Chapter Four – Making Things Right
She didn’t move for the full afternoon. She sat on a bench opposite her old high school, barefoot, miserable and not even noticing when the tiny rivulets of rain slipping down the neck of her shirt turned into big, fat droplets that crashed from the heavens themselves.
The day had started out well, she remembered, her shoulders drooping. Another heart to heart with Spike, post-same-talk-with Buffy (him, not her) and finally, she thought she was making some progress.
“You’re never gonna get anywhere unless you talk to him, pet,” said Spike, dropping a comforting, friendly arm around her shoulders, “Wise girl once told me that I’d have to spank my inner moppet. Isn’t it about time she started doing the same?”
She’d done that. She’d gone, spanked, and come back a new visiongal, ready to fight for her manpire and what was left of their relationship. She’d even gone to thank Buffy for the brief talk they’d had that morning over breakfast, semi-awkward though it had been.
No longer the crazy freak of old, they’d actually laughed about some stuff… Until the lack of snark had got weird and they’d laughed about that too. They weren’t best friends – probably never would be. There was still entirely too much stuff between them to let go of their differences completely but– They were okay.
Buffy was okay and Cordelia had gone to tell her how nice that was (if a little weird) when she’d pushed open her bedroom door and caught them. Kissing.
Four years ago, she’d walked in on that exact same scene, even if the people were a little different. Willow, Xander… Buffy, Angel. Last time, the pain in her heart had been drafted by the one in her stomach, punched through by a rebar.
She’d forgotten, almost. Looked at Xander as he climbed down to get her and even almost smiled because at the times when her life really sucked, he was just… There.
She flashed back to that and wished, just for a second, that she had that pain again, that the rebar was sticking through her stomach because even if it had hurt like a bitch? It was better than the cold, awful, numb feeling that had seeped through when she realised what had led her there in the first place.
Kissing. They’d been kissing. She’d thought he was finally moving on, that he was getting over her– They’d been in love, he told her, or at least he thought they’d been– And then Lorne with his stupid memory spell and the memories, God, those memories.
Cordelia blinked, tears intermingling with the rain washing down her face. It wouldn’t be hard for him to find her. All he’d have to do was search, like, three places in Sunnydale – there was still not that much town. But she guessed he was busy.
Probably working out details. When to move to Sunnydale, when to break it to Wes and Connor an-and–
Her eyes snapped open, her gaze levelling with Xander’s. She hadn’t even heard the car approaching. “Leave me alone, Xander.”
“Well I would,” he told her, hopping out of the car and getting himself just as wet as she was, “But you’re obviously not yourself,” he started, gesturing down to the distinct lack of shoes, his gaze catching on something before he looked back up,
She looked down, puzzled, before lifting her foot to see the piece of glass she hadn’t even noticed biting into her foot. “Yeah, well… I didn’t have a rebar to fall on this time.” She said, right before she started to cry.
If there was one thing Cordelia Chase hated most in this world, it was crying. It would have been okay, mostly, considering it was raining outside when she had her little relapse…
Except when she got dried at Xander’s her eyes were red-rimmed and sore, a dead give-away for anyone who wanted to know that she was actually human a small portion of the time.
She’d accepted the steaming cup of coffee he’d offered, slid into a pair of sweatpants and a shirt of his with considerable ease.
But when he’d looked at her, expecting some kind of explanation, Cordelia shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay,” he’d nodded, sitting back on his sofa to watch her.
He had no right to demand explanations anyway, this had nothing to do with him. Especially not since–
“Is it Angel?”
“Xander.” She warned, her eyebrow arching up.
He held up both his hands in the international signal for surrender, and shook his head, “I’m not interfering. I just like to hear things that cast Dead Boy in a bad light, that’s all.”
“Don’t call him that.” She said, though behind her cup she was smiling. “You never did like him, did you?”
“Not even a little bit.”
His answer was honest, at least. Cordelia wished she’d had the same fortune. If she’d never liked Angel, hell, never met Angel she wouldn’t be here now and– Wait, that wasn’t fair.
If she hadn’t met Angel she’d never have met Doyle, would never have inherited the visions, got a family– Almost got her brain blown out the back of her head.
Cordelia sighed. “Why is it that I always fall for the inappropriate ones?” She asked, “Or… The dumb ones? Or the ones that don’t even realise what they have until they’ve screwed it all up and are kissing someone else?”
She noticed the flash of unease haunting his face, was even surprised for a moment, until she paved it over with a wave of her hand, “Not you, Xander. I spanked that inner moppet years ago, trust me. I’m talking about Angel…”
She waited for him to start yelling about the unfairness of it all. She knew about his feelings for Angel – she hadn’t needed his earlier answer – but when she was met with silence, it threw her. “What, no witty barb at Angel’s expense?”
He said nothing.
“He’s back with Buffy.” She sighed, feeling the sharp sting of tears that made her eyes blur, “I-I caught them kissing.”
That, at least, got a reaction. Xander stiffened visibly and Cordelia knew he was thinking about the curse. Perfect happiness. It made her wonder, for a moment, if she’d ever be that for Angel.
What was it Wesley said? That it was doubtful he’d ever find that with some actress… God, that had been years ago and– Things had changed, hadn’t they? She’d changed.
Angel had changed.
She’d even thought he was moving on for all of five minutes until Sunnydale had happened. Until Buffy. But seeing them like that, she figured that nothing had changed. There was Buffy – strongest girl in the world, being all protected and huddled by just one kiss from Angel.
And the lapdog returns,she thought sullenly, gazing down into her cup. It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t hurt this much – she could even pretend she was happy for him… If she didn’t want to scratch Buffy’s eyes out.
“I guess I should be honest with you.”
Xander’s comment drew her gaze back up and Cordelia’s head tilted to one side, her gaze curious. “Honest? About what?” She’d heard the underlying meaning in what he’d said. All he’d left off was the word ‘now’.
I guess I should be honest with you *now*.
“I called him.” Xander winced, as if it pained him greatly to say it, “Buffy– She called and asked me if I’d go find you.”
Cordelia just looked at him, not sure whether to smack him over the head with her coffee cup or ask why the hell Little Miss Likes to Fight wanted her found.
“You did what?” She asked slowly, exerting control she wasn’t even aware she had as she placed her coffee cup back on his table.
Xander winced again. Being on the receiving end of that eyebrow was something he thought he’d long forgotten. “I-I called him. He’s coming over, Cordy, you guys need to talk.”
“Need to talk,” Cordelia repeated, “Need to talk?! Listen to you! It’s like Spike the Second–” and if her comment about Angel kissing Buffy hadn’t been enough to have him reacting properly? That was,
“–dishing out advice to the fucking lovelorn and depressed when you’re poster boy for the ability to screw up relationships yourself. Don’t think I didn’t notice the tension between you and Anya, Xander. What was that? Need to talk about it?” She asked sarcastically, storming into his kitchen and yanking her still wet clothes from the dryer.
Unbelievable, unfuckingbelievable. All week, all she’d had was Spike telling her that she was the one who had to make things right, make Angel see… And now this!
Xander! Real poster boy for the fucker upper of relationships telling her that she and Angel needed to talk and– And just who the hell did he think he was, anyway?
Like he actually had a say in what happened in her life any more?
“Shut up!” She snapped, yanking off his shirt to replace it with her own, not caring that she was clad only in her bra and a pair of sweats, “Just shut up, Xander. I’ve had just about all I can take from people interfering.” She wasn’t sad any more, just angry.
Angry that Buffy had dared to call Xander in on this, angry that she’d thought he was just being nice, offering her a place to dry off. “And since when did you help Angel, anyway? Or did his little brain relapse render him likeable even to you?”
It was a cheap shot and she knew it, but damnit, she was hurting. She pulled on her shirt, abandoned the idea of her pants completely and decided she’d mail his sweatpants back once she was less pissed off, storming towards the door.
It was just testimony to how much life sucked when she found him standing there, mouth open, ready to say something. She didn’t give him time to say anything.
Her hand pulled back and Cordelia hauled off, slapping him straight across the face, growing even more angrier when she realised he’d let her do it, hadn’t even tried to stop her.
“Feel better?” He asked, but there was no malice in the comment like there would have been if this had happened last week. There was no mocking or hurtful tone and Cordelia, who was used to that by now, wanted it back.
“Fuck you, Angel.” She snarled, sidestepping him and walking past.
This time, he didn’t let her go. There was no sunlight to stop him, no Spike standing in front of him, practically shoving half his teeth down his throat. There was nothing between them but solid tension, something he was more responsible for than her. “Cordelia, wait.”
She kept going. She got in the elevator outside Xander’s apartment, stabbing the buttons to take her to the first floor and winced as Angel sidestepped the closing doors, getting right in there with her, slamming his hand on the ‘Stop’ button before they’d gone more than a couple of feet.
“What the hell are you doing, Angel?” She demanded, trying to push him out of the way. It was like trying to move six feet of solid stone wall.
Angel simply folded his arms across his chest, levelled his gaze with hers and shook his head. “We need to talk.”
“So I keep hearing,” she murmured, sarcastically, “So, c’mon, talk Angel. Decided who you’re gonna hand the business to yet? Connor gonna follow in Daddy’s footsteps and become the next big thing Champion-wise? What? Or were you too busy kissing Buffy to even make those kinda plans yet?”
He winced at her tone, watched the hurt look on her face and wondered – just for a second – if things had gone too far, if the damage was irreparable.
“I’m not… I’m not getting back with Buffy, Cordelia.” He said finally, “What you walked in on–“
“I know damn fine what I walked in on, Angel,” she growled, frustrated by the fact that she couldn’t just walk out on this argument like he’d done so many times, “The only difference was that there was no rebar there to fall on this time.”
The words hung thickly in the air and before Angel could say anything else, she sagged back against the wall of the elevator, the fight she had left fleeting. “I didn’t even want to come down here,” she finished, sighing,
“This is Sunnydale; land of the awful screw up where my life is concerned and I wittingly walk back into it because I think, hey, things can’t get any worse can they? Except, newsflash, they did.”
One week… One week and Angel was back with the love of his life which left Cordelia, let’s face it, nowhere. Without Angel she had hardly anything, she realised, and she’d rather have weeks of bickering and awkward glances than that.
“Are you going to let me out?”
“No.” He shook his head, “Not until you listen to me.”
“Why, Angel?” She demanded, looking away from him, “So that I can know how much happier you are here? You told me, remember? I think it was our eighth argument… What was it you said? That things were so much easier back in Sunnydale? Well congratulations, you got it, I hope you choke on it.”
He might have laughed then, she’d said what she thought, blunt as always… Except it wasn’t funny. Cordelia was hurt and he had to fix it or else he’d lose her, maybe forever, and Angel wasn’t okay with that.
Not okay with that at all. “I’m not getting back with Buffy,” he tried again, “I’m not moving back to Sunnydale. Cordelia…” He stopped then. Stopped as if it hurt him to continue. He stepped in front of her, relinquishing control of the ‘Stop’ button of the elevator. “Would you look at me? Please?”
She did look at him but it wasn’t because he’d said please – wasn’t even because he asked. The tone of his voice was one she hadn’t heard in months, not directed at her anyway. “What?” She sighed, “What do you want from me?”
“Just hear me out, please? I know I don’t deserve it–“
“Damn right you don’t,” she scowled, but she’d given up on trying to get to the damn stop button. What was the point?
Angel was like a dog at a bone, she remembered it from when her memories had been scarce at best. He’d been there, lurking, making sure she knew he was there if she needed anything.
“What you saw back there with Buffy and me… It wasn’t… You don’t have anything to worry about,” he said cautiously, “We were talking–“
“You regularly do that with your tongue shoved down her throat?” She bit off.
“Damnit, Cordelia, just listen to me!” He snapped, “You’re acting like a child.”
And that was really too much for one seriously pissed off vision girl to take. “I’m acting like a child?” She gawped, “Me?! You have over two hundred years on me, Angel, two hundred! And yet for the past three months I’ve been the mature one, trying to get you to, like, spank your inner moppet and move on and y’know something?
I’m done trying! I said I was sorry. I told you I loved you and that what I saw didn’t matter and you just walked away from me. You walked away, Angel. The minute things get rough you just turn your back and say screw it, forget fighting for the people you care about.”
“I did fight for you,” Angel growled, raking a hand through his hair. This was getting them nowhere.
“But not enough,” said Cordelia, her tone flat, “Not when it mattered. If you love someone, then… Then they’re worth fighting for, no matter how much it hurts.”
He’d already heard that once tonight. Buffy, right around the time she’d told him a few home truths, had said that too in not as many words. And if that was the case then he wasn’t done fighting for Cordelia, he never would be.
“I’m fighting now,” he said to her, trying to keep the desperate edge out of his voice. He wasn’t going to force her to stay here but if she went towards that Stop button he couldn’t stop her, not now, “Doesn’t that mean something?”
She looked at him, really looked at him then, and he could see hurt in her eyes. He could see a thousand decisions she’d made, all concerning him and he knew, right then, that she didn’t know. For the first time since he’d known her Cordelia didn’t have the answers and in a way, it was wrong of him to expect her to.
“I blamed you.” He said quietly. “When you got your memories back, after everything that happened, I– You’ve always been the one who made it not matter. It was in my past but you accepted that and when you didn’t…”
Angel sighed, “I didn’t know how to deal with that, Cordelia.”
Cordelia made a non-committal sound at the back of her throat and then shook her head. She owed him, at least, a response to that – even if at that moment she didn’t think he deserved it.
“I wanted to get past it, Angel. I wanted to tell you so bad that it didn’t matter but–“
Angel shoved his hands in his pockets and stepped back, leaning against the opposite wall of the elevator. “What changed?”
“I had a vision.” She murmured, “And I remembered standing up on that rooftop in our old offices, telling you that the visions were sent for you, not Angelus, and I remembered why I was there too. Everything the Powers had shown me, after that it just didn’t matter, Angel.
But I was too late. I’d figured it out too late and all of a sudden you and I weren’t even friends any more. We just– We weren’t anything and I didn’t know how to get back from that.”
Angel swallowed. She’d tried, he knew she had. And every one of her advances, he’d rebuffed, thrown his relationship with Buffy back in her face, just to make her feel a fraction of what he’d felt, how bad he’d felt.
It had worked. Only he’d taken it too far.
He’d brought her down to Sunnydale, thrown Buffy in her face again, and he’d made it into something else they didn’t know how to deal with, how to get back from.
“I’m sorry.” He said quietly, knowing that didn’t even remotely make up for it.
“Me too.” She sighed.
They didn’t make up in the elevator. Cordelia stepped round him to hit the ‘stop’ button again and this time, Angel let her. They went back to Xander’s apartment, got Cordelia’s clothes and drove back to Buffy’s in silence, each of them with a million things to say and neither knowing where to start.
Even Spike couldn’t draw Cordelia out of her funk. She was happy for him, sure, he and Buffy were on the road to recovery – things were going great for the vamp whose shoulder she’d cried on – literally – earlier that morning.
He came in as she was packing, leaned against the door to Buffy’s bedroom and asked, in that halting voice of his, “You worked it out yet, pet?”
She turned to look at him, not bothering to hide her scowl, “What do you think?”
“I think…” Spike came forward to stand next to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to him as he pressed a kiss to her temple. “I think you’re gonna be alright. You give that mop-spanking thing far less credit than it deserves.”
Cordelia laughed at that.
A day later while the guys were packing the car, Cordelia stood in front of Buffy, not knowing what the hell to say. “I– Uh, thanks. For letting us stay.”
She said, watching as Buffy palmed the back of her neck nervously. “And– Good luck. With the First and all.”
“You speechless,” Buffy mused, “That’s a first.”
A smile lifted the corner of her lips and Cordelia turned, intending on getting the hell out of Sunnydale and never looking back when Buffy’s voice came, nervous-sounding.
“Cordelia?” She waited until the brunette had turned back before speaking again, “Thanks. For coming down here. I know you didn’t want to but…” Her gaze drifted to Spike. Instinctively, Cordelia knew what she was going to say.
It was pretty hard to say thank you to someone when you thought you’d ruined their love-life in the process of patching yours up but– Cordelia appreciated it anyway.
Spike looked happy. Buffy looked happy. And at least some of the tension between her and Angel was bleeding away. Small steps.
Small, almost non-existent steps, but they’d get there someday.
They’d been back in LA a week. A week of mega-uncomfortableness on Cordelia and Angel’s part. Furtive glances between the rest of the gang as they stood, and now, Cordelia was– Well, taking one for the team she guessed.
Angel had been miserable for, let’s face it, a not small portion of the time since they’d got back. His lip jutted out so much yesterday that she thought he was going to trip over it and now–
Well, it was Friday night. Most social night of the year and the last test Angel had to face.
“Angel Investigations, we hope you’re helpless,” Angel answered the phone in his room after three rings, his voice gruff.
Cordelia let his little faux-pas on the motto slide and let a smile appear on her face. “Hi. It’s me.”
“Cordelia? What’s wrong?”
Okay, so she could improvise. He’d stepped off the intended script a little, but that was okay. “I’m good. You?”
She could hear his puzzlement at the other end of the phone. “I’m– I’m good. Cor–“
“Uhm, Angel? I sort of need to talk to you. In person.” She said, hoping he’d, like, grow a brain and cotton on soon.
Running out of patience, here!
“Is it something– Is everything okay?”
Not quite right, but close enough, she smiled, gripping the phone tighter.
“No! It’s– It’s something good, I think. Well it sort of depends on how you feel…” And if there was any doubt before he could ask, she went forward, “About me.”
The little intake of breath she heard made her heart skip. She could almost imagine the slow, hopeful smile on his face. She wasn’t just throwing him an olive branch here, she was throwing him the whole damned tree.
“Could you meet me tonight?”
“Tonight?” Angel’s voice had become silky smooth, happy. Cordelia felt a little burst of happiness swell inside and burst, showering her with tiny little goosebumps that rose on her skin. “Sure. Okay. Where?”
“I-I’ve always loved Point Dume,” she whispered, biting down on her lip, “There’s a viewpoint…”
“First turn north of Kanan,” Angel took over, “Really pretty spot.” She didn’t have to give him directions tonight. He’d memorised every one down in his watery grave, gone over that conversation thousands of time in his head.
He was just about to grab his car keys, head downstairs and drive hell for leather to get to her when he heard a knock at his door. “Damnit, hang on, Cordy.” He growled, yanking open his door and–
And there she stood, looking every bit as beautiful as she had that morning, phone clasped in her hand. “I couldn’t wait.” She admitted, folding the phone closed and giving a tiny little roll of her shoulders, a tiny, almost worried smile.
“I-Is this okay?”
Angel folded her in his arms and kissed her, melting away any indecision she might’ve had. “What do you think?”
And if you want to talk about what will be,
Come and sit with me, and cry on my shoulder,
I’m a friend.
Huzzah! It’s FINISHED. It’s only been in the work for, like, five, six, seven months now? LOL. There may be a smutty sequel. I haven’t decided yet, but yay!