Angel started to the room that Cordelia had always used in the past when she had stayed over. He paused outside his suite, puzzled that she chose his room rather than hers. He stood listening.
A big part of him wanted to ignore the young woman and her tears, he was becoming unfocused to his mission. But, he couldn’t hide from the information that he had heard. Angelus. Love. Wesley dead. Cordelia a vampire. Wolfram & Hart. Past Angelus. Cordelia facing what seemed to be an army full of Angeluses.
It was too much to avoid. Wolfram & Hart. Angel had to concentrate on that. They were responsible for whatever this was. That he could deal with. Angel would find out what was going on. He would use it to destroy them.
Any thoughts of Wolfram & Hart flew from his mind as Angel opened the door. The sight of Cordelia curled into a tight ball sobbing into his pillow was too powerful.
“Cordelia.” He whispered standing near the bed, unsure how to approach the young woman. Angel had forced himself to forget her, to forget how to go to her and comfort her. Then again, had he ever done that- wasn’t the truth that she was the one that always came to him offering comfort. He backed up from that thought it was too close too letting her in.
Angel stood, seeking the thought that would allow him to go near her. Save her. He could do that without reliving the emotions she allowed and caused in him.
“Cordelia.” He said again. “You have to tell me what’s happening. I can’t help if you don’t.” Angel waited during the prolonged silence wondering if the young woman had even heard him.
Finally, she shook her head into the pillow. “Not you.”
Not a great response but at least she was talking and not crying anymore. “From what I gathered from downstairs, I’m the only one you have right now.”
Angel cringed a little as the young woman curled further into ball trying to disappear into her body.
He sat on the edge of the bed, flinching as Cordelia instinctively scooted away from him, still not looking at him. Had he done this? Had Angel made her frightened of him? He hadn’t wanted that; he had just wanted her to go away.
“I won’t hurt you.”
“Liar.” She bitterly chuckled. “That’s all you’ve done during this time.”
Angel closed his eyes, the only reaction he would allow to the surprising pain her words caused.
“I want to help.”
Cordelia turned gazing at the vampire, brushing harshly at her face. “No you don’t. You want to go back to trying to destroy Wolfram & Hart, cutting yourself off from any bit of humanity you’ve gained, distancing yourself from the influence of Doyle, me, Wesley, Gunn. You think we are a weakness to you, one that you can’t afford if you are going to be successful in your vendetta. You let Wesley get shot, you will almost let Kate die all because you are too obsessed with your mission, not ours, but yours. The ultimate warrior, not for anyone but yourself,
I don’t know if I can trust you to help us. I know that you do love us, even now, I know you will be so sorry for hurting us but right now you’re too unpredictable or rather too predictable. What I want from you is too important for you to fuck up with your selfish loner attitude. Hell, you probably would rather the future remain as it has become, not believing that someday you will want us back in your life, believing that family, your family, your humanity is more important than destroying Wolfram & Hart, that Darla is the least of your future worries and troubles.”
Cordelia took a deep breath and sat up, hugging her knees.
“I was looking for my calendar but I forgot that right now it is buried in a box deep in a closet in my apartment.” She looked at Angel. “You don’t know now, but I used to, well, I still do, circle the days that are truly good, no threats of danger, no weirdness, no evil to interrupt a normal day. I started it after Doyle died. It was pretty color free at first, but then I had days where you weren’t almost killed, I didn’t have a vision, Wesley actually didn’t annoy me. Then the days filled up more.
Somewhere down the line, having a vision didn’t make a bad day, you getting injured was okay, because that meant you were still alive in your own special dead way, Wesley being annoying was becoming expected, welcomed and needed. But, what I forgot when Gunn and I were trying to figure out what year to tell Fred to put in the spell, was this year had the most blank spots than even after Doyle died. This was truly a horrible year. Even the days that Wesley, Gunn, and I managed to laugh and forget weren’t good enough to put on the calendar.
I should’ve remembered and chose another year. Because they did get better. I had a bunch of marks on the calendar this past year. Every day, well, some days were blank. Some evil just ruins a day, but still all and all, things were more than good.”
Angel wasn’t even going to bother to question how this Cordelia showed up in his bedroom, he just needed to know why. “Downstairs you said that Wolfram & Hart caused whatever happened, some how brought Angelus out?”
Cordelia got off the bed. “Wolfram & Hart is not my problem right now. They will be dealt with -that’s not why we came, but I can’t expect you to get that after all, to you it all starts and ends with the law firm.” She chuckled bitterly. “You want us out, we’re going.”
“Tell me.” He grabbed out taking her wrist in his fist.
Cordelia yanked her hand away. “No. If I do you will just go beat up some more lawyers and that’s not where I need you to go. See, I do love you and believe it or not I know that you love me and your family, that you are a wonderful person that I’ve trusted with my life and will trust again, but right now I can’t take the chance that you won’t choose revenge on Wolfram & Hart over saving Wesley or yourself. Right now,” she gently reached out caressing the vampire’s face.
“You are so close to losing everything, you will come to your senses but you won’t have your little enlightening in time for me to use you.” Cordelia dropped her hand and rubbed at her face, a cross between a whimper and a sigh escaped from her lips.
“I’m so tired.” She murmured softly, her words not meant for anybody but her.
Angel watched the strong woman struggle against an emotion so strong that it caused her body to tremble. His fight against the law firm was his mission. He had purposefully and willing forsaken any other. Angel had cut himself off from Cordelia and the others to focus on what he needed to accomplish and to protect them from the path he would have to travel.
But, it seemed that his path hadn’t led to the destruction of the lawyers, they were still able to destroy. They were breaking the woman that he had vowed with utter sincerity that he needed, the one that he had silently sworn to protect always, the one he pushed away ignoring what she seemed to already know- that he loved her and that was his weakness.
“Cordy, please, tell me.”
She shook her head, not looking at him, her hand going to her neck. “It’s too important. I can’t take the chance.” She whispered.
Angel stood gently taking her hand away touching the marks now exposed on her neck. “Angelus bit you, how?”
Cordelia met the vampire’s eyes. “With his fangs, ‘grr’ guy that he is.”
Angel dropped his hands. “Damn’t Cordelia, you’re talking about Angelus.”
“Gee, really, duh.” Cordelia shot back. “I think I know who I’m talking about. Can I tell you the many versions of the bastard that I’ve met in the last two months? Gee, first there where the very special one that hung out at Gertie’s with the duo bitches and Spike, the one that still hadn’t gotten over his little seer fetish and left me little presents the most special being the dead body of the only person that had been decent in the hell hole, that’s the one that bit me.
Then let’s see; there was the one, well actually, he was the same one but coming into my home, with his fucking arrogant self, and god knows what he did that made Wesley and Gunn go time hopping again. Then there was the double pleasure of sharing space with the original and the 1998 version- okay, so they didn’t do that much except be really annoying, obnoxious and perverted, hanging outside my bedroom window, like it was a peep show or something. Some day you are going to explain that to me,” she glared.
“Oh, and then the one that put me in a coma, only,” she scrunched up her face. “I don’t remember that one, because…well, Wesley could explain it, it has to do with all the freaky time stuff…and Angelus B3, but he falls under the same time weirdness. I don’t remember him, thank god, but Gunn and Fred do. Bastard and stupid…well, actually, Angel B was the stupid one, but Angelus B3 was pretty stupid too not to figure out that I would kill him sire or no. And these AREN’T Angelus’ marks.” Her hand went back to her neck,” like I’d let that bastard claim me. Hmmph.”
Marks? Claim? Angel listened again to the voice of Gunn and his angry statements as the man exposed the puncture wounds. No. Angel reached out, pulling Cordelia to him, his head going to the scars. He pushed her back as soon as he caught his scent embedded in the wounds. “Angelus marked you and you understand what that means.” Angel growled.
“I understand what Angelus thinks it means. He thinks that it makes me his permanent plaything. But, guess what it doesn’t. I don’t belong to him, never did, and never will. These aren’t his. I didn’t agree, so his little ‘taste’ way back when doesn’t count.”
Angel was terrified at the young woman’s denial. Angelus would always be a danger to her now. “Cordelia, Angelus….”
She cocked her head at the vampire. “Don’t bother. There’s nothing you can tell me that I don’t already know. We’ve had this conversation before and we fixed it.”
“It can’t be fixed.” Angel could not believe what he was hearing.
“Yes, it can. It has been. Angelus even knows it has been fixed, pisses him off too, or at least Angelus 1 anyway, Angelus 2 didn’t seem to care once he figured it out, I think he just thought it was funny and tried to use it to his advantage. Don’t know about Angelus B3, though, like I said don’t remember him either time.”
Angel’s stomach was beginning to hurt and his brain was pounding against his skull making his eyes cross.
“Oh stop that. You don’t get migraines, you big baby.”
Angel blinked and flopped down on his bed, willing the pain away trying to think of anything rational to say. She really needed to leave. He couldn’t deal with all this. 3 Angelus’ all going after Cordelia, all having a claim on her. His eyes started to cross again.
“It can’t be fixed.” He repeated, rubbing at his temples. This could not be happening. How in the hell could he have allowed these time traveling Angeluses anywhere near Cordelia? Where had he been?
Cordelia sat on the bed. “Yes, it can be fixed. It was. But that’s not really what’s important right now. Don’t lie to me, Angel. Can we trust you to help us? I know you went to the hospital because you do care about Wesley even now.”
“I won’t apologize for what I said that day. I meant every word. But, I do know now that you did care. I even understand why you think you have to cut us out of your life. I think it was stupid and hurtful. But, I also know that we weren’t the most understanding either when Darla first showed up. You didn’t tell us why Darla’s soul was so important to you, why you needed to save her so badly, and we didn’t ask. All we saw was a woman that was playing with your mind and screwing things up for us. You don’t even kill her, you know. Had the perfect chance but you let her go. You couldn’t do it. Both Darla and Drusilla are still somewhere out there. Wolfram & Hart is still standing. You didn’t stop anything.”
“I would’ve…” Angel shook his head. Did anything he do matter? God, the future looked bleak, his enemies still standing and his family hurt, Wesley dead and Cordelia claimed by Angelus. What was the point of his even being there if he couldn’t accomplish any of his promises or vows?
“You didn’t. I can tell you all that had happened that brought you back to us. I could. But, you won’t believe me. You have to find out on your own. What I need to know is if we can trust you. If it helps, the way the time thing works, you probably won’t even remember we were ever here. So, once it’s over you can go back to being you’re anti-social mean guy without a care in the world.”
Angel stared. “You don’t want me to re-hire you.”
Cordelia chuckled and shook her head. “You aren’t ready yet and either am I. Me, now, pretty much hates your guts, still loves you, but hates your guts. And you don’t re-hire us. We hire you on a probationary period, which you pass, by the way.”
“We’ve gone through a lot since then. We’re …okay.”
Angel shook his head trying to fit the pieces of all that he heard together. He couldn’t. So, he asked. “Part of what we’ve gone through, what Wolfram & Hart has put us through, has been you being sent back for Angelus to kill you- because you are my seer.”
“Angel, I mean it. If you are going to help us, your focus can’t be on the law firm. Wolfram & Hart, of this time, hasn’t even thought of the time travel crap yet, their still banking on the Darla scheme.”
“But, if I destroy them now.”
“You won’t, you can’t. They’ve been around too long, too connected. All I want from you is to go back to 1998 and make sure that Wesley and my Angel survive. That’s it. We can deal with Wolfram & Hart when we get home.”
“You said that they couldn’t be destroyed.”
“No, but they can be shown the errors of this particular scheme. Lilah’s failed twice already and you put her in the hospital the first time. Three times, she just may be out of the game and the scheme scrapped.”
“Oh. I put in her in the hospital. Her not Lindsay?”
“She stepped in when lawyer boy went AWOL.”
“He left Wolfram & Hart.”
“Who knows? Who cares? Cordelia shrugged. “He leaves, he changes sides, he comes back, he’s a friggin morally corrupt ambiguous yo-yo, but he sure can sing. Nevermind. So, do you understand what we need from you, will you be able to do it.”
“Go, to 1998. And where are you? You’ve only mentioned Wesley and,” Angel frowned,” me that need saving. But you also said you were there, but how can that be you are here.”
“This time stuff is weird isn’t it. I’m safe for now. Angel will save me, if you get it right.”
“Angelus kills me and Wesley?”
“No, another ensouled version of you from the future.”
“Easy answer is he liked our future better than his, I guess.” she shrugged. “I don’t really care anymore. You can ask him before you kill him if you want.”
“I don’t understand any of this,” Angel glanced at the marks on her throat again. “What else did Angelus do to you?”
“I told you, mostly threats, the bad stuff I don’t remember. They never happened to me. Angel and Wesley always got to the ‘actual’ me before I had to live through it.”
“How many…this is too much.” His eyes went back to the marks. How could those not be the bad stuff?
Cordelia got up. “I know what you need,” going to the door.
She ignored him. “Fred,” she started to yell and jumped back. ‘”Why are you two huddled out here with crossbows and stakes.”
Angel rose to his feet and stepped forward
“In case vamp boy got horny and forgot again.”
Angel stepped back at Gunn’s words and glare.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Don’t be an idiot.”
“It happened before.”
“No, I mean with him.” Gunn urged. “Boinked the evil ex. We just got lucky.”
“He didn’t forget, he wanted …look, Gunn, you said it. The evil-ex. That’s the only female that can get a rise out this vamp.”
Fred threw of her hands. “Can we not talk about Darla sex? It’s disturbing.”
Angel eye’s were cris-crossing and twirling behind his blank stare. Not only didn’t he kill Darla, he had sex with her. “I didn’t…”
“Go evil on our ass. Nay, must not have been that great.” Gunn shrugged.
“Charles,” Fred banged at his arm. “That’s not how the curse works. It has to be a moment of pure contentment. Cordy told me that Angel told her that it was a moment of pure desperation.”
“I believe the words I used were he got laid because he was going through a “down” period.” Cordelia quoted in the air.
“Right, a moment of pure desperation.” Fred nodded. “Still it’s really disturbing to think about. He shouldn’t have cheated on Cordy.”
“Fred,” Cordelia shook her head. “He wasn’t, he didn’t. He was just being an asshole man with a death wish.”
Fred shook her head, still disapproving.
“Who are you?” Angel stared at the young woman. Okay, he could agree and even understand the strange young woman’s exclamation that sex with Darla at this point and time of his life did seem disturbing but cheating on Cordy? Uh?
“Oh, hi,” Fred shook out her hand. “I’m Fred. Okay, nevermind.” She brought her hand back to her side. “You saved me from Plyea, when you went through the Portal to save Cordy, who had gotten sucked in at Caritas. You found me in my cave, or rather I found you, you weren’t exactly your self then, when you were looking for her. But, Cordy was already in the castle, because the Priests made her a Princess.
I took you there and told you how to challenge the Groosalugg. Who thought he was Cordy’s champion, but actually you were because you beat him. Plyea’s a hell dimension. I was sucked in the Portal five years earlier. It’s where Lorne’s from -you met his mother. You met my parents too, well not in Plyea. Here. I’m really from Texas but I live in LA now here with you, my room is right down the hall from yours and Cordy’s.”
Angel’s mind was spinning. Cordy was living in the hotel in the future?
“Girl, you made him speechless.” Gunn grinned.
“Not hard to do this one hardly talked.” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Angel’s agreed…”
“Cordy,” Fred interrupted.
“Should you call him Angel…I mean, maybe something like Angel C.”
Cordelia frowned. “No,” she thought about it. “C would mean he was after B. And technically he’s before B, actually, he’s before A, too. Why don’t we call him A?”
“I don’t know Angel then would B, that doesn’t really seem right. But we can’t just call him Angel. That might get confusing. I know, we can call him Angel ‘little a’.”
Angel stared at the young woman. He had a crazy person living in his hotel in the future.
“That’ll work. Angel ‘little a’ has agreed to help us, but he’s confused as to all that’s happened. So, I thought you could show him your chart.”
“He will? Great.” Fred smiled at the vampire and then frowned. “My chart is at home.”
“Make a new one.” Cordelia shrugged.
“Of course,” Fred went running out. Five seconds later, she was back. “Nothings in my room. I don’t have my board. I forgot.”
“You could use the wall.” Gunn suggested.
“I don’t write on the walls anymore, Charles, and you know it.”
Cordelia sighed. ”I’ll get some paper,” she flopped on the floor going for the bottom drawer of Angel’s dresser.
Angel’s confusion held him spellbound until he realized where Cordelia’s was searching. He grabbed her wrist. “Don’t go in there.” He ordered with a bit panic.
“Pfft. We need paper and this is where you keep all your sketch pads and stuff.” Cordelia knocked his hand away and started pulling at the pads hidden there. She flipped through the first, put it to the side, and did the same with the next.
“Ooh, Angel’s drawings, I’ve only seen the ones you framed. Can I look?”
“NO.” Angel growled.
“Sure,” Cordelia handed one of the books she passed over to the young woman that plopped down next to her.
“Ooh, who’s she.” Fred pointed to the first picture.
Cordelia looked over. “That’s Buffy.”
“This is Buffy?” Fred squinted closer. “She’s kind of pretty, not as pretty as you though.”
“Yeah, well she’s blonde.”
“There sure is a lot of her,” Fred flipped no longer interested once figured out who the girl was.
Cordelia leaned over again. “Those were done when Angel first got to LA.” She tapped at the edge of one of the pages, pointing to the date.
“Oh.” Fred nodded, stopped suddenly. “Hey, I recognize him. That’s Doyle. The picture you got framed and put up downstairs.”
Cordelia plucked the pad from her hand. “Yeah,” Cordelia gave a bright smile tinged with a bit of melancholy. “Goof.” She handed the book back to Fred.
“Cordy, why aren’t there any pictures of you in here.”
“Hmm. Oh, I wasn’t a blonde obsession.” She went through some more pads, flipping through the pages. She put the sketchpads back in drawer away from Fred’s searching eyes and comments. “Darla’s in those.” Cordelia pointed to the other pads she put next to Fred.
Fred scrunched up her nose and looked. “Well, I guess she’s pretty too.”
“Skanky Ho,” Gunn shook his head at Fred’s offering. “Saw her enough.”
“Evil bitch.” Cordelia grumbled as she pulled some more pads out and put them back in the drawer.
“Cordy, what’s in those.”
“Old stuff, people places we don’t know so, so why bother. Found some empties.” Cordelia quickly tore out some clean pages and handed them to Fred and taking the pads that she had been looking at and putting them back in drawer, pulling out some charcoal pencils before closing the drawer.
Angel studied Cordelia. She had flipped through all of them. With some she had stopped at the first page as if she knew exactly what was in them, knowing that there wouldn’t be any empty pages. She paused at some and then placed them out of Fred’s reach. Cordelia had obviously seen them before, all of them, and knew automatically which should be edited from view.
Cordelia had lied to Fred when she agreed that they were no pictures of Cordelia in those books. Angel knew that there were and Cordy did, how did she know? Had they really gotten that close that he would have shown her? Personal sketches of his family, his sister. Those of his nightmares, those of his victims, and those of his time in hell.
Those of her. Some as innocent as the one of Doyle, some drawn in fear at the remembrance of the time she was under Vocah’s curse, and the ones that were done hurriedly late in the dark after a dream, full of sin and sex.
Had he shown her or did she just snoop? Angel couldn’t believe that he would ever share those with a living soul. “Cordelia.”
“Oh, don’t go ‘grr’, I didn’t go sneaking through your stuff. Hmmph.” She stood facing his stare. “You showed me.”
“But, you did.”
“Cordy,” Fred looked up from her chart. “What about Dennis’ portrait?”
“What about it?”
“I never drew Dennis, he’s a ghost.”
“Yes, you did.” Fred giggled. “It’s hanging right over there.” She pointed to an empty space over the dresser. “Or will be,” she shrugged.
“Angel ‘little a’ doesn’t have the necessary sense of humor to think that one up yet.” Cordelia stuck her tongue out at the vampire.
“Man, best picture you ever did.” Gunn slapped him on the back.
Fred was still giggling as she scratched along the papers.