Title: Worth Fighting For
Author: Ficbitch82 (Christie)
Content: Cordelia/Angel, Buffy/Spike
Summary: Buffy asks Angel to come to Sunnydale to help with the First which forces him to face up to some home truths.
Spoilers: S3 and some of S4.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere, just tell me where it’s going first.
Notes: Yes, the Beast happened. No, Cordelia wasn’t possessed. No, she didn’t sleep with Connor. She came back from the Higher Realms, had amnesia – when they finally got her memory back, Cordelia remembered things about Angel’s past which put the big whoopsie on their relationship. What followed from there will be in (and resolved in) this story.
Thanks/Dedication:For my darling Angy (darlakane) who always kept on at me to get this one finished.
Do you see my guilt? Should I feel fright?
Is the fire of hesitation burning bright?
And if you want to talk about it once again,
On you I depend. I’ll cry on your shoulder.
You’re a friend.
‘Cry’ – James Blunt
Chapter 1 – The Start of Things To Come
Hobbling down into the lobby of the Hyperion, Cordelia sat down heavily on the ottoman, rubbing the lump on the back of her head. “What do you mean we’re going to Sunnydale?” She asked, frowning, “Why?”
He’d dropped the bombshell fifteen minutes ago, aptly timed during the middle of a fight where Cordelia was halfway to getting her butt kicked
Now, here she was with the egg-sized lump on the back of her head and she was not amused, so very not amused.
“Because we are.” Said Angel tersely, coming in behind her. It had been like this for months – ever since Cordelia had walked back into their lives, ever since her amnesia had put the big, honking road block into their whatever (relationship, friendship – who knew any more?).
She asked a question, he bit her head off.
She looked at him, he looked away.
She tried to talk, he found a way to be Mr. Avoidance over everything.
Today was no different. “That’s not an answer.” She told him unnervingly, her gaze on him not wavering.
He placed the weapons back in the cabinet with the utmost care, as if the 5000 year old fighting axe hadn’t seen enough rough and tumble to make it erode already. It was the one little quirk he afforded himself, placing the weapons back carefully, since vampires didn’t have quirks like pulling at their ears when they were nervous or whatever.
Angel frowned, for what felt to Cordelia like the fiftieth time that second, and took a glance over the Hyperion lobby at the collection of friends who were rapidly heading into the office to avoid yet another argument. “Why is it that no one else questions my judgement?”
“Because no one knows quite how much of a dumbass you can be, unlike me.” Said Cordelia, trying to sweeten his temper a little.
It didn’t work.
His jaw tensed, eyes practically bulging under that big manpire forehead and Cordelia sighed, wondering why she bothered. Lately, his sense of humor had been so lacking that he was even equalling Principal Snyder in the ‘crack a smile, please’ stakes and that was saying something.
He’d been acting weirder than usual today, shoulders tense ever since that phone call from– Oh.
“Buffy.” Her voice fell flat before the name even left her lips. Okay, when was it that Buffy even registered as a blip on the radar for her? Hell, Angel too for that matter? He’d been getting over her, hadn’t he? That was that whole phone call before she’d got called up to be Higher Being, right?
At least he has the grace to look mildly embarrassed, she thought, as Angel turned her way. She wanted to wipe the look off his face, to bitchslap him six ways from Sunday and then some. Instead, she folded her arms across her chest. “So what little crisis has little Ms. Likes to Fight conjured up this time?” She asked, her tone biting.
These past few months hadn’t been easy. The tension in the Hyperion had been so thick you could have cut it with a knife and Cordelia knew that this was, in part, down to her and Angel, even if it didn’t end with them. Lately, he’d taken to throwing bits of his relationship with Buffy her way. Hinting, subtly enough so that the others wouldn’t notice but bitingly enough so that Cordelia could clearly see that Angel was referring to ‘better days’.
God, he could be an ass sometimes.
“The First.” Said Angel, looking at Cordelia but not meeting her eyes.
“You mean the First that terrorised you the only Winter that Sunnydale ever had snow?” Cordelia asked, eyebrows shooting upwards in surprise.
Angel nodded. “That’s the one.”
Cordelia looked at him, expectantly. A couple of years ago and Angel would have done anything to mask the fear on his face. A couple of years ago, there’d be a nervous smile, an ‘everything’s fine’ look and a nod her way to let her know things were good. Now? He just wouldn’t even look at her. She knew he was worried – hell, maybe even a little scared, but if he was? He wasn’t showing her.
“Well isn’t that the best news we’ve had all day?” She asked, dryly. The First operated on a strictly mind-fuck basis. Know someone who was dead? Then the First would exploit that for all it was worth, just to make you crazy.
For some reason, they’d wanted Angel out of the picture three years ago, or so he’d told her. When that hadn’t worked, Angel had realised that his path was on earth, whether by Buffy’s side or not and Cordelia was just now realising that since this was connected to them both? It meant angst-o-rama’s all round.
“So tell me again why we’re going to Sunnydale? We have things we need to do here, a business that needs run and… Things.” She trailed off, shaking her head. That wasn’t strictly true. Ever since the madness that had been the Beast, things had been uber-quiet in LA, which usually meant that evil was regrouping.
In two weeks, they’d probably have the bigger, better version of the Apocalypse on their hands.
“I promised.” Said Angel, quietly.
Two simple words destined to hit where it hurt. “So, Buffy calls and, as usual, you’re chomping at the bit to go running to her aid. Color me surprised.” Cordelia got up off the ottoman and walked over to the freezer, retrieving an icepack for her poor aching head. It was like having vision headaches all over again, only these ones were connected to Angel and how asshatty he was being lately.
“It’s not like that,” Angel glared at her, finally closing the weapon cabinet doors. “She asked if we could go help, I said yes.”
“Without even asking us? Gee, that’s considerate.” Cordelia sniped, returning his glare full force. What, he was incapable of seeing how very inappropriate that was? What if… What if she were busy? Or what if Gunn had some vampire thing to take care of with his friends?
Who the hell did he think he was, just offering out their collective services like that? She palmed the back of her head gently, thankful there was no blood there and wondering how impervious leader guy never seemed to get a scratch on him lately.
Oh, right… Vampire. More than human. Yadda, yadda…
“I didn’t think you’d mind,” Angel offered lamely, folding his arms across his chest. “Things have been quiet round here, Buffy needs help with the First. Cordelia, if this spreads past Sunnydale…”
She didn’t need to hear this. She sighed, heavily, rolling her eyes. “Look, whatever, okay? But just so you know? I’m going under protest. We can’t make things right down in Sunnydale when we can’t even make things right here.”
Cordelia sat back down on the ottoman, pleading silently with him to say something – anything – just so she knew that she’d got through. So she knew that her manpire wasn’t entirely clueless.
Angel looked at her once, nodded and then turned, walking up the stairs as if he were satisfied with that answer.
She watched him go, torn between bursting into tears, an angry tirade of what a complete and utter ass he was being lately and throwing the icepack right up the stairs and off his stupid hair-gelled head.
Sometimes, I really really hate you. She thought forlornly, her gaze following him until he turned the corner. And then, she sighed, because that wasn’t really the case at all.
I’ve travelled back down this road four times, thought Angel, and each time I do, I get this knot in my stomach, like something’s going to happen.
Of course, the odds were? Something would happen, Angel had long since realised. The First was involved, so the odds of that were even higher – but most of the time, something did happen.
Something always happened.
Behind him, Fred and Lorne were talking amicably about the vocal stylings of Dusty Springfield while Cordelia sat in the front, pressing herself as far away from Angel as she could possibly get.
In the truck behind, Angel noted in the rear-view mirror, Connor, Wesley and Gunn looked about as excited as he did about this trip – each wearing similar frowns on their faces.
“So where are we staying when we get to Sunnydale?” Cordelia’s voice was thick with sarcasm. “You paying for a hotel or does that go beyond the call of investigating duty?”
Angel’s knuckles tightened on the wheel. Sometimes, she was just so damned– “Xander’s. We’re staying at Xander’s.”
Her face became drawn and pinched, two red spots appearing simultaneously on her cheeks. “Okay, tell me you’re joking. ‘Cause seriously, I have a stake in my bag with your name on it if you’re not.” She said, turning in her seat to glare at him.
“What?” What the hell was wrong with staying at Xander’s? He didn’t think she’d want to stay at Buffy’s, especially not with the thousand girls
already vying for the bathroom and–
“Are you deranged?” She asked, the tone of her voice dropping several degrees below freezing, “I mean, seriously, are you crazy? Xander’s?”
All talk behind them stopped. Lorne and Fred literally froze behind the pair, waiting for the inevitable blow up in the convertible.
“Batten down the hatches,” Lorne mumbled under his breath to Fred, “Here we go again.”
Angel took a second to glare at the Anagogic demon, before turning back to Cordelia. “Look, the last time you and Xander were together you–“
“We got on!” Cordelia gawped at him, “Jesus, Angel, that doesn’t mean I want to up sticks and live with the guy while we go fight the ubersuck of all evil. Hello, were you around for the rebar incident?” She asked, perhaps unfairly.
Angel stared at her, wondering how long she could actually talk without taking a breath. She seemed to be able to go on forever, always had been able to, especially when she was pissed off at him.
“Look, it’s only temporary…” He started, trying to pave things over. He could see Fred fidgeting nervously in her seat, trying her best to look anywhere but the front seat. Even that was starting to piss him off.
“Yeah, and I’ve heard your temporary before.” Cordelia snapped, “I’m not sharing an apartment with Xander Harris.”
“No buts, Angel. If you wanna share an apartment with him, fine. But me? So very NOT, okay?”
The argument was over. Angel spun the wheel of the GTX sharply, turning off his exit and growling his annoyance to a car that cut in front of him.
For the rest of the journey, all was silent.
“You’re sure you don’t mind crashing on the floor?” Asked Buffy again, for what felt like the hundredth time that night. Angel and the gang had got there an hour ago. She’d barely had time to fill them in on everything that was happening before Giles declared that training of the Potentials should come before any catching up they needed to do.
Right now, she was standing with Cordelia in her living room, aware that six different pairs of eyes were trained on their backs right now.
It was no secret that she and Cordelia had never been great friends – in fact, they’d pretty much hated each other for a lot of the time at High School. Now, the Potentials – aided by Dawn, Anya and Willow – were eager to see what kind of blow up there’d be especially since, according to Willow, when she’d been in LA? Cordelia and Angel had been indulging in the whole sexual tension thing.
Now, it seemed, there was just tension.
“Believe me,” said Cordelia, with what seemed like a forced smile, “I’ve slept on worse.”
“I told Angel you wouldn’t want to stay at Xander’s,” Said Buffy, shaking her head, wondering when Cordelia Chase had slept on worse than her floor. “Not that I think you and Xander… Y’know, anymore? It’s just… Well… Weirdness.”
Cordelia’s expression seemed to darken. “Yeah, but since where Angel’s concerned what I want doesn’t matter anymore? It’s not like he’d care.”
Buffy looked at Cordelia, surprised. Sure, it was weird to think of the whole sexual tension between her and Angel but the biting comments between the two since the moment they’d got here hadn’t exactly been lacking. Hell, even the green demon guy (who Buffy was sure kept looking at her funny) looked uncomfortable and he said he’d seen G’Roushan Mages go through the exact same ritual when they were mating.
There was no mating, Angel had assured the room, before stalking into the kitchen, coat billowing oh-so-dramatically behind him.
Cordelia had glared after him, before turning to Buffy and asking, politely, if she was sure she didn’t mind her staying here. She didn’t mind, she really didn’t mind – which was again, the weirdest thing ever.
“Buffy?” Giles’ voice came from the foot of the stairs, his gaze concentrated on his slayer and the woman he’d often had the misfortune of receiving a tongue lashing from. “Are you ready?”
She turned, nodding and noting Angel hovering behind him nervously, as if he were waiting for someone to lash out. Cordelia, probably. “Yeah, I’ll just…” Her gaze went back to Cordelia, “Are you… I mean… Are you staying here?” She asked, not wanting to just assume. Cordelia was part of Angel’s business, his family, for a reason. She mightn’t be a Slayer, but if there was a way she could be used tonight, Buffy didn’t want to leave her behind.
“Yeah,” Cordelia nodded, speaking to Buffy but making sure her comment reached Angel too, “Apparently Andrew’s going to show Wes and I the brains of the operation. Some night of fun that’s gonna be.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, glaring first at Andrew who was standing there in all his dorkish glory, waving a be-mittened hand. “Make sure he shows you the Big Board ’cause… Really, you don’t wanna miss that.”
“Hey! I totally heard that.” Andrew pouted, folding his arms across his chest.
“Yeah,” Buffy nodded, “You were supposed to.”
“Where would we be without my board? It’s our plan!” He replied, indignantly.
“And so many of the others have worked,” Buffy rolled her eyes again, reaching to pick her keys up from the table. “Didn’t you have a plan for setting up the microwave too?”
Andrew stuck out his chin in defiance, “For once, that one wasn’t my fault. I was interrupted by Jonathan-slash-The-First while I was–” He trailed off, noting the annoyed look he was being shot by everyone in the room. “Seriously, my plan can fill them in on the littler details while you’re out doing the more important stuff, like, training the girls.”
Sighing, Buffy realised she had to agree. Okay, so Andrew was a murderer and more than a little on the annoying side but… He was kinda useful. Well, a little. And if she didn’t have to explain the whole First-deal over and over again? She was SO for that. “Okay, you show them your plan or your board or whatever you’re calling it this week and we patrol.”
“Hold up,” Gunn stepped out from the hallway of Buffy’s house, brandishing a couple of stakes and what looked like a custom-made fighting axe, “Some of us are lookin’ at going out there too, not just Cordelia.”
“I… Is that wise?” Giles turned to Angel, who’d appeared behind him, mildly concerned. “While we’re training these girls then–“
“Then there’s no-one else you want on your team.” Cordelia interrupted, firmly. The look on her face said she didn’t care whether they agreed or not, Gunn was part of this fight too.
“We could maybe split into teams,” Buffy suggested, “Faith could take one group, I could take the other?”
“What am I taking?” Faith sauntered into the room, eating as usual, her hand buried in a bag of potato chips.
Buffy looked at the other slayer enviously, noting the fact that no matter what she ate, she never put an inch on those hips of hers. “I was talking about splitting into teams. You taking one group of girls, me taking the other. Gunn and Angel are coming along…”
Faith grinned, “Working alongside two of my favourite guys again? Sure. Just point me in the right direction and I’m there.”
“Okay,” Buffy nodded, “Spike, Giles… You’re with me. Angel, Gunn? You’re with Faith.”
Angel looked wounded for a moment, something he quickly masked when the others looked his way. When the weapons were handed out and the troops were going out the door, backed up from the rear by Angel, Cordelia glanced up, the temperature in the room dropping another notch.
“Gee,” She said under her breath so that no one but Angel could hear. “Looks like you don’t get the whole reunion after all.”
Angel stopped dead in his tracks and turned towards her. It looked like Buffy was going to have to step in and play mediator between the two, unresolved tension crackled and sparked until Angel leaned close, so close that his cheek was almost pressed against Cordelia’s, and whispered something unheard by the rest of the room.
Then, he spun on his heel and was gone, leaving a very pissed off Cordelia standing right there in the middle of Buffy’s living room.
Buffy watched Cordelia a second, her bottom lip quivering faintly. For the barest of seconds, Buffy was sure she’d cry, until Cordelia straightened up, cleared her throat and visibly pulled herself together. “So, Andrew… How ’bout that board?”
Buffy sighed and headed out behind Angel, pulling the door shut quietly behind her. Something was going on between those two and the more time they spent together, the worse it was getting.
Somehow, bringing them down here was beginning to look more and more like a bad idea.