Angel piled up the tray with various foods. It had been long enough; he had to go to Cordelia.
Angel paused in the middle of Cordelia’s room, looking expectantly for the young girl. A sharp stab of apprehension and pain knotted in the pit of Angel’s gut as he noticed the closed bathroom door. Cordelia was in there.
Not again, his mind cried out. Angel flung the tray to the side as he barged through the door. The vampire quickly took in his seer’s naked body submerged in the bath water, the small scissors at Cordelia’s delicate wrists. He growled in rage and fear as he yanked Cordelia’s frail form out of the water, clutching her to his chest.
“NO,” Angel growled grabbing the scissors and flinging them forcibly against the wall.
“What the….. Let me go,” she cried again pushing against the vampire tight grip.
“Cordelia, you were….”
“Taking a bath and changing these stupid bandages. Let me go.” Cordelia pushed against Angel’s tight embrace. “And give me a towel, I am naked here, like in no clothes,” she yelled.
Cordelia’s bellows broke through the vampire’s panic. He slowly pulled away from the irate young girl. “I thought…”
“What? That I was doing the suicide thing. Well, I’m not. Now, give me a towel.” She grumbled propelling herself to her feet. “Oh, nevermind.” Cordelia grabbed at a towel wrapping it around her wet body. “Geez.”
“Oh, get away from me. I was just taking a bath that’s all. God, over react much.”
“Cordelia,” Angel started again. He was getting frustrated at the young girl’s anger. What did she expect from him?
“I told you I was fine,” she huffed.
“Cordelia, you tried to kill yourself.” He explained, uncharastically running his hand through his hair.
“That was then, not now,” she rolled her eyes. “Now, I was taking a bath, trying to relax. Actually, doing a pretty good job at it, that was until you came barging in all over wiggy.”
“I….I just thought…I found you before in the bathtub..,” he tried to explain brokenly. Angel’s dark eyes reflected the misery and terror he had experienced when he had found Cordelia lying in her own blood.
Cordelia stared at the vampire a moment before pushing past him and heading for the closet. No, her mind shouted. She couldn’t bear to see Angel’s pain at past her actions. Cordelia was disgusted with herself. Her choices and failures had caused someone she loved nothing but anguish. She couldn’t, wouldn’t deal with her guilt, it was too debilitating. She tried to focus on anything, but her perceived failed responsibility to the vampire.
Damn him, she thought, her mind had almost settled on calm plateau. She glared at the vampire. Good, she thought, hostility was the perfect diversion from the approaching pain of her remorse. Cordelia jerked on her clothes, her anger towards Angel swelling to the surface.
“Just where do you get off getting all protective and concerned about me,” she griped loudly. “You left me. And now, all of sudden you think you have a right to get all bossy and controlling over me.” Cordelia scowled at the vampire.
“Cordelia,” Angel started to explain his initial fear when he realized that she was in the bathroom.
“No.” Pacing the bedroom, agitatively. “No, you fired me, ‘vision girl’ you left me alone to fight your stupid soul saving missions. And let’s not forget because of your overwhelming need for the lone dark ranger type revenge, Wesley was shot. SHOT, Angel, as in could have died. Umph. You are one selfish vampire, you know that. You left me.” She shouted stopping in front of Angel. “You hurt me,” she cried.
“I …know…I am sorry.” Angel said downcast, accepting her censure. “Cordelia, I…” Angel tried again to explain.
“Sorry, that’s it, isn’t Angel.” Cordelia cut in roughly. “You do horrible, mean stuff, and then you say ‘sorry’ and everything is just hunkie dorie.”
“No, of course not, but I need..,” he attempted again, starting to get frustrated at his seer’s continual interruptions.
“Well, it doesn’t work that way. You scared me, you hurt me,” she repeated, still ignoring the vampire’s efforts to speak. Cordelia flashed a condemning look towards Angel as she paused for a breath.
“Well, you scared me and hurt me,” the vampire yelled, taking advantage of the quiet, his frustration getting the better of him. “You slit your wrists. You almost died. How could you do that to yourself, to me?” He questioned angrily.
“You?” She exclaimed hotly. “This had nothing to do with you,” she lied. “Anyway, you had sex with Darla. Please, tell me you were just aching for a pelvic thrust and not self combusting your soul.” Cordelia glared.
“I….” Angel’s anger disappeared as his guilt returned at her furious comments. Angel struggled to try again to explain his actions, forcing his eyes to meet Cordelia’s flashing ones.
Once more, Cordelia broke in, not letting the vampire finish his sentence. “Don’t bother, you gave up. How could you?” She cried. “You could have destroyed everything. Worse than that, you could have let the evil ‘grr’ side out to run rampant. Oh, don’t even try to explain. I don’t know why I was surprised. Tell me Angel, what gives you the right to judge me or what I decide to do with my life. You have been willing to sacrifice your life and soul more than once. And not for the greater good, mind you, but just because.” Disgust dripped from her voice.
Cordelia continued not wanting or expecting Angel to answer. “ What you don’t remember the Snow of Sunnydale Christmas Past.” She paused glaring at the vampire’s perplexed expression at her statement.
“I may have been in Aspen, enjoying the last remnants of my ‘normal’ life, but I heard. I wasn’t clueless. You attempted your own self-combustion escape path. And now, what less than 48 hrs ago, you tried the soul extinguishing sex thing. Why, am I the one being cuddled and questioned? Your death or loss of the soul stuff could have ended the world, as we know it. You risked everything. You have screwed up more than once and no one is crying foul. Crying, what’s wrong with the vampire? Let’s get his head shrunk.” Cordelia paced abruptly around the room ignoring the vampire.
Angel remained silent trying to process her words. He hadn’t realized that Cordelia knew about his attempted suicide, truthfully he had forgotten about it. Well, he hadn’t actually forgotten about it, but he had compartalized it with all things relating to Sunnydale and Buffy. In other words, he considered it a past memory not relevant to his life in LA.
“Oh, to think I was all guilt ridden about not being there for you, for not keeping my promise to always be at your side. But, there was nothing I could have done was there? My mistake is not that I failed you, but that I am not the great ‘Buffy’. She is the only one you would let save you, isn’t she? Miss slayette always saved you. She was the one that was able to get you to see reason, the first time you tried to go up as a sunlit vamp torch. You experienced a miracle because of the slayer’s ‘love’. Snow in Southern California. Geez, how is the ‘love’ of a ‘nobody’ seer suppose to compare to such a mythic love?” Cordelia demanded in a huff.
Cordelia glared at the now stunned and puzzled vampire before continuing on with her tirade. “You were able to stake Darla the first time, because it was her or Buffy. How you must have been in torment these last few months. Buffy, Darla? Which simpering blonde do I choose? It would have been so much easier and healthier for all of us, if we never bothered with trying to talk sense into you, but instead ran straight to Sunnydale and grabbed Buffy. Let the Blonde super chicks fight it out, the winner get Angel or Angelus. This time, your epiphany, was it Buffy? Of course it was its always Buffy. ‘Oh my god, what would Buffy think? I better get back on the straight and narrow, if I am ever to be reunited with the ‘love’ of my life. So, bye Darla, you’re dust again’.” Cordelia paused taking a gulp of much needed air, still scorning the vampire’s bewildered expression.
“You know when I think of it, it makes me sick. I came to this stupid city, to live my life to get away from all things dead and yucky. And what do I get? A repeat of Sunnyhell. Danger and death. People that I thought I could trust, but did I get that, oh no, just people that judged me, found me wanting then rejected me. Even Doyle didn’t trust me. And I bet you encouraged it. ‘Cordelia would never understand or accept a half demon, she is just a stupid shallow little girl’…”
“What, no…Cordelia, I never would have…” Doyle’s name and her harsh unjust accusations towards their dead friend broke through Angel’s confused state. “Of course, Doyle trusted you, you know that. He never rejected you, you were very important to him, he cared about you.” Angel exclaimed forcibly.
Cordelia shot a frosty glance at the struggling vampire. “He left me. And you, ummp. You say you won’t leave. Fine, until when? Until, Buffy needs you, or Darla shows up once again from the ashes. You will either abandon me or kill yourself, leaving me alone again. I don’t need it or want it.”
“Cordelia I won’t leave you.” Angel claimed loudly.
“I don’t believe you, you aren’t any different from anyone else that has said that they cared about me or loved me,” she yelled back.
“Shut up,” she ranted. “I didn’t ask for any of this. My soul is fine. Sure I was a bitch, but if I haven’t made up for that by now, then screw the higher powers. I have given more than I should ever have had to. And if my existence is just to pander to your needs or journey, than I say take it away. Because I get no appreciation or consideration.”
“Of course, I appreciate you. I care about you,” Angel tried, willing the young woman to believe that and more.
“No,” Cordelia retorted. “You have given me nothing to rely on, at all. You gave up your soul why? Because you couldn’t deal with killing Darla. You say you care about me, but did you think about me? No. Did you care about me? No. You are just like everybody else. Screw you.”
Angel stood in shock at the young woman’s irate ramblings. Her anger washed over him causing a sharp ache through his body. Angel wasn’t sure what to say or do. He wondered frantically trying to understand Cordelia’s words.
He couldn’t tell if she really believed her own assertions. Doyle? Cordelia knew that Doyle had cared about her, why was she denying it now. And, Buffy? That made absolutely no sense. What did Buffy have to do with any of this? Buffy has had no influence over Angel’s actions or choices in almost two years, Buffy definitely didn’t have anything to do with his epiphany, that was all about the beautiful girl seething before him.
“Cordelia, Buffy had nothing to do with my still having my soul,” he started.
“Right,” Cordelia cried vehemently denying his claim. “Buffy saved you before….”
“Cordelia, if you know about…about my attempt at suicide, then you should know it was because of ‘The First”.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Right, the really old spooky evil, that made you believe that you wanted to kill Buffy. So, to save her, you went with the whole sun hara-kiri thing. But, she came to you, her love darkened the sun with beautiful snow.” Cordelia grimaced. “How sickenly supernaturally hallmarky.”
“Cordelia, it was more than just wanting to save Buffy.” Angel interrupted, trying to clarify how he felt at that time. “’The First’ had me believing that I was nothing but a monster and would always be one. My victims came to me in dreams, taunting me, convincing me. It wasn’t just Buffy, I didn’t want to kill anyone again. But I had believed them, so I….”
“But, Buffy broke through your super spell induced brood mode. She was the only one that could, Umph,” Cordelia broke in, not wanting to be distracted from her theory. “It was because you were all broody and despondent over Buffy moving on with her life that enabled Darla to tempt you and mess with your mind.” Cordelia declared.
“And it was Buffy, that enabled you to find your so-called enlightenment.” She nodded in conviction. “It was her. There was nothing I could have done to help you. It wasn’t my fault. I have nothing to feel guilty for, I don’t,” she turned to Angel daring him to contradict her.
“Of course you don’t.” Angel stared at Cordelia. Her fists were clenched tightly at her sides, her face was scrunched up in firm determination. He didn’t understand. Why was Cordelia so adamant about Buffy’s role in his life? She knew that Buffy hadn’t been a part of his life since he had been in LA. Angel thought back to her earlier tirade.
She had started with her anger at him for abandoning her, that he understood. But, then she seemed to fixate on the idea that Buffy was the only one that could have veered him away from his path, so she…Cordy wouldn’t feel guilty, he realized in sudden comprehension.
“Cordelia you have nothing to feel guilty about. You didn’t fail me,” he said gently, walking up to the tense young woman.
“I know that,” she huffed. “There was nothing I could’ve done. I’m not Buffy. And I don’t want to be,” she gasped, trying to concentrate on her rationalization that she couldn’t have saved the vampire, even if she had really tried.
“And I don’t want you to be,” he agreed softly, tenderly brushing the hair from her face.
Cordelia jerked back from his touch. Angel’s presence and tender expression was making it very difficult to believe her desperate theory and she wanted to believe it. If it was true then she could exorcise all of her guilt.
“Cordelia, why do you think you failed me?” he asked, moving closer to the agitated young woman.
“I didn’t,” Cordelia repeated, trying to recapture her anger.
“I know, but you seem to believe that you have. Please, talk to me,” Angel reached out again to caress Cordelia’s face. “Please,” he begged.
Cordelia blinked rapidly at the vampire. His nearness and his obvious care were chipping away at her defensive posturing. She gulped in the air around her, frantically looking for anywhere to hide.
“Cordy, Please.” Angel’s tender voice pleaded. Angel’s loving appeal demolished what was left of her anger or farfetched theory. It was her fault, not Buffy’s, not anybody else’s, just hers.
“I….broke my promise,” she sobbed softly.
Angel knew immediately what promise she was talking about. Cordelia’s promise to stay at his side until Angel reached his redemption. His un-beating heart broke at her sorrowful reply. This burden she was carrying around was because of him.
“No, Cordelia, you didn’t betray me or your promise. I pushed you away. My actions were my own fault, no one else’s.” He implored, needing the young girl to believe him. Angel cursed himself for his blindness to Cordelia’s feelings of responsibility.
He should have known that she would have blamed herself for his actions. His seer had always taken on the burden of guiding and teaching him to embrace his humanity. Angel should have known that Cordelia more than anyone, even himself, would feel the pain of his abandonment of his mission’s tenets.
“No,” Cordelia cried, shaking her head. “I should have tried harder. I shouldn’t have turned you away from the hospital. I abandoned you.”
Angel pulled Cordelia down to sit on the bed. “Never. Cordelia, I let you down. I am truly sorry.” He whispered.
Cordelia continued to shake her head, the tears falling silently down her cheeks.
Angel pulled her into his arms. “Tell me, please. Why? Cordelia, why did you try to kill yourself.” Angel had to know, even though he was fearful of the answer. Angel prayed to some forgotten god that Cordelia hadn’t tried to end her life over some misguided guilt over his choices.
Angel had to make her believe that she wasn’t the one that had made the mistakes. Cordelia had to understand that everything she had ever done for him had enabled him to appreciate and want his redemption. She was the source of his enlightenment, his renewed hope.
Cordelia was exhausted. She was tired of fighting her emotions, denying Angel’s concern, and her feelings of guilt. But this time, instead of giving in to the weariness and choosing against her life, she gave into to her life and her need. Cordelia sobs became louder as she curled her body closer into Angel’s strong embrace.
“Angel, I’m so sorry,” she choked into his broad chest.
Angel rubbed his strong hands up and down her trembling back.
“I was just so scared and tired,” she whimpered.
Angel could understand those emotions. That is what he felt before he chose to give up his soul. Like, Cordelia, he had felt he had no other option available to him, the depletion of his energy and his despair had made trying to live unbearable. But, he knew why he had felt that way. What he didn’t understand was why Cordelia had felt that way. Angel held her closer, using his body rather than his words to comfort her, to encourage her to speak.
“I was just so tired, Angel,” she brought her tear stained face up to his. “I was so tired of being afraid, of being alone. And then, when I saw you and Darla,” Cordelia choked, lowering her head. “I just knew that it was my fault. I hadn’t been there for you. I stood by and let Darla and Wolfram & Hart mess with your head. I did nothing. Angel, I pushed you away in the hospital. If I just had had opened my heart, just a little. But, no, selfish, defensive, stupid, Cordelia Chase cut you off. I couldn’t even fulfill my promise, what is wrong with me. Why can’t I be the person that I want to be, that I am suppose to be, the one you need me to be.” Cordelia cried harder into his shirt.
Angel pulled Cordelia closer, molding his body around her smaller frame. He wanted, needed to pull her in to protect her frail body with his own. His hands moved frantically against her form, urging her to feel his love.
“Angel, It was my fault….” She sobbed.
Angel leaned away, his hands reaching up to her delicate face. He couldn’t bear to hear anymore of her unjustified, unwarranted self-blame. “No, Cordelia,” he whispered soothingly. “It was never your fault. It was not your responsibility. My choices were my own. You are who you are supposed to be and who I need you to be. A loving, caring, intelligent, strong woman.”
“No,” she murmured. “It was my responsibility, I am your seer. I…I love you,” she whispered, dropping her head in sorrow.
Angel felt a sharp pain at her hushed tones. Oh god, he thought, remembering Cordelia’s earlier upset words. What had she said, ‘what was the love of a ‘nobody’ seer compared to the love of a slayer. Angel had thought he felt the pain of his undead heartbreak before, but this was a thousand times worse. Cordelia loved him and he had broken her, drove her to this point.
Angel had to explain everything to the distraught girl, the girl he loved. But where to start? Angel didn’t know, so he just began.
“Cordelia, yes, I once did give up, because the ‘First’ led me to believe I was and would always be Angelus. Yes, Buffy, was the one that came to me and made me see that it was an external influence that had been tormenting me. Yes, I was saved because of Buffy’s intervention and of course, the snow. Which, I believe now had more to do with the ‘Powers’ than Buffy. Buffy is the slayer, not miracle weather girl.” He quipped trying to win a smile from the distressed young woman.
Angel sighed and continued after getting no response from Cordelia. “ Yes, I did love Buffy. But that was over two years ago, we have both chosen different lives…”
“But…” Cordelia looked up.
“That was two years ago, and a lifetime of experiences ago. Cordelia, in the last two years, I have felt more, experienced more and hoped more than I ever have in all of my entire existence, Liam, Angelus or Angel. This place with Doyle, Wesley, Gunn, even Kate, but especially you, is where I found hope, where I thought everything was possible.”
“Sh, Cordelia, let me finish,” he said softly, placing a finger over her mouth. “I never loved Darla, I couldn’t. It was Angelus that spent 150 years with her not me. I wanted to save her, because if I saved her then that meant I could save myself, that’s all. But, then Wolfram & Hart took away my chance. And I had to make a choice. The wrong one, I see that now, but still it was mine, mine alone. It had nothing to do with you.” He paused as Cordelia started to move away.
“Stop,” He said lowly, pulling her back towards him. “Cordelia, I fired you, Wesley, Gunn because I wanted to protect your humanity. I thought you all would be tainted if you were with me, while I tried to destroy Wolfram & Hart. I was wrong; I did nothing more than damage my own humanity. And hurt you, Wesley and Gunn.”
Angel paused. He thought back to the time that he sat in the torched room upstairs, surrendering to his exhaustion and despair.
“I gave in to Darla because I was tired, tired of trying for redemption. Trying for something I believed that I couldn’t reach once I failed to save Darla’s humanity.”
“That’s not true. You will reach your redemption.” Cordelia wiped at her eyes.
Angel smiled at the young girl’s assertion. “You still believe it don’t you?” He said in tender awe.
Cordelia scrunched her face in amazement. She did still believe it. After everything that had had happened she did still believe that Angel would reach his redemption. Cordelia slowly nodded.
“That’s why I didn’t lose my soul, because you had convinced me, made me believe that I could do it. I had just forgotten that. NOT because you failed me,” he emphasized. “But because I had purposely cut you off and let my obsession and need for revenge against Wolfram & Hart blind me. I was the obstacle to my redemption, not Wolfram & Hart, not Darla. I endangered my soul, not because I failed to save Darla’s humanity, but because I had separated myself from humanity, from you. Cordelia, this was not your fault. It was mine.”
“But if I hadn’t turned away…” Cordelia struggled.
Angel stopped her with a shake of his handsome head. “I can’t deny that the conviction that I had destroyed your faith in me put me in the position to take advantage of want Darla had to offer, a way to escape the agony of my own actions.” He paused as he felt the young woman tense in his arms.
“BUT, I destroyed that faith, you had no choice in the matter, I didn’t give you one. I am the one that left you with with no options. I caused this.” Angel admitted.
“I should have …” She countered becoming more distraught.
“Cordelia there was nothing you could have done, not because you aren’t Buffy, but because I wouldn’t have listened. Cordelia, you didn’t leave me, remember you came to the hotel, you came after me. You didn’t fail me, I failed myself and most horribly I failed you.”
She forcibly shook her head, not willing or able to give up her blame in the whole situation.
He smiled sadly at the seer’s continued self-blame. Angel didn’t blame Cordelia, how could he? He knew he was at fault, but arguing the point just seemed to make Cordelia upset.
He tried a different tact. “You asked how does the love of a ‘nobody’ seer compare to the love of a slayer. It doesn’t” Angel pulled Cordelia back to his body as she tried to scoot away, again.
“There is no comparison, because the love of my beautiful special caring seer is such a unique and unexpected gift that it surpasses any love that I shared with the slayer. Buffy had the ability to take my soul, but only you had the ability to make me understand and hold on to it. My epiphany wasn’t caused by Buffy, it was you.” He said softly, gazing into her widening eyes. “It was the realization that not only do I need you, but that I love you.” Angel confessed the one thing he had promised to keep to himself.
But it was a truth, that Cordelia needed to hear and that he needed to tell.