Angel gathered the young girl into his arms, stroking her trembling body with strong tender caresses. Cordelia let the vampire hold her. The pain of the vision was too great to struggle against his attempts to soothe her.
Cordelia pulled away blinking at the handsome vampire as soon as the agony ceased.
“Cordelia,” Angel whispered his now empty arms falling dejectedly to his sides.
Angel tensed under the unreadable stare of his beautiful seer. He didn’t know what she was thinking. Angel hated that; he had always been able to sense his seer’s thoughts and emotions. But now, they were being hidden from him. Angel had forgotten what an expert Cordelia had been at covering up her true thoughts.
She was almost as good has he was. But, at some point in the last two years, he and his seer had gotten past their separate needs to conceal their feelings, at least with each other.
Now, he knew that bond had been severely damaged if not completely destroyed. That scared him and filled him with guilt, even more so than the picture of Cordelia kneeling before the remains of his sire. Damn bitch, he thought angrily of the blonde.
Why had she had to come back? How could he had have let Darla cause so much harm to Cordelia and his relationship. Angel shook his head; he couldn’t dwell on that now. Angel had to concentrate on Cordelia, on helping her, on reaching her, on fixing things.
“Cordelia, the vision?” Angel softly asked focusing on the one issue he knew he could fix. He would get to the others soon, very soon he swore.
“Why do you want to know?” She asked raising an elegant eyebrow. “You are no longer a warrior for the Powers, right? Redemption and helpless be damned. Or are you telling me that not only is Darla fodder for a dust buster, that Druscilla is also, gone? And that Wolfram & Hart as been laid waste by your self-righteous indignation and hatred. The biblical cleansing salt has been scattered over its ashes preventing it’s evil to ever rise again.” Cordelia’s mask was firmly back in place. Her contemptuous tone confirming it.
Angel closed his eyes against his seer’s accusatory tone. He had to focus; he couldn’t afford to get lost in his own guilt and turmoil over his past choices.
“Cordelia, I want my redemption. I know what my responsibilities to the Power’s are and I am willing to fulfill them. Tell me, please. Your vision?”
“Since when,” she retorted.
“Since,” Angel paused, the memories of his surrender to the exhaustion his soul invading his mind. He couldn’t dwell on that now.
He concentrated on the epiphany he had under gone as he woke still with his soul. Angel had known then that he wanted to try to reach his humanity with Cordelia at his side. The knowledge that he wanted Cordelia, needed her, that he loved her had sparked such an intense feeling of hope in his soul. Angel had to center his struggling emotions on that hope.
It was the only weapon he had to fight his fear for his love and reach her, to save her.
Cordelia quietly contemplated the vampire. “It was a demon, large scaly, breathed fire, and looked like he wanted to do some serious damage at the homeless shelter on Market St, soon,” she added. “Well, what are you waiting for, are you going or not?”
Angel heard the implied dare in her question. Angel knew he had to go or Cordelia would not believe that he was sincere in his declaration. But he couldn’t leave Cordelia alone. His redemption, his mission was a priority; he believed that and felt it.
Yet, he also recognized that while his atonement was important, nothing was as vital to him than the young girl who stood before him. Angel couldn’t risk leaving her alone.
At his hesitation, Cordelia turned away from Angel, her shoulders slumping slightly. At that moment, Angel knew that Cordelia had concluded the test a failure and his assertions false. Angel had to go fight the demon in her vision. He couldn’t disappoint her again. Angel turned from the room.
“You are going?” Cordelia stared at the vampire. Her intent gaze questioning.
“I am going to call Gunn, he can…”
“Gunn? You want him fight what is suppose to be your battle?” she declared in disgust. “He could be hurt, doesn’t that matter, to you? Wasn’t Wesley, enough?”
“Cordelia, it matters, however I am not leaving you alone. Demon or no demon. Once Gunn gets here. I will go.” He said forcibly.
“Oh. But I said soon. The homeless are the important ones, the ones in danger not me, you have to go now. If you’re really going, that is.”
Angel began to feel frustrated at Cordelia’s continual denial that the vampire would fight the evil in her vision. It felt good. Frustration with his seer was a common feeling. Unlike the fear, desperation, terror, guilt and confusion that he had been experiencing over the last 24 hours.
“Gunn will be here soon enough,” he growled.
“You don’t know that,” she retorted.
“Cordelia, the Power’s will get their warrior and I will do everything I can to save the homeless, I swear. But not until I am ensured of your safety. I don’t know what you are thinking and feeling right now. Regardless, you need to understand and accept that you, not the homeless or any other lost soul, are the most important thing in my life, Power’s be damned.” He said roughly leaving the room to summon Gunn.
“No, No,” Cordelia cried angrily after the vampire. Angel’s redemption was what was meaningful; she thought throwing herself on the bed silent tears streaming down her face. She wasn’t more important, she couldn’t be, she wasn’t worth it.
Gunn came storming into the hotel, not stopping until he was directly in front of the vampire. Angel stood at the weapon’s cabinet gathering his arsenal.
“Man, I don’t know who you think you are ordering me around,” yelled Gunn.
“Gunn, I need you here to stay with Cordelia. I told you that on the phone.”
“Yeah, well, that’s the only reason I came, for Barbie.”
Angel nodded, barely acknowledging the young man’s anger. Angel knew that Gunn’s continual anger was justified, but he didn’t have the time or the inclination to deal with it now. He had to go battle the demon in Cordelia’s vision, and then he had to concentrate on his seer and her well being. Angel would tackle Gunn and Wesley’s sense of betrayal at a later time.
Because as much as he needed them, he needed Cordelia more. She was his first priority, his life.
“Cordelia is upstairs.”
Angel glanced up the staircase. He needed to go back up there and be with Cordelia. He had to get through to her, he had to understand but first, he had to go fight a fire breathing demon. Actually, he thought it might do him a world of good to pummel something evil, to release the tension bottled up inside his body.
Angel allowed his rage over all that had happened to Cordelia rise above his ever-present fear and guilt over the girl. Yes, he thought, it would definitely be cathartic to beat the holy hell out of something. Angel began to look forward to the battle.
“If anything, I mean, anything happens call me,” he growled pocketing his cell phone.
Gunn glared as Angel left the hotel. Damn, him, Gunn thought. Angel had ignored them, fired them and now he was acting like he was the head honcho. Ordering him around, ordering Wesley to move into the hotel when he was released and ordering Cordelia to stay here. Gunn glanced upstairs, thinking of the young girl that was suffering because of the vampire.
If Gunn had his way, he would take her far away from this dark place. It couldn’t be beneficial for Cordelia to remain here with Angel. It had been all of his fault that she had come to this. But, Gunn had promised Wesley. Wesley told him to not interfere with Angel and Cordelia, not unless Cordelia wanted him to. She was to remain, unless or until she asked for their help.
“Cordelia?” asked Gunn softly as he caught sight of the young woman that had been occupying his thoughts.
“Hi,” she answered almost shyly. Cordelia stopped at the bottom step. She had to force herself to meet the young man’s concerned eyes. Oh god, she thought, she hadn’t even started to come to grips with all she had put Wesley and Gunn through, what she was still putting them through with her severe lapse in judgment.
They were suffering because of her. Their pain just intensified the chaotic swirl of images and emotions that inhabited her mind and soul.
“Cordelia, are you are alright?” God what an asinine question, thought Gunn. She had tried to kill herself; all right was the last thing she was. Lord, he was truly beginning to hate the vampire, Gunn thought, as he took in Cordelia’s pale complexion and frail posture.
“Cordelia, maybe you should be sleeping. Or are you hungry?” Gunn said not sure of what to say or do for his beautiful friend. “I can order some food, I doubt bat-man has anything fit for human consumption in this place. Man,” Gunn looked around in distaste. “This place has gotten rank.”
“I am not hungry,” she shook her head struggling to compose her feelings. “How is Wesley?”
“Better, English is having fun getting looped on the painkillers,” Gunn tried to joke.
Cordelia nodded trying to focus on the trivial and mundane, anything other than her own turbulent mind. “I didn’t get a chance to thank you for getting my clothes and stuff.”
“No problem,” he stared concernedly at the young girl. “Here, Cordelia let’s sit.” Gunn motioned to the couch.
Cordelia nodded and moved slowly towards the sofa.
A flash of anger shot through Gunn as he noticed Cordelia nervously tugging on her long sleeves, stretching them out until they were twisted in her small fists. Damn that walking corpse, Gunn’s mind cried out.
“Cordelia, Cordy, if there is anything else you need, anything. If you want to leave here, I’ll take you. It doesn’t matter what the vamp says. It’s up to you, say the word and we are out of here.”
Cordelia cocked her head and stared at her friend. Leave here, she thought, glancing around at the dark, dusty lobby. Did she want to leave? She couldn’t decide. This place held the specter of Angel and Darla and all the angst and turmoil that their union represented.
This placed housed the culmination of Cordelia’s failure towards Angel. Cordelia hated it there. But did she want to leave? She just didn’t know.
Cordelia could feel her emotions in torment, begging to be acknowledged and set free. They were banging up against the wall of her mind taking the form of bright flashing colors. The chaotic colors pushed at her control, pounding for their release. Cordelia squeezed her eyes closed, concentrating on calming the jumbled and frenzied lights.
She had to understand them before she could allow herself to feel them. To do so without that comprehension, she knew would drive her mad. But it was so hard; all of her emotions were in painful disorder. Cordelia took a deep breath and looked at her friend.
“I’m fine here,” she said softly, making her decision.
“Cordelia, its Angel’s fault…”
Cordelia shook her head. “Gunn, I’ll be alright. And I’m fine here,” she said firmly, forcing her emotions down. She would be fine, she promised to herself, and to do that, she would have to stay in the hotel. The hotel was where it all started and where it would all end.
The two friends sat in silence. Gunn glanced at the young girl, then would look away. He wanted to help her. Gunn wanted to reach out to her and make her tell him why she had felt the need to resort to such a terrible solution. He wanted to be able to talk to Cordelia. But, he didn’t know how. Gunn was never one for deep emotional dialogues. It just wasn’t his style, but right now, he wished it were.
“Cordelia, I want to help….”
“I know,” she smiled slightly. “Thank you.” Cordelia turned away to look at the entrance of the hotel.
“Angel has been gone a long time,” she said more to herself than to Gunn.
Gunn looked away. He didn’t know what to say. Part of him wouldn’t be at all upset if the vampire disintegrated into the big dustpan in the sky, but another part wasn’t so sure. He looked back at the silent young girl. Gunn, suddenly wished Angel a speedy and healthy return.
There was something about the way Cordelia was holding herself, that suggested that the death of the vampire would cause her even greater misery.
Cordelia couldn’t help herself. She kept staring at the entrance waiting for the vampire’s return. Somehow, instinctively, she knew that she would never be fine, if Angel didn’t walk through that door. Cordelia would be able to try to figure out her mixed-up emotional state, once she knew the vampire was back.
That same instinct told her that the only reason she wasn’t still spiraling in her previous self-destruct nosedive was because of Angel’s presence. The fact that he still for some reason had his soul and cared for her, even after what she had done, was keeping her grounded.
So, Cordelia waited.
Angel limped back into a hotel filled with silence and darkness. He could sense both Gunn and Cordelia’s presence downstairs. Angel had been right, the battle had been therapeutic. For those several intense and violent moments, he had been able to feel nothing but his rage.
With each of his powerful blows, Angel pictured every person and everything that had ever harmed his seer and he annihilated them. Angel welcomed every return blow from the demon as his penance for not destroying them sooner. However, Angel’s sense of satisfaction at the demon’s death wail was short lived as he hurried back to the hotel.
His never ending remorse and apprehension for his seer returned with each step he took closer to the Hyperion.
Angel blinked as the main lobby light was turned on. He turned to the source. Angel’s eyes met the wide unreadable hazel eyes of his seer. Cordelia was standing by the light switch, her hand hovering over the fixture. Cordelia stared at the vampire from across the room. She narrowed her eyes.
“You’re hurt.” She stated, finally blinking.
Angel shook his head. “It isn’t anything. Just a few bruises and slight burns. Nothing.”
Cordelia nodded and walked over to the front counter, bending down briefly. She walked over to Gunn who was now standing. Cordelia placed the first aid kit in front of the young man. She looked once more at the vampire and headed up the stairs.
The men’s eyes followed the young woman’s ascent.
Gunn turned back to the vampire in chagrin. “Okay, so let’s see,” he grumbled at Angel.
“I am fine.”
“I’m really get sick of that term. Cordy’s ‘fine’. And now you’re ‘fine’. None of us are ‘fine’. It’s a stupid statement. Now, let me see. Barbie, obviously feels that I should do something,” Gunn said motioning to the first aid kit and the vampire.
“I can do it,” Angel said picking up the first aid kit. “How is she?”
“What?” Gunn asked incredulously. “Cordy isn’t ‘fine’, okay?”
“I know,” Angel said softly, pulling off his coat to reveal a charred shirt and injured flesh.
“You know?” Gunn asked contemptuously. “You know nothing about Cordy. You haven’t bothered or cared about her and what she had to put up with while you were on your own personal ‘lawyer bashing’ crusade. God, I don’t get you, man. You abandoned Cordy without even a backward glance and now you’re Mr. Expert on our Cordelia. Knowing what’s best for her for an’ all. Well, you haven’t a clue. If you did, you would know that she doesn’t belong here.”
Angel focused on taking the items out of the first aid kit, refusing to respond the young man’s angry, but meritorious comments. Angel couldn’t let his guilt or Gunn’s anger divert him from taking care of Cordelia.
All of his thoughts and energies had to be centered on his seer.
Cordelia walked up the stairs slowly. Finally, she thought, an emotion that she understood and could deal with. Relief, heartfelt, happy relief. She had felt that when Angel walked through the door. She sighed. That one emotion had stood out in the midst of all of the other confused and jumbled feelings that swamped her mind.
She had grasped at it like a lifeline. It gave her hope.
Cordelia stalled as she walked past Angel’s suite. She paused. Again, she was drawn to the room. Only this time the door was locked. To keep her out, she imagined. The colors of her mind were enhancing gaining velocity as she stared at that door overpowering her one stable emotion.
She was becoming confused again; the emotions threaten to cascade through, exposing themselves and their turbulence. She looked at the door in contemplation for moment and then turned to her room quickly.
She was only in the room for a few seconds, when she returned to Angel’s door. Her fist was squeezed tightly, hiding the item clutched in it from view. Cordelia looked down the hall; her gaze fell on the old type fire extinguisher attached to the wall.
Gunn was steadily watching Angel as he put ointment and gauze around the searing marks on his shoulder. Gunn’s hostility and annoyance grew at the vampire’s silence.
Angel and Gunn jerked up with a start as they heard a loud crashing sound form the upper floor.
Angel took off running. Gunn followed behind, but his slower human speed kept him more than several feet behind the vampire.
Angel stopped in front the broken door of his suite. The smell of smoke overwhelmed his senses. Cordelia, he thought in panic as he rushed in. Angel stopped suddenly at the sight of his seer. Cordelia stood transfixed by the flames that were slowly engulfing the scrapes of clothes, sheets and debris bundled on the middle of the bed. Angel said and did nothing as he watched the fire grow in size and heat.
“What the hell,” Gunn yelled as he ran into the room. He quickly looked around his eyes settling on the fire extinguisher lying next to the broken door. Gunn grabbed at the item heading towards the growing blaze.
Angel grabbed at Gunn, blocking his advancement. “Angel, we have to stop it, before it trashes the room, then the hotel,” Gunn cried.
Cordelia turned to the vampire holding back Gunn. “No, Angel.”
Angel nodded. “Let the room burn.”
“But, the hotel…” Gunn yelled struggling against the vampires hold.
“The hotel will survive,” Cordelia whispered with confidence.
Angel nodded, letting Gunn go. Gunn stared at the couple. Both Angel and Cordelia were enthralled by the inferno that was slowly but effectively incinerating the bed and the surrounding area.
Finally, the fire died out. Cordelia looked at the charred remains and the ashes on the floor. She nodded slowly in satisfaction and walked out of the room, ignoring both Angel and Gunn.
“We have got to get her back to the hospital,” exclaimed Gunn. “This is definitely not ‘fine’ behavior. Man, you can’t tell me that this is good. I’m taking her out of here.”
“No,” Angel growled, turning on his friend. “Cordelia stays here.”
“Angel,” Gunn interrupted in concern and fury.
“NO,” the vampire growled again, his eyes glowing yellow.
“You are nuts,” Gunn yelled storming down the stairs.
Angel ignored the young man’s incensed departure. The vampire looked around the room. A sense of satisfaction and release filled him as he took in the scorched remains of the room.
Cordelia had done what he had wanted to do what he should have done to this room as soon as he realized that he still had his soul. Angel wasn’t foolish enough to believe that the eradication of the physical signs of his desperate act with Darla would cure whatever torment Cordelia was experiencing and his own culpability, but it was a beginning.
Angel went to Cordelia’s closed door. Without any hesitation, he went to turn the handle. Angel sighed in relief as he heard the latch click open. He hadn’t wanted to force the door, but this time he knew he would if she had locked it. Angel had to talk to her.
“Cordelia,” he said softly to the young girl curled up on the bed.
“Go away,” she mumbled, her face hidden in the mattress. Cordelia had hoped that Angel wouldn’t come after her, but she had known he would. Just like she had known when he had returned to the hotel and that he had been injured. The knowledge was purely instinctual, a surety that she couldn’t deny or ignore.
“No. I will not leave you,” the vampire growled. “We have…”
“I am not telling you to leave me,” Cordelia interrupted pulling herself up. It would be pointless, she acknowledged to herself as she stared at Angel. The vampire was telling the truth, he wouldn’t leave her, not again.
That enlightenment confused her, yet she had to admit that it, also, somehow sparked something in her, a confidence that she had not felt in such a long time. Regardless, she needed to be alone right now.
Cordelia needed to try to process what she had just done, if possible. For a brief moment, as she watched the flames blister and burn the bed, she had felt in control. Cordelia had recognized a necessity to excoriate all traces of Darla and Angel’s union and had been able to act on that compulsion. It had been a very satisfactory feeling.
Yet, while it had felt good, Cordelia realized that her action was not entirely rational. And, she knew she couldn’t properly assess all of her feelings and actions with Angel’s presence overwhelming her thoughts. “I am asking you to let me be, just for awhile, please.”
“Angel, please, just for a little while. I need to be alone, now,” Cordelia begged.
Angel went to the bed and reached out to caress her tear stained cheeks. “I will not abandoned you, ever again,” he promised. His non-beating heart broke at her plea. Angel longed to hold his seer, to comfort her.
Cordelia closed her eyes at the vampire’s tender caress. She raised her hand holding his to her face for a second before gently pulling it from her face. “Please.” Her wide eyes beseeched him.
“Only for a little while,” he growled. Angel didn’t want to leave her, but he sensed that she needed to be alone. So, he would do what she wanted. Angel was just gratified that Cordelia seemed to acknowledge and accept that he would be back and would remain with her, forever.
She nodded and curled herself back into the bed.
With one last glance he left her closing the door behind him.
Angel sat downstairs in the lobby wondering what to do next. Threads of doubt began to form and creep through his consciousness. Maybe, he shouldn’t have left Cordelia alone. Torching his bed was not exactly a normal reaction.
Gunn was right. Just who did Angel think he was? Angel wasn’t a therapist. He was a vampire. What the hell did he know about treating or helping victim’s of attempted suicide? What did Angel know about the inner workings of a 20-year-old mortal woman’s mind? Sure, Angel had been around along time, but that didn’t necessarily give if him any deep insight on the psyche of humans.
Hell, as a mortal, he hadn’t the talent or interest to empathize with other people’s problems, especially woman. And, while Angelus definitely knew how to recognize the fears and insecurities of men and women, his soulless self wasn’t exactly charitable towards them. He had been much more inclined to exploit and cultivate those fears for his own depraved enjoyment.
And now, well now, Angel wasn’t exactly issue free himself. Maybe, Angel was just being arrogant and selfish. Angel wanted and needed to be the one that got through to Cordelia, the one to save her, the one to always protect her. But maybe Angel couldn’t. Maybe he should take her back to the hospital.
No, Angel argued with himself. He may not be the most mentally well-balanced individual or know the ins and outs of the human psyche; he did know his Cordelia. No matter what Gunn had said. Sure, Angel had damaged his bond with his seer and that made it difficult to sense what she was thinking or feeling, but not impossible.
Angel pushed aside his doubts. Angel began to rationalize his thoughts; he knew and loved Cordelia. Angel could help her. While, Cordelia’s torching of the room may not seem to have been a logical act, he understood it. Angel knew deep in his soul that her act of destruction was not done out of some form of desperation, but out of strength and anger, and that was healthy. He would let her alone, for now and she would remain with him. He would save Cordelia.
But now what to do? Angel knew he couldn’t just sit there. Brooding wasn’t helping. Fretting and indulging in his remorse and self-doubts accomplished nothing for Cordelia. He needed to be active. Food, he suddenly thought, Cordelia would need some food.
Angel slammed the cupboards in disgust. There was nothing in the cabinets and nothing in the refrigerator except blood. He glanced angrily around the dusty, empty kitchen. He walked back into the lobby of the hotel. Angel had definitely let the place fall to seed.
Usually, the vampire was fastidious about his surroundings. Years of living in the grime of the sewers had made him very particular and neat in regards to the state of his living environments. But, along with everything else, he had lost interest in the appearance of the hotel as he sunk deeper into the darkness of his vengeance.
He looked around in displeasure at the room’s mustiness and disarray.
Angel sighed in relief, suddenly realizing that he now had something to do. The vampire went to the phone and ordered food for Cordelia, picking up the scattered files and books as he placed the order.
God, this place was dark, he thought as he went around turning on more lights. Angel glanced up the stairs. How long did ‘for a little while’ mean? He asked himself. The seeds of doubts had crept back into his mind, taking root as he tried to concentrate on the task of cleaning the lobby.
Cordelia scooted up to the head of the bed, leaning up against the backboard. She tried to collect her thoughts, grasping at those she could interpret. She would deal with those, first. Relief, she had felt contentment upon her realization that Angel was safe. She had also experienced a burgeoning sense of security in Angel’s vow to stay with her.
Contentment and confidence, she had not associated those particular sensations with Angel in such a long time
In the last two years, those feelings had grown within her, becoming a constant in her life, feelings which had always given her the strength to confront any situation, whether it be evil induced or just life in general. But, those sensations had been lost when Angel had turned his back on her, only to be replaced by anger, sadness, fear and now guilt.
Her strength had been sapped every day, every moment Angel had embarked on his dark path. Cordelia had been positive that her courage had been completely demolished, when she saw Angel and Darla together. She hadn’t even had the strength to stay angry at the vampire.
But just now down in the lobby, she had felt the spark of her former confidence along with the renewal of her strength. Cordelia needed to focus on those forces, cultivate them and use them to work through the chaotic mess of her mind.
And she had to acknowledge that she loved the vampire and needed him. Just like she had to admit that justified or not, she was still angry with Angel for abandoning her. That particular emotion had gotten lost and overwhelmed by her guilt, but she realized it was still present in the jumbled mire of her thoughts.
Cordelia got up from the bed, moving towards the mirror. She gazed at her reflection. Yes, she loved Angel, yet she failed him. What kind of love was that, her mind cried out. How could she be angry with him, if it was her fault? Flashes of painful hues swarmed through her thoughts as guilt began to overpower her once more.
Oh god, no, she thought, she wasn’t going to let her own feelings defeat her, not again. Cordelia forced herself away from the mirror, shoving down her guilt. Okay, Cordelia admitted, she wasn’t ready to deal with that particular emotion, just yet. God, she was exhausted….and she smelled, she thought scrunching up her nose.
The odor of smoke surrounded her, permeating her clothes. Eww, she needed a bath. Cordelia clutched gratefully onto that need. Being annoyed about her physical appearance was a good sign, wasn’t it, she thought in hope.