The four beings continued to stare each other down. Amid the din of the washers and dryers rumbling, Angel tuned all his senses into the two Cordelias before him. Heartbeat, breath, perspiration, scent, Angel was focusing on it all.
“Well, there’s an easy solution to this problem,” Xander grinned as inspiration struck. He reached into his suit coat and grabbed his bag of Hecate’s Essence. “I throw this on the both of you. Now we find out which Cordelia isn’t really Cordelia, and which Cordelia really is Cordelia, and boy am I rambling.”
“Yes, you are,” Angel stated smoothly. “But there isn’t any need for that.” Angel reared back and let loose with his axe. The blade embedded deep into the chest of the Cordelia nearest him. The impact sent her flying backwards against the wall. She slumped against the wall, the axe still firmly in her chest.
After a few moments, the body began to change shape, and the form of John Ramius appeared. Angel couldn’t feel a heartbeat. Xander stood in shock at what just occurred, the bag of Hecate’s Essence slipped from his hand.
“That was…” Xander started. “I don’t know what the hell that was.”
Cordelia, the true Cordelia, was frozen in place. She stared at the heap that used to be Ramius, the being who only moments before stood before her as her doppelganger. Angel stepped forward and took the real Cordelia, his Cordelia, into his arms.
“Are you okay?” he asked
“Yeah,” she said. Cordelia looked up into his eyes and smiled slightly. “My hero.”
Xander was fully prepared for a smart comment, but then he noticed the complete lack of sarcasm in Cordelia’s voice when she spoke that. He settled for asking, “So what do we do now?”
“I want to go home and sleep,” Cordelia stated.
Angel smiled at his Seer a moment before turning to Xander. “Well, you heard her. We go home so Cor can sleep.”
Cordelia slapped his chest lightly before leading the way out of the laundry. “Don’t patronize me, Grr-Boy.”
Angel raised his hands in defense, that smile still playing on his face. “I wasn’t patronizing. I agree, you need to rest. It’s been a long few days for you.” Angel held the door open for her. “Besides, I’ve seen you without your beauty sleep.”
He received another slap for his comment.
“You’re quickly losing all the flattery points you gained earlier,” she informed him with a smirk. Angel’s brow furrowed heavily. He didn’t like that. Cordelia took pity and patted his cheek affectionately. “You’re cute when you’re contemplative.”
Angel perked up mightily. “I am?” There was the dork vampire that Cordelia knew and loved. Angel nudged Xander in the ribs. “She says I’m cute when I’m contemplative.”
Xander observed the vampire critically. Angel’s shirt was soaked in what Xander assumed to be pig’s blood. He was grinning widely and nodding his head dumbly.
“You are simply adorable,” Xander quipped. “Can we please find the others and go?”
Angel was still grinning at Cordelia when Xander spoke. “Oh yeah,” the vampire said. He looked around the hallways. “You can find them. We’ll be downstairs.” Xander stared after the pair as they headed to the stairs.
“I’ll just find everybody,” he called out after them. He looked around before deciding to check the south hall first. After tripping over his shoelaces, he hurried off to find his friends.
The Next Day
Their bags were all packed. The battle was done. The Scoobies prepared to return home. Xander had the privilege of playing bellhop, and was busy loading everyone’s stuff into his car. That left Dawn and Buffy to say goodbye.
“So how are you doing?” Buffy asked of Angel. The three stood in the center of the lobby, the girls still surprised at the lack of black clothing that Angel was wearing.
“I’m fine,” Angel answered. “Been shot before and I’ll probably be shot again. No big deal.” He rubbed his chest at the spot of the bullet’s entry. “Although these new guns carry a hell of a lot more punch than a musket. I miss the days of inaccurate weapons and twenty second reloads. Really gave a bloke the chance to run, ya know?”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed smiling. “And since when do you ramble?”
“I don’t ramble,” Angel defended softly. “I yammer sometimes. Give narratives once in a while. Occasionally I’ll…shut up now.”
“You’re really different,” Buffy stated.
Angel smiled proudly for a moment before deflating. Timidly he asked, “That’s a good thing, right?”
“I think so. Speaking of different, where is Cordelia?”
“She’s upstairs asleep,” Angel said. “After a couple of days in a nuthouse, I think she just wants some rest. I don’t blame her. There was this one time in Bucharest, around 1840 I believe, I got really drunk and started mouthing off…and I’ll just shut up again because you both are laughing at me.”
“You really are different,” Dawn informed him.
“C’mon girls!” Xander called from the courtyard. “Time’s a wasting! I wanna see Disneyland sometime today!”
“I may have a soul, but I can still kill him if you want. Please?” Angel begged.
“No, Willow might be upset if we don’t bring him back. Plus, he has his uses occasionally.”
“When?” Dawn asked. The look Buffy sent her made Dawn amend her question. “Oh yes, he does…occasionally.”
“Well, if you ever change your mind, you know where I’m at.” Angel paused a moment before continuing. “I’m sorry we treated you so rudely at first. It’s nothing against you guys. Things have just been hectic here.”
“You should tell us about it sometime,” Buffy offered.
Angel nodded in agreement, somewhat surprised at Buffy’s maturity. “I just want you guys to know that you’re always welcome here. Maybe if things ever become hectic at home…”
“You’ll be the first to know.” Buffy checked her watch. “We better get going. Xander can get cranky if he doesn’t get his Goofy fix. Say goodbye to Cordelia for us.”
“Sure thing.” Angel hugged both of the sisters and said goodbye.
And then there was silence.
The Scoobies were gone, Fred and Gunn were out to lunch, and he was alone. But he perked as he remembered that he wasn’t alone. Angel silently climbed the stairs and crept through the upper hallway. He rested his head next to his bedroom door and listened.
Cordelia was still asleep.
Angel gently opened the door and slipped in. He then shut the door behind him and simply stood there. Angel was content to stand from a distance and watch as Cordelia slept.
The vampire had long admitted to himself that he was in love with Cordelia. And only a few weeks ago, Angel could almost let himself believe that maybe she loved him. Maybe they could salvage whatever was that they had been building.
“Are you just going to stand there?”
Angel smiled as he realized Cordelia had waked without his realizing it. She rolled over so she could face him. “I didn’t want to disturb you,” he admitted as he walked to her. “It looked like you need the rest.”
“I could feel you the second you walked in. Guess I really did get the whole package when the Powers demonized me.”
Angel sat on the bed and gently stroked the hair from her eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said seriously. “You don’t deserve to be that tuned into me.”
“Hey,” Cordelia warned. “That was a moment of broodiness. I don’t like that. Now, you have to tell me something. How did you know which Cordelia, er, me, to kill?”
“It wasn’t that hard,” Angel told her. “You must know by now that you are one of a kind. I could ‘smell’ an imposter from a mile away.”
Cordelia didn’t fail to miss the entendre. “Oh my God, you said smell.” Cordelia buried her face in her hands. “I can not believe it. I feel like I need to take a bath.”
Angel laughed and tried to pull her hands away. “I’m sorry. That’s my vampire senses and a little bit of infatuation when it comes to you.” And he could not believe he said that. Might as well say the rest. “I love you.”
That did pull her hands from her face. “Excuse me?” Cordelia asked. “Did you just say…”
“I love you? Yes, I did.”
“Wow, that’s, I love you too.”
“Really?” Angel asked. That’s a good thing. “So now that we’ve decided that, what now?”
Yes, what now? Cordelia had absolutely no idea. “Maybe we just go with the flow? Who says that we have to do anything?”
Angel considered that. “I suppose you’re right, as always,” he added for her benefit. “You do realize that I am absolutely the wrong person to fall in love with, right? I mean, I can’t give you the things you deserve. I’m tight with a buck. I’m a neat freak. I tend to use antiquated slang terms. Did I mention that I’m a vampire? I can’t even, well, you know, without going all Manson on everybody.”
“Can you love me completely?” Cordelia asked.
He didn’t even have to think about it. “Yes. I can.”
“Then you can give me everything.”
Angel smiled slightly. “Is it okay if I kiss you now?”
“Yes, it is.” And so he leaned down and did just that.
“Don’t you want to know what you smell like?” Angel asked between kisses.
“What do I smell like?”
“You smell like you.”