“I’m sleepy,” Cordelia yawned as she and Angel entered the hotel lobby.
“It’s been a long day and night,” Angel agreed, gently placing Cordelia on the sofa.
“Yeah,” she yawned again. “It’s good to be home. Sorry, the party turned into another vision wham bam. I wanted you to have fun.” Cordelia scrunched up her face. “You shouldn’t have gone to the docks,” she chastised Angel.
Angel shrugged. “I wasn’t in any danger, none,” he explained, grimacing at the memory. He had felt useless.
“Still,” Cordelia swayed motioning Angel to the couch. “You shouldn’t have gone. What if you had been killed or hurt,” she scolded.
“It didn’t happen, so stop worrying.” Angel remained standing.
Cordelia took a deep sigh and flopped deeper into the couch. “Worry? I’ll always worry about you,” she commented to the room at large. “I love you…I want my Angel back,” she pouted, scrunching up her face. “I don’t feel so well, I think I’m drunk, what was I talking about. I think I need to go to bed.” She hiccuped and yawned.
A strange stillness gripped Angel. Cordelia had said it again. She loved him. The first time she had said that to him it had been in a flippant teasing tone of friendship. Angel had accepted the words, felt joy at hearing them and understood their meaning. Then again, just several hours ago at the beach, Cordelia had repeated the same words. They hadn’t been flippant just honest.
And like before, Angel had accepted the words for what they were- a declaration of her friendship one that he had returned. They were friends, best friends. But this time…It felt different, though he knew she was drunk, the words were said with more…something, he couldn’t understand it was different, unknown, scary even. Angel shook his head. He had to go to sleep, then wake up and go to Buffy, too what he understood.
Angel looked again at the sleepy, drunk young woman sprawled out on the couch. He couldn’t leave her like that. Angel gently picked up the young woman.
“Whay…Where are you taking me,” her words fumbled over each other.
“To bed…wow…finally…” she snuggled closer into Angel’s chest.
Angel’s heart stopped as a sudden burst of desire tingled in his loins, causing confusion in his brain. He had to have misunderstood, he thought, trying to right his swirling equilibrium. Cordelia just wanted to go to sleep, that’s all. Angel’s mind shied away in panic at any other possibility.
Again, glimpses and flashes of an answer flitted through his mind. Angel forced his mind to concentrate on what he knew to be true. Cordelia was his best friend. Buffy was the love of his life. He struggled against the panic that pushed against his surety.
No, Angel thought, he was human; he now could have everything he wished for. Angel shoved the panic and unease down. Tomorrow, he would leave. Tonight, Angel would dream about his second chance with Buffy. But first Angel had to make sure that Cordelia was comfortable.
Angel carried Cordelia up to his room. He had planned on tucking her into his bed and staying the night in the chair beside it. It was a position that he was well accustomed to.
After a late night of demon hunting or a bad vision experience, Cordelia would stay wrapped in his bed and Angel would stay near by watching, experiencing an emotion that could only describe as joy that they, that Cordelia had made it through alive.
“Angel,” Cordelia whispered as Angel settled her on the large bed.
“Go to sleep, Cordy,” he answered in the same low tone.
“Okay,” Her large eyes blinked. Cordelia yawned, then hiccuped. A moment of quiet descended over the room. “I don’t feel well,” Cordelia whined.
“Here drink this,” Angel said handing her a glass of water and a painkiller.
Cordelia snuggled deeper into the mattress, allowing Angel to place the liquid up to her lips. She grimaced slightly as the pill traveled down her throat. “Ick,” she complained, her red eyes scrunching up.
“You’ll feel better tomorrow,” Angel promised.
“No I won’t,” she struggled. “My Angel will leave me…and…. I’m sleepy.” Cordelia finished, burrowing her body further into the covers.
Angel was getting uncomfortable and he was tired.
He tried to keep his eyes open to watch Cordelia to make sure she fell asleep, but his eyes were involuntarily closing. Angel squirmed in the chair.
The chair never bothered him before, but then again, Angel was never human before, he grimaced. Angel’s weary eyes strayed to the open area of the bed next to Cordelia’s huddled form.
It looked so welcoming, so comfortable. Angel did what he never would have done two days prior; he crawled into the space and fell asleep.
Angel spent a restless night. Disturbing dreams were constantly interrupting his sleep. Flashes of Groo swirling through the portal would parade through his unconscious, followed by the image of Cordelia in her princess finery hugging at the handsome warrior, saying that she loved the warrior.
Then the couple would move further and further away from Angel. Cordelia would glance over her delicate shoulder and laugh. “Of course, I don’t love you,” she would say with disdain. “I love him, not you dumb ass.”
Cordelia’s mocking voice triggered an anxiety within Angel. He would toss and turn, trying to capture the picture of Cordelia on the beach, try to feel her love as she gazed at Angel then the sun.
Just when he would calm into a restful sleep, Angel would see Cordelia falling in agony as the pain of a vision overcame her. Cordelia’s body would be wracked in pain, suffering. Angel would be far way, but Groo would be there trying to urge his comfort on her, but it wouldn’t work. Cordelia would just writhe on the floor, clutching at her head, screaming for Angel.
Angel would try with all of his might to travel the great distance to reach her. Finally, he would reach her. Angel would drop to Cordelia’s side, laying his hands on her shoulders and her cries of agony would cease. He would feel happy, joy even. But, then Cordelia would look up at him with her large beautiful eyes, “You’re not my Angel,” she would say sadly, then she would laugh. “Dumb ass,” she would turn and reach for the Pylean warrior. Angel tossed and turned through out the night.
Gratefully, Angel woke from the images. The anxiety of the dreams faded as he blinked and recalled that he was human and that today was the day that he would go to Buffy. He was happy. Or Angel was until he felt the body lying next to him.
Cordelia was disheveled and…. Beautiful, Angel acknowledged as he watched her still form next to him. She hadn’t moved during the night, the alcohol had taken over her body. Cordelia was dead to the world. Angel leaned in and gently brushed away a strain of dark hair that had positioned itself between her lips.
The thoughts of Buffy disappeared just as quickly as they came as he gazed at Cordelia. Angel couldn’t leave her. Cordelia was such an important part of his life; she had been Angel’s life for what seemed forever. Angel’s fingers twirled in her hair. His seer had been his redemption. Not his seer, not anymore, Angel thought suddenly as his stomach dropped.
Today, an important vital chapter of his life would be closed. Angel thought more in terms of Groo’s appearance rather than his own transformation as the final end. It didn’t matter anymore, even if Angel wanted to stay or if Cordelia for some hopeful reason decided to go with Angel it didn’t matter. She couldn’t.
Cordelia’s place for some unfair reason was still in LA, still as a link to the Powers, but now with a new warrior. Angel grimaced; he didn’t trust the ‘he-man’ of Pylea to take proper of care of Cordelia. But it was no longer Angel’s place. Angel struggled with the anger that swirled around his head.
Groo, Angel’s stomach dropped further at the thought of the other warrior. Angel remembered his dream. But it hadn’t only been a dream. Cordelia had said she loved the warrior, Angel had heard it, and had been confused and hurt by it in Pylea. It had been real.
Angel had no place in LA, not anymore. With one last look, Angel got up from the bed. It was time for him to go to Sunnydale. A multiple of emotions jumbled in Angel’s mind.
Wrongness settled over his being as he moved further from the sleeping form of Cordelia. She was no longer familiar to him. She scared him; confused him. Angel could sense that all could be made right, if he would just concentrate on the swirling emotions and force the unknown answer into the light. But it was the unexplored area that frightened and made him uneasy.
Buffy was a surety or rather his love for her was. Angel didn’t know if Buffy would still want him, but that was a risk he had to take, one that he was prepared for. But that erratic feeling Angel got when he gazed on or thought about Cordelia was something he didn’t want to face, something he didn’t think he could face.
So, Angel left to go towards the familiar, the known.
Angel stopped; he couldn’t leave without saying goodbye. He leaned in to wake Cordelia, but his hand stalled in its descent. The thought of touching her, seeing Cordelia’s wide eyes staring at him, scared him. Cordelia would be fine, he swore as he pulled his hand back.
Wesley and Gunn would be with her.
And Angel would check up on her from Sunnydale. Nothing would happen to his, to Groo’s seer, he corrected. Nothing. With his jumbled emotions firmly compartmentalized and put back in their familiar place, Angel left, promising to call once he got to Sunnydale; he would say good bye then.
When it was safe.
A dull repetitive thud woke Cordelia up. She winced as the sound got louder when she squinted her eyes open. A sharp pain began to accompany the pounding of the steady rhythms. She slammed her eyes closed waiting for the images of the vision.
Nothing. That’s when she slowly realized that the fire that was building up in her brain as the hammers struck harshly was not Power’s related, but one of her own doing.
Cordelia groaned trying to remember how she had gotten the killer of all killer hangovers. Flashes of Caritas and Lorne shoving the evil bottle towards her lept to her mind. Cordelia cursed the green demon, as she saw him waving his bright yellow clad arms for her to drink. And she grimaced as she pictured herself gulping at the bottle.
Groo, Cordelia’s eyes suddenly shot open, he had been there. Owwwww, she whined as her memory came back in flashing techno color. God, she wished that the pain was left over from a vision and that the last 12 hours, hell the last 24 hours hadn’t happened. Cordelia gasped and jerked up at her traitorous thought.
Twenty- four hours ago, Angel became alive, really alive, she couldn’t wish that hadn’t happened.
Cordelia flopped down further in the bed as she realized that she really did wish that the last 24 hours disappeared, that way she wouldn’t have to face the morning and watch Angel leave her. Cordelia wouldn’t have to smile and wave as Angel strode out of the hotel back to Sunnydale.
Hell, Cordelia was selfish she berated herself. Another thought jolted her up from the bed, Angel. Had he left yet? Angel wouldn’t leave her without saying goodbye she panicked. Cordelia fumbled to get up, wincing at the pain in her head.
Cordelia raced, well actually she stumbled from the bedroom after stopping in the bathroom to splash cold water on her face and drinking a gallon’s worth of the same liquid. Her mouth still felt like herds of sheep were milling around in the small area, but at least she could gasp out some words.
Cordelia glanced around the bedroom, Angel’s bedroom, but she didn’t see any sign of Angel. Maybe, Cordelia hoped, Angel had slept in the guestroom or downstairs.
That’s why he wasn’t there. Angel was still in the hotel; she just had to find him. Cordelia wished the stampede of Buffalo would stop prancing on her brain. She squinched up her head in an attempt to dim the pounding around her and left the room.
Wesley, not Angel was the first person she saw. Her ex-watcher friend was looking tired and uncomfortable.
Wesley glanced up at the young woman descending the stairs. Wesley didn’t want to be there, but he had no choice. Angel had called him, telling Wesley that he was leaving for Sunnydale.
The former vampire wanted to say goodbye and to tell Wesley that he hadn’t wanted to wake Cordelia up to say the same, would Wesley say it for him? Angel had pleaded.
Wesley had stalled the string of expletives that bulged in his throat at the request. He couldn’t believe that Angel would be so thoughtless. But Angel had been and Wesley had rushed to get to the hotel before Cordelia woke.
Now Wesley was stuck telling Cordelia that her best friend had left LA with telling her goodbye.
“Wesley, where’s Angel,” Cordelia smacked her mouth trying to get the words to form through the cotton in her mouth.
“Um…..” Wesley moved closer to the young woman wishing that Angel had had the forbearance to do the correct thing. “He left. About two hours ago. He…..”
“Left?” Cordelia interrupted, instinctively not wanting to hear the rest. “To enjoy another sunrise, experience a breakfast buffet, you mean,” she glanced expectantly at Wesley. Cordelia refused to contemplative any other alternative.
“I’m sorry Cordelia, but no. He should be in Sunnydale soon.”
Cordelia said nothing as she slumped to the ground. The ache in her head dimmed as the ache in her heart grew. Angel left her, really left her without saying goodbye even. Her blurry eyes widened, then closed forcing the tears back.
“Cordy,” Wesley said softly. “He said that he would call when he got there. He just didn’t want to wake you.”
“He left?” Cordelia said weakly, still hoping that what she was hearing was wrong.
Wesley nodded reaching for the young woman. Cordelia stared at Wesley’s approaching hands; they were reaching for her. And with every inch they got closer the knowledge that Angel was really gone pounded a nail into her chest, constructing up a barrier.
Cordelia brushed his hands aside.
“He left,” she said her voice getting stronger. She looked around at the empty lobby. “And….” Cordelia gathered her strength, her hangover, and her heartache both being overwhelmed by the concrete solidifying around her heart.
“How did Dennis do with Groo?” she asked, her mind blocking out all emotion.
“Cordy,” Wesley tried. “I know you must be upset but Angel said…”
“I asked you a question. How is Groo?”
“Fine,” Wesley sighed. He could kill Angel; Cordelia’s voice was hard and firm. Her wide eyes had briefly shown signs of pain, but now they were lifeless, the striking brown of her eyes became dull and cold.
Cordelia nodded. “So, where’s the new office to be? We need to think about that. I mean do we really need this stupid old place.”
“Or are you leaving me too,” she glared, unable to help herself.
“Of course not,” Wesley cried. “But, Angel signed over the lease to me. The hotel is ours or at least for the next 6 months.”
“I don’t like…..” Cordelia stumbled, gasping as a blazing knife penetrated her brain. She fell, tumbling down the rest of the flight of stairs, crying. Wesley ran towards her, but he didn’t reach her until she was lying crumpled on the floor.
“Get Groo here,” she whimpered, trying to straighten herself up against the debilitating pain.
Surprisingly the traffic out of LA was sparse. Angel was able to get on the highway with ease. But, Angel’s hands gripped the steering wheel tighter the further and further away he drove. Angel tried to focus his mind on the upcoming fulfillment of all his hopes and dreams.
But instead of a blue-eyed blonde, imagines of a hazel-eyed brunette swarmed his mind.
Cordelia, his heart lurched. She would not be happy with his just up and leaving. But Angel couldn’t have stayed. To stay would have meant to explore the unknown part of his mind and that frightened him. To go was to head to safety…and love…and the fulfillment of his dreams, Angel added in quick validation.
To Sunnydale, to Buffy. Cordelia would understand, she always understood. Angel’s heart lurched again at that justification of his quick get a way. With the benefit of years of practice, Angel cleared his mind and focused again on his goal.
He sighed, in relief as the milepost passed and he traveled further and further from LA.
“Wesley,” Cordelia countered struggling away from his hands as they tried to lift her to her feet. She bit her lips,
“Get Groo and Gunn. An Atrox demon …….the beach……..a children’s party……….go.” Cordelia demanded, cradling her head in between her palms. “Go, Please,” her voice splintered under the weight of the pain the vision was causing her.
“Go! The sooner it’s defeated the sooner the hot pokers leave,” she squinted and gasped at the same time.
“Of course,” Wesley nodded. He left quickly, first rushing to the weapons’ cabinet to gather a bag full of sharp instruments.
With a sigh of relief, Cordelia crumbled once again to the floor as she heard the front door slam shut.
Wesley clutched at his cell phone, shouting instructions as his motorcycle’s front tire jumped in the air and the back tire screamed against the pavement.
Gunn slammed down the phone. “Come on, hero, it’s time to show your stuff again,” he called to Groo.
“Is suffering a great never-ending headache right now. Come on,” Gunn ordered
“I must go to her,” Groo argued. “You can not keep us apart.”
“A brother can hope,” Gunn grumbled lowly, before he commented out loud. “The princess is having a sight thing. To stop the pain, we have to stop the demon. Let’s go, Mr. Universe of the swirling hole.”
Gunn couldn’t believe that he was wishing for the vamp back. He knew as well as Wesley and Cordelia that Angel’s becoming human was the vamp’s dream come true, but damn what Gunn wouldn’t give for Angel’s dream to have been postponed long enough so that the Pylean muscled bound wonder warrior wouldn’t be needed.
“I will follow for the princess.” Groo grudgingly acknowledged.
“Damn straight,” Gunn grumbled again, leading the way.
“Cordelia, Cordy?” Fred called into the darkness of the Hyperion. Wesley’s second frantic call was to the young Pylean escapee.
He had asked Fred to go and stay with Cordelia. Wesley had been concerned at how weak Cordelia had seemed.
“Cordelia,” Fred called again, switching on the lights.
“No,” a weak voice came up from the floor by the sofa. “Hurts,”
Fred quickly shut off the lights and scrambled towards the sound of the strained voice.
“It will be okay,” Fred whispered as she clutched at Cordelia’s trembling hands.
“No, it won’t,” Cordelia’s small voice gasped back.
Angel slowed as he passed the Welcome to Sunnydale sign. Just a little bit further, he thought. Against all of his will, the image of Cordelia’s sleeping beautiful face pressed into his mind.
Followed swiftly by that same lovely face scrunched up in unbearable pain. How could he had have left her? His mind cried. The car crept to a halt as Angel’s struggled against the internal battle that waged inside.
A sick feeling swept over him as he turned the key and pressed the gas. His decision was made. Angel headed into Sunnydale.
Angel parked his car behind some trees a few blocks down from Buffy’s house. Now that he was there, he was hesitant to go any further. What if Buffy didn’t want him? What then would he do? Go back to LA?
The sickness that had earlier skimmed through his stomach grew swallowing his being as he realized that if Buffy rejected him, he would have nowhere to go. LA was no longer an option. He had left Cordelia; he couldn’t expect her to welcome him back, again, could he?
In that one brief moment, Angel’s heart broke. The unknown had become known. He had lost Cordelia once more, and like before it was because of his own actions. The moment was gone as swiftly as the epiphany that caused it.
Buffy was who he loved, Angel reminded himself.
Groo came barging into the hotel. “Princess,” he shouted.
Cordelia grimaced, pulling her hands away from her head. She gulped as the warrior grabbed her by the shoulders and pressed her to him.
“The demon is gone. Please let me…”
Fred watched as Cordelia’s face got even paler than it was before. “Um, Groo, champion, the princess is feeling a little not well right now. She needs air…so,” Fred motioned for Groo to loosen his tight grip.
Cordelia gave a half smile in gratitude as Groo slowly released her. His expression concerned and puzzled. “But, I can relieve the burden.”
“Yes, thank you, but not now,” Cordelia whispered. She winced as the pounding in her head remained. The danger was over, the mind flash of evil was gone, so why was she still hurting? Cordelia struggled to her feet.
“Wes…. Wesley take me………” Cordelia looked around. She had no home anymore. Groo was staying at her apartment and Angel was gone from the hotel. Cordelia couldn’t’ think, she just wanted to be alone. “Wesley, please…” She begged, praying that her friend would understand.
“Yes, well, Gunn take Groo back to the apartment. Fred is it possible that you stay here with Cordelia tonight?”
Cordelia shot him a look. Wesley stared down the young woman. “Fred?” He asked, ignoring Cordelia’s look.
“Yes, of course.”
“Fine,” Wesley said his eyes never leaving Cordelia. Wesley would not leave Cordelia alone. But he would make Groo disappear for the night.
Cordelia’s shoulder’s slumped in acknowledgement at Wesley’s conditions.
“Yes, well good then,” Wesley said, ushering both Gunn and Groo to the door.
“I will not leave the princess.”
“Yeah, Conan, you will,” Gunn pushed at the warrior.
Groo bristled at Gunn’s actions.
“Sir, Champion, please. Cordy needs rest. Maybe tomorrow,” Fred blinked and smiled timidly.
Groo studied the woman that had passed unnoticed earlier. She was the only one of strange other worlders’ that had treated him with even a modicum of respect.
“Very well,” he nodded to Fred. “Princess, I’m yours to command.” He gushed to Cordelia.
“Great,” Cordelia grimaced. “I’m going to lay down now,” she winced towards the steps.
Fred quickly followed her up. Cordelia stalled in front of Angel’s suite. She wished that she was far, far away from that room, the hotel. But …Cordelia shook her head. “The guest room should be made up,” Cordelia pointed to the room across the hall. There should be stuff in it.”
“I’ll be fine, remember I used to live in a cave,” Fred bobbed.
“Right, Wilma and Betty combined.” Cordelia smiled softly. “Good night.”
“Cordelia, do you need anything. Aspirin, water, anything?”
“I’ll be fine,” Cordelia shrugged. Cordelia wished the helpful young woman to Hades. Cordelia just wanted to be alone. As soon as she thought it she felt guilty. “Thanks, Fred, Really I’ll be okay,” Cordelia tried to smile.
“If you need anything…”
“I will call, goodnight,” Cordelia said going into Angel’s suite. She braved a smile as she closed the door on the worried Fred.
Cordelia looked around at the bedroom. She shouldn’t be there. She should be home…. home; nothing felt like home anymore. How could she think when her head was still pounding? Cordelia crawled into Angel’s bed, pulling the cover tight around her body.
Sleep, she prayed, sleep, make this day go away, she begged to whoever would listen. The last thought Cordelia had before her sobbing and the thumping of her brain drove her into an exhaustive sleep was that Angel was finally happy.
Angel stared at Buffy’s house for the longest time. Images of the past paraded through his mind.
He remembered the first time Whistler allowed him to get a glimpse of the beautiful young girl. Angel saw Buffy as she fought off vampires in the alley. He remembered her strength and courage. He saw Buffy’s face as she gave herself to him in love. Angel remembered the heartbreak in her eyes as she watched him leave her.
He felt Buffy’s touch as he relived the forgotten day in LA. Angel felt Buffy’s sadness and need as he held her beside the grave of her mother. His heart ached as he experienced the loss her death had caused him, he felt the rejoice of hearing that Buffy was still alive. Angel did love Buffy. He did want her. He got out of the car. Cordelia knew this; she would understand why he left.
Angel knocked on the door, gearing himself for the speech that he would give.
“Who? Dead boy? What do you want?’ Xander broke through Angel’s preparations.
Angel stepped back as Xander’s contemptuous tone washed over him.
“Who is it?’ Buffy’s voice called from the living room.
Xander stared at Angel. Angel could see the young man’s temptation just to slam the door. Reluctantly Xander moved from the door. “Someone that needs an invite,” he finally said.
Buffy charged into the front room stake in hand. “Angel?” she stalled, the wooden stick still in the air.
Angel shot a look at Xander. All thoughts of breaking the news slowly to Buffy flew out of his head. He stepped over the threshold. “Invites are passé.”
Xander’s eyes widen in irritation. “How? What? When did you give an open invite to dead boy? I thought that particular problem was cleared when we did the universal unvite,” he shot accusingly at Buffy.
Buffy stared, her stake falling to the ground. “Oh my god, how? What? “ She repeated Xander’s words, but not their meaning. “Angel?” she moved closer.
“Oh my god,” she said again. “You’re human.”
“Yes,” Angel said, looking at the living room doorway as it filled with a group of people, some he recognized and some he didn’t.
Willow, Tara, Giles, Dawn, Anya and Spike had moved to the other room as Xander and Buffy’s voices got louder. Giles and Willow dropped their weapons as they heard Buffy’s final exclamation and saw Angel’s tentative nod.
“Oh Goddess,” Willow squeaked.
“Oh, Fuck,” Spike grumbled.
Angel glared at the blonde vampire as Willow and Buffy pulled Angel into the living room.