angel turned back towards the door, not knowing what he could say to her, not knowing how he could thank her for what she’d done, what she was continuing to do when the temperature in the room dropped.
He spun towards her, right as the ghost came out of nowhere and lunged.
Angel felt a wave of panic and dove, shoving her out of the way. He flattened his body atop hers, and in that split second, the ghost disappeared and Angel realized he’d thrown himself on top of Cordelia. And he was a damn sight heavier than she was.
He scrambled up, raising himself on his elbows to check her over, frantic. “Cordy? Cordelia?”
She grunted and turned to look at him, clearly in pain. “I think you just broke about seven of my ribs,” she sniped, so very much over this.
It was 9.30pm. She was officially supposed to be on her way to getting pleasantly buzzed from the alcohol, not being thrown to the floor by Angel, regardless of whether he was saving her life or not.
He helped her to her feet and it was testimony to just how much pain she was in that she let him. “I’m–“
“Do not apologize,” she snapped, batting away his hands, “don’t you dare apologize.” Because honestly? She was done with apologies. She was done with grovelly-Angel.
“I am SO done with this.”
Every event she’d ever had since Buffy had come to Sunnydale had pretty much sucked. Her 17th birthday? She’d been invited to attend a college party at an actual fraternity house by hot cute college boys who’d really seemed to listen when she talked.
Only, by some stroke of sheer bad luck, Buffy had been invited too and they’d almost been eaten by a demon.
Her 18th birthday had been marred by the Homecoming incident which had seen her running up against Buffy for Queen (as if anyone else deserved that title) and, shocker here, because of Buffy?
She’d lost out to Holly Charleston and Michelle Blake who, really, had only secured votes by the sheer amount of handjobs she’d given out to the football team behind the bleachers.
Graduation? Their guest speaker had turned into a giant snake and tried to end the world and on her last birthday? Angel had confessed to dreaming about Darla.
All in all, Cordelia was gonna go out on a limb and say that the PTB officially hated her – especially since they’d seen fit to ruin yet another night: Halloween.
Her life wasn’t even hers any more. Forget going out and having a social life – she was 19 years old and too scared to even date on account of the drool-fest post-vision and the sheer what-the-fuckery when she had to explain that the guy she worked for; the guy with the extreme aversion to sunlight was, in fact, a goddamn vampire.
“I’m gonna get us out of here.”
“I’m not talking about the house,” Cordelia snapped, holding her stomach as if that’d stop the feeling of her insides spilling out,
“I’m talking about this! This job! This–This life. These stupid visions! They’re ruining my life, Angel – if they don’t kill me some other part of this job is gonna and I’m nineteen. I don’t wanna die.”
Angel looked at her, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him that everything he’d tried so hard to regain over these last couple of weeks was slipping away from him.
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying I quit, Angel,” said Cordelia, “I’m saying I’m tired of this fight and I don’t wanna do it any more. I quit.”
A haunted house, pumpkins and Cordy dressed up as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Okay, some of the parts of the prompt were only in passing. Brief word mention, in fact. But I tried, Liv. And to my lovely fanartist, Nikkiwawa. Who made me such a pretty, pretty ficpic! (Link broken, sorry myC x) And who has had to put up with me being the worst author in the world and saying ‘I don’t know what I want, anything’s fine, really!’ *cuddles her up*