Part 18: Aftermath
Hours later, Angel was staring at a teen pregnancy poster on the wall of the hospital waiting room. He had been looking at it for hours.
There were plenty of magazines on the table and Fred and Gunn were there if he wanted to talk, but all he could handle right now was staring at the girl on the wall. Her eyes looked so sad. At least her eyes were open. When he had last seen Cordelia, her eyes had been closed. Fear gripped Angel.
What if I never get a chance to see her eyes again?
Everyone else had gone home around three, once a doctor had emerged from the intensive care unit and informed them that while Cordelia had not yet regained consciousness, her condition was no longer critical. They had pumped massive amounts of blood into her and she had a concussion, but all signs pointed to a full recovery.
Too bad I won’t be having a full recovery any time soon. Angel had found relief in the doctors words but the intense fear was still there, coloring every moment that passed. He needed to see her. He needed to see those eyes, hear her heartbeat, watch her lips quirk into a smile. He needed Cordelia.
And this time, I’m going to make sure she hears it, how important she is to me. And then we’re going to take her back home and send the Scoobies back to the Hellmouth and I’m going to sit her down and tell her…What? What can I possibly tell her?
That despite the fact that I’m a vampire and despite the fact that she found me kissing Buffy, I’d really like to take her out sometime? That I like her in a more than friends way and that should cancel out the fact that she has suffered more pain than any person deserves in a lifetime? Angel thought back to the question he had asked Lorne the night of the ballet. What could he possibly offer Cordelia?
“Angel,” Fred said quietly. He hadn’t even heard her approach. “The nurse just came out. She said that Cordy woke up. She’s still pretty groggy but you can go in and see her if you…” Angel was already halfway down the hall.
In the doorway outside Cordelia’s room, Angel stopped, taking a deep, though unnecessary breath. She was so pale. He watched as she gingerly sat up in bed. She moved one way and must have pulled at the stitches, releasing a small gasp of pain. Angel unknowingly sucked in air too, mimicking her.
“Do you mind making sure those shades are pulled down all the way,” Cordy asked the nurse who had been making notes on her vitals. Her voice was hoarse—a frightening resemblance to when her visions had caused physical manifestations.
Noting the woman’s odd look, Cordelia made up an excuse. “I just don’t feel like seeing the sun right now.” The nurse nodded and moved to secure the shades. Cordelia absently picked at the large white bandage affixed to her side.
“Also, do you think you could go get one of my friends?”
“I don’t think that would be a problem,” the nurse answered, smiling. She walked back over and rearranged Cordelia’s blankets. “What’s your friend look like?”
“Oh he’ll be easy to find. Tall, dark, very hot in that mysterious bad boy kind of way.”
The nurse looked up and saw Angel in the doorway. “Let me guess? A penchant for black leather?”
Cordelia’s mouth dropped open. “How’d you—” she asked before noticing where the nurse was looking. Cordy turned to the door and smiled. “Angel.” Neither of them moved or said anything, and the nurse, who had seen more than her share of day time soap operas, knew that was her cue to leave.
Even then, Angel still stood just inside the doorway, not quite sure how to proceed.
“How are you?” Okay, so it’s not the most original line in the world, especially considering the fact that I had hours to prepare.
“Well, I’m clearly out of the running for that part of bikini-clad extra on that episode of ‘VIP’, but other than that, I’m fine. Alive. So I guess I’m doing better than you.”
“That’s a given.” Of course she’s doing better than me. She didn’t have to watch the person she loves nearly die. She hasn’t spent the last four hours wondering how she would go on living if her reason for living was gone.
“I know I look like hell Angel, but I don’t have cooties. Come over here,” Cordy ordered.
Angel did as commanded, coming to stand next to her bed. She wasn’t yelling at him and she seemed to have forgotten everything at Caritas but Angel had learned enough about her in the past three years to know that wasn’t true and that they would have to talk about it, soon. But if she didn’t want do deal with it now, he would follow her lead.
He would follow her anywhere. Before he could stop himself, he reached for her hand and squeezed, brushing his thumb over her pulse point because he needed proof that she was indeed okay. She squeezed his hand back and closed her eyes and it took all 250 years of willpower to not climb into bed and grab her and promise to devote the rest of his eternal life to keeping her safe and happy.
“Are all those kids from the park okay?” she asked. Angel could only nod. “How’s everyone else?”
“Fine. Worried about you. I sent everyone but Fred and Gunn home. I tried to get them to go, but even without the Cordettes, you still seem to have one hell of a fan club.” Before she could smile at his barb, Angel continued. “How did this happen?”
Suddenly Cordy’s eyes were everywhere, her gaze darting all around the room but avoiding him entirely. “Oh you know. It’s not the first time I’ve gotten in the way of a big slimy demon. You look exhausted Broody Boy. The sun’s up, which means you’re up way past bedtime. Better get home before Wesley grounds you.”
She’s hiding something. Does she really think I won’t notice something’s up?
“Cor,” Angel said but then he looked at her. Yes, they needed to talk, about how she got hurt and about what happened at the bar and about the fact that somewhere along the line he just might have fallen in love with his best friend. But not right now. She needed to rest. Talking could wait. It would have to.
So, instead of pressing the issue, he just leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Get some rest,” he murmured.
“You too. And Angel,” she called, “give Connor a smooch for me.” He nodded and slowly walked out the door.
For the second night in a row, Buffy had been unable to sleep. Of course, she had gotten into bed a little before four in the morning, so calling it night was stretching it. Suddenly, the door to her room opened.
She reached under her pillow for Mr. Pointy before seeing the light from the hall shining on red hair. Willow. Buffy motioned her closer and gestured to be quiet as to not wake up Dawn. Willow nodded and sat on the bed.
“Fred and Gunn just got in. Cordelia woke up. They said she’s fine…I mean, considering.”
Buffy only nodded, sitting up with her arms around her knees.
Good. That’s good. Cordelia’s okay. She’s going to be fine and me and Angel kissed and everything is going to be okay. Except for the fact that Angel looked like he wanted to cry when we first got to the hospital and discounting the fact that the kiss itself hadn’t felt, I don’t know, right.
“Buffy? You came here for Angel, didn’t you? To, what, start up again?” Willow peered into the shadows, trying to discern the expression on Buffy’s face when she failed to answer the question. “I’m going to take that as a yes. So, I’ll skip the part about how there’s still a big curse and now he’s got Connor and you two live in two different places which might as well be two different worlds.”
“I appreciate you skipping that part,” Buffy said, dryly.
“But Buffy, there’s something you need to think about. People, they, they change. They grow—”
“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with him growing—I happen to think Angel looks good with a few extra pounds on him.” Although actually, I so don’t. Who wants cuddly, who needs hulking size? I’d much rather have someone lean, a body carved out of granite, all bone and sinew and oh dear god stop this right now.
“Regardless,” Willow said, “people change physically and EMOTIONALLY. They start to want different things.”
“Angel and I have always wanted one thing,” Buffy blurted out before remembering that Dawn was sleeping less than five feet away. “To be together,” she continued in a more quiet voice. For a moment Willow just looked at her and Buffy wondered why it seemed so impossible to look her best friend in the eyes.
“Buffy. Xander told me. He told me about how Angel was when he saw her get hurt. He said he’s only seen that look once before. That time with the Master.”
“What’s your point Willow,” Buffy asked, having a sinking feeling she knew exactly what Will’s point was. “What are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying,” Willow paused, pursing her lips, wondering how the best way to put this was. “Cordelia. I’m talking about Cordelia.” There. It was out in the open.
“What? They’re FRIENDS.”
“Did you know he jumped into another dimension to save her? Twice? Did you know that she sleeps here sometimes Buffy, and when she sleeps here, do you know where she sleeps?”
Please don’t say his bed. Please don’t say with him. Buffy didn’t give Willow a chance to answer the question. Well, even if that’s true, it has to be totally innocent. Angel does have a soul to worry about. Willow’s just misinterpreting. She’s just confused.
“I get that they’re close Will. But, it’s not like that.” It can’t be like that. That would ruin everything. “It’s like a, a brother/sister thing. Like you and Xander.”
Willow had the audacity to snort at that. “I was in love with Xander for years.”
“Okay, so bad example.” Moving on now. “That doesn’t mean—”
Willow held up her hand, cutting Buffy off. “I talked to Fred. She told me lots of things, things you would be very interested in hearing. Things you should hear even if you aren’t interested, actually. Cordy was going to die because of those visions. Did you know that?
She was going to die and she didn’t tell anyone, no one, and she gave up every chance she had of getting rid of them. Does that sound like the Cordelia we know? Or the one we thought we knew?”
Buffy didn’t know what to make of that information. She couldn’t deal with that now. She couldn’t look at Cordelia in that light. Not now anyway. “So? She likes playing martyr now—probably figures she can get more attention that way. People can fawn over how perfect she is, like she’s a fucking saint.”
“How many saints do you know that are half-demon,” Willow asked.
“WHAT,” Buffy exclaimed, again forgetting about her sleeping sister. Luckily Dawn just mumbled something and turned over.
“So she could keep the visions. She let someone make her half demon so she could keep the visions and keep helping Angel. She went demony FOR HIM.”
Okay. Cordy’s half demon. That’s big. I admit, that’s big. But it doesn’t change anything. “Fine. I buy that Cordelia’s fallen for Angel. Been there done that. Remember how she used to flirt with him at the Bronze? But so what? It’s one hell of a stretch to say that Angel likes her back. Trust me. I know Angel, I know him better than anyone.” Maybe if I keep saying it, that will be true. “He doesn’t like her. He couldn’t. Not like that.”
“You honestly believe that? You believe he only cares about her in a friendly platonic way? Cause, you know, Buffy, you’re MY friend but how often do I straddle you on the floor of a hotel lobby? How often do we make goo-goo eyes at each other across the room?”
“Goo-goo eyes?” Buffy repeated, hoping to distract Willow.
Willow wouldn’t be put off track. “Yes. They have been big with the making of goo-goo eyes. You would have seen it. If you were letting yourself actually see them together. Because, I think, and I’m pretty sure Xander and Dawn would agree, that since the minute we walked in the door, you’ve only seen what you want to see.”
That’s completely not true. Does she think I want to see Cordelia playing Mommy to Angel’s child? Does she think I wanted to walk in on Angel sniffing Cordelia’s sweater? Cause, I didn’t want to see any of that. Buffy wanted out of this conversation. NOW.
“Why are you saying all this Willow? What? Are you jealous that Angel and I are together again and I have someone while you…don’t. Are you sure this isn’t all about you and Tara?” Oh god. Why did I say that? I didn’t WANT to see her face look like that again. I made her face look like that. What’s wrong with me?
“Will. I, I didn’t mean that.”
Willow stood up and smoothed out her pajamas. Hurt flared in her eyes, but her voice was calm. “I don’t want to fight with you Buffy. We both need some sleep. I shouldn’t have come here and started this conversation in the middle of the night, or day, or whatever the hell it is. I, I just wanted…” Willow sighed.
“Let’s talk about it tomorrow, err, today. Uh, I give up.” She walked towards the door than stopped. Not turning around, she added, “Things are different though Buffy. You need to be aware of that.” She left.
Buffy leaned back on the pillow. Willow would probably pass out if she knew just how different things had gotten. If she knew how scared Buffy was all the time. If she knew how Buffy hadn’t felt right since she came back. If she knew Buffy had slept with Spike, worse, how Buffy had liked sleeping with Spike.
She’d be sickened. Because I’m disgusting.
Everything had gotten so messy, so very…gray. Buffy missed the black and white. She hated the messy. I’m fixing it though. It’s going to get better. Buffy shut her eyes and tried not to think about how she had kissed Angel and waited for the fire. How the fire never came. Funny how there was always fire with Spike.
So much fire she could get lost in the flames.