“How?” Buffy asked.
“We don’t’ know,” shrugged Angel. “A few days ago Cordy had a vision, a bad one, apocalyptic in scope. We fought, won. The next thing we knew, I woke up human.”
Buffy studied him. “Cordy, you mean Cordelia ‘Queen C- Bitch’ Chase had a vision? What are you talking about? I know she has been acting as your secretary but ‘visions’ what’s that about?”
Angel stalled. He couldn’t figure out what he was feeling. Actually, Angel knew what he was feeling; he just didn’t understand how he could be experiencing such rage when he wasn’t a vampire anymore.
Buffy’s words triggered something in him that was supposed to be gone. He looked at the petite blonde. Angel was grateful that his urge to rip her throat out was in the abstract; he didn’t really want to taste her blood. Angel just wanted to shut Buffy up.
Cordelia was untouchable. She was beyond any censure that he or god forbid the scoopy gang could attempt to saddle her with. Cordelia was beyond him, beyond any of them, she was…Cordelia … his best friend… something hurt inside of his being. Cordelia had been his best friend, but not anymore, Angel feared.
The light pushed harder at his conscious, trying to make him pay attention. But his attention was broken again, as the young blonde tugged at his sleeve. “Cordelia…”
Angel stared. “Cordelia is… not a topic I want to discuss…” Angel struggled, gently jerking away from Buffy’s grip.
“That bad, uh. I understand. I went to high school with her,” Buffy chuckled trying to find a common ground with Angel. Granted, she never thought that the ridicule of Cordelia Chase would be something that Buffy would have in common with Angel. But, well, Cordelia had been in LA with Angel and she was talk fodder
Angel felt unbalanced. Intense, murderous rage was something his demon felt, something he thought would be gone if the miracle of his humanity ever occurred. Angel shook his head. He loved Buffy. Angel always loved Buffy. But he couldn’t stand by as Buffy perpetuated the myth of the old Cordelia, the Cordelia that never really existed.
“No. Cordy has been my best friend for the last two years. She is…” His words choked in his throat. How could he explain what Cordelia was?
How was he supposed to say that she had been more than just a friend, she had been his lifeline, the only reason that he hadn’t completely veered onto the dark path that he had been headed towards when Darla reentered his life.
“Whoever you think Cordelia Chase is, is not who she is,” Angel said firmly. He knew his words didn’t completely describe the young woman that gave him her hidden stash of cookies or stood with him at the pier and gave him the freedom to leave her.
Angel wondered what would have happened if Cordelia had ordered him to stay. Would he have complied? When had he ever denied Cordelia?
“Angel,” Buffy called bringing Angel out of his thoughts. Disbelief clearly highlighted both her face and words. “This is Cordelia we’re talking about. She obviously has you fooled.”
“No, Buffy,” Angel said shaking his head.
Buffy vigorously nodded. “Angel, I know her better than you do, I grew up with her.”
“Okay, well I didn’t but Willow and Xander did. Ask them, they will tell you Cordelia is the same selfish spoiled brat that she was in the third grade. Go ahead ask them.”
“I don’t need to ask them. I know what they think of her. And how they treated her.” Angel didn’t even try to keep the contempt out of his voice.
“They both betrayed her, hurt her. And it seems that they still haven’t learned from their actions. But that is where Cordelia is different from them and even you. Cordy has allowed her perceptions and attitude to change with each new experience.”
“Change in attitude?” Buffy smirked. “Did CORDELIA,” Buffy emphasized, “Did finder of the ‘light’ tell you what she said to Willow? Instead of thanking Willow for telling her that Cordelia’s vapid best friend became a member of the fang set, Cordelia just spouted off at how glad she was that the blonde ditz was a vamp rather than a lebso. Her words.” Buffy exclaimed.
“Again, Cordelia didn’t care about Willow’s feelings. Willow is a….”
“Searching for the PC word are you?” Angel shook his head. “I’m not going to argue with you about Cordelia or defend her to you anymore. Let’s just leave it at- Cordelia is my best friend. She has stood by me during…everything that has happened over the last two years. And as for thanking Willow…why should she, why should any of us? Willow seems to jump the gun at some things, like ‘ooh’ you are dead. And majorly slow on others, like you weren’t.
And didn’t it occur to any of you that the fact that Harmony was a vampire would have been of interest to Cordelia before Harm got an open invite into her apartment? Thank god the silly vamp is afraid of ghosts and Cordelia. Or the undead klutz would be still a danger.”
“But….” Buffy stopped, she really didn’t understand any of Angel’s last statement, but she recognized Angel’s expression. It was his stubborn, unrelenting face. It seemed that Angel may be human, but he retained his stoic vamp expression.
Obviously, Cordelia had him snowed. His best friend, right, Buffy scoffed. Like Queen C could ever be a best friend to anyone especially a vampire. No, Harmony was her type- vapid, self-centered and stuck up. Cordelia probably had been just using Angel to get a job. She obviously wasn’t making it as an actress.
“No, Buffy. Cordelia is not using me. If anything, I was using her. The subject is closed.” Angel said firmly reading the slayer’s expression.
Buffy gasped starting to retort. Angel couldn’t just say something like that- then command the cease of discussion. “What…”
“Incoming,” Spike yelled, leaping over the two humans, to land on the silently unnoticed approaching vampire. Startled Buffy and Angel jumped back.
“Damn’t,” Buffy shouted. “Can’t you see that we’re in the middle of something,” she yelled as another vampire crept out behind the trees. Buffy expertly twirled the stake that she pulled out of her back pocket.
“I hate interruptions,” she shot as the stake left her hand and forcefully pierced the vampire’s chest. More vampires skulked out moving through the scattering dust of their companion.
Angel charged at the vampire nearest him. He couldn’t help the grunt that exploded out of his chest as the vampire tossed him into the air.
“Spike,” Buffy yelled as she round kicked another vampire in the air and shoving a stake into his chest. “Protect Angel.”
“Bloody hell,” Spike cried pounding the vampire that he had in his hands to the ground.
“Spike,” Buffy ordered.
“Pet, you are going to so owe me,” the blonde vampire grumbled breaking the vampire’s neck and shoving a wooden stake through its chest. He wiped the dust off and ran to where Angel was struggling to his feet.
Spike stalled as he reached Angel. He watched as Angel pulled a stake out of his sleeve and kicked at the attacking demon. Angel began to readjust his fighting technique, relying more on his skill than his strength.
The vampire was slowly being beaten back. Angel dodged and rolled with the connecting punches. Angel internalized the pain as the vampire’s powerful fist struck at Angel’s body.
“Spike,” Buffy scolded running to the two. She stopped momentarily to sideswipe another vampire. “I told you…”
“Human poof seems to be doing alright,” Spike shrugged. “See,” he pointed as Angel ducked under the vampire’s lunge and brought his stake up into its heart. “Actually, Peaches alive is better than soldier boy ever was and definitely better than the moron boy. Not afraid to take a punch. Bugger, Peaches that must of hurt,” Spike said with glee.
Buffy shot an evil look towards the blonde vampire.
Angel struggled to his feet, his chest panting. He wiped off his leather jacket. That was the first time he had fought since he became human. It was unnerving and it hurt. Angel had charged the vampire, forgetting that he hadn’t the strength to repel it. Angel winced as he straightened.
For the first time ever, he really appreciated what Wesley and Gunn had suffered through when they had accompanied him on his fights. Angel always knew that they were brave and fragile, he just hadn’t realized how fragile. Stupid, he thought.
As a vampire, Angel had known how easy it was to kill a human. He just hadn’t thought in the reverse, not really. Not at how hard it was for a human to kill a vampire. Angel cringed at the unfamiliar ache that settled over his joints and muscles.
He was used to pain, just not this particular type. Two days ago, that attacking vamp and its friends would’ve not even made it out of the trees, but tonight, they could have killed Angel.
Angel looked up at Buffy, his expression unreadable. She killed three vampires and she wasn’t even breaking a sweat. But what about Cordelia, he thought. Cordelia liked to go out with them on their fights. His heart lurched.
Wesley and Gunn were fragile, but Cordelia she didn’t even know how to fight. Thank god, Angel sighed in relief, between the increasing pain of the visions and his desire to keep her away from danger, she had not been present for most of the more recent fights. Angel’s gut churned as he realized that he was being grateful for the agony of the visions and that he was no longer there to make sure that Cordelia stayed safe.
Why was Cordelia still having the visions? Angel’s mind jumped from one topic to another. Angel should have stayed in LA until he at least asked Lorne about Cordelia’s remaining role as a seer.
“Angel, Angel,” Buffy repeated for the fourth time, her voice becoming panicky as the dark-haired man paid no attention to her call.
“I think the bleeder is in shock,” Spike said knowingly.
“Spike, shut up. I told you to protect him.”
“The wanker’s heart is still beating, itn’t?”
“I’m going to just shish kabab you one of the days,” Buffy retorted.
“Leave that pleasure to me, why don’t you darlin’”
“Gross,” Buffy spit.
Angel held his stomach and started to focus on the voices around him. He wasn’t sure if he had heard it all correctly, but honestly he didn’t really care. He needed to get to a phone. Angel’s brows went up as his hands went to his pockets.
Damn’t, he thought has his hands felt nothing. His cell phone was in LA, helluva lot of good it would do him there, he grumbled. Cordelia was right he was an idiot when it came to modern technology. Angel couldn’t even remember to take it with him, much less know how to work it.
“Um,” Angel started, interrupting what seemed to be an almost rote bickering between the slayer and the blonde vampire.
“Oh, god,” Buffy shot neither her first or last disgruntled look at Spike. “Angel are you hurt?” she exclaimed.
“Uh, no…I just need to get to a phone, I left mine at home,” Angel said sheepishly, not even registering what he said.
Buffy did though, her brows drew together at his words. Home? Why did Angel come back to Sunnydale if his home was in LA? Buffy had assumed that it was because once Angel became human he came back to be with her, that she was his home.
But Angel wasn’t acting at all like she expected. But, then again she reminded herself; she never expected Angel ever to be human. So maybe it was just a period of readjustment.
Lord knew Buffy needed some time to grasp the idea that Angel was now human.
Buffy, Angel, and Spike entered the Magic Shop. They were quiet. Spike wanted to say something, but for the first time in forever, he was at a loss for words.
If he taunted Angel anymore, Buffy would get mad. And while, Spike loved to watch the blonde slayer’s eyes flash into a scorching blue, Spike wasn’t sure that he wanted to see the same phenomenon in defense of Spike’s now heart-beating grand-sire.
Spike growled deep within his throat. Angelus, Angel, now this human version, all that body ever did was make Spike’s un- life miserable. Spike scowled as he entered the shop.
Buffy stayed silent. Usually after a fight, she welcomed the quips and taunts from Spike, the banter was funny, a stress relief, they made her feel alive…But, Buffy had to remind herself that she couldn’t trust Spike or ever return his feelings for her. What feelings? her mind interrupted. Spike was a soulless vampire. Only by the grace of a chip in his dead brain, he wasn’t a threat to everyone’s life.
Then there was Angel, what to do? Angel came to her, because he was human. They could be together, now. Angel was back in Sunnydale to resume their relationship. But this time it could be a healthy relationship. No fear of Angelus, hell no yucky nothing of vampirism. Just them. But…Buffy was still hesitant.
Then again, Angel loved her; she owed it to him to consider the possibility. It wouldn’t be hard. Angel was Angel, only better now because he was human. Soon, she would feel the same overwhelming love for him, just this time no fear or doubt. Buffy smiled as she entered the shop.
Angel entered the shop with nothing on his mind but getting to a phone.
Angel felt the barbs of still unanswered questions, distrust, and anger flow around him as he entered the magic shop.
Angel wished he was back in LA, even as uncomfortable as he had felt during the times of Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn’s scrutiny or displeasure, or down right anger at his cold behavior or later tentative and disjointed attempts to regain their trust Angel had never felt so on the outside looking in. Angel shook, he would be fine, once he talked to Lorne. Angel stalled as he went to the phone.
He also needed to hear Cordelia’s voice; he had to hear her optimistic, cheery, sarcastic voice, unblemished by pain. That was possible? Right? She was okay?
“Giles, Can I make a phone call, please,” Angel asked urgently. He couldn’t stop the unease that invaded his body. Something was not right. He could feel it.
Giles just nodded looking at Buffy. The human in the guise of Angel or Angelus was anxious, almost in agony. Giles could see the emotion on Angel’s face; he just didn’t understand it.
Buffy stepped away; she teetered from moving closer to Spike and Xander. She shook her body and went straight to Giles. She looked at her watcher, her gaze asking him to explain what was going on, to help her, somehow.
“I don’t know,” Giles whispered.
Buffy scrunched up her brow and moved to the couch. She settled deep in the cushions, ignoring all around her except the dark former vampire that had picked up the phone.
Angel’s hand hovered over the telephone, his hand fidgeting as his mind tried to make a decision. He needed to talk to Lorne, but he had to hear Cordelia’s voice.
Sweat formed on his brow, Angel squirmed at the unfamiliar sensation. He picked up the phone and dialed. He paced, the phone clutched to his ear, his feet moving faster in an unrecognizable pattern as the instrument rang and rang. The new flowing blood stopped in his veins as he heard a mechanical voice inform him that the number was no longer in service.
Angel stared at the phone as he placed it back on its base. He picked it up and tried again. This time he slammed the phone down as the squealing and beeping came through the lines to foretell that the phone number that he was trying to reach had been disconnected.
“Angel,” Buffy called at his frustrated slam.
“Hmgr.” A cross between a gasp and growl conflicted in Angel’s throat. He rapidly started pushing in other numbers into the instrument. Angel glared at the inoffensive plastic in his hand as he connected with Cordelia’s answering machine. He closed his eyes taking deep new founded breaths. He dialed again.
Angel got more fretful as the ringing continued. He was about to throw the piece of plastic against the wall when he heard a timid hello.