“Dennis,” Angel repeated, but the door remained locked. Angel studied the doorknob he couldn’t wait for Cordelia to harden and build up her walls. He squeezed at the knob crushing it. He slammed the door open as the ghost pushed back.
“I’m coming in Dennis,” Angel shoved again and was forced to a stop. It took a moment to recognize the force that held him. He pushed and his fist hit a solid invisible barrier.
Angel stumbled back staring at the inside of Cordelia’s apartment a home that had never been barred to him since he first knocked on her door with a small cactus in his hand and a tentative smile. He searched on the mantle to find that small cactus, only now it was big and strong, growing it seemed at the same rate of their friendship and love.
Angel blinked keeping his eyes on the plant half expecting it to wilt and die before him.
He sighed gaining inexplicit courage as it remained true. “Cordelia, please.” He called out into the empty living room. “Cordy,” his voice ringing through the apartment. “I’m not leaving until you talk to me. I’m not,” he repeated lowly, his back slumping down against the invincible wall.
Cordelia sat huddled on the bathroom floor.
Angel sat in the hallway, never moving a muscle. An hour he waited, jerking to his feet when he heard soft footsteps and a rapidly beating heart.
“Please, Cordelia,” he called to the still woman staring at him.
“Please,” he repeated at the shake of her head. “You have to understand.”
Cordelia continued to shake her head not relenting but not leaving.
Cordelia narrowed her eyes at the vampire. The tears and the numbness dwindled away as the anger took hold. “Go away, Angel.”
“I can’t, not until I explain.”
“Explain, you can’t explain it- there is no explanation.”
“Cordelia, there’s always explanations, they just might not be right or valid or good or realized. But there are reasons. Just, please listen, then I’ll go.” Begging wasn’t beneath him at this point, but studying Cordelia, Angel wasn’t confident that would do anything but make her colder to him.
Cordelia didn’t want to listen him or even see his face. But his expression kept her rooted to the spot and not slamming the door on his pleas. She couldn’t detect any expectation from the vampire that she would accept what he had to say neither did he offer a desperate apology as he was prone to do in the past.
It was as if he knew that he was beyond apologies. He crossed the line and he knew it as she did. Angel just wanted her to know why. Damn her, Cordelia did want to know why.
It made no sense that she could think of- every possibility fizzled into disbelief and pain, remembering the love she felt with Angel. He did love her. She wasn’t that blind-was she? For her own sanity she had to know. If it were all a lie, then she would be free to hate.
But she didn’t want to hear his voice, slamming her hands over her ears turning her back to the now silent vampire. Could Cordelia even trust him to tell her the truth? Was there even a truth to tell? She was going insane.
Cordelia swirled around dropping her hands, her gaze fierce. “Why? Can you not fall in love without Angelus making appearance; you couldn’t lose your soul so you had to make him up. Are you that twisted? Or was there ever even an Angelus, was it always just you. You have this identity you create when your “darker instincts” get to much for you to handle, so you call yourself Angelus and ruin lives, then pop back into ‘Angel’ the souled guy and go- oh, Sorry- forgive me- it wasn’t me, it was the evil guy. What are you some undead walking and talking homicidal Multiple Personality Disorder? Just how fucked up are you?” She demanded.
The simplistic and painful honesty of that one word answer caused Cordelia to blink rapidly, stumble back, and, god forbid, causes her heart to break all over again.
“Can I come in, please? I won’t hurt you.”
Cordelia scoffed, tears choking in her throat,” liar.”
Cordelia turned again, waving her hand wildly in the air.
“You have to say it, Cordelia.”
The woman turned sharply, “You’re invited in. But, don’t…” She turned again, her warning that he stay away from her not needed. Angel had already gone to stand in the darkest corner of her living room, half hidden by the lamp’s shadow.
Cordelia strode forward. “No, if you’re going to explain then you can’t hide. In the light.” She slammed her body in the chair, ignoring the wince of her wound “Over there,” she pointed to the furthest part of the couch.
Angel hesitated for a second and moved silently to the couch. He glanced at her, taking in the hazel eyes redden with new tears, the stubborn set of the mouth, the paleness of the face and the way she favored her stomach. He shot off the couch going to her kitchen.
Cordelia jumped at the sudden movement watching the vampire disappear. If he dared come back with a mug of blood, she would stake him.
Angel came back into the living room moments later carrying a plate and glass. Cordelia scooted back in her chair as he moved close placing the items on the coffee table in front of her. “You need to eat, my mark was enlarged causing you to lose more blood than you should have.”
Cordelia stared in horror at the sliced peanut butter sandwich with the crust neatly cut off, the way she liked it, and glass of orange juice and then up to the vampire that sat back down at the far end of the couch. She blinked the vampire’s voice hadn’t been riddled with guilt. It was just matter of fact.
“Eat, Cordelia you lost to much blood.”
“Whose fault is that?” she snapped.
“I wasn’t draining you. My intended mark would have already closed by now if you had not jerked away. The puncture wounds tore because of it. Therefore you lost more blood than you should of and you need to eat.”
Cordelia shoved aside the plate. “This isn’t the damn Red Cross and I don’t need a cracker. I wasn’t a friggin Donor.” She yelled, her emotional outburst in direct contrast to Angel’s calm manner. “And it was too your fault.”
Angel studied the woman’s glare and shook his head. “I became Angelus the night Darla turned me and remained so until I was cursed. I was everything depicted and told. I was evil, a vampire and enjoyed all which that entailed. The instincts that cried for killing, lust, fear and blood I not only embraced but also went out of my way to take them to greater heights. And I was damn good at it.”
Cordelia snapped her jaw shut. This wasn’t one of Angel’s past stories, always told with a twinge of guilt and hesitation, always told in a far away voice as a storyteller might tell of a long ago tale or horror story. This was real. This was Angel saying who he was straightforwardly without shame or pleasure, and it almost seemed a hint of pride. Cordelia started to listen.
Angel continued to stare at the young woman. “When I was cursed, all those instincts remained, guilt and conscious were just added. At first, I attempted to ignore the soul be what I had been before. But, I couldn’t. So, I hid in the shadows, not knowing where I belonged, not knowing that I could belong anywhere. To act on my instincts caused guilt and pain of conscience, to not act on them caused one very fucked-up vampire, one who had no idea about the clause in the gypsy curse. I lost my soul and with it all guilt or conscience.” Angel paused and looked away.
“What” Cordelia whispered not wanting to interrupt but the vampire was taking to long to continue.
Angel looked back. “I was Angelus,” He paused again.
Cordelia swore she was going to yell.
“I….I thought I was same as before, different clothes, different hair, but the same…but I wasn’t…not entirely.”
Cordelia leaned back not at all understanding. Her experience of Angelus in Sunnydale pretty much jibed with everything she had heard about the vampire.
Angel shook his head at her expression. “I was a tad on the obsessive side…” He shot a look at Cordelia raised brow. “Drusilla is probably the closest thing that could’ve have been called an obsession, but it wasn’t really, I just took a lot of time with her because I wanted to drive her crazy. She had the sight, she was so lovely and innocent alive, I just wanted to see how crazy and evil I could make her. I thought it would be fun and it was.”
Cordelia couldn’t help the widening of her eyes at his correction. “Oh,” she silently said.
Angel nodded at Cordelia’s perceived understanding. “But when I lost my soul in Sunnydale, I was a bit obsessed with hurting Buffy…. Alright, fine,” he admitted at Cordelia double raised brows and the Pfft of air from her lips. “I was obsessed. But it wasn’t motivated by fun, but by hate. That was the first time really as a vampire, with or with out a soul, well except for my human family, I acted out of hate. With my family, it was because I wanted to destroy all past connections to humanity. With Buffy, it was because she made me feel almost human and with my soul I finally realized that I wanted that, but without it, I hated that feeling. It wasn’t just that I loved her. Can you understand?” Angel looked at Cordelia.
Cordelia held Angel’s gaze, her voice clipped and sure. “Buffy touched the humanity in your soul, you recognized it because of your love, you wanted it, but didn’t have a clue what to do with it, Angelus- or rather without your soul, you- because vampires are inherently killers some more flashy and psychotic then others-hated that you had been subjected to that humanity and like with your family you set out to destroy Buffy. Because she was the slayer, it was a tad more difficult to kill her. So, you attacked her through her friends and played vicious mind games hoping to break her.”
Angel a little stunned by her accurate summation. “Right.”
“Duh, Angel, I was there, bitchy doesn’t mean unobservant or stupid.” Cordelia got up pacing. “You still haven’t explained anything. Fucked up, I knew. Without a soul- sadistic bastard that hated any type of humanity, you must’ve really hated your human life to continue to despise humanity so much, with a weird sense of humor, I knew- Dru, okay I didn’t know all that- but still, you haven’t explained anything.”
“I didn’t despise…”
“You say fun, I say hatred….I grew up in Sunnydale, seen a lot of vampires, most just would think of me as food, sure, they would kill, didn’t give a shit about human life, but they didn’t all go striving for ways to suck the world and humanity into hell or schemes for elaborate torture or even killed their immediate family, they just killed who was ever available. But you did for whatever reason. Fun, hate whatever….I really don’t care anymore. You’re right, I did think I knew you but I don’t. Not at all, I was just lying to myself. I don’t know you.”
“You do, mostly,” Angel sighed. “But….”
“Shut up, I don’t want to know anymore, everyone makes mistakes. The problem with you is yours always seem to be done to create the most elaborate harm. I’ve only asked two things from you. That you believe in the mission- which you betrayed before and that you love me- that you betrayed now. How am I supposed to forgive you or trust you ever again? Why should I care? Why, did you do it?” Cordelia threw her hands over her face, the final question choking in her throat.
Angel dropped his head to floor. Taking a deep breath he tried to answer. “Cordelia, I drink blood- pig out of necessity because I want human. I still want to just take what I want for my pleasure, I want to kill when the mood strikes, I want to pick a victim and systemically terrorize them until their blood is drenched in fear, then I want to kill them. That’s what I still want, the soul hasn’t changed that. And who I was as a human is irrelevant, and you are probably right, but it’s irrelevant.”
Cordelia looked up at the vampire in disbelief. “That’s your explanation? When’s the last time you picked out a victim and tortured them to death.” Cordelia asked, standing her hands on her hips. “When’s the last time you killed someone just for the hell of it.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Answer me. You started this, whatever this is.”
Cordelia waved her hand. “Let me clarify- with a soul?”
“When I first got my soul, I killed scum for food. And ….Robbie and Laurie,” Angel pointed as if he gave Cordelia the right answer.
Cordelia shook her head. “Forgetting about the scum of over a hundred years ago- you’re trying to tell me you wanted to kill Robbie and Laurie.”
“I enjoyed it.” Angel snapped at her patronizing tone.
“That’s not what I asked. Did you want to?”
“I needed them.”
“Angel, answer me, did you want…..”
Angel shot up beginning his own pacing. “I didn’t even think about wanting it. I just did it. I was so hungry and weak, Robbie came opening the box, I smelt food and I just took. Laurie, I knew what I was doing, but I needed more. So, I killed her.”
Cordelia stilled, refusing to be diverted by early memories or the anguish of her dreams of Angel imprisoned in the bottom of the sea or the made up dead faces of the two innocents. “Was it a matter of want or need, Angel?”
Angel blinked, stopping. “Need.”
Cordelia nodded. “Torture?”
“I was mean to Merle.”
“You were mean to everyone then.” Cordelia snapped. “Did you break his fingers, poke out his eyes, cut out body parts.”
“Cordy.” Angel grimaced.
“I hung him upside down and left him. I dunked him too.”
“No, you listen. You are a vampire with vampire instincts- killing, etc. You obviously were a piece of work when you were human and with Darla’s influence you skyrocketed to being one of the most vicious, nastiest vampires of your day- all in the name of fun or whatever. But that’s not who you are now, even with those instincts your so adamant about, because you have a soul and you use those instincts as well as strength to help people not kill them, and you fight those instincts when they could hurt some one, generally speaking anyway.”
Angel just stared shaking his head.
“What? I’m wrong.” She paced waving her hands, swaying slightly.
“Please sit down and eat something.”
“Don’t start caring about my well-being now,” she glared.
“I’ll never stop,” Angel sighed sitting back down on the couch. “At least sit down, please.”
Cordelia glared but sat.
“Cordelia, generally speaking you are right. But you still don’t understand.”
“Angel, I get….”
“No, Cordelia, you don’t.” Angel closed his eyes leaning his head back briefly, then settling an intense gaze on the woman. “Why do you think that I marked you?”
“I don’t know why you bit me, I don’t why you did any of it, you still haven’t explained.”
“Not bit, but marked.”
“What’s the difference? You know what I don’t care. I don’t care about any of this. Just go, you aren’t explaining anything.”
“I told you about Angelus so you would understand, not just what you’ve read or even saw in Sunnydale. So, you would understand how much danger you in particular would be in if I ever lost my soul.”
“I get I would be killed, just like Connor, Wesley and the others. I know the drill the closest to the soul are the first to go, then Sunnydale.”
“No, then Wolfram & Hart, starting with Lilah. And Connor, Wesley, Fred and Gunn, I probably would kill, but it would depend on you.”
“Cordelia, listen to me, and hear me, I am Angelus, I just have a soul. When I was first turned my ‘priorities’ as it were- were dictated to some extent by Darla, and whatever struck me as fun at the time. Sunnydale, by what Buffy made me feel. Here now- only by you and that’s true whether I have a soul or not. You are mine. That’s the difference between a bite and a mark. That’s the instinct you need to be concerned with and understand.
With a soul, I need you and love you, I care that you love me, without, I just want and need you, maybe even love, I don’t know, Spike, James said they loved, I never had that experience not as a human and not without a soul, but regardless, it wouldn’t matter to me whether you loved me or not. I would just take what I want from you and turn you and then let you decide on what to do about the others. I have feeling you would want them with you as vampires.
I wouldn’t waste the time going after them or playing with them to destroy you, because I wouldn’t want you destroyed or crazy, I would want you just like you are just without the burden of a soul. And you Cordelia Chase have the potential to be very dangerous vampire without a soul. And that’s why I did what I did, to protect us and our family from that possibility. I couldn’t take the chance that I would ever lose my soul and you lose yours as a consequence.”
Cordelia slumped back in the chair letting Angel’s words suck the breath out of her. She blinked trying not to think of herself as an evil demon or what exactly about her was there that would make Angel or Angelus or whoever think she would be a ‘dangerous’ vampire.
What did that mean? Cordelia tried to think in the present and recent past not the possible future that Angel described. “Angel, we weren’t….we were at Anita’s it was safe….you did what you did before even knowing that Wolfram & Hart knew- and how was intentionally destroying my trust, hurting me, making me believe that you had lost your soul going to – nevermind, I wouldn’t sleep with you if I hated you. But…you soul wasn’t at risk.”
“Yes, it was….I learned something interesting about the curse loving you, like I said its not an exact science, having you love me, accept me, I could lose my soul without making love to you.”
“No, but, twice in the sewers, I didn’t recognize it at first, but when you accepted the deaths of Robbie and Laurie when you cried for me, when you said you loved and needed me, I did feel it, something dangerous tugging at my being. And this last time when you said you loved me- whatever I was, before I made my decision, I felt it again, only that time I recognized it for what it was; contentment and joy breaking away my soul.”
“You became broody, you should have told me.”
“Why, so we could agree to not love each other. Become another tragic farce. Anyway, it wouldn’t have worked. Loving you, but not knowing that you loved me, I could let you go with Groo, I could want you to be happy without me, I could resist the urge to kill him and just lock you in room for just me. Which was good, you’ve not only not loved me but hated me and I would’ve ended up staked.” Angel shrugged.
“But knowing that you do love me and knowing that I could make you want me with a touch and knowing how much you are willing to do to make me not brood, eventually, best intentions aside, I would’ve used that knowledge after justify and rationalizing and we would be back to where we started, I wouldn’t have had to use force-that wouldn’t of worked, but a good combination of conflict, broodiness, seduction and the puppy dog face would. I may not always understand you, but I do know your weaknesses. And if another ‘Groo’ showed, he’d be dead.
“I….” Cordelia stopped more than a little stunned at the rough honesty of Angel’s voice. “You wouldn’t risk….”
“Cordelia, that’s where the instinct comes in that you have to be concerned with. Wanting you affects my ability to care about the consequences. It’s gone beyond love and need, my feelings for you have become inherent to my demon. I can’t let you go, not anymore, not when I know you love me.”
“I would of remembered. I wouldn’t….”
“I wouldn’t have to get you to agree to make love, only to stay with me let me hold you and have you say you loved me, then the risk would exist. But, I couldn’t leave you or Connor and I couldn’t ask you to leave, you wouldn’t want to go, you’d fight to stay for me and the mission. So………”
“So, you planned on making me hate you… couldn’t you have just said ‘Sorry, Cor, I made a mistake, its blondes I really love’- sorry again.”
“Would’ve you have believed me? Or would you’ve thought I was just doing a ‘have to protect the woman I love,’ speech.”
Cordelia thought about it, a year ago, even six months ago, she would’ve, but now, knowing, remembering the love in Angel’s eyes. “I don’t……no.” Cordelia would’ve fought him on it.
“That’s what I was afraid of… and honestly, I don’t think I could’ve maintained that lie for very long if you did, not if you were here. I need you too much.”
“Enough to make me hate you and why are you telling me now- OH- the permanency spell, you want to hop right back into bed.”
Angel leaned back into the couch. “Yes. But that’s not why – I didn’t mean for you to know. The plan was for you to escape go running back to the hotel, get Wesley and the disc and restore my soul.”
“Restore the soul you already had…. brilliant…. Angel, that stupid plan could’ve got you staked, if not by me, then Gunn, definitely Connor if he caught up with you thinking you were Angelus. And ultimately, you weren’t even a good Angelus. You caved and got sweet.”
“It was harder than I thought.” Angel looked down at his shoes. “You kept crying.” He mumbled to the floor.
“Gee, wow, what a surprise, I thought my lover turned into a soulless killer that would terrorize every one that I loved, gee, sorry, crying seemed appropriate.” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Though, I guess it’s nice to know it effected you- hated to think that you would’ve actually TURNED ME, to make your stupid plan work.”
“I….” Angel shook his head not even bothering to comment on Cordy’s last particular outburst and caught air in his lungs, willing the act to calm and give him some sense of what he was trying to tell the young woman. “ I was willing to take the chance. You and Wesley would’ve tried the capture and spell route first, Gunn would’ve followed and I hoped that Connor never found out.”
“You’re so sure that I wouldn’t have done it right away, I promised didn’t I? And I was damn tempted even when I knew it was you.”
Angel shrugged off the last part of Cordelia’s statement with more confidence and some censure. “You evaded, which doesn’t really make me happy, but since it will soon no longer be an issue, I won’t argue about it, no, you and Wesley would do what you did before chain me up-“
“We knew that was temporary, that’s the only reason.” Cordelia immediately interrupted.
“And Wesley has the spell now, because of that incident, and since I wasn’t really soulless I wouldn’t be going around killing people so no rush to stake me to save anybody.”
“You are a very stupid, you know that right?” Cordelia eyed the vampire.
“I have moments of realization of that, yes. Usually the major lapses occur because of you, I love you and don’t always think the best around you.” Angel shrugged and acknowledged honestly.
Cordelia dropped her head taking a deep breath and then rose to look Angel straight in the eye. “Angel, what then….”
“You wouldn’t hate me, because it wasn’t me, it was Angelus, but you would be on guard and wary…and you would’ve distanced yourself and in time, maybe if I was lucky, you’d be willing to be alone with me and we would be friends again. I would just love you that’s all.”
“I did mention that you were stupid, right?”
“Just checking.” Cordelia shoved her face in her hands, grumbling and making to Angel’s ears very strange sounds.
She lifted her head. “So, now, that the curse is no longer an issue I’m supposed to forget what you did, what you said?”
Cordelia narrowed her eyes. “You don’t want me to?”
“I am a vampire, Cordelia, an inherently violent demon, not necessarily trustworthy. I just have a soul. You need to remember that and a lot of what I said was true.”
“So, even though you love me, you hate me, want to snap my neck.”
Angel slumped. “I….No, Cordelia, I get angry and I for an instant I wish I was free to do what I want, that I didn’t have a soul, then I realize that isn’t what I REALLY want, just what my instincts cry out for. Before, I got angry and fired you because I didn’t what to be reminded about the mission about what was right. I wanted my revenge. I realized then that acting on the instincts was….” Angel sighed and sadly chuckled.
“I was going to say, one of my biggest mistakes, but I’ve seemed to stacked up a few others since then. Damn. “ Angel rubbed his hand roughly through his hair, taking another breath of air and continued.
“ I got angry when you reminded me that I couldn’t kill every lawyer even though they tortured you for a month. I got angry when you refused to ignore the consequences of making love and left me alone. Cordy, you are right in that I can’t let you be my conscience and I have gotten to a point where I do believe in the mission and get some real gratification from helping others, but honestly, without you, I could backslide pretty quickly. It’s the knowing that YOU see more than a fucked up vampire but see me as some one with the biggest heart, that you see me as comforting, if not a little creepy, that you see me as a man whose son will love him. You see a future for me that I never dreamed of and I want it and I want you in it. So, no I don’t hate you.”
“You say that as if you meant it, but what about this? Why did you have to do this?” she pointed to her stomach. “You said you hated it because it was Xander’s mark. It’s not a mark; it’s a scar from a fucking pole going through me. You bit me.”
“A mark” Angel nodded at her glare,” a scar -then -that you got because you loved that moron, a scar that says basically he was there first. In your heart and in your body. So, yes, I hate it.”
“You said it……..”
“Cordelia, it’s not ugly, it is a sign of you having lived and suffered, it is part of who you are and you are a beautiful person. That’s was all true, I still hate it though.”
“I never slept with Xander.”
“Still hate it.”
“So you had to make it uglier.” She whined. “And it hurt. And you were a bastard for lying to me and you had no right….It was wrong.”
“Loving you is wrong, Cordelia. The whole thing was wrong. And it wasn’t supposed to hurt you like it did. I didn’t want that, I just wanted…. it doesn’t really matter, it was wrong; I should’ve never bit you. “ Angel laid his head back against the couch. “I not even sure why I did it.”
Angel shot his head up. “Yea,” he admitted after a moment. “I would never had done it, but Angelus could. So, I did it because I wanted to, I wanted to completely possess you and know that when you looked at my mark no matter how the plan turned out that you would you know that you were mine.”
“Leave now, Angel.” Cordelia stood up.
“Just go, I’ll see you at the office tomorrow. I don’t know about anything else right now.”
“Will you eat?”
“Yes, I’ll eat if you leave.”
Angel nodded turning back from the door. “Put a chair or something against the door, I broke it again.”
“Great, thank you.”
“Knocking didn’t work.”
“Good bye, Angel.”
“Cordy,” Angel hovered at the doorway, not quite willing to take the step across.
“Are you going to do the revocation spell after I’m gone?”
“Are you going to come back and lurk in a corner and watch me?”
“If I say no, will you?”
“If you mean it, no.”
Angel stared at the young woman. This was going to be a test. He could pass it. There were plenty of times he didn’t sneak in to watch over Cordelia. “I mean it.” He jerked his head in affirmation.
Cordelia scrunched up her brow at his easy compliance. “Angel, the hallway, outside my window, the street, rooftop, all counts too.”
Angel was glad he could nod again. “Daylight should ensure those.”
Cordelia snapped her head to her window. The sun’s early morning rays were shining through the thick curtains. “Angel….” Cordelia struggled at the sight of the bright lethal light ascending.
Angel stilled at worry in her tone. He wouldn’t get too hopeful. Just because she didn’t want to see him burst into flames didn’t mean she would forgive him. Though, Angel was tempted, so tempted to play that card. Angel groaned. He was already starting the manipulations. “Sewers. I didn’t drive.” He forced the words out.
“Right.” Cordelia nodded. Of course- she knew about the sewers- he would be safe. Oh god, why did she still care about the dead, insecure, stupid, stupid, stupid, brave, stupid, stupid, loving, stupid, good, stupid, just stupid vampire. “Good.” Cordelia continued to nod.